Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Fun with orthography

From:taliesin the storyteller <taliesin@...>
Date:Saturday, October 13, 2001, 19:08
[Scroll down to the line looking like this:
for the fun stuff]

The orthography, or actually the _transliteration_ of my conlang târuven
into a more or less latin-looking alphabet, has changed quite a few
times, and no doubt it'll change even more.

At first, long vowels and consonants were capitalized, and I wondered
how to write diphthongs. (Yep, I was inspired by klingon, see


Then, I showed length with a colon, and used diacritics on the second
member of a diphthong. (The length-marking wasn't original either but
I don't know where I got that from.):

ta:ruven saì yár:a (târuven, river, fire)

Now, I show length with an acute on the vowels, and doubling the

târuven saì yárra

The latest change is that aspiration and breathiness is shown by an <h>
and not an apostrophe:

'reged' > hregedh (evolution, gradual change)

Furthermore, getting rid of the comma (which shows palatalization) would
be nice, to say the least.

I'd say the look has improved, wouldn't you agree? (Not to mention that
searching for words has become easier; search-engines tend to croak on
non-alphabetic signs.)

Now to the point: as Mark Rosenfelder shows in the Language Construction
Kit (at

    "In my fantasy world, for instance, Verdurian D^arcaln and
    Barakhinei Dhârkalen are not pronounced that much differently, but
    the differing orthographies give each a different feeling. Surely
    you'd rather visit civilized D^arcaln than dark and brooding
    Dhârkalen? (Tricked you. It's the same place.)"

the orthography chosen affects the mood and feel of a language. So, one
wants to experiment with that look and feel.


The best way for _me_ to get the feel of a language's visual properties
is by looking at lots and lots of text in it (trying not to read
it). However, testing changes in such a text by manually changing, say,
all h'es after unvoiced consonants but not the ones anywhere else can
be quite a chore. (A further problem is that there aren't lots and lots
of things written in târuven yet, for several reasons.) Therefore, I've
been looking for a mechanized solution, and I think I have it:

I use the before mentioned M. Rosenfelder's [*] sounds-program (at to change _English_ text into his
mock-phonemic orthography (see, and
then doctor that a little, and then I use sounds again, to produce an
"English as written in târuven"-version, and hey presto! lots and lots
of text! Now it becomes possible to use sounds again, to adjust the
orthography further. Here's an examplei, using the paragraph above:

    ðe best weì fâ _mî_ ta get þe fîl av a laqguídjes viz,ull prapatîs
    is baì lukiqg at lats and lats av tekst in it (tcaìiqg nat ta
    oîd it). Haòeve, testiqg tceìndjes in satc a tekst baì men,ulli
    tceìndjiqg, seì, al eìdjes afte anvâ,sed kânsnants bat nat þe oáns
    anioé els kan bi koáìt a tcâ. (A fâþe poáblm is þat þê ânt lats and
    lats av þiqs oítnn in târuven ,et, fâ seveoál oísâns.) Thêfâ, aìv
    bin lokiqg fâ a mekhanaìzd salucan, and aì þiqk aì hev it:

(Yes, it did take a bit of manual tuning). The paragraph above is now
ready to be experimented with. Is this neat or what?

[*] Anyone play "Traveller" here? :)



Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>