Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Write

The first major phase of our Ik language development project is to create an alphabet for the Ik language. It would be easier if we could just invent letters for the different sounds, but naturally, we’ll be using this very Roman alphabet. Of course, we’ll have to tweak it a bit, add some other symbols and marks. One of the steps in the process is to decide how to write what are called ‘ambiguous sequences’. This is hard because, well…it’s ambiguous. Some sounds can be thought of as vowels (u) or consonants (w). Imagine the sound of the final syllable of the English word soliloquy. The letters /q/, /u/, and /y/ aren’t exactly the most straightforward way to write this sound, but…how would you write it? In linguistic, phonetic writing, that sound could be written in the following 9 ways (actually, it could be written in at least 6 more ways than these; I just can’t use the proper fonts on this blog):

kui
kuy
kwiy
kuwi
kuyi
kwi
kwiy
kwuy
kwy

It’s just my luck that Ik is full of such ambiguous segments. Help!

1 comment:

Chad said...

Yeah--and isn't the phonetic alphabet the most precise there is? That's quite an accomplishment--sounds that fall between 15 precise identifications.