LANG53 Orthography

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1. 53 Phonemes 2. A Dual Orthography 3. A Consonantal Script 4. Shorthand

53 Phonemes

An IAL orthography can only be successful if it reconciles the following facts:

The challenge, therefore, is to provide an IAL which can be used in either a simple or a complex manner: in the case of orthography this means common phonemes for common words, but also a gradation to rarer speech sounds as words become more specialised, or specific to particular cultures with certain preferences. Moreover, in order to obtain an exact correspondence between orthography and phonology, it would be necessary to establish a global standard pronunciation (GSP) for reference purposes. Bearing in mind that LANG53 would be international from the start rather than initially English-based, more about a GSP may be found in Chapter 20 of LANGO.

The 53 phoneme orthography offered below - a revision of the scheme in the first part of Chapter 19 of LANGO - permits most of the more usual speech sounds to be displayed without digraphs:




a ð the, this A æ bad, lack, chat bAd, lAk, eAt
b b ban, bib B ɑu out, bough, crown Bt, bB, krBn
c ʦ once, cancel C ə other, sofa, a UaC, sGfC, C
d d den, rod D ɨ Wbl (R), cblp (R) mD, sDr


church, cello E ɛ bed, well, nyet (R) bEd, wEl, uEt
f f far, fun F ɜː fern, bird, peu (F) fFn, bFd, pF


gel, giant G ou foe, know, go fG, nG, qG


hat, hen H ɪə dear, seer, weir dH, sH, wH
i ŋ anger, wing I ɪ bid, writ, gin bId, rIt, gIn
j ʒ beige, azure J ʊ put, full, bull pJt, fJl, bJl
k k cat, like K ei veil, day, raid vKl, dK, rKd
l l cool, leaf L ɔː paw, auk, talk pL, Lk, tLk
m m met, hum M ɑː car, rather, path kM, rMaC, pMo
n n ten, nun N i: bee, key, pizza bN, kN, pNcC
o θ thin, theatre O ʋ pod, frost, thong pOd, frOst, oOi
p p pit, up P ʊə poor, book, lure pP, bPk, lP
q g tag, go Q ɔə pore, boar, lore pQ, bQ, lQ
r ɾ ran, rib R ɛə fair, wear, mare fR, wR, mR
s s sad, so S ø coeur (F), hören (G) kSr, hSrCn
t t tab, it T ɔi boil, toy, koi bTl, tT, kT


union, canyon U ʌ bud, worry, jug bUd, wUrI, gUq
v v valve, hive V aiə fire, ire, mire fV, V, mV
w w win, wool W ɑuə tower, power tW, pW
x ʃ she, fish X u: flue, do, boot flX, dX, bXt
y j yet, young Y y tu, mur (F), für (G) tY, mYr, fYr
z z zip, daze Z ai lie, why, knight lZ, wZ, nZt
' ʔ a lo'a bu'a

The above vowel representations are more or less arbitrary but the consonant symbols might be rationalised to some extent: 19 are as in English (and many other languages), whether as the sole usage, e.g. [b], [d], or as one of two or more alternatives, e.g. [c], [g]; two are used as in languages other than English - [j] as in French, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian and [x] as in Portuguese, Basque, Catalan and Maltese; [q] ~ / g / may be unprecedented but fits morphologically; this leaves [a e i o u], which have been allocated with some reference to the corresponding I.P.A. symbol, thus [a] ~ / D /, [e] ~ / tS / ([c] ~ / tþs / + / h /), [i] ~ / N / (the participle "-ing" suffix might be mnemonic here), < o > ~ / T / and finally [u] ~ upside-down / J / (!?).

The initial core vocabulary of common words would employ many fewer than 53 phonemes, and as few consonant clusters as possible; words containing rarer and more difficult speech sounds might be added later, as the IAL developed. A relatively extensive phonology would permit all words of most languages, and most words of nearly all languages, to be transliterated - with the result that most utterances from most cultures could be made under the banner of the IAL and written down in its script, though this could not be done adequately without some grammatical development.

The above scheme may require fundamental modification in due course: its anglicised phonology - including the 23 vowels of (non-rhotic) R.P. English and only 3 exclusively heard in other tongues - is perhaps too biased towards English for a universal language. Robert Craig has suggested an alternative allocation of symbols to phonemes, as follows:




a ð the, this A ə other, sofa, a CaA, sOfA, A
b b ban, bib B ʊə poor, book, lure pB, bBk, lB
c ʧ church, cello C ʌ bud, worry, jug bCd, wCrI, iCq
d d den, rod D ʋ pod, frost, thong pDd, frDst, oDg


once, cancel E ɛ bed, well, nyet (R) bEd, wEl, uEt
f f far, fun F ɛə fair, wear, mare fF, wF, mF


anger, wing G ɑu out, bough, crown Gt, bG, krGn


hat, hen H bee, key, pizza bH, kH, pHeA
i ǰ gel, giant I ɪ bid, writ, gin bId, rIt, iIn
j ʒ beige, azure J ɨ Wbl (R), cblp (R) mJ, sJr
k k cat, like K aiə dear, seer, weir dK, sK, wK
l l cool, leaf L y fire, ire, mire fL, L, mL
m m met, hum M ɔː paw, auk, talk pM, Mk, tMk
n n ten, nun N ɪə tu, mur (F), für (G) tN, mNr, fNr
o θ thin, theatre O ou foe, know, go fO, nO, qO
p p pit, up P ɔi boil, toy, koi bPl, tP, kP
q g tag, go Q ɔə pore, boar, lore pQ, bQ, lQ
r r ran, rib R ɑː car, rather, path kR, rRaA, pRo
s s sad, so S ø coeur (F), hören (G) kS, hSrAn
t t tab, it T ai lie, why, knight lT, wT, nTt


union, canyon U flue, do, boot flU, dU, bUt
v v valve, hive V ʊ put, full, bull pVt, fVl, bVl
w w win, wool W ɑuə tower, power tW, pW
x ʃ she, fish X æ bad, lack, chat bXd, lXk, cXt
y j yet, young Y ei veil, day, raid vYl, dY, rYd
z z zip, daze Z ɜː fern, bird, peu (F) fZn, bZd, pZ
! ʔ a lo'a bu'a

A Dual Orthography

The "dual orthography", using English lower-case letters for consonants and upper-case for vowels (as shown in the right-hand columns of the above tables), is widely disliked, as those who have tried it in English spelling reform schemes have discovered. People tend to find it aesthetically objectionable, inimical to cursive handwriting, and very awkward for typists - who must continually operate the shift-key.

However, a system analogous to that found in Hebrew, Arabic and other Semitic languages would make the vowels or capital letters invisible in most circumstances. For instance, in the Hebrew Nikud system the diacritics or marks that signify vowels are normally omitted from the text of books and newspapers; the vowel points are only shown where a guide to the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word is required. Children memorise the vowels and learn to recognise words by their consonants alone. Using essentially the same system, the "adult" script of LANG53 would be similar to the script on this page.

A Consonantal Script

The potential print-saving achievable by a consonantal script is astounding. With 27 consonants, 551,880 words of four letters or less are possible (27 + [27 × 27 =] 729 + [27 × 729 =] 19,683 + [27 × 19,683 =] 531,441 = 551,880) - four or fives times more than the total vocabulary of English (if the endless progression of names for numbers, chemical compounds etc. is excluded).

However, this very brevity tends to produce homographs. For example, it can be seen that the following English words: "rat, rate, rait, ret, rete, writ, rit, (ritt,) write, rite, right, wright, rot, root, route, (wroot,) (rought,) wrote, rote, rut, rout, wrought" would all become "rt" in a consonantal script! The three-consonant word-roots typical of consonant-based scripts such as Hebrew are probably a response to this homographic tendency, given the limited number of possible consonant sequences in these tongues.

The need to reduce homography in its consonantal script is one reason why LangX's vocabulary should be incorporated from the entire range of the world's languages. Even then, many potential consonant sequences would probably remain unused - simply because they do not occur in the vocabulary of any existing language. Moreover, artificial neologisms containing unprecedented sequences might prove unpopular.


A shorthand convention might circumvent this difficulty by employing "spare" consonant sequences. Shorthand systems using English letters are not unknown. For instance, PitmanScript has: "of ~ v, to ~ t, be ~ b, you ~ u, not ~ n, we ~ w, me ~ m, do ~ d".

A shorthand system for LangX might specify:

Mathematically, there would be a maximum of 756 (27 + [27 × 27]) words, abbreviations or logograms in the first category and an unlimited number of words in the second. However, this would be no guide to the frequency of words on the page. For instance, the following 69 words make up about 50% of all average continuous running English, spoken or written: "the, of, and, to, a, in, that, it, is, I, for, be, was, as, you, with, he, on, have, by, not, at, this, are, we, his, but, they, all, or, which, will, from, had, has, one, our, an, been, no, their, there, were, so, my, if, me, what, would, who, when, him, them, her, your, any, more, now, its, time, up, do, out, can, than, only, she, made, us."

Reginald J G Dutton, FRSA, author of Dutton World Speedwords, was evidently thinking along similar lines several decades ago. Here is his shorthand for some common words:


at, to






of, from


am, are, is (to) be




them, they


has, have




I, me








no, not














a, an, one




us, we




was, were



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