SaypU: Can a phonetic alphabet simplify language and foster world peace?

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A Syrian-born banker in Britain is pushing a universal phonetic alphabet to get us pronouncing perfectly... something he thinks will promote a more harmonious world. But some linguists are not so optimistic.





SaypU: Can a phonetic alphabet simplify language and foster world peace?

The European Union is facing more than its share of challenges these days. And German President Joachim Gauck has a suggestion to help its members get along a little better. He wants to make English the EU's common language. The idea that a common language could cure what ails the world has been around since the story of Babel.

And it still has a powerful pull. Jaber George Jabbour is the latest in a long line of people who have tried to make it easier for the world to leap the linguistic divides that separate us. He is developing a brand new, phonetic alphabet that he thinks could and should be put to universal use. His idea is simple -- spell the word the way it sounds. He calls the alphabet SaypU. Jaber George Jabbour is a Syrian-born banker who lives in the UK. He's in London, England this morning.

SaypU: Can a phonetic alphabet simplify language and foster world peace?

The 1966 film Incubus, a movie shot entirely in the obscure international language of Esperanto, and starring William Shatner. SaypU isn't the first attempt to foster communication between countries. So, to put this in some historical context, we're joined by two people. Dennis Baron is a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois. He is in Champaign, Illinois. And Henry Hitchings is a journalist and the author of The Language Wars: A History of Proper English. He is in London, England.

Now, William Shatner wasn't the only one who got excited about Esperanto. The Current's own Vanessa Greco created an ode to the universal language ... for a grade school public speaking competition. Remarkably, she still has the cue cards.

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins and Pacinthe Mattar.

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