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 ›».

End of August Greyfolk language report

Okay, so I honestly forgot about August 31st when I thought of the title and said that I would post this “tomorrow”. Use your imagination.

There are a few posts that I can definitely still make about conlanging—I just haven’t. I’ve had six-ish strong days of work this month, but a lot of my conlanging time has actually gone to working on a project for GURPS. Surprise! But let’s get into what I can talk about.

Also, I really need to get around to updating the Greyfolk language page because it has fallen behind. It just feels like so many changes are happening that, if I update it now, I’ll have reason to update it again so soon after!

“Head-initial” indicating vowels

That’s a rough way of describing a minor but very important change to my language. Before, the vowel that indicates part of speech (or word type) would be the final vowel in the word. Working with a potential mini version of the Greyfolk language made me realize that I could just have that indicating vowel be the first vowel in the word, which fits with the idea of the language being head-initial. So, instead of the final vowel sound being «e» for nouns, «i» for adjectives and adverbs, «o» for verbs, and «u» for other things (conjunctions, prepositions, particles, etc.), those would be the initial vowel sounds.

Thus, «halnyo» becomes «holnya»—that’s my stand-in word for ‘to bake’.

Hamming distance

The idea of Hamming distance is it’s something that “measures the minimum number of substitutions required to change one string into the other”, which, in my case, means it’s the number of different sound changes to make different words sound different. For me, this means that a two words should have at least a sound with a difference in manner of articulation and a sound with a difference in place of articulation, or two words should have one sound with both differences.

So, if I have «halnyo», I can’t have «halmyo», but I can have «halsyo». Of course, I still said at least two differences, but more is definitely better.

New syllable blocks and font

I mentioned this previously, but syllable blocks have changed with the new 7HR alphabet. A post about that will be coming shortly. Also, after I figure out all of my monosyllabic words (see below), I’ll have more Greyfolk language free time, which means I can work on the new font.

Monosyllabic words

Because of the number of phonemes that I have, the syllable construction, and Hamming distance, I can only have so many functional monosyllabic words. There are, however, a lot of concepts that I would love to have be represented by a single syllable. There may also be new personal pronouns…

Numerals

Of course, I want numerals to be monosyllabic too. They were doing just fine until I removed «f» and «w», so I’ve had to rethink how they work and sound—oh, and also how they look. After I consider that pretty set in stone and get around to creating the new 7HR font, I’ll talk more about numerals.

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.

Another two weeks later

Things have been going well for the Greyfolk language and things have been going well for me. You’re probably here for the Greyfolk language, but let’s start with me. Since my last update, my girlfriend has graduated from her dual master’s program at IU. That’s fun! I haven’t done anything too amazing like that, but I did beat Dishonored without killing anyone—in the game and in real life.

As for the Greyfolk language, I did decide on a new glyph for «h». It’s the one that looks like an ‘M’. Of course, I haven’t given context for that, so I’ll go ahead and post the new «h» as well as the runners-up soon.

Also, I’ve been doing my adpositions wrong this whole time, which is fun. “Hoy mia feke dio!” I exclaimed in Esperanto. My language is head-initial, so it should have prepositions and not postpositions.

Then, I started thinking about compounds and relativizers. The past six entries in my language document have been about those two things, but they’ve mostly been about relativizers. For compound words, I’m just using a some kind of compounding particle in between words to solve my problem. It’s good enough. For relative clauses, I figured out my relativizer and I proposed adding an elidible phrasalizer (like a nominalizer for phrases or like a terminator from Lojban) to show where those clauses end. It will also be useful for signifying names. Speaking of which, I’m also proposing a name particle to introduce names as well.

That means I was also working on phrase structure rules. I wish I had my old syntax workbook from when I took that class because the internet really doesn’t have a good resource for phrase structure rules. Luckily, I found the ones I used for the previous incarnation of the Greyfolk language.

  • S → NPE VP T (NPO) (NPU)
  • NP → N (DP) (AdjP+) (PP+) (CP)
  • DP → D
  • AdjP → Adj
  • PP → P NP
  • VP → V (PP) (AdvP+) (CP)
  • AdvP → Adv
  • CP → Comp S
  • X → X Conj X

That may prove useful for someone else someday. Furthermore, I started taking another deep look at Pandunia again for some inspiration. Also, Lojban. Also, semantic primes.

I thought about adding a coronal affricate to my language, but, after some thinking, I ultimately decided against it because the internet tends to favor only one sibilant in an international auxiliary language—which I’m not exactly going for, but I like following some of the ideals.

Last but not least, I realized that, if «h» can be Ø (null), then it can’t be followed by «l», «w», or «y».

Most of these paragraphs could (and probably will) be a post of their own. It shouldn’t take another two weeks.

Post-presentation update

Two weeks later / In the living room stressin’

from “Helpless” from Hamilton the musical.

Has it really been two weeks since my last update? But so much has happened since then! One such thing is that I was invited back by one of my professors to give a guest lecture on conlanging as well as what I’ve done with it—i.e., my own conlang. That went well! I felt that there was actually more interest when I did it last semester, but you can win them all! I got a couple of laughs and a student made conversation with me after the class, so that’s great! Also, my youngest sister came, and having the opportunity to potentially fuel her enthusiasm with my own is worth it in itself.

You can download a .pdf of the presentation here:

Conlanging Presentation Spring 2019

Though, I must warn you that the information about my conlang is already somewhat out of date. How is that possible? Well, I’ve been working on the font some more (and, also, the name «lem le ki nu» is absolutely not set in stone). I’ve changed the formation of syllable blocks because they just didn’t feel right. Also, I’m trying to create a replacement for «h» because I don’t like the way it looks. Creating that replacement, however, has been tough because I’m struggling to create a glyph that fits the aesthetic of my orthography. lt’s why I’m ♫ in the living room stressin’ ♫. That’s literal—I’ve done some of the work in my living room.

I’ll likely follow up soon because I’ve narrowed «h» down to two options and I’m excited to share the winner and also the runners-up. But, first, I need to ♫ take a break ♫. I’ve been neglecting sleep, video games, GURPS, and even some friends over the past couple of weeks due to my narrow focus.

Greyfolk Font Update 3: Man, the Man Is Non-Stop!

Forget my previous post and even the one before it because here’s another update! I’ve been working on this font day and night like I’m running out of time. It happened after I woke up this morning after my update late last night. “There are just a couple of things I’d like to try,” I thought, then I’d go and finally play some Dishonored. Well, I haven’t played any Dishonored yet—I did this instead. What changed? The font isn’t as ugly as it was a day ago.

Yeah, that’s it. It only took me about 8 hours of trial and error. This program and that program and these settings and those settings and maybe I just gotta do this and maybe I just gotta do that and maybe it’s all because I made it monospace which introduced a non-breaking space that was messing up my syllable ligatures. Shh, it’s okay. I’m fine now.

Here’s the alphabet:

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

Here are some syllables:

pa  pla  pam  plam 
pa pla pam plam

Here’s a sentence:

pe  pom  te 
pe pom te
I love you

Here are some other (stand-in) characters:

c q _ ?
c q _ *

*stands in for any other character

Also, «c» and «q» don’t mean anything. «c» is my test vowel and «q» is my test consonant, and, together, they help me test syllable structures with «qc», «qqc», «qcq», and «qqcq».

qc  qqc  qcq  qqcq 
qc qqc qcq qqcq

My syllables are no longer utter trash. I rebuilt my font using BitFontMaker2 alongside FontForge because Glyphr Studio was being a butt. My biggest problem with Glyphr Studio is that it doesn’t respect the svg files that I import from Inkscape if I do so much as combine nodes and merge stuff (which I did to try to get rid of the problems I was having before like vertices disappearing and blurry glyphs).

I remade the basic font in BitFontMaker2, imported it into FontForge, created ligature glyphs in BitFontMaker2, imported those into FontForge, set up the ligatures through FontForge, and proceeded to pull my hair out until I realized that my syllable ligatures weren’t working (presumably) because I made it monospace in BitFontMaker2, introducing that pesky non-breaking space which didn’t want to be a part of the damn team and become a syllable ligature.

I’m gonna try to squeeze in an hour of Dishonored now and pray that I didn’t squeeze out the rest of my spine jelly. Really, though, I’m feeling much better, and I’m hoping to be powerlifting by the end of the week.

So, I’ve already updated the font for Greyfolk

It’s actually already reflected in my previous post. After I published that post, I realized that I was seeing some inconsistencies across my phone, my computer, and my girlfriend’s laptop. The font looked much sharper on my phone and on my girlfriend’s laptop while appearing fuzzy on my monitor. “How can that be?” I wondered. My monitor has a 4k resolution just like my girlfriend’s laptop, and I’d be surprised if my font showed up best on the mobile site on my phone (which it did). So, I went crazy. I knew that the font was not allowed to look better for other people when it wouldn’t even obey the display of its creator!

But why was it doing this? Does it have to do with anti-aliasing in Chrome? In Windows 10? Does it have to do with resolution or scaling or sub-pixel stuff? Well, no one really knows, unfortunately. Such secrets have apparently been banished from the internet. Luckily for my sanity, I’m a pretty good problem-solver.

When I first created the font, I was using 1024×1024 svg files with 64×64 squares to make a 16×16 grid to ensure that my font would be pixel perfect. Well, no, that’s not what happened at all. It was fuzzy because—for whatever frakking reason!—it was creating a bunch of sub-pixel colorful noise stuff around what should otherwise be pixel perfect lines.

So, I said yare yare daze and tried using 1200×1200 svg files with 75×75 squares to make a 16×16 grid in the hope that this would translate better to 12pt font. It didn’t. Then, I had the thought that I should create a smaller “pixel” within the squares. I did it this way and that way, but I ended up with 1024×1024 svg files with 64×64 squares to make a 16×16 grid except the “pixels” were (basically) 48×48 in the middle of the 64×64 squares, resulting in a “thinner” “pixel”. Yeah, I was definitely making stuff up, but it worked—for the most part. Like, 6 times out of 7, it’s much sharper than it was before, and, because I was already screwing around with the font anyway, I added a few new things.

Here’s the alphabet:

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

Here are some syllables:

pa  pla  pam  plam 
pa pla pam plam

Here’s a sentence:

pe  pom  te 
pe pom te
I love you

Here are some other (stand-in) characters:

c q _ ?
c q _ *

*stands in for any other character

Also, «c» and «q» don’t mean anything. «c» is my test vowel and «q» is my test consonant, and, together, they help me test syllable structures with «qc», «qqc», «qcq», and «qqcq».

qc  qqc  qcq  qqcq 
qc qqc qcq qqcq

These syllables are utter trash, but they illustrate the other end of my font problem. With the “thinner” “pixels”, some vertices just like to disappear. Seriously, just look at the difference of the «c» between «qc» and «qqc». In «qc», the «c» has all of its vertices, but, in «qqc», it doesn’t! At least, that’s how it’s appearing on my monitor.

For now, however, this is more than good enough.

Custom original font for the Greyfolk language

I’m pretty proud of this. Before my guest lecture about conlanging at IU on April 17th, one of my goals was to make a rudimentary custom font, specifically for Greyfolk GU. I’ve known for a while know what the letters look like and how they form into syllable blocks, but I hadn’t taken the time to turn that into a font. Well, I do now! It covers all of the letters as well as the ligatures for the «pa», «pam», «pla», «plam», «pe», «pom», and «te» syllables. So, let’s test it out.

m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
pe  pom  te 
«pe» «pom» «te»
I love you

I hope that worked and that you can see the very beginning of what Greyfolk is supposed to look like! I took the liberty of making the syllables 36pt so they’re easy to read. I’m… not a graphic designer. Not even close. So, at a small size, they are pretty hard to make out.

pa  pla  pam  plam 
«pa» «pla» «pam» «plam»

This is still way better than I imagined I would be able to do on my own. There are just 693 more syllables to make! If each one takes me about a minute, I should be able to finish this font with 12 more hours of work! After that point, I think I’ll make it available to be downloaded.