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The Phonemes “Ch” and “W”

Two potential phonemes for Diinlang have needed special consideration.

CH

The first is the phoneme /t͡ʃ/, which in English is the most common phoneme that the digraph “ch” is used for. “C” on its own is not used as a phoneme in Diinlang, since “k” or “s” serve instead. Some conlangs use “c” to represent /t͡ʃ/, but this may be confusing. Some natural languages, such as Portuguese, represent /t͡ʃ/ with “x” or other letters.
Since “ch” represents /t͡ʃ/, and /ʃ/ is often represented by “sh”, some phonetic systems use “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/. This raises the side issue of acceptable consonant clusters for Diinlang.
For Diinlang, the question is whether to use “ch” or “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/? If we do use “ch” then “c” becomes rather like the letter “q” in English, in that it only ever occurs as a digraph.
“Ch” in some English words sounds like it should be more accurately represented by a “jh” rather than a “tsh”. Should “church” be spelt “jhurtsh”, “jhurch”, or “tshurtsh”?

W

The other phoneme that needs special consideration for Diinlang is that represented by the letter “w” in English, and the symbol /w/ in IPA. In English, this letter has a distinct sound when used at the start of a word or syllable or as the digraph “wh”. When used otherwise “w” often substitutes for other phonemes, such as “oh” in “slow”, “ou” in “cow” and “or” in “saw”. The digraph “kw” is probably the best representation of the sound of “q/qu” in English. For this latter use, if nothing else, Diinlang probably needs to include “w”.
Some linguistic groups have trouble pronouncing the phoneme /w/, often substituting a “v”-sound.
When encountering “w” at the start of a word or syllable in English or Diinlang, a useful tip is to attempt to pronounce it as a “u” rather than as a “v”.
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Language

Owen’s Global Alphabet

Visiting the Omniglot website I came across Owen’s “Global Alphabet”. Owen was a US senator and an advocate of phonetic English. He created his own phonetic alphabet, which it is claimed that any known language can be represented.
Owen's Global Alphabet
Owen’s alphabet supposedly has 18 symbols for vowels, 18 for consonants and six for “compound consonants”.
The compound consonants are given here as ch, th, sh, wh, ng and zh. The chart above also has the “kw” sound of the English “qu” and the “dh” sound that “th” sometimes represents in English.
The first thing that strikes me about Owen’s alphabet is that some of the vowel symbols are quite intricate. Personally, I would be inclined to make the vowels and most used consonants as simple as practical. More similarity between related vowels could have been tried.
Glancing down the chart, several phonemes appear absent. Owen’s phonetic alphabet comes with several rules that must be learnt. The initial “y-” sound of English is represent for the symbol for /ai/ (“i” as in “file”) when it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel. The initial “w-” sound is represented by a “u” symbol where it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel.
It also took me some time to realize that “a” as in “ate” represented the sound /ei/ or ay/ey. Interestingly, on the Omniglot page “whale” is spelt with the symbols for “oo-ay-l/ uu-ey-l”.
Owen has distinct symbols for “ar”, “er” and “or” but not for other combinations of vowel with “r”. These symbols might be easier to learn if they looked like the parent vowel joined to the “r” symbol.
The absence of a symbol for “y” necessitates the creation of a symbol for the sound “yu” as in “few”.
Owen’s system distinguishes between near-close back rounded “u” /ʊ/as in “put”, “foot” and “wolf” and that of the open-mid back unrounded (/ʌ/) in “but”, “enough”, “other” or “up”. It also considers “a” as in “all” distinct from “or” as in “for”.
Owen’s Global Alphabet was an interesting attempt in the field. It provides some insight as to what phonemes a conlang will need. Replacing “-ew”  with “yu” and omitting the “-r” vowels gives 15 vowels. There are eight consonant digraphs. With the addition of “w” and “y” there are 18 other consonants.

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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/.

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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.
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Diinlang Numeral Ideas 2.1

It is probably overdue that we revisit the numerical system of Diinlang.
My first attempts in this direction were admittedly Eurocentric. This was partially done to have some connection with the SI system of prefixes. One objection to this is some of these prefixes have more general and less specific uses. Some of these are only partially related to their numerical use. A mega-city has ten million people, not a million. A microwave wavelength can be anything from a millimetre to a metre. Uses such as microscope, microchip and micro-surgery have little to do with the numerical value. In Diinlang mu may be used instead of micro for units of 0.000001.
I was watching reruns of QI recently, and there was mention of the idea that the Chinese and Japanese languages made mathematics easier. (I have also come across suggestions that the Chinese names for geometric shapes were easier to learn, not being based on Greek. That is a topic for another day!)
Part of the Asian proficiency for mathematics is claimed to be due to the words for numerals.
“Because as human beings we store digits in a memory loop that runs for about two seconds…Chinese number words are remarkably brief. Most of them can be uttered in less than one-quarter of a second (for instance, 4 is ‘si’ and 7 ‘qi’) Their English equivalents—”four,” “seven”—are longer: pronouncing them takes about one-third of a second. The memory gap between English and Chinese apparently is entirely due to this difference in length.”
Using short words for Diinlang numbers may have advantages.
The number system of Chinese and Japanese is logical and easy to learn. Eleven translates as “ten-one”, twelve as “ten-two”, Twenty one as “two ten-one” and so on. This system also has advantages:
“Gladwell dares, “Ask an English seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty two, in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22). Only then can she do the math: 2 plus 7 is nine and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59. “Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence. No number translation is necessary: it’s five-tens nine,” he asserts.”
Ordinals are created by just prefixing the number with “bi” (sequence). First = sequence one, thirds = sequence three and so on.
Fractions have the form “Of x, take y”, so three fifths is “of five, take three”.
For SI compatibility, Diinlang numerals would be based around thousands rather than the Asian system of ten-thousands. Arabic numerals will be used.
The article quoted from above seems to suggest Cantonese numbers are quicker than Mandarin. These may prove a good place to start for Diinlang. Some Chinese number names are renamed for clearer phonetics. In Mandarin these are 0 (ling): renamed 洞 (dòng) 1 (yi): renamed 幺 (yāo) 2 (er): renamed 两 (liǎng) 7 (qi): renamed 拐 (guǎi) 9 (jiu): renamed 勾 (gōu).

0: 零 (ling4) lihng Diinlang zeru, oh
1: 一 (jat1) yaat Dinlang un
2: 二 (ji6) yih Diinlang biy or by. Possible alternate: dua
3: 三 (saam1) saam Diinlang tri (short terminal -i, so sounds like tree). Tre may be more practical
4: 四 (sei3) sei Diinlang tet
5: 五 (ng5) ngh Diinlang fy, if not too similar to by. f looks like 5? Possible alternate: senk
6: 六 (luk6) luhk poss. sis memory aid: s looks a little like 6
7: 七 (cat1) chaat Diinlang hep
8: 八 (baat3) baat Diinlang either baa or baat. memory aid B looks like 8
9: 九 (gau2) gau  Diinlang gau memory aid g looks like 9
10: 十 (sap6) sahp Diinlang dek
100: 一百 (jat1 baak3) Possible alternative “sto”, already used by a number of languages. Since Diinlang does not use “c” a word beginning with “h” might be better. Hek from Hekto?
1000: 一千 (jat1 cin1) Diinlang: should begin with K. for correlation with SI. The word Kilo is already well established as a unit of mass.

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Sapir on IALs

My colleague on this project is fond of referring to Sapir’s essay on international auxiliary languages.
Sapir spends much of the essay proving that English or French grammar is not as simple as is sometimes claimed. His examples are interesting, but if you have ever been caught out by English’s many homophones or heterographs, or the 13% of words that are not spelt as they sound, you probably did not need so much convincing!
For my money, the most useful section is:
“What is needed above all is a language that is as simple, as regular, as logical, as rich, and as creative as possible; a language which starts with a minimum of demands on the learning capacity of the normal individual and can do the maximum amount of work; which is to serve as a sort of logical touchstone to all national languages and as the standard medium of translation. It must, ideally, be as superior to any accepted language as the mathematical method of expressing quantities and relations between quantities is to the more lumbering methods of expressing these quantities and relations in verbal form. This is undoubtedly an ideal which can never be reached, but ideals are not meant to be reached: they merely indicate the direction of movement.”
His remarks that “A common creation demands a common sacrifice, and perhaps not the least potent argument in favour of a constructed international language is the fact that it is equally foreign, or apparently so, to the traditions of all nationalities.” is also worth understanding. Many IAL projects have floundered because they too closely resemble an existing natural language, with various historical, patriotic or nationalistic baggage.
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Some Ideas for Diinlang

I have had a number of ideas about Diinlang, but many are not worth a full blog post, and often I forget to jot them down and forget them.
I will attempt to recall some of them and will add some additional ideas and reflections.

Object Marking

A way to optionally designate the object of a sentence has been mentioned before. Rather than a suffix, I think a better route would be a particle, such as “om”. Is there a need for a distinction between direct and indirect objects? Probably not, since this will often be signified by their position in a sentence.

Agent Nouns

Agent-nouns are formed from verbs by the addition of -or for an animate creature, -er for an inanimate. The former can be gendered as -oro or -ora. Thus: “Ye kuker per ye kukoro” = “A cooker for a (male) cooker (chef).”

Complimentary Word Pairings

An idea I have not made much use of is that of reversed, complimentary words. For example, the genitive particle “vo” was derived by reversing the letters of “ov”, the phonetic rendition of “of”. Of course, currently “ov” is not used in Diinlang. Such a system could be used more in Diinlang, but for which specific word pairs.

Modifiers

In English, we often contract phrases “the wrong way”. “Automatic pistol” becomes “automatic”, giving no help as to the nature of the item to a non-native not familiar with the contraction. In Diinlang, where a noun and modifier combine to make a compound noun it may be prudent that one word takes its adverbial, adjective or genitive form. “hairy restorer”, “spider vo web” etc. An idea to further investigate.
It would facilitate learning and use of Diinlang if most modifiers had a distinctive form. While it is not necessary to distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, it may be necessary to distinguish between different types. Diinlang (and other ALs) would benefit from a breakdown of all modifier uses. Something similar for the various verb tenses and aspects would also be useful. Sapir mentions “point” and “linear”-aspects of speech. How would Diinlang deal with these, and how would the latter overlap with the habitual, for example?
Nouns and verbs that are used as modifiers will change form, probably taking a suffix. Logically, modifiers that are used as nouns or verbs should change form. Words that are primarily verbs or nouns do not change. As in English, such verbs can be used as nouns by adding a determiner or article, or used as verbs. Words that have a dual use as both adverbs and determiners would not change.
Sapir has the interesting observation on noun formation from modifiers: “English, for instance, has a great many formal resources at its disposal which it seems unable to use adequately; for instance, there is no reason why the suffix -ness should not be used to make up an unlimited number of words indicating quality, such as `smallness’ and `opaqueness,’ yet we know that only a limited number of such forms is possible. One says `width,’ not `wideness’; `beauty,’ not `beautifulness.’”

Flesch

Diinlang must also be relevant to how it will be used. This includes use on-line. Factors such as readability will contribute to this. Flesch Readability scores suggest that most words should have three syllables or less, and sentences be under 25 words. To facilitate the latter there must be clear ways to link the thread of consecutive sentences. Consider the English sentence: “The dog chased the ball into the lake. It was cold and wet.” Grammatically correct, but also unclear as to what was cold and wet. The dog, the ball or the lake? We may need pronouns that can be used to indicate if it was the subject, direct object or indirect object that is the subject of a following sentence.

Evidentiality

The Pirahã language has the interesting feature that it can be specified if an action was personally witnessed, deduced from circumstantial evidence, or based on here-say. Certain usages in Diinlang I would like to see as less specific than traditional languages. It is more accurate to say “the house appears/seems red” than “the house is red”. The house may just be reflecting the light of the setting sun.
This property is called Evidentiality. Some thought needs to be given to the most effective way to use this in Diinlang. A family of modal and/or auxiliary verbs might be used.

Also to be considered is the number and forms of evidentiality that will be used. For example:
• Something personally witnessed
• Something that can be proven to be true
• Something that is believed to be true but may not be provable
• Something from an unreliable source, such as internet forums, facebook, Wikipedia, gossip, newspapers, commercial media, etc.
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Language

Basic Prepositions 2.1

A friend sent me the above graphic. I could not resist sending him the message “Keys are AT home, IN the lounge, ON the table” A perfectly logical statement in English which disproves the proposed rule. Words in English often have multiple meanings, some of them depending on context.
As a matter of fact I had been thinking about prepositions that day. As I typed in song titles in title case, I reflected how it would be nice if all the uncapitalized words belonged to closed groups. It would also be nice if all the prepositions were less than five letters, making the “five letter rule” redundant.
Choice of prepositions in Diinlang needs to be simple. In a previous post I proposed adopting some ideas from Italian. This is an update for Diinlang 2.1, and only deals with a handful of useful prepositions.
In” has a wider range of use than in English. When travelling, you travel in a vehicle rather than by a vehicle. The exception is when you are physically on top of something such as a horse, camel or bike. Then you travel on, rather than by or in. In can be used for when you are within a location, or for during a time period. You would be “in France” or “in Summer”. Italian also uses in for constructions such that indicate travel towards a large area. “Vai in Francia” rather than “go to France”.
On” sees less use as a preposition than in English. It is generally reserved for when physically on an object. You ride on a bike, meet on a bridge or are on a mountain. In most cases that English would use on, in Diinlang the preposition “at” would be used instead. You meet at the high street, at the bank, at one at Tuesday. “Veng” (near) may be used instead. The other use of “on” has the meaning “about”. Rather than having a book about Shakespeare or book of Shakespeare, in Diinlang the translation would be a book on Shakespeare.
At” is used to designate points in space or time, and in most cases replaces the use of “on” in English. It substitutes for “in”, although either can be used when the “within/ during” requirement is met.
Po” means “from” and is derived from “apo” used in a number of other languages. It is used with various verbs and directives for constructions such as “down-from” or “run-from”. Po is used to construct more logical terms. Rather than saying “a play by Shakespeare”, Diinlang would say “a play from/po Shakespeare”. There is no direct equivalent of the English word “by”. Other words are used in Diinlang to create more specific statements.
The use of “per” has been expanded further in Diinlang. It has the meaning “for/to” and now becomes the complement of “po”. It can also have the meanings “during” (per annum), “for each” (per person), “to each/ in each” (per metre, per hour), “in accordance” (per your request), “by means of” (Li skribis per plumo, Sono passato per il centro) and in some cases mean “as, with, by, via”. For the moment I will retain “ad” for “to”, but expect in most cases per can be used instead. Rather than “Book of Records” or “Book of Shakespeare” the Diinlang construction translates as “Book per Records” or “Book per Shakespeare”
De” remains in use as a non-specific preposition, to be used when the use of po or per is uncertain, or to substitute for on, in or at. It is the closest word that Diinlang has for “of” in that it complements “vo”: “Jon vo kanis” means “Jon’s Dog” while “Kanis de Jon” is “Dog of Jon”.
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Comparatives and Superlatives: Part Seven (Diinlang 2.1)

For Diinlang 2.1 I will attempt to simplify the comparative and superlative system once again. “Ta” and “ko” remain as the positives, with the meanings of large/big/great and small/little, and hence “taz” and “koz” mean many and few.
The suffix “mo-”, makes a comparative, hence mota, moko, motaz and mokoz have the meanings: bigger, smaller, more-numerous and fewer. To make a superlative add the definite article to the comparative, as is practised in many languages. ie “ve moko”=“the smallest”. For uses such as “most people like coffee” use a constructions such as “remo motaz”. (very many) or whatever word is selected for “majority”.
“Mo” is combined with “re”, the word for “repeat/again” to give a new word for “very”.
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Diinlang 2.1 Single Letter Contractions.

The other night I was watching “Blue Planet II” again. David Attenborough said something about the majority of the Earth’s animal life living below the twilight level of the oceans. These creatures use light to communicate, making it likely that visual means is the most commonly used communication system on the planet. A few days later a friend notes that most personal communication these days is written. This is another example of visual communication. As I have noted before, many English speakers read at a higher word rate than they listen at.
It is logical that any auxiliary language (auxlang) project consider its visual as well as its phonetic elements. English partially does this already, using alternate characters or spellings to distinguish certain homophones. Consider “click” and “klick” or “saw” and “sore”. While creating new alphabets may be diverting, an auxlang should probably be compatible with the ISO standard alphabet. This approach allows me to utilize the non-phonetic letters for Diinlang.
One of the systems that I have looked at when designing Diinlang is Dutton Speedwords, and related systems such as Yublin. Clearly, making the most commonly used words short contributes to making an auxlang type-friendly. Dutton’s system has its good points and bad. One of the better is how the single letter word for “will”(r) and that for “was”(y) combine to make a word with the meaning “would”(yr).
Below is an attempt at some single letter codes that can be used when writing Diinlang. Since Diinlang uses a syntax that is similar, but simpler than English these letters may also be mixed into English, which is a good way to learn them.
Note that these single letter codes are contractions, rather than single letter words. When spoken, nearly all of them follow the simple rule of taking an “e/i” sound if a consonant and a “h” if a vowel. The exceptions to this rule are few and easily learnt.
    • The pronoun “u” is pronounced “yu”.
    • The pronoun “m” is pronounced or written as either “me” or “em”. They are interchangeable in meaning or use.
    • “y” and “n” mean “yes” and “no”. They may be pronounced “ye” and “ne” but “ya” and “no” are also permitted. These are also alternate written words if not contracted.
    • The non-phonetic letters (c, q, x) are treated as symbols and have pronunciations that must be learnt.
The proposed single letter contractions for Diinlang are:

a: “ah” future tense marker, the equivalent of “will” or “going to” n English. “a-t” gives “ah-te” for “would” and forms a subjunctive tense.
b: “be” verb “to be”. a b (ah be) “will be”, t b (te be) or bt (be-te) “was”.
c: symbol standing for the word “kom”, meaning “with”.
d: “de” meaning “from”, “for”, “of”. General purpose preposition.
e: “eh” means “and”. The symbols “&” or “+” may be used instead and pronounced as “eh”.
f: “fe” verb “to do”. Placed with another verb creates an infinitive. This is a new change for Diinlang 2.1 and replaces the word “du”.
g: “ge” verb “to get”, creating passive voice when uses as an auxiliary with another verb.
h: “he” verb “to have”, creating perfect tense when used as auxiliary. Note that the vowel sound is very short.
i: pronounced “ih”, means “in”.
j: “je” indefinite article. means “some”. Gendered forms are ja and jo, specific plural jez. “jaz” and “joz” could potentially be used.
k: “ke” relative pronoun “that”. This represents other English relative pronouns such as who, what, which.
l: “le” for “to say”. “lt” is “le-te” and means “said”.
m: “me” or “em” First person pronoun. First person plural pronoun is formed “mz” for “mez” or “emz”.
n: “ne” or “no” negator.
o: pronounced “oh” means “or”. “eo” is “eh-oh” and means “and/or”.
p: “pe” means “per”.
q: symbol pronounced as “kwe”, means “what”(interogative or marks a clause or sentence as a question when placed at the start or end. Its resemblence to the Franco-Latin “que” may see it used as a relative pronoun (English “that”) or for comparison (like English “than”).
r: “re”. On its own could be used for the word “again”. re- is used at the start of some Diinlang words with the same or similar meaning to its use in English.
s: “se” reflexive pronoun.
t: “te” past tense marker when placed before a verb. Past-passive suffix on adjectives and adverbs. Creates a single word past tense form when used as a suffix on verbs
u: “yu” Second person pronoun “you”. Optional plural formed “uz” or “yuz”.
v: “ve” definite article, means “the”. Gendered as “va” and “vo”, plural as “vz” for “vez”. “voz” and “vaz” are gendered plurals.
w: Unassigned. Given the problems with pronunciation it causes some nationalities this phoneme may possibly not be used in Diinlang.
x: symbol pronounced “eks” meaning “out”.
y: “ya/ye/” means yes. Second form is pronounced “yeh” rather than “yee”.
z: “ze” third person pronoun. Becomes zo (he), za (she), plurals are zz/zez, zoz and zaz.