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June 19th, 2013


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ohevshalomel
01:54 am - The limitations of transliteration into Latin characters
I'm working on my first conlang, a proto-language for a few of the languages spoken by characters in my current writing project. I suddenly feel how inadequate Latin orthography is for expressing phonemes that are foreign to native speakers of English and other Western European languages (sorry, Mandarin and Cantonese!). Who knew that there could be such ramifications associated with the choice of a letter. For example, I somehow had the brilliant idea of making both the un-aspirated "p" and the aspirated "pʰ" phonemic. Now I'm at a loss as to how to express this difference in English letters. "Ph" would be taken to be "f" and "pk" or "px" wouldn't produce the correct sound. "Pp" would be an idea except for the fact that it would make it appear as though the "p" sound were phonemically longer than it really is, as in Proto-Finnic and modern Estonian. I've looked over the diacritic section of the IPA to see if there might be something that I could use, but other than the superscript "h", there is not. Would some sort of slash through the lower stem of the "p" work? That seems to be the only thing that is suggesting itself to my mind.

This is just one of the challenges presenting itself to me with transcribing the phonology of my conlang.

*Edited to correct spelling*
Current Location: United States, Pennsylvania
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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:kuiskata
Date:June 19th, 2013 06:43 am (UTC)
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If the orthography is meant to be specific to your conlang and you don't have an ejective p, would using "p' " work? (That's assuming, of course, that apostrophes don't already serve some entirely different purpose in your conlang.)
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 02:37 am (UTC)
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Yes, I suppose so, although mightn't some confuse it with an ejective "P"?

I'm trying to avoid apostrophes in my conlang as much as possible.
[User Picture]
From:kuiskata
Date:June 20th, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
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I imagine some would, but if you're worried about the average (monolingual) English-speaker, chances are they wouldn't even know that ejectives exist in some languages.

That said, I can totally understand the desire to avoid apostrophes as much as possible.
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
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You've got a point. What do you think of spelling the aspirated "P" as "pħ"?
[User Picture]
From:cnoocy
Date:June 19th, 2013 11:13 am (UTC)
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If you don't have a voiced bilabial stop, you can use b for the unaspirated and p for the aspirated. (As is done in a popular transliteration for Mandarin.)
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 02:38 am (UTC)
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True, but I just don't want the un-aspirated "P" to be voiced.
[User Picture]
From:kohath
Date:June 19th, 2013 01:47 pm (UTC)
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If I saw a slash through any part of a "p" I'd be even more inclined to think it meant a fricative than if I saw "ph". (cf. p with stroke = [ɸ].) B/p and p/ph are the most sensible options if you want to avoid diacritics, and both have their drawbacks. The other option is to not express the difference in the spelling at all (at least in the Romanization you use for your text). If your audience for your writing project is English speakers, it's very likely they will not try to reproduce the aspiration distinction at all.
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC)
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It's very likely that no matter what I do, some of those reading the words will clearly butcher them, and not through any personal fault of theirs, either. I'm trying to avoid that as much as possible. I was thinking of a slash through the stem of the "P", not through the big fat part (the "body" or whatever the name for that part is), kind of like the bottom of an Orthodox Christian cross.

Yes, I am thinking about the drawbacks of both ideas. I really don't like the cons of either. Another option I've considered is using the symbol for the pharyngeal fricative that I've included in the phones for the language after the "P", written as "pħ". The sound wouldn't be precise, but it would be a lot closer to what I had intended than the "B/P" or "P/PH" options.
[User Picture]
From:pauraque
Date:June 19th, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)
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In my own conlang with phonemic aspiration, I just went with ph th kh and didn't worry about it. Since the majority of the people who will ever be interested in your conlang are other conlangers, who will probably read your phonology notes if they're reading your work at all, I don't think it's that much of a problem. You're going to be looking at it the most, so do what looks okay to you.
[User Picture]
From:christinathena
Date:June 20th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC)
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A lot of natlangs use that convention, for that matter
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
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That would make sense to me, but I don't want an aspirated "P" to be confused with an "F" by English speakers, who would be my readers.
[User Picture]
From:allegrox
Date:June 26th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
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You could avoid this by using "p'h". It has an apostrophe, but in a place that doesn't look so bad.
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 27th, 2013 06:15 am (UTC)
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That's cool. I do have one ejective, one lonely little ejective, in the language though (a sibilant, s'), so would putting an apostrophe after the "P" be confusing?
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
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It's for a work of fiction, so I imagine that only other linguists reading it would be too terribly concerned about the proper pronunciation, but still, I don't want a complete mangling of things (which anyone, even I, can be guilty of--I just learned yesterday that I was completely mispronouncing the name of one of my favorite comedians because I was putting stress on the syllable where I thought it should go). I think the "pħ" is the best compromise that I can think of. Another thing is that I think that special symbols, if applied correctly (and not generally arbitrarily and contrary to the phone or phones conventionally assigned to said symbols), can turn the switch on in the reader's brain that says, "Hey, this has a special pronunciation. Maybe I should look it up." It's a cheap psychological trick, but one that I'm willing to employ.

But you're right, I'm the one who has to be happy with my orthography, even if it represents phones nonstandard to native anglophones.
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:June 19th, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
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Dtoé Tävat'i av Nyojé D'al.
(Welcome to the club). I.e., Been there, done that. Found a work-around. Be prepared to make a lot of explanations until you can find a spelling system that works for you. English-language editors tend to be bitchy about consistency. Fortunately, you have people to bounce ideas off of to see what works. I happened upon a friend's speech dictation software years ago and ran a few theories through it to see what it would say. There's probably something even better around these days.

Edited at 2013-06-19 07:05 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I'm going to keep hammering it out until I'm happy with it, even if that means that I have to come back and change spellings or even drop phonemes after I've started to build words, a system of grammar and write some idioms and such.

Yes, I'm glad I found this group. I like to chat with other linguists and creative writers, but most of them have about the same experience as me with constructed languages. I do feel like making my own language is making me a better linguist--and possibly a better writer, too.

I like the idea of running phones through a dictation software. I wonder if they make one specifically for linguists? It wouldn't surprise me. :)

P.S. Is your phonology for your language above located in your book?
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:June 20th, 2013 07:18 am (UTC)
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I include a working glossary and grammatical guide for the naming conventions, plus some treatises on the culture that would most interest the reader of the stories.
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 21st, 2013 02:26 am (UTC)
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Cool! Is your book called Family Forge?
[User Picture]
From:sodyera
Date:June 21st, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
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One book is The Family Forge.
The other is The organized Seer.

If you goto www.wormholeelectric.com you can read the serialized sequel, "The Touching Lands' Dance".
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 21st, 2013 06:37 am (UTC)
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Cool! I'll have to check those out.
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 20th, 2013 07:20 am (UTC)
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Okay, I've got my orthography worked out (for now). Here are two of my first four words (yay!). I actually came up with six words, but two of them didn't fit the history of the people or the phonological constraints of the proto-language, so I'm saving them for a later descendant language.

Anyway, here goes:

yédra {jed'rɑ} = earth, underground

agyard {'ɑɟjɑrd}= heaven, the heavens

These words are both based on the idea that the Old Norse got their mixed bag of (and mixed-up) mythology originally from the speakers of this language, to a certain extent. Hence, "yédra" became "Yggdrasill" and "agyard" became "Ásgarðr". (Yes, I know that the Old Norse had their own morphology and etymology for these proper names, but...this is fiction.)
[User Picture]
From:boroparkpyro
Date:June 24th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
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How about HP instead of PH?
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 25th, 2013 05:52 am (UTC)
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That's an interesting idea.

I kind of settled on "pħ" for the aspirated "P"; it incorporates the "ħ" sound that I already have as part of the phonology, so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, even though the aspiration is really different from the "ħ" fricative.
From:Jesse Bangs
Date:June 25th, 2013 01:20 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to suggest some of the same things that others have. If you have only a two-way distinction between /p/ and /pʰ/, then use "b" and "p". If you have a three-way distinction, then use "b", "p", and "ph" for /b p pʰ/. Yes, many English speakers will naively pronounce this as [f], but naive English speakers are going to mispronounce your language anyway, so who cares?
[User Picture]
From:ohevshalomel
Date:June 26th, 2013 04:32 am (UTC)
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Yeah, it's just that I really don't want any voicing on the aspirated plosives. I'm kind of partial to the "pħ" that I decided on; I may decide later to change it to something else, but for now it works.

For whatever reason struck my fancy, I started working on a group of onomatopoeias for the language yesterday. It's kind of fun and an aspect of natural language that could easily be overlooked.

Thanks for the advice! :)

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