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Lin: Phonology & Orthography

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 26, 2002, 19:43

I know these probably are not the features of Srikanth's compact conlang
called Lin that those who asked about it are most interested in.  But I'm
still trying to understand the enneasemy & 'cement' bits myself!

However, if I see any conlang written down I generally try to read it.
It's a darn sight easier if I have some idea of its orthography -
especially if it's odd (as Lin's is).

Indeed, if one is aiming, as Srikanth most certainly was, at maximum
possible compactness, then the greater the number of syllables one can use
the better.  Ideally, from the point of view of compactness, we'd have some
two or three thousand simple symbols, each representing a root word.

Fortunately, Srikanth didn't go that far!  But he did use more than the 26
letter alphabet for Lin.  He used all the lower case and all the upper case
letters as separate symbols as well as the ten digits and many other
symbols besides.  I think (I haven't checked it out) he used all the
symbols transmitted in the ASCII range 32 to 126, including the space
(ASCII 32)!

Of the phonology, Srikanth said: "The phonology of Lin is a human
perception to alien audio-visual telepathic impulses, as conveyed to me by
my contacts.  Hence it may not correspond to the actual sounds, if any, of
the native speakers."    :)

He divides his orthography into three groups of signs: (1) constant; (2)
variable; (3) composite.

Note: - all sounds are represented in X-SAMPA
Warning: - what follows will probably look gibberish if you're not reading
this with a monotype font.

1. Constants
(a) Vowels:
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       a   [a]          A   [{]
       i   [I]          I   [y]
       u   [U]          U   [1]
       y   [ai]         Y   [3H] [sic]
       o   [o]          O   [Q]
       w   [au]         W   [Qi]

(b) Consonants:
    Type 1 consonants -
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       p   [p]          P  [p\] (voiceless bilabial fricative)
       b   [b]          B  [B]
       c   [c]          C  [C]
       j   [J\]         J  [j\]
       k   [k]          K  [x]
       g   [g]          G  [G]

    Type 2 consonants -
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       t   [t]          T   [t`]
       d   [d]          D   [d`]
       l   [l]          L   [l`]
       n   [n]          N   [n`]

    Type 3 consonants -
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       q   [N]          Q   [J]
       m   [m]          M   [F]
       r   [r\]         R   [z`] *
       s   [s]          S   [S]
       z   [z]          Z   [Z]

    * _r_ seems to be the AngloAmerican /r/, not the trill /r/ of the Scots
& Italians; of _R_ Skrikanth says: 'soft as "zh" the palatal retroflex
continuant in Tamil, Malayalam."  I asume this the same sound as that
denoted by _r_ in Pinyin

    Type 4 consonants -
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       v   [P]          V   [w]
       h   [h]          H   [h\]
       f   [f]          F   [v]

    Type 5 consonant [Srikanth calls this an affricate]
      Lin SAMPA
       x   [kS]

(c) Syllables:
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       (   [Lu]         )   [Li]
       [   [Lo]         ]   [Le]
       {   [?lu]        }   [?li]
       <   [L{]         >   [L3H]
       '   [Su::~]      ~   [mi::~]
      (the two nasalized vowels are extra long)

(d) "invisible letters" -
    [@] may occur optionally between two consecutive consonants, e.g. _vnm_
    [ks] may be inserted between any two vowels within a clause.

(e) "inacoustic letters" ( 0 $)
    0 carries no sound, and is used as a single-space marker to improve
    $ also carries no sound, and is used as a no-space marker to improve

2. Variables
The variables are numeric and non-alphanumeric ASCII symbols and are called
'variables' because their function varies: they can assume phonemic values
or act as diacritics.  When 'sandwiched between consonants' they have
phonemic value and function as vowels; when in the immediate vicinity of
vowels, they are 'diacritics' denoting vowel length & tone.

(a) Vocalic values
      Lin SAMPA        Lin SAMPA
       1   [A]        <space> [A~]
       2   [i]           +    [i~]
       3   [u]           =    [u~]
       4   [e:]          \    [e:~]
       5   [o:]          |    [o:~]
       6   [{:]          *    [{:~]
       7   [y:]          :    [y:~]
       8   [1:]          ^    [1:~]
       9   [ei]          %    [ei~]

Actually 9 and % are what I assume they must be.  Of 4 Skrikanth has: 'like
a in faAce (long, without the "y" /j/ after a)'.   But of 9 he has: 'like a
in cAke (long)'.  That seems to imply 9 does have the [j] or [i] second
element.  It may be also that 5 should be [ou] and | [ou~].  Unfortunately,
he made too little use of ASCII-IPA of any sort.

(b) Diacritic values
    Lin recognizes 3 lengths (short, long, extra long) and three tones
(flat, rising, falling); thus the 'variables' 1 to 9 are used to cover all
nine tone-length combos; the other nine variables (including the space) are
used to denote the nasalized versions of the tone-length combos.

    A diacritics may apply either forwards or backwords, its own position
being marked by [j], thus, e.g.
   2a = [ja:]
   a2 = [a:j]

    Table of unnasalized values are:
             FLAT      RISING    FALLING
   SHORT      1           4        7
   LONG       2           5        8
EXTRA LONG    3           6        9

    Table of nasalized values are:
             FLAT      RISING    FALLING
   SHORT    <space>       \       :
   LONG       +           |       ^
EXTRA LONG    =           *       %

3. Composites
(a) a variable surrounded by two vowels:
  If those vowels are not themselves attached to other variables, the
variable affects both vowels, but the resulting [j] glide is not geminated,
  a^e = [a:~je:~] each syllable having a falling tone.

(b) a vowel surrounded by two variables
  The vowel is affected only by the variable in front of it; the variable
which follows assumes its vocalic pronunciation, e.g.
  h+a\b = [ha:~je:~b]

Just to finish the story, the variables will be found to function with the
grammatical role of "cements" to disambiguate Lin enneasemic words   :)

You have been warned.  If you think the phonology's complicated, you ain't
seen nothing yet.


A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
                     [J.G. Hamann 1760]


And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>Lin: enneasemy & cements (Part 1)
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>Lin: enneasemy & cements (Part 2)