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Dissertations On The English Language 1789 Dc

ETD Basics

What is an ETD?

An electronic thesis or dissertation (ETD) is digital version of a dissertation that is available to the public via the internet. Universities and colleges in the United States and abroad have been moving toward this type of publication for the past decade. Johns Hopkins started its own ETD program beginning in the fall semester of 2013.

Who is affected?

  • All PhD Students
  • Masters students with a required thesis may submit; contact your program office for information
  • Other graduate degrees: Consult with your graduate office

How and when do I submit my ETD?

  • Submit after you have defended your thesis or dissertation and made all edits required by your committee
  • Login with your JHED ID to the JHU ETD submission system, fill in the required metadata, and upload a PDF/a file of your thesis or dissertation
  • The required PDF/a file format is different from a standard PDF. Please see the formatting page for further instructions

Fee Payment

The ETD submission fee is $60 and may be paid by credit card or by funds transfer from your department. The fee is due at the time of submission; payment verification is required for approval.

Pay by Credit Card – $60

IMPORTANT: If the card you are using is not your own (e.g., spouse or parent’s card), proceed with the payment at the site, but then email your name, your JHED ID, and the name of the credit card owner to etd-support@jhu.edu so we can link your submission with the payment.

Pay by Department Funds Transfer

NOTE: This option is available at departmental discretion. Request that the department administrator fill out the PDF form and submit it to the ETD Coordinator.

  • In-Person or Mail: Digitization Unit, A-level, Milton S. Eisenhower Library (M-F, 9 am to 5 pm)
  • Email: etd-support@jhu.edu


We will be offering a series of one-hour ETD workshops throughout the semester. Please join us to learn more about the submission process, how to format your ETD, and copyright concerns. Keep watching this space for more times and locations. We will broadcast each workshop via Adobe Connect.

We currently have no live workshops scheduled, but a recorded version is available. Future workshops will be posted to the Library Trainings & Workshops page.

Required Submission Information

There are several descriptive fields that you must fill out during the submission process. Some of these fields will help other researchers find your ETD and others will control when your ETD will be made visible to the public. Each of the required fields is denoted with an asterisk (*), and you will not be able to continue further in the process without filling them in. Please see the Formatting Guidelines and Checklist for more information. Please contact us at dissertations@jhu.edu if you have any questions.

Benjamin Franklin’s phonetic alphabet (original image: omniglot)

Benjamin Franklin was many things. Politician, scientist, inventor, printer author, he was a visionary whose ideas helped shape America. But he also had some notions that, while founded on sound logic and pragmatism, seem quite bizarre in retrospect. For instance, there’s his suggestion that the turkey was a more appropriate national symbol than the eagle, which he saw as “a bird of bad moral character.” Franklin’s vision for American didn’t stop with independence and iconography. He also proposed a redesigned alphabet – a new language for a new nation.

Franklin developed his phonetic alphabet in 1768 but it wasn’t published until 1789, when Noah Webster, intrigued by Franklin’s proposal, included its description in his book Dissertations on the English Language. However, because, Webster lacked the type blocks to illustrate Franklin’s changes, the alphabet wouldn’t be seen until Franklin had new blocks cast to print the alphabet for his 1779 collection of writings, Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces. It was the ultimate test of Franklin’s scholarship and polymathy, a phonetic alphabet designed to have a “more natural Order,” than the existing system. His proposal, “A Reformed Mode of Spelling,” opens with an analysis of spoken English in the form of a  table prioritizing the alphabet by sound and vocal effort. Franklin gave preference to “Sounds formed by the Breath, with none or very little help of Tongue, Teeth, and Lips; and produced chiefly in the Windpipe.”

Franklin’s analysis resulted in removing six letters from the alphabet – C, J, Q, W, X, AND Y– that were, in his view, redundant or confusing. The “hard” and “soft” sounds of a C, for example, can easily be replaced by a K and S. Franklin also limited the remaining letters to one sound, “as every letter ought to be,” including vowels. In the phonetic alphabet, “long” vowel pronunciations are achieved using double vowels. The changes weren’t all reductive. Franklin’s alphabet includes six letters of his  own devise: a letter that makes a “soft O” sound as in “folly” or “ball”; one that replaces all “sh” sounds as in “ship” or “function”; an “ng” sound; two “th” substitutes; and a letter that replaces both “um” and “un” letter combinations. Franklin first used his new alphabet at length in a 1768 letter to Polly Stevenson, the conclusion of which provides an excellent, and mostly legible example, of his proposed revisions:

The end of Franklin’s letter to Stevenson. Translation: “…difficulty of learning and using it. And it would already have been such, if we had continued the Saxon spelling and writing, used by our forefathers. I am, my dear friend, yours affectionately, Ben Franklin”

Franklin was confident that his new alphabet would easier to learn and, once learned, would drastically reduce bad spelling. He believed any difficulty in implementing a new alphabet would ultimately be overcome by its logic and simplicity. However, biographer Walter Isaacson has written that the alphabet “took his passion for social improvement to radical extremes.” But in the heady days after the Revolution, a national language seemed like a natural development for a new country. Franklin’s proposal found little support, even with those to whom he was closest. He did, however, manage to convert Webster, the pioneer of spelling reform. Webster supported standardizing American spelling but, until meeting Franklin, had advocated against its simplification. After reading Franklin’s “A Reformed Mode of Spelling,” however, Webster was inspired to draft a more conservative proposal for reforming the alphabet, which didn’t depend on creating new characters. The two men supported one another’s pursuits but found little interest from others. Franklin eventually abandoned his plan, while Webster persisted, even publishing books using his new orthography. His efforts were met with resistance and ridiculed by critics as an unsightly corruption of language – critiques that were likely also applied to Franklin’s abandoned scheme.

There can be no doubt that language has influence over a country and its populace. It’s an integral part of one’s national identity. Franklin just took this to the extreme. Perhaps he viewed the alphabet in the same way he saw the turkey, as a something “courageous” and “original” to America. The phonetic alphabet would be an American original too, and a reflection of the men and women living in the new country – pragmatic, efficient, egalitarian.


Benjamin Franklin, Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces (1779); Nicola Twiley and Geoff Manaugh, “Six New Letters for a Renovated Alphabet” (St. Bride Foundation, 2005); Jill Lepore, A Is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States (2007);  Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2004); “Benjamin Franklin’s Phonetic Alphabet,”Omniglot; Jill Lepore, A Is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States (2007)

The introductory table to Benjamin Franklin’s “A Reformed Mode of Spelling” (image: Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces)

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