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Language

A Question of Y

The letter “y” poses an interesting problem for Diinlang.
Many constructed languages choose to use “y” for a “j” sound, like that in “hallelujah”. The letter “j” is used to represent another sound, often “/ʒ/”. That seems rather illogical to me.
In English, “y” it represents a variety of sounds. When placed at the start of a word it has the distinctive sound we hear in words like “yes”, “you”, “yacht” and “yoghurt”. Just to confuse things, IPA uses the symbol /j/ for this sound. Initial “y” only seems to take this sound when it proceeds a vowel. In the small number of English words where an initial “y” precedes a consonant it takes an /i/ sound.
When used within a word or at its end, “y” may take either a /i/ or an /ai/ sound.
“/Ai/” represents the sound of the English words “eye” or “aye”, the name of the letter “I” or the end sound of the words “my” and “by”. None of the phonetic systems I am familiar with have come up with a letter combination that satisfactorily represents this sound. For example, a reader might understandably assume that “mai” represents the sound “may” rather than “my”.
In Diinlang I tried using “iy” for /ai/, but admit this is not totally satisfactory. Like other attempts, the letter combination does not entirely suggest the sound, so the combination needs to be learnt. Additionally, using “iy” lengthens certain words that would be briefer in conventional English spelling.
While it is an attractive idea to have Diinlang use totally phonetic spelling, it has become clear that this may come with penalties such as decreased brevity. It may be necessary for Diinlang to have certain pronunciation rules that must be learnt. Such rules should be:
○ As few as possible
○ As simple as possible
○ Applied consistently.
In Diinlang we already use the letter combination “oy” to represent the sound /ɔɪ/ in the English words “boy” or “toy”. The combination “ay” is used for /ei/ as in the English words “may” and “obey”.
The letter combination “iy” will continue to represent the sound /ai/. To this we will add the rule that the character “y” has the sound /ai/ where it follows a consonant in a word. When “y” is the initial letter of a word it takes the sound /j/.

Categories
Language

Simplified Technical English and Conlangs

Regular readers will know that I have an interest in readability. Recently I was reading about Simplified Technical English (STE).
STE essentially has two parts:
• One part is a vocabulary/ dictionary of approved words. More on this in a moment.
• The other part is sometimes described as a grammar or set of rules. It may be more productive and accurate to think of it as a style-guide.
The STE suggestions are worth keeping in mind when you are writing. This should particularly be the case when writing instructions or safety warnings.
Using the approved word list is a little more difficult than applying the rules. There are programs that will check text for you, but these appear to be relatively expensive. Unlike for some other controlled languages, so far I have not been able to locate any free or on-line resources that can check that your text is in STE.

STE and Conlangs

What relevance does STE have to conlangs? One of the big challenges to creating a conlang is constructing a vocabulary. Directly translating words from English often proves far less simple than one might first assume. Many English words have multiple meanings, some of them contradictory. The STE vocabulary assigns a single meaning to an approved word. In most cases an approved word can only be used as one part of speech. The approved STE word list and its definitions therefore may be a very useful starting point for creating the Diinlang vocabulary.
The writing rules illuminate other possible issues with Diinlang. Shorter sentences highlight the need for transition phrases that clearly link different sentences and paragraphs. A system to clearly show if a sentence is addressing the subject, object or indirect object of a preceding sentence would be useful.