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Yûomaewec: English Spelling

From:Adrian Morgan <morg0072@...>
Date:Saturday, August 10, 2002, 6:43
[ Diacritics used in this mail: à ò ù û = a` o` u` u^]

I've been evolving my fictional English spelling reform, now called
"Yûomaewec", which I shall demonstrate below with the introductory
paragraph of my documentation.

It's been through several editions now, and recently I have simplified
the stress marking. The reason for complexifying the stress marking in
the first place was aesthetic - the new simplified version generates a
few duds like _eovolvvd_ for "evolved" (yuck!).

I'm in the process of translating a longer text, namely an extract
from an email discussion about artificial intelligence and robot

Comments/questions/complaints? For example, if the same fictional
scribes devised a system for American English, I wonder what it would
look like.


This fictional spelling reform was created as a private intellectual
challenge. In other words, for fun. The author does not believe that
such a scheme is suitable for the real world, even though the name
_Yûomaewec_ derives from the phrase "You-May-Wish". The result is
semi-phonetic, but among the aesthetic preferences that governed its
design was a belief that a few exceptions and ambiguities add
character to a language. The best way to think about it is as the
system that might have been if Australian English had evolved on an
isolated island and was given an orthography by scribes, much as
happened for Gaelic in our world.
Hzes fektcinil spàlleyn rifoom woz kreattid az i pruevit entilàkktcil
tcalindj. En uhzi wùodz fo fun. Hze oohsi duz not bileov hzat sutc i
skeom ez sûotibil fo hzi reol wùold, eovin hziu zi naem _Yûomaewec_
diruevz from hzi fraez "Yû-Mae-Wec". Hzi rizolt ez sàme-fonàmmek, but
imuyn hze ashsàttek pràfrintsez hzat guvind ets dizuen woz i bileof
hzat i fyû àksàptcinz and ambigyûittez ad karikti tû i langwedj. Hzi
bàst wae tû hseynk ibawt et ez as hzi sestim hzat muet hav beon ef
Istraelein Englec had eovolvvd on in uesilaetid uelind and woz gevin
in oohsoggrife bue skruebz, mutc as hapind for Gaelek en awi wûold.


- Digraphs ending with 'o' represent long vowels

- This 'o' is left off at the end of a word

- Some vowels spelt long even when they're not really prolonged,
  namely /i/, /8/ and /}/. However if a given vowel can either be
  pronounced [i] or [@] then it is acceptable to transcribe it as
  though it were [I].

- Table of vowels:
  /{/   {a}   (as in "bat")
  /{:/  {ao}  (as in "bad")
  /e/   {à}   (as in "bet")
  /I/   {e}   (as in "bit")
  /i/   {eo}  (as in "beat")
  /6/   {u}   (as in "but")
  /6:/  {uo}  (as in "bard")
  /8/   {ùo}  (as in "bird")
  /}/   {ûo}  (as in "boot", allophone [u:] as in "fool")
  /O/   {o}   (as in "bot")
  /o:/  {oo}  (as in "bored", also for "gone" and "all")
  /U/   {ò}   (as in "book")
  /@/   {i}   (as in "rabbit")
  /l=/  {il}  (as in "bottle")

- Diacritics and the {o}s from digraphs are both dropped from most

- The above does not apply to diphthongs that end with /l/ (which are
  not true diphthongs but will be considered as such when not followed
  by a vowel or a /y/). Examples: "meal", "help", "world".

- When {ol} as in _hol_ ("hole") is followed by a vowel then it is
  spelt {owl} as in _howle_ ("wholly") and the {ow} is considered a
  diphthong. This is because _hole_ spells "holly".

- List of diphthongs:
  /{I/  {ae}  (as in "bay")
  /{U/  {aw}  (as in "bough")
  /e@/  {ai}  (as in "bear", sometimes pronounced [e:]
  /i@/  {ei}  (as in "beer")
  /6I/  {ue}  (as in "buy")
  /3\}/ {iu}  (as in "boat")
  /oI/  {oe}  (as in "boy")

- In vowel clusters (as in "piano") the {o}s from digraphs are left
  out but diacritics are left in.

- Vowel clusters and diphthongs can sometimes be ambiguous, e.g. in
  _eirei_ ("eerier") the first {ei} is a diphthong and the second a

- Consonant letters are b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t,
  v, w, y, z and mostly represent the phonemes an English speaker
  would expect.

- Surprising consonants:
  /S/   {c}
  /Z/   {j}
  /tS/  {tc}
  /dZ/  {dj}
  /T/   {hs}
  /D/   {hz}
  /N/   {yn}

- /n/ is [N] before 'g' or 'k', no need for {yn} in those positions.

- There is no way to indicate long consonants except with hyphens,
  hence _un-aemd_ ("unaimed"), _un-naemd_ ("unnamed").

- To indicate which syllables are stressed, we either double a
  consonant or insert a 'h'. Marking is not required if a word is
  stressed on its first syllable or on the first syllable that doesn't
  contain /@/ or /l=/.

- A 'syllable nucleus' is the vowel or diphthong from a syllable, but
  a /y/ before a vowel/diphthong is also part of the nucleus if
  preceded by another consonant, e.g. the {yû} in _valyû_ ("value").

- Table of stress rules:
# If stressed nucleus followed by one or more consonants:
  Double the first consonant. If a digraph, double the {h} or {y}.
# If at the very end of a word:
  Append a {h} to the word. If a long vowel, the {o} may optionally be
# If the first half of a vowel cluster where the second half is /i/ or /l=/
  Mark stress as though the whole cluster were the nucleus.
  example: _ambigyûittez_ ("ambiguities")
# If as above but the second half is not /i/ or /l=/
  Insert the normally implicit consonant followed by a 'h'.
  example: _sàmeokaeyhos_ ("semichaos")

- Note that some English words are stressed diffrerently depending on
  the context. Compare "the unseen horror" with "the horror was
  unseen". One could spell "unseen" _unseon_ / _unseonn_ respectively
  but I prefer _unnseonn_.

- Optional features might evolve into distinct spellings for words
  that are pronounced the same; the system is deliberately designed in
  such a way as to allow conventions and interpretations to evolve.
  For example since stress marking is meaningless for monosyllabic
  words it is sensible to spell "to", "too" and "two" _tû_, _tûh_ and
  _tûoh_ respectively.

- Note that "our" (triphthonic) is _awi_ and "hour" (disyllabic) is


Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Carlos Reyes <charles_kings_swept@...>Writing System program
Tom Little <tom@...>language of the Mandai: phonology