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.