Pitman’s English

My mum introduced me to Pitman’s English – a solely phonetic writing system and it is absolutely fascinating, she learnt it back in secretarial college (some years ago we shall say…!) and still can just about interpret it.

Notable features of the language:

  • Pitman is phonetic: it records the sounds of speech rather than the spelling. For example, the sound [f] in form, elephant and rough is written in the same way for each word.
  • Vowel sounds are optional and are written with small dots, dashes or other shapes next to the main strokes. This helps increase writing speed because most words can be identified from their consonants only.
  • The thickness, length and position of the strokes are all significant.
  • There are many special abbreviations and other tricks to increase writing speed.
  • The record for fast writing with Pitman shorthand is 350 wpm during a two-minute test by Nathan Behrin in 1922.

for example this text:

to someone who can read and understand pitman’s would interpret it as:

“This is the way I write.  I could of course substitute “This is the way I write” with an apparent gain in brevity; but as a matter of fact it takes longer to contract.  Writing shorthand with the maximum of contraction is like coding telegrams:  unless one is in constant practice it takes longer to devise the contractions than to write in full; and I now never think of contracting except by ordinary logograms.”        [74 words, 68 outlines plus punctuation.]
I find it mind boggling, just like looking at/learning a new language (especially a non-latin based one) but it is even more bizarre I feel. I guess it would be more universal if everyone learnt and knew something like Pitman’s, there is so much variation in the English language and its rules, it is hard for foreigners to learn.
(see here, here and here to find out more about Pitman’s English)

Basically I was wondering if I can interpret language&words in a similar way resulting in something visually completely different and equally (if not more) interesting…  I would be looking at the the sound of speech and would find ways to interpet and display the pitch (intonation), volume and speed (rhythm) of different people saying the same passage.

Pitman’s English

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