This page says that standardization took place in year ~1700

So, where is it stated that English language has 26 letters and where are all letters defined?

This link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Latin_alphabet says "By the 18th century, the standard Latin alphabet comprised the 26 letters we are familiar with today". But what is the source?

UPD: The earliest document advised in answers to this question is Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, had the English alphabet codified.
Also, americans ITA-1 is dated by year 1929, see www.trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf

UPD2: I want something like "there is a book in that library, which is first document which uses modern alphabet", something like Cawdry, Robert.; T. C.","1609", "A table alphabeticall". It is said, that it is available electronically for free under CC0 license, but I am unable to find the text.

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    There is no such document. Aug 30, 2015 at 10:53
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    The letters are not defined, except as to their shape. There is no other definition of a letter; in English spelling letters do not represent sounds and are often not pronounced at all -- they are visual icons only, and their order is fixed by rote, which is much stronger than law. In any event, no body that issues laws has jurisdiction over the English language; it's transnational.
    – jlawler
    Aug 30, 2015 at 14:54
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    There are no de jure standards for this, but there are few de facto ones. ASCII (superseded by ISO basic Latin alphabet) is one of the more famous standards.
    – prash
    Aug 30, 2015 at 16:03
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    Also, the great vowel shift was a thing that just sort of happened, organically, as daily speech changed over those centuries. English was subject to a lot of recent change over those years as different groups of Middle English, French, Norse, Gaelic, (Latin), etc, speakers mixed and influenced each other. Modern English is really quite new and was born of the fusion of those various languages all clashing together. Even to this day the pronunciation of English varies wildly from one end of the UK to another (to say nothing of the remaining countries where it is spoken as a first language).
    – J...
    Aug 30, 2015 at 18:24
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    @dh3x25bd1f Sometimes some people have consider the ampersand a letter of the alphabet, maybe other times others have considered æ to be a letter. But there really is no official list, because there's no official anything. People use what they want to.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 31, 2015 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


Though not "official", you can argue that Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, had the English alphabet codified. It was accepted as authoritative. This is in the time frame you are suggesting.

  • i looked at table of contents and it contains all letters in proper order. The only question is it the earliest document, or it's predcessors are also good in relation to my requirements.
    – dh3x25bd1f
    Aug 31, 2015 at 6:09
  • library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/cawdrey/cawdrey0.html - doesn't contain all letters
    – dh3x25bd1f
    Aug 31, 2015 at 21:17
  • Have you read the title carefully? *A Table Alphabeticall ... hard vsuall English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French *
    – Alex B.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 22:07
  • Yes, I did read the title. The fact is what the earliest book which contains alphabet is Samuel Jonson's Dictionary, that is why i marked it as answer which satisfy me.
    – dh3x25bd1f
    Aug 31, 2015 at 22:42
  • The reason why Cawdrey doesn't "contain all letters" is that it has a very limited number of words. For instance, just because there are no words starting with K does not mean there was no such letter at that time, cf. Greeke in its title.
    – Alex B.
    Sep 1, 2015 at 1:25

None whatever.

There are no "official" resources of any kind, for any aspect of the English language.

There are dictionaries and grammars which are widely regarded as authoritative, but none of them have any kind of "official" standing, whatever that may mean.

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    Are you sure? And what about laws and regulations about alphabetical order? Are they "common sense" only? I find it strange because my country has a legal body for such purposes and, whilst rarely needed, it's there should any problems arise.
    – Mołot
    Aug 30, 2015 at 13:09
  • Molot is right. Several countries have official language bodies - the Académie française is another famous one - but there is no such body for English. I think we're better off without one.
    – bdsl
    Aug 30, 2015 at 13:31
  • @bdsl Well, it all depends on what such a language body tries to do. If they limit themselves to trying to develop a consistent spelling whilst accepting that language is a living thing then they can be a great help. Not all are as evil as the French one. Especially a language like English with extremely ugly/messy historical roots could have greatly used such a body. Aug 30, 2015 at 14:04
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    @Molot, standards do exist, but they come from various private standards bodies, like ANSI, ISO, etc. They are widely recognized, and in some cases laws may reference these standards, but the standards themselves have no legal force.
    – barbecue
    Aug 30, 2015 at 14:35
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    @tepples I didn't say anything about laws requiring private citizens to comply with standards. While there might be an example of such a law somewhere, what I am talking about are laws that specify that a standard must be used in order to qualify for government contracts or federal grants, for example. Nobody is going to be arrested or fined for using a different alphabet.
    – barbecue
    Aug 30, 2015 at 15:15

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