New greyfolk language typeface, syllable blocks, numerals

After working on other pieces of the greyfolk language for so long, I am genuinely proud to present the new typeface: klepalka (it’s in a .zip file since .ttf files aren’t normally allowed by WordPress). The name is just a transliteration of the work ‘greyfolk’ into the greyfolk language. Instead of just containing a few syllable blocks to use as examples, this typeface includes all 420 syllable blocks. It also contains all letters and numerals, of course, but also punctuation!

greyfolk m n p t k s y l h a e i o u
qwerty m n p t k s y l h a e i o u
greyfolk 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
qwerty 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
greyfolk , ; . « » ( ) [ ] # ~
qwerty , ; . « » ( ) [ ] # ~

The letters should be pretty self-explanatory.

The numerals work for up to a hexadecimal system, which is why A–F is included. As far as I know, greyfolk (mostly) use a duodecimal system, but, in designing the numerals and learning more about different bases, it made sense to give the numerals a bit more flexibility. There is a pattern to the numerals. On the top, it goes abcd abcd abcd abcd. On the bottom, it goes aaaa bbbb cccc dddd. An ‘a’ is one leg, a ‘b’ is a flat, a ‘c’ is two legs, and a ‘d’ is a circle.

The punctuation is fairly straightforward, but it works a little different in the greyfolk language than it does in English. The comma is a short pause, and it can stand in for or replace the particle «hu» «hu ». The semi-colon is a medium pause, and it can stand in for or replace the particle «syu» «syu ». The em dash is a long pause, and it is used to a similar effect—it ties two phrases together. For each of these punctuation marks, they are dots (or very small marks in this case) that move out horizontally for a longer pause. Then, there comes the period, which marks the end (and sometimes also the beginning) of a sentence, which is two of these dots/marks stacked vertically. The single guillemets are the first level of quotation marks and the double guillemets are the second level of quotation marks. The parentheses look like angle brackets, but they are used for de-emphasis marks, which do function a lot like parentheses, but can also be used to show whispering or an aside. The square brackets are used for emphasis marks, which is kind of like using italics, bold, or even exclamation points. The number sign is a really smushed «hu » because all numerals start with that syllable. Then, there’s the tilde, which I really only added because it’s fun. Oh, and there’s no question mark because greyfolk language has obligatory interrogatives in the language itself.

Syllable blocks have also changed shape again, and they changed back to what they looked like before. The only difference is that vowels are smaller, which really helps with the legibility of the entire syllable.

  • «ma» is a CV syllable and looks like «ma »
  • «mya» is a CCV syllable and looks like «mya »
  • «mam» is a CVC syllable and looks like «mam »
  • «myam» is a CCVC syllable and looks like «myam »

So, nothing crazy there. Though, «m» in the onset position does have a small curve to help with legibility.

It should also be noted that syllable blocks are ligatures in this typeface. It’s definitely not the best system, especially since ligatures have to be manually turned on in some places (like Microsoft Word), but it does work. A sequence of letters turns into its syllable block form when followed by a space. So, «myam» «myam » is typed out as «myam ». Again, it’s a bit hacky, but it works well-enough for my purposes, and I’m very happy with that because I had no experience in designing typefaces going into this. As far as I know, other written languages with syllable blocks (like Korean’s Hangul) use special software, which would be even further out of my range. For now.

Also, yes, I know that the klepalka typeface is sometimes a bit green- or pink-tinted. I see it on Google Chrome on my desktop computer, and I can only assume it’s because of how Google Chrome handles certain typefaces.

For the names of the letters and numbers, I threw together a chart. It could be clearer, though it it’s not too unclear.

letter («syu-») number («hu-») name suffix
h 0 «-han»
m 1 «-mam»
n 2 «-nal»
p 3 «-pal»
t 4 «-tan»
k 5 «-kam»
s 6 «-sla»
y 7 «-yal»
l 8 «-lam»
9 «-mla»
A «-nya»
B «-pya»
C «-tlan»
D «-syam»
E «-nlal»
F «-myan»
10 «-mamhan»
a «-ha»
e «-he»
i «-hi»
o «-ho»
u «-hu»

Thus, 0 is «huhan» «hu han ». The number names are pretty final (other than B–F, which aren’t very important to me), but the letter names aren’t set in stone. For counting or reciting the alphabet, repeating the prefixes isn’t necessary so long as there is a comma. Counting to duodecimal ten would go like this: «huhan, mam, nal, pal, tan, kam, sla, yal, lam, mla, nya, pya, mamhan». There may be a way to shorten numbers in the future, but that’s something else that I haven’t figured out yet as it might conflict with other disyllabic roots.

That’s it!

With the typeface as done as it needs to be, my goal is to start fleshing out the lexicon with disyllabic roots and words. And trisyllabic, I guess. So, I’ll be working on polysyllabic roots and words. If I can get a few hundred words, I can start talking about and using sentences, which means more fun syntax and grammar stuff. Right now, I can only saw a few things, like «me plo ,‹kle san ›».

Creating the new 7HR alphabet

It’s like a seven-segment display. But horizontal, so it’s on its side. But rotated, so it’s normal again. That’s what 7HR means—it’s 7-segment display horizontal rotated. So, the previous alphabet would be called 14N—it’s 14-segment display neutral. Seven segments is a lot less than 14 segments, so that’s already a great advantage of the new alphabet. In fact, I’d say it’s an upgrade across the board with only one minor drawback—that drawback will be explained later.

A horizontal seven-segment display (7H) works well for my alphabet.

Let’s looks at lines for place of articulation—place lines.

It has a labial line, representing articulation at the front of the mouth (i.e., lips).

It has a coronal line, representing articulation in the middle of the mouth.

It has a dorsal line, representing articulation at the back of the mouth.

Like 14N, all three lines are used to represent laryngeal articulation.

Now, let’s look at lines for manner of articulation—manner lines.

It has a nasal line, representing the position of the nasal cavity.

It has plosive lines, representing stopped airflow when used with a place line.

It has a fricative line, representing partially restricted airflow.

It has liquid lines…

…and approximant lines—both with partial lines reflecting partial turbulence.

It has transition lines, representing the transition with opposite partial lines.

To create a consonant letter, a place line and manner line are used together.

This is a labial plosive—i.e., «p».

Finally, let’s look at vowel lines. These only use four segments.

It has a close line.

It has a mid line.

It has a front line.

It has a back line.

It doesn’t have an open line or a central line, despite having an open central vowel—i.e., «a».  This is because «a» is so common and is often reduced, so I wanted it to be very minimal . So, the entire open central vowel is just one line.

Otherwise, to create a vowel, a close or mid line is used with a front or back line.

It could stop there, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately, 7H has two drawbacks: (1) when put into syllable blocks, «l» and «y» are hard to distinguish, and (2) it’s horizontal even though seven-segment displays are used vertically.

So, I rotated each letter 90° clockwise, which gives me 7HR. Of course, this has one major drawback: it distorts the featural system. There is still a one-to-one correspondence, but the labial line is now the top line…

…and so on and so forth.

Labial, coronal, dorsal, and laryngeal place lines.

Nasal, plosive, fricative, liquid, approximant, and transition manner lines.

Close, mid, front, and back lines, and the open central vowel.

Of course, just tilt your head back and all of the letters will still make sense. So, they are functional and I’d say they retain 90% of the featural symbolism. Again, the lines still have a one-to-one correspondence that maps out to the vocal tract, but it is a bit distorted.

So, here’s the labial plosive—i.e., «p».

The actual font is coming soon! I haven’t had the time to churn that out while moving into my new home (and enduring two and a half days of 80 °F heat because the capacitor on the HVAC condenser died). Plus, I also have a new new way of forming syllable blocks—the old new way was for 14N and was outdated by the new new way for 7H/7HR.

New «h» glyph (and the runners-up)

The new «h» glyph was decided in the minutes before I saw Flor de Toloache—an all-female mariachi—about a month and a half ago. I had been going back and forth and back and forth for a few days, but, somehow, making the decision away from my office made it just a little bit easier.

h $ % & @
h $ % & @

So, as I revealed in my previous post, h is the winner! (Also, check that post for more information on place and manner of articulation for more context about the following.) Out of all of those designs, it felt best. It uses a new manner of articulation and it was all three place of articulation lines to show that it was a unique place of articulation.

$ was what I was using before. It was a nice design, but I didn’t like that it was using the dorsal line. Of course, there is no laryngeal line, but that place of articulation was represented by the line running beneath it—the opposite of a nasal line. Yet, a horizontal line is supposed to be used for manner of articulation (like it is for the nasal line) and not place of articulation, and it was really bugging me for just one of my letters feeling inconsistent.

% was a fun little creation that looks like a face. It mixed up all manners and places of articulation, which I felt was better than being inconsistent. In a sense, it was so wrong that it was right. It felt special, but not inconsistent—except that it took so many strokes to write and it had a hole in the character.

& was going to be my choice despite how confusing interpreting those three non-touching horizontal lines would be. It didn’t always look too hot in syllable blocks. However, I liked the symbolism of the character—three horizontal lines for a new manner of articulation and no vertical lines because it isn’t in a labial, coronal, or dorsal place of articulation.

@ was fun—in fact, I loved it!—but it had to be tossed because it had… curves. It was just too sexy! No, wait, that wasn’t it. Again, it was just the inconsistency.

Honorable mentions go to two characters: a character that looked like an X and a character that looked like a K with the flat part on top (like @ with straight diagonal lines instead of curved lines). The diagonal lines looked inconsistent and neither of them looked good in syllable blocks.

So, a month and a half after its creation, please welcome h as the new character for «h»!

New alphabet, places of articulation, and manners of articulation

I just got finished finally typing up ‘New «h» glyph (and the runners-up)’ when I realized that a lot of what went into the design would be lost if I didn’t talk about place of articulation and manner of articulation as well as introduce some other minor changes with the alphabet.

Old m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
New m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
Sound m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u

As you can see, «h», «w», «y», and the vowels changed. (That’s also a sneak peak at the new «h» about which I’ll discuss more in my next post. Don’t worry—it’s already written.) I did this to definitively establish what each line is supposed to mean in this featural writing system.

m has one vertical line in the front position—that’s the labial line. It represents the lips at the front of the mouth. It also has two vertical lines. The vertical line in the middle represents the top of the mouth and the detached vertical line on top represents the nasal cavity. Together, those define m as nasal.

n is very similar to m, but it has a vertical line in the middle position—that’s the coronal line. It represents the place where the tip of the tongue touches when producing that sound.

p has the labial line like m. Its two horizontal lines are the bottom line and the top line, and they are both attached to the vertical line—this represents a plosive by symbolizing a lack of airflow when producing that sound.

t is similar to p, but it has the coronal line like n.

k is similar to p and t, but its vertical line is in the back position, which represents the place toward which the back of the tongue is raised when producing that sound.

f and s are similar to p and t, but its horizontal lines are in the middle and bottom position, which looks similar to the plosive lines but represents that there is airflow through the mouth when producing those sounds, making those sounds fricative.

h will be talked about in my next post. Old «h» completed the p, t, k, f, s pattern, but this was inaccurate because «h» is laryngeal and not dorsal like «k».

l is similar to t and s. Its two horizontal lines are in the top and middle position, which represents its liquidity. This representation is less iconic but makes it visually similar to the fricative sounds.

w is labial and dorsal, so it has both of those lines. The single horizontal line on the bottom represents that this is an approximant. This representation is less iconic, but I was running out of choices. The old «w» has the old approximant line, which was represented by a single horizontal line in the top position.

y is the dorsal approximant, so it has those lines. The old «y» has the old approximant line as well as the coronal and dorsal lines to represent that it had a palatal placement, which is between alveolar and velar. Alveolar broadened to become coronal and velar broadened to become dorsal, and dorsal includes the palatal placement, so y just has a dorsal line.

The vowels have different lines that represent their placement on the vowel diagram as opposed to their place and manner of articulation (though, I was considering the latter idea). a is a low central vowel, e is a mid front vowel, i is a high front vowel, o is a mid back vowel, and u is a high back vowel. Their lines directly reflect those places. The old vowels went for a similar set up, but they all had a horizontal line in the top position whether they needed it or not for visual balance, but then I tossed that idea because—oh, I forgot to make a post about that too—syllable blocks also changed.