4a: Joseph Smith’s English

Now, taking into consideration all of these relics of oral mannerisms past, we are able to reconstruct a style of English particular to Joseph Smith as he would have spoke growing up in early 19th century New England. I like to call this particular, extinct brand of English “Joseph Smith English” (JSE) as it provides an interesting, tangible, and viable connection to the words, and likeness, of the Prophet Joseph.

Below is a small table of rules I’ve compiled based on a study of the patterns and commonalities found in the several artifacts heretofore presented that will enable us to simulate JSE (note: these are not rules for writing his language but rather for speaking it):

If… Then…
A word begins with vowel+”L” (e.g. “election”) Drop the leading vowel (e.g. “‘lection”)
A word ends with a vowel and the next word begins with a vowel (e.g. “law abiding”) Add a -r to the end of the first word (e.g. “lar abiding”)
A word contains a rhotic ‘r’ (e.g. “charter” [two rhotic ‘r’s]) *Drop rhotic ‘r’ (e.g. “cha’te'”)
A word contains a schwa (i.e. “uh”) Change vowel position from mid-central to mid-frontal (i.e. “ah”)
A word ends in -ing (e.g. “singing”) Drop the ‘g’ of -ing (e.g. “singin'”)
A word contains voiced or unvoiced interdental fricatives (i.e. “th” in “with” and “these”) *Change to voiced or unvoiced alveolar stop, respectively (i.e. “wit” and “dese”)
A word has a high-frontal unrounded vowel, especially if followed by a ‘r’ (e.g. “Here”) Change vowel position low-frontal (e.g. “Har”)
An irregular verb’s past tense is inflected through vowel gradation (e.g. “saw”) *Revert to infinitive and use past participle (e.g. “see’d”)
A palatal glide is followed by a high-back rounded vowel (e.g. “you;” “value”) Remove palatal glide and/or change the vowel to a high-frontal unrounded (e.g. “ye;” “valley”)
A word with containing the spelling “-our” (e.g. “pour;” “hour;” “flour;” etc.) Pronounce like “-ower” (e.g. “power;” “hour;” “flour;” etc.)
“My,” “their,” “your”, “this,” “that” “Me,” “theirn,” “yourn,” “this-ere,” “that-are”

*Not applied in every instance

Now we must combine these rules with the peculiar intonations we heard in Appalachia and in Tangier, Virginia, to produce our full-blown JSE recreation. On the next page, I have created a small video combining our new photograph of Joseph Smith with a recording of some of his own words read in JSE. Continue to that page to “know Brother Joseph again.”

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