Welcome to the Alternate Script Bureau! This is a blog dedicated to the various writing systems and alternate orthographies for English and other languages that I have devised, including a phonetic English orthography, and English-language adaptations of non-Latin scripts such as Hangul and Khmer.
Nanyang Script is an alternate writing system which is inspired by the abugidas of Southeast Asia.
The word ‘Nanyang’ 南洋 is an old Chinese term that means ‘Southeast Asia’, hence the name.
I was wondering whether it would be possible to make a script like Hangul, where letters are derived from other letters with closely related sounds, but with a Southeast Asian aesthetic. This would make it easy to learn and be easily adaptable to writing different languages easily. The end result is a unique alphabetic script that visually resembles the Myanmar and Thai scripts, but is distinct enough to stand on its own.
Continue reading “Nanyang Script – a featural writing system inspired by the scripts of Southeast Asia”→
After developing the Latin-based EBEO orthography for English, which uses diacritics and Unicode characters extensively, I started wondering about older electronic devices that do not support Unicode. I asked myself: “How would I be able to type phonetically in the most efficient way on these old things?”
This made me think about ways to write English phonetically and efficiently using just the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. I revisited an older version of EBEO from a while back, BEO (Better English Orthography), and gave it an extensive makeover to make it more suitable for practical use, taking inspiration from an alternate English orthography called SoundSpel to get the most compact form.
Unlike SoundSpel, which contains some exceptions to mimic the existing English spelling conventions without making it more compact (e.g. spelling words ending with /ɔl/ as ‘all’ instead of ‘ol’), BEO provides a more literal way to write English that is easier to understand.
Easy to type – no need to learn a new keyboard layout
Many common English words retain their original spellings, such as ‘man’, ‘red’, and ‘hop’
Many other words only differ by a few letters and are easily recognisable: ‘can’ becomes ‘kan’, ‘simple’ becomes ‘simpul’, and ‘fire’ becomes ‘faiur’
1 letter or digraph represents 1 phoneme, and only that phoneme
Usually more compact than conventional English orthography
The Javanese script (also called Hanacaraka, from the first 5 letters in the traditional Javanese letter ordering) is one of the most elaborate writing systems in the world. Having adopted Khmer script a few months back, I soon turned my attention to Javanese, as it is a descendant of the closely related Kawi script that was widely used throughout Maritime Southeast Asia a thousand years ago. The common ancestry of Khmer and Javanese is easy to point out, as a few of their letterforms are very visually similar to each other.
Just over a year ago from today, I discovered Quikscript, a minimalist phonetic alphabet for English that was designed by the British designer Kingsley Read. (Quikscript was a revised edition of an earlier and more famous script also by Read, called Shavian.) Quikscript’s most notable feature is that each letter can be written with a single stroke, and some letters can be written together without lifting the pen up, reducing writing effort. If you want to know more about how Quikscript works, including the associated complex ligature system, click here for the original Quikscript manual by Read.
Here’s a chart showing the letters of Quikscript and their phonetic values.
The problem with existing Quikscript fonts
As I delved further into typing Quikscript on my computer, however, I found that the very few Quikscript fonts out there were just plain terrible. For example, here’s the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Quikscript, using a Quikscript font called ‘Kingsley’:
Note that most of the glyphs have slightly uneven stroke width, squashed-up kerning (glyph spacing) and inconsistent glyph shapes – put together, the whole thing just looks messy and ugly. Damn, even Comic Sans looks way better in comparison!
Continue reading “Quikscript Sans, a sans-serif font for the Quikscript alphabet”→
Southeast Asia is home to many different writing systems, all of which are pretty much descended from the Pallava script originating from southern Asia. After having a go at adopting Thai and Burmese to write English phonetically a while back, I shall now turn my attention to another elegant Southeast Asian script: Khmer.
Khmer script allows consonants to be placed under or around each other, a useful property for writing a language like English with potentially complex syllables like /stɹɛŋθs/, which can be easily rendered as ស្ត្រេង្ឋ្ស in this Khmer script adaptation. (It looks complicated at first, so I’ll get around to explaining it soon)
Shortly after adapting the Kannada script, I took a look at the closely related Telugu script. Both Kannada and Telugu scripts have a common ancestral origin, and have even been said to be typographical variants of the same script. Hence, this adaptation of Telugu is basically my adaptation for Kannada with each letter replaced with their Telugu equivalents.
Having said that, I now prefer using the Telugu adaptation as its vowel diacritics are more compact than Kannada’s. (For example, /noʊ/ in Kannada is ನೋ while Telugu is నో, much more compact indeed)
The ‘Look of Disapproval’ ಠ_ಠ is a popular emoticon on the Internet that also happens to use a letter from the Kannada script. As someone who enjoys reading and learning new things, I found myself reading about Kannada script. As I read more about it, I noticed that Kannada had a lot of letters, like the Thai and Burmese scripts I had adapted previously, and supported consonant clusters too. These are features that, in my view, made Kannada script especially suitable to adaptation for writing languages like English.
Note: This blog uses Unicode Myanmar script. If your default Burmese font is the non-Unicode ‘Zawgyi’, the Burmese text may not display as intended
After creating the Thai script adaptation, I began checking out other Brahmic scripts to learn how they work, and ended up learning a few to see if I could write English with them. Burmese script had a large inventory of letters and diacritics that are arranged differently depending on context, giving it a complex appearance. And because I like complex challenges, I decided that I had to learn Burmese script next.