I am looking for languages with writing systems that are almost completely ideally phonemic (i.e. no silent letters and an unambiguous one-to-one correspondence between the letters and the phonemes). Two that I have found so far are Swahili and Esperanto. Does anyone know of more? It would be great to compile as many as possible.
Most recently developed orthographies are phonemically straight forward - they become less ideal as time goes on and the spoken language goes under sound shifts, but the written language doesn't.
Most of the languages SIL has worked with did not have an orthography before, so you'll be able to find many in their archive.
In the late 4th century AD, king Vramshapuh of Armenia asked Mesrop Mashtots, one of the officials in his chancellery and a prominent scholar, to create a new alphabet for Armenian.
Mashtots travelled to Alexandria, where he studied the principles of writing and came to the conclusion that the Greek alphabet was the best alphabet in use at that time because there was an almost one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters. He used this model to come up with a new alphabet, which he presented to the king when he returned to Armenia in 405 AD. The new alphabet was well-received and a new Armenian translation of the bible was published in 405 AD. Other literary works soon followed.
There are some differences between spoken and written language:
- Two sounds,
[ja]that have been adopted from Russian.
- Other subtle differences have primarily dialectic nature.