John R. Malone, a Chicago economist first developed the UNIFON alphabet in the 1950's. He was working for the Bendix Corporation and was commissioned to develop a universal phonemic code for International Air Services. As a result of a tragic air crash and an immediate demand for quick communication in the air, English was adopted as the universal language among pilots and ground control. John R. Malone’s contract was cancelled. Instead, he then used his newly developed alphabet to teach his young son to read in one afternoon thereby recognizing the valuable tool he had created for teaching children to read. For many years he worked to pass on this new method of learning and it was used in a number of schools in the Indianapolis and Chicago area. John R. Malone continues to live in the Chicago area and is a devout supporter of UNIFON. He has seen the success of this reading method in classrooms and with individuals.

Click on the image above to see an enlarge version ...

First Graders in Indianapolis wrote their own books in UNIFON to share them with their classmates. About 20 schools participated in this pilot program.

My Fair Language... Do We Need a New Alphabet? by John Malone
Chicago Sunday Sun Times, May 29, 1960


As a result of the changes John R. Malone made in the 1980's,  Ken Anderson's has reprinted his article with the correct character set Article by John Malone 2007

"UNIFON:A Design for Teaching Reading"
was first published
By Margaret S. Ratz, Ph.D.


A CBS TV show on UNIFON was hosted by Charles Kuralt, interviewing John Culkin. It was called “The Day They Changed the Alphabet”

Learning to Read: The Potential for the Isomorphic Alphabet
by Alan R. Burns
From Elementary English, Sept. 1973
Copyright 1973 by The National Council of Teachers of English

 Ken Anderson's article, The Case for the Logical Alphabet, 2007    

by Professor Arn Bowers
Faculty of Education, University of Toronto
Professor Bowers gave a presentation on this topic to the south central Ontario Group of The Movement in March, 1979.

John Culkin,
director of the graduate programs in media studies at the New School for Social Research. wrote an article for the THE NEW YORK TIMES about UNIFON. It was published on  WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 1977 see article

1981                                                                                                                                                                         top^

John R. Malone turned over the project to John M. Culkin, Executive Director of The Center for Understanding Media.

John M. Culkin, Executive Director of The Center for Understanding Media  wrote about UNIFON  in this article for the Science Digest, August 1981. (see article at John Culkin)

In an educationally deprived section of South Chicago, 1st graders were reading by Christmas with the UNIFON method. This class continued to have the highest level of reading proficiency of any class. 

Biography of one of the teachers at Howalton Day School (1947-1986), Ethel Darden / Using John R. Malone's unifon alphabet and trained by Dr. Margaret Ratz, Howalton, as cited by John Culkin in the New York Times of July 20, 1977 demonstrated the highest first grade reading scores in the Chicago area from 1974 to 1975

There was an article about UNIFON in an edition of The New York Times. 

"The Instructor, a magazine for teachers also had an article on UNIFON in the early ‘80’s.

 A Foundation was established called “The Foundation for Consistent and Compatible Alphabet” to fund research and teaching using UNIFON. 

Roselyn Doyne Clark, a teacher of deaf and multiply handicapped students used UNIFON and combined it with Dr. Orin Cornett’s CUED SPEECH to create her own method called NU-VUE-CUE. http://hometown.aol.com/nuvuecue/  She first read about UNIFON inThe Instructormagazine and later met and worked with John R. Malone. She was very successful using this method in Indiana. She developed many teaching tools for this purpose. Her students learned quickly and were able to transfer to Standard English. Roseyln is now retired and lives in Ohio. The following picture is of her classroom at that time where she used the UNIFON alfubet.



Reference to a UNIFON font that was created in 1985 for several American Indian Tribes can be found at http://jaie.asu.edu/v25/V25S3dev.html / The following is the paragraph on UNIFON ... 

"The first project assisted four American Indian tribes--the Tolowa, Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa--in making the transition to bilingual literacy (Schools, 1985). Humboldt State University has developed an alphabet (named UNIFON ) which reproduces phonetically each of the oral languages of these tribes. Using the computer's type and graphic capabilities, this project is compiling a Natural Resources Dictionary for each of these four Indian languages."


John R. Malone Limerick, calligraphy by his wife ...  
click on the picture to see enlarges image.


Galen Alessi, Western Michigan University, wrote an article " Generative Strategies and Teaching for Generalizations"*, based on B. F. Skinners work. UNIFON  was mentioned in this article. It was sited as one of two ways to teach English (two options sited below) for generalized learning to take place. The article is based on the idea that the more specifically the community can reinforce the correct response, without the possibility of error, the faster learning can take place.
Option 1. Teach the sounds in the English language that are phonetic and gradually add
                     those that are not. (current standard phonetic teaching)

     Option 2. Expand the character set to accommodate the irregulars and then gradually 
                    eliminate the unique characters.
* published in The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 1987


1989                                                                                                                                                                  top^

Creating Bilingual Fonts - Unifon

Author: Ruth Bennett
Date: July August, 1989
Keywords: writing language Indian font
Text: Macintosh attracts users because of its graphics capacity. One of the outstanding graphic features that the Macintosh has had since its inception in l985 is not the most obvious. In the days before video graphics, Macintosh had its unusual graphics capability, displayed in features such as its font-building capacity. A variety of fonts may be installed on the Macintosh, and these fonts can be used interchangeably. One can switch fonts within a text, for example, or one can change fonts in outline fashion, or create more interesting formatting. The font-building capacity is essential for the user who works with non-English languages. A problem can arise with the non-English language font when one is working with both English and a non-English language. The non-English fonts may be cumbersome because of the time it takes to switch to the English language font. If one is typing in more than one language, one may have to switch fonts with each language shift. If one is doing translations, and particularly literal translations, one must switch fonts each time one shifts languages. This may occur several times ineach sentence, with a method of transcription that alternates from word-to-word with an English, then a non-English word. Whether one uses the mouse and the menu, or a keyboard function key, switching interrupts the flow of typing and therefore the flow of thought. In addition, the physical movements take up time. Switch fonts several times can significantly lengthen the time it takes to type a document. A solution, worked out with the American Indian languages of Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa and Hupa, is to create bilingual fonts. These languages have been recorded in a phonetic orthography called Unifon. The Unifon orthography is based on the capital letters of English. In designing bilingual fonts, I arranged the Unifon symbols and the English language symbols on the same font. Since the American Indian language orthography is primary, I put the capital letters of English and the additional Unifon symbols on the free keyboard position, moving the lower case letters of English to the Caps Lock position. The table on this page illustrates the use of the bilingual Unifon/English font with Microsoft File, and suggests the number of shifts from one orthography to another involved in work with two languages. In the table, three orthographies are in use: the English language orthography, the Yurok Unifon orthography and the International Phonetics Association orthography. The IPA orthography, as I have designed it, uses English language symbols with a different match of symbol to sound than English uses. This element in the design is another feature contributing to ease of typing. For the Unifon font, however, enough symbols differ from English that it became necessary to create changes in the English language font. The Unifon symbols occupy the free keyboard position. The Unifon phonetic font has 42 symbols, with the majority of the Unifon font the same as the capital letters of English. The Unifon orthography was created with the capital letters and the numbers were replaced with additional Unifon symbols. The free keyboard position is used for Unifon, with the assumption that the Yurok Unifon is the primary orthography when it is used. The English language small letters were shifted to the Caps Lock position. The numbers replaced by Unifon symbols on the free keyboard position were shifted to the Shift position. The fonts for each of the languages of Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa and Hupa, therefore, have two orthographies installed within the same keyboard set. There are three orthographies if one counts the IPA orthography, and this was accomplished by selecting IPA symbols that concur with the English language orthography. The result is that the shift from the English to the non-English orthography is contained within one font, thus saving the typist the time it takes to shift fonts. As not all orthographies share symbols with the English language, my solution may not be practical to others who are working with non-English languages. I hope to be helpful for this purpose by encouraging Macintosh users to develop bilingual fonts and by suggesting some basic considerations. In designing a bilingual font, there are certain questions to answer. The first concerns. where to place the non-English language symbols.

There are two options: ONE. Symbols can be added to the English language fonts on lesser-used keys. TWO. Symbols can be placed on the lesser-used levels of the keyboard, such as Cap-Lock, Option or Shift/Option. The first option is more practical when the non-English language orthography does not vary too much from the English. Diacritics that are added using the Option and Option/Shift keys on the standard Macintosh SE keyboard, make it possible to type German, French and Spanish. (See Janet Spinas-Cunningham, ''Parlez-vous Macintosh? Tips on How to Get the Right 'Accents,''' Known Users, May, l989. For fonts where a greater number of symbols vary from English, making it impractical to add symbols to the English-language keyboard, one must free up one or more keyboard levels in order to to place the entire set of orthographic symbols on the same level. Another keyboard level can be used for English. Any number of software types produce bilingual materials with the bilingual fonts. I have used Microsoft Word, Microsoft File, Fullpaint, Hypercard and others. The software for creating bilingual fonts is Altsys' Fontastic +. Fonts are designed and arranged on this program, and moved, with the Font/DA Mover, into the system or stored on a disk with the Font/DA Mover.

Copyright july august, 1989 by Ruth Bennett

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The book Tolowa Language Dictionary, second edition edited by Loren Bommelyn and Bernice Humphrey was published. The dictionary is based on a UNIFON character set shown below. Click on image to enlarge.



Original bookmark created by John R. Malone. Click on bookmarks to enlarge.



John Culkin died and most of the UNIFON publications were lost at that time.

Greg Wright
created a website that included a page on UNIFON

1996 - 1997

Proposal was made in 1996-06-01; revision 1997-01-21to include UNIFON in the Conscript UnicodeRegistry U+E740 –UE76F standards. http://www.evertype.com/standards/csur


Daniel O'Rourke also created a copy written UNIFON font somewhat different then the one we are using. This can be seen at ... http://www.reocities.com/Eureka/1309/IndianFont.html

May 2000

The current http://www.unifon.org/  web site was created. Originally a font commissioned by Dan Knip and created by April J. Lagarde was used. Eventually a font from Greg Wright's site "Greg's Place" http://home.tir.com/~gtwright/unifon.htm  The most recent fonts can now be easily downloaded from this page on this site.


Small bits of UNIFON were used in a comic book series called Rumble Girls

August 2001
Actual writing in UNIFON began in earnest! Original stories by Neil Stewart were linked to the web site joining the translations already done by Paul Stought.

December 2002
It was determined that John R. Malone was living in the Chicago area and conversations with him filled in some of the history of which we were not previously aware.

June 2003
Using the dictionary created by Scott White Toby Peers created the web converter ... No longer available. Now either a web page or a selected text could be converted to keyboard UNIFON. If one has the UNIFON font installed they could then copy and paste this into Word and change it to the UNIFON font.

Sept. 2003
Dan Knip and Pat Katzenmaier had the opportunity to meet with John R. Malone and hear directly about his development and experiences with UNIFON.

 Sept. 2003
Scott White completed the Lookup file Now a Standard English word could be put into this application and one could see the unifon_characters for that word, even if they did not have the UNIFON font installed.

Dec. 2003
Scott White created the UNIFON Converter ... Large amounts of text could now be translated into unifon_characters even if the recipient did not have the UNIFON Font installed.

June 2004
Tyler Dykstra created a Roman-style UNIFON font                                                                                                       top^

Nov. 2004
We discovered that Vic Fieger had a UNIFON font called Data Control / This is a very nice font with better spacing then we have had previously.

May 2005
Ken Anderson created the educational tools that are on the website. He also began translating a number of children's books and other readings into UNIFON.

Summer 2005
We became clearly aware from Ken Anderson's research and conversations with John R. Malone that he (John R. Malone) had changed some of the unifon characters in the 1980's. The character set we found when we began this website ...

  ... were not the ones John R. Malone chose to use after 1980's. The chart below is his preference. We are in the process of converting this website in accordance with these current characters. For the time being you may still find some of the older characters for I and OY on this website.

Summer 2006
Ken Anderson found a copy of Margaret Ratz book, "UNIFON:A Design for Teaching Reading"

Summer 2007

Additional historical articles were recovered by John Malone and added to the website...



This Spelling Reform Webring  edit

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Web Master - Pat Katzenmaier