Tutnese Alphabet

What is the Tutnese Alphabet?

The Tutnese alphabet, also known as Tutahash or just Tut, is a language argot created by enslaved African-Americans based on Vernacular phonetic English learned by African-Americans to covertly teach and learn pronunciation, spelling, and the written word. The language is rudimentary and simple, as it is necessary to remain pure and easy to learn in order to pass it down without the need for complicated literature and prose. In Tutnese, the vowels are pronounced normally but when there is a need to use a consonant, it is replaced with a different syllable altogether. This is because vowels are viewed as easier to say because they have a more rounded style that forms the sound around the mouth.

Consonants take on an entirely different sound in order to make it easier to say, similar to their vowel counterparts. For example, the word for "b" phonetically is "bub" and not "bee". In the mid-20th century, a publication appeared in the New York Times Magazine which compared Tutahash with "Double Dutch", which was a language game invented by children and the third most widely spoken "language game" in the United States at the time. Spaces between words are always ignored by one dialect, or more, of the language, requiring that the first syllable of the name of a punctuation symbol be spoken. For example, Per for "period" (full stop) and Com for "Comma".

History of the Tutnese Alphabet

Enslaved African-Americans in the United States were not permitted many of the same rights or basic freedoms that a freed person was afforded. This is true throughout history, as slaves were forced into indentured servitude by their owners, and treated as a sub-class of human that was expendable. Of course, some were treated better than others, particularly if families took a liking to a group of people and allowed them special privileges. Some were even freed, but this did not go well with the rest of society as they were automatically shunned and believed to have fled.

This means that they were not permitted to learn, write or read English. If they were discovered to be studying, or that their speech was more eloquent than their peers, they would be punished by killing to discourage the education of other slaves. African Americans had created Tutnese as a way to covertly teach each other the written word. More progressive slave masters would take educated slaves as servants and aides along their journeys so they could speak to authority figures.

The Tut language is not well known, only being formally covered in 1990 through an academic article and a further book on the language. The dialect has only recently gained traction on social media platforms, beginning in 2021 in such viral places as TikTok and Discord. There are different reasons that this language has been more recognized lately - ranging from genuine interest and also as a way to understand and preserve African-American culture during a historical time period.