Brx /'pulusʲi/: Phonology & Orthography
DP (Design Principles ) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11.
- 1.1 The symbols
- Let us consider Design Principles 1, 2, 4 and 5:
- 1. Words need to be as short as possible, therefore morphemes should consist of no more than three letters at the most.
- 2. Use should be made not only of one vowel morphemes but also morphemes written with one consonant.
- 4. Each letter should denote only one basic sound.
- 5. There should be only one or two simple rules for the pronunciation of single consonant morphemes, and there should be no exceptions to these rules.
The simplest way to implement these four DPs is surely to use the letters of the Roman alphabet as a syllabary, with each letter denoting the same syllable in all contexts. We shall, in effect, drop the use of letters as either vowels or consonants, which Dutton introduced in his 1936 revision, and revert to the spirit of his International Symbolic Script of 1935.
If one is using the letters of the Roman alphabet as a syllabary, there is no reason to maintain the distinction between upper and lower case letters. One could use all 52 letters as separate symbols in a syllabary. Indeed, one could also incorporate numeric symbols 0 ..9 as well as various other symbols such as + = \ | : * ^ % (which represent vowels in Lin). thus one could have a syllabary of about 70 characters. But, as I found a few years ago when we were using the abbreviations BrScA and BrScB for two developments of the briefscript project, mixing upper and lower case is not helpful when typing; it's noteworthy that SMS language (aka Textese) does not use uppercase characters.
Although SMS language does use some digits (1, 2, 4 and 8) and other characters (e.g. &, @), their use is restricted within certain contexts. If we incorporated numeric symbols in the Brx syllabary, we would have words which consisted just of such symbols which could also be read as a numbers (e.g. 537, say, could be read as "elephant" or as "five hundred [and] thirty seven"); this could cause ambiguity and would be confusing. I have, therefore, restricted myself to the 26 symbols of the modern lower case Roman alphabet.
As I have shown on the 'Roman letter syllabaries' page, this is by no means a new idea. I was experimenting with such systems as far back as the 1950s, and Fuishiki Okamoto did just this for his auxlang Babm [bɔ'ɑ:bɔmu].
As the letters are being used to denote whole syllables and not single sounds (i.e. vowel or consonant) in the normal way, one could disregard traditional values and just assign syllabic values a priori. It will help, however, to remember the values if, a far as possible, they have some relationship to their traditional usage. But if we have some system behind the syllabic values, this will not always be easy. Even Okamoto, whose syllabary does not appear to be very systematic, has some odd values, e.g. x = [ki] and j = [zi].
- 1.2 The sounds
- Keeping in mind Design Principle 11 (Phonemes should be restricted to those that most people in the world already know or can learn to pronounce easily), I shall restrict
myself to just the three vowels of languages such as Classical Arabic, Inuktitut and Quechua.
As for the consonants, Frederick Bodmer wrote: "A battery of consonants with very wide currency would not include more than nine items - l, m, n, r, together with a choice between the series p, t, f, k, s, and the series b, d. v. g. z. Even this would be a liberal allowance. The Japanese have no l." [1944, "The Loom of Language", London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd].
Brx does indeed make no distinction between l and r, nor between voiced and voiceless plosives and fricatives. It keeps Bodmer's three plosives p, t, k (or b, d, g) but retains only one fricative, the sibilant s (or z). It further simplifies Bodmer's inventory in that before /i/ both dental/alveolar sounds and velar sounds fall together as palatals. It does, however, add to its inventory of consonants the semivowels /j/ and /w/ as well as /ʕ/, though the last occurs only before/a/.
This gives us a simple but complete syllabary as I show in Section 2 below.
2. The Brx syllabary
The phonemic transcription is slightly modified in that the small superscript ʲ is not required in /sʲi/ and /nʲi/. I have included them, however, as a reminder that the sound is palatalized.
In all rows, except the last (labio-velar approximates),
the symbol denoting C+a coincides with the IPA symbol for C.
The velar plosive use of c, k and q is suggested by the Etruscan and early Latin use of these three letters.
The 'rule' for the labial and dental/alveolar series is:
|/sʲ/ may be pronounced as palatal fricative [ç], alveolo-palatal fricative [ɕ] or postalveolar fricative [ʃ] or|
|The use of v and w is suggested partly by the fact that in the Insular Celtic languages the 'soft mutation' of /m/ is /v/ or /w/; also w may be regarded as a variant of (mu ligature).|
|g is suggested by the Italian use of gn = [ɲ]; it may be pronounced [ɲi],
[nʲi] or [nji].
h is a modified n; its use is also suggested by the Cyrillic н = /n/.
|The preferred pronunciation of /l/ is the lateral [l] or [ɭ];
simple approximate [ɹ] or [ɻ]or even the tap or flap, whether lateral [ɺ]
or whether just [ɾ] or [ɽ] is acceptable.
/ʕ/ may be approximant [ɰ] (velar), [ʁ̞] (uvular) or [ʕ̞] (pharyngeal), or voiced fricative [ɣ] (velar), [ʁ] (uvular), [ʕ] (pharyngeal) or [ɦ] (glottal).
The preferred pronunciation /w/ of is the labio-valar [w], but the labiodental [ʋ] is acceptable; before /i/ the labio-palatal [ɥ] may be used. But the voiced fricative [v] is not recommended.
(velar, uvular, pharyngeal or glottal)
- 2.1 Other notes
- The initial consonant of the plosive and fricative series should normally be voiceless at the beginning of words; they may, however, be voiced within an utterance.
- Speakers of British English should be careful not to pronounce medial dental/alveolar consonants as [ʔ], and speakers of American English should not reduce a medial dental/alveolar to a flap (i.e. t and d should not be pronounced as l and r!).
- The names of the letters are identical with the IPA pronunciation given beneath each letter in the table. Thus a word is pronounced simply by reading off the names of the lower case letters (For upper case letters, see below). There are no exceptions.
- 2.2 Stress
- Words of two or more syllable are stressed on the first syllable, e.g.
- or /'walu/ "man [generic], human being, person";
- car /'ciʕalu/ "city".
- 2.3 Upper case letters
- As we saw in 1.1 above, upper case letters do not form part of the syllabary. They have two uses in Brx:
- As the initial letter in a proper name; in this usage they are pronounced exactly the same way as the corresponding lower case letter, e.g.: Brx /'pulusʲi/; Yan /'juʕana/ "John"; Eln /'wilana/ "Helen".
- In Internationally used abbreviations. The abbreviation will have its own proper pronunciation.
- 2.4 Number of possible words
- If we restrict ourselves to Design Principle 1 (Words need to be as short as possible, therefore morphemes should consist of no more than three letters at the most), we find that the
above syllabary gives us a maximum of:
Words of one syllable: 26 Words of two syllables: 676 Words of three syllables: 17 576 TOTAL: 18 278
"The inventory of lexical morphemes should not be so small that frequent use has to be made of compounds which are longer than their equivalents in natural languages such as English."
3. How morphemes are divided
Note: This Section will be modified as more details of the language are worked out.
- 3.1. Introduction
- Design Principle 3 states: "It should be clear how morphemes are divided; the learner should not be presented with words that could be analyzed in more than one way."
We have seen, particulary on the 'itollis and evue' page, that Speedwords fails in this respect. Piashi did manage to have self-segregating morphemes, but at the expense of kludgey rules of vowel hiatus and a severe reduction in the possible number of words (e.g. just over 2000 three letter words). So how can we achieve this in Brx?
- 3.2 Brx looks again at International Symbolic Script
- In Section 1.1 above we said that Brx was abandoning the use of separate letters for consonants and vowels, which Dutton introduced in the 1936 and all subsequent versions of
Speedwords, and reverting to the spirit of Dutton's International Symbolic Script (ISS) of 1935 in which any of the letters could be used in any position in a word. So did ISS also fail
to show morpheme division?
it is clear that Dutton, in fact, used the dot to denote division in compound words, e.g. in the excerpt from Shaw's "St Joan", given on the 'Speedwords is (largely) a relexification of English' page, we find: zt.hzs "fields", oy.ym "(to) chain", tg.ma "(to) climb".
We saw from examples given in Section 2.2 that Brx stresses the first syllable in a polysyllabic word; thus if the Brx words for the verbs "to chain" and "to climb" were the same compounds as in ISS, we would have oy.ym /'waju'juma/ and tg.ma /'taɲi'ma.a/ respectively, where in writing the morpheme boundary is shown by a dot and in speech by stressing the syllable following the dot. However, Brx will not be using compound words for those two concepts.
Also, it is apparent from the "St Joan" that Dutton did not show all morpheme boundaries, but only those between lexical (and, presumably, free) morphemes. The words zt.hzs "fields", hos "flowers", kps "feet" uqaqs "soldiers" and phps "hills" show that -s marks the plural. I assume that Dutton did not allow morphemes that ended in -s. However, this expedient will not do for Brx.
- 3.3 Brx learns from ancient Egyptian and from Lin
- Brx learns not from ancient hieroglyphic script (or even the hieratic and demotic scripts) of ancient Egypt, but from conventions used by Egyptologists when transcribing ancient
Egyptian. For example:
- ỉw ỉr.n=ỉ prt wp-wȝwt wḏȝ=f r nḏ ỉt=f
I conducted the procession of Wepwawet, when he set out to protect his father
- ỉw ḳrs.n=ỉ ỉȝw, ḥbs.n=ỉ ḥȝy n ỉr=ỉ ỉwỉt r rmṯ
I buried the old, I clothed the naked, and I did no wrong against people
In the two examples above we find three different symbols used to mark morpheme boundaries: the dot (.) before past tense suffix n, hyphen (-) before a lexical morpheme, and equals sign (=) before a personal suffix. Similarly Brx will use different symbols before different types of morpheme, though these will not be identical to the above symbols.
So what does Brx learn from Lin? In that language we find various symbols are given a pronunciation; e.g. = (equals sign) is pronounced [ã:], : (colon) pronounced [õ:] and * (asterisk) pronounced [ũ:].
Likewise, separators are reflected in pronunciation in Brx.
- ỉw ỉr.n=ỉ prt wp-wȝwt wḏȝ=f r nḏ ỉt=f
- 3.4 Brx morpheme dividers
Brx similarly uses separators; it will also, like Lin, use other symbols normally used for punctuation and, as in Lin, these will be reflected in the pronunciation. We shall deal with these as
we meet them in the pages on grammar and syntax.
As far as morpheme boundaries are concerned, they are shown in pronunciation by one of four syllabic codas, whose phonemic representation is shown in the table below as archiphonemes, transcribed with upper case symbols. The table also shows their basic symbols; we shall discover that other symbols are used which combine morpheme boundary and other sounds.
Pronunciation Symbol /N/ Syllable final /N/ is pronounced: [m] before labials; [n] before dentals; [n] or [ɲ] before palatals; [ŋ] before velars.
It may optionally nasalize the preceding vowel thus: [ĩ], [ã] or [ũ]. When it occurs before sibilants it may be silent if the preceding vowel is nasalized; before approximates it may be [n] or [ŋ] or silent if the preceding vowel is nasalized.
(dot or period)
/R/ Syllable final /R/ may be pronounced as a trilled [r], or as a rhotic tap [ɾ] or [ɽ], or a rhotic approximate [ɹ] or [ɻ], or it may be silent and cause the preceding vowel to be rhotacized as [i˞], [a˞] or [u˞]. '
/S/ Syllable final /S/ is pronounced [s] or [ʃ] before plosives before plosives and sibilants; before nasals and approximates, they may be either voiceless [s] or [ʃ] or voiced [z] or [ʒ]. -
Created August 2011. Last revision:
Copyright © Ray Brown