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Latin-alphabet transcription systems

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Thursday, January 29, 2004, 20:51
I've been considering using the IPA as a transcription system for my new
languages, such as Virelli, and the older ones that I'm planning on
maintaining or bringing back to life, like Zharranh. Most of my langs
(other than a few like Eklektu, Ludireo, and Tilya, which were designed
around the Latin alphabet) either have their own writing systems, or at
least are normally written using something other than the Latin alphabet.
And yet, they each have their own Latin alphabet transcriptions, which are
totally different from one another (despite attempts to come up with
unified systems like Kolagian Orthography).

However, I've run into difficulties with using IPA, and I'm now thinking
that a new unified Latin-alphabet transcription might have some advantages.

Some problems I've been having with IPA:

* Certain distinctions that are phonemic in my languages require
diacritics, which goes against the general IPA tendency of one symbol per
phoneme. Virelli for instance has distinct /t_d/ and /t/. I recently had
the idea of using t with stroke (U+0166, U+0167) for the dental t in the
Latin transcription. On the other hand, far more diacritics are used in
Latin alphabet transcriptions.

* Many IPA letters don't have capitals, making it difficult to distinguish
between words and proper names.

* Using the IPA to refer to names in English just looks weird; there needs
to be a way to transcribe names in any case.

* Some sounds just don't exist in the IPA. Virelli has a voiceless palatal
lateral fricative, and Lindiga has a voiceless retroflex lateral fricative.
Virelli could use /L_0/, but this doesn't really make it clear that it's a
fricative. I've patched together a /K\`/ symbol for Lindiga with an "l with
belt" and a "combining retroflex hook below". There's a "whistled
articulation" diacritic in the ExtIPA symbols for disordered speech, but
not many fonts include this symbol....

* The nasal vowel diacritic doesn't stack with tone accents. In an ideal
world, the font system would handle this, but that's not likely to happen
any time soon (or for years to come, at the rate it's going). Using the
Polish nasal hook fixes this problem for most vowels, except /y/ (and
fortunately, I don't have a tonal language with /y~/ as a phoneme).

* For similar reasons, tone accents don't work with /1/ (the dot gets in
the way), and the voiceless diacritic doesn't work with /j/ (but /C/ could
substitute for /j_0/).

* Having a single symbol (letter + diacritic) for some of the common
affricates would be nice; Tirelat needs the distinction between /ts/ and
/t_s/. The IPA ligatures are officially disapproved, but the tie bar is

* ASCII versions of IPA are just plain ugly. Romanization will continue to
be necessary for email. For instance, in the romanization system for
Virelli, I use "y" to indicate palatal sounds, so that voiceless palatal
lateral fricative is written "hly". The word for "eight" is "hlyú" in
romanization, and [L_0W_H] in X-SAMPA. (It doesn't look much better in APA:

On the other hand, the Latin alphabet doesn't have nearly enough vowels,
and the IPA symbols for retroflex sounds are convenient. So it's possible
that a mixed system of mostly Latin letters with some IPA might be a good

languages of Azir------> ---<>---
hmiller (Herman Miller)   "If all Printers were determin'd not to print any  email password: thing till they were sure it would offend no body,
\ "Subject: teamouse" /  there would be very little printed." -Ben Franklin


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