Featured

Welcome

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.

What can you do with alternate scripts?

  • Understand how other writing systems work
  • Develop an appreciation for different cultures
  • Write secret notes for yourself

Here’s a video showcasing some of the many writing systems I have adapted:

– pcdandy

Advertisement

Thai script for English v2 ไท หริฏ ฟ็ร อิงฅิ้ช พ๒

Note: this is an updated version of the previous Thai script adaptation I did a few years ago. This new edition aims to more fully utilise all the available vowel diacritics and remaining Thai consonants that were left unused initially.

The Thai script was originally derived from an earlier version of the Khmer script to better fit the properties of the Thai language while retaining its ability to represent Sanskrit and Pali, in which Buddhist texts were written. Today, Thai script is well-supported on just about every modern computing device, so I wondered if I could use Thai script to write English efficiently. The end result repurposes ‘surplus’ Thai consonants to represent English consonant clusters and is reasonably compact in length while also being hard to read for those who do not understand this complex entanglement of consonants, consonant clusters and vowel diacritics. Hence, this would probably be the ideal script for keeping your secrets safe from prying eyes – that is, as long as the ‘prying eyes’ are not literate in Thai.

Adaptation process

In the Thai orthography, a single consonantal phoneme can be represented by up to 6 letters, all of which are assigned a particular class that is used to indicate a Thai tone. Many of these letters represent Indic consonants which do not exist in the Thai language (such as palatal, retroflex and breathy voiced consonants), as well as distinct Thai sounds which had since merged with other consonants. For example, the following Thai letters are all pronounced (albeit with different tones) /tʰ/: ฑ, ฒ, ฐ, ถ, ท and ธ. Likewise for /kʰ/: ข, ฃ, ค, ฅ, and ฆ. And for /pʰ/: ผ, พ, and ภ. There are a few more examples of such instances throughout the Thai script.

I utilised the extra letters to represent English sounds not present in Thai, with a particular focus on assigning the more simple letters to core English consonants. If the target sound doesn’t exist in Thai (e.g. /ð/), I’ll pinch one of the simpler letters from any large collection of letters with a similar pronunciation. For example, the letter for /θ/ (the ‘th’ sound in ‘teeth’), ท, was taken from the above group of /tʰ/ letters. (In this adaptation, ถ is used to represent the /t/ sound.) Likewise for /ð/ (the ‘th’ in ‘this’), which shall be ธ, also from the /tʰ/ letter group.

The vowels were more straightforward as the common ones could be easily mapped to their Thai equivalents. Some things to note:

  • I elected not to use แ for /æ/, since it takes up more space than using an existing tone mark.
  • The ‘maitaikhu’ diacritic อ็ is used to represent /ɔ/ (the ‘o’ in ‘pot’).
  • The vowel sign for Thai /uː/ อู is used to represent the very common English diphthong /oʊ/ (the ‘ough’ ‘in ‘dough’). This was based on the equivalent Khmer script vowel diacritic អូ, which is also pronounced as /ou/ for certain consonants.
    • Instead, English /uː/ shall be written as /ʊ/ อุ with the ‘mai ek’ tone marker อ่ like this: อุ่.
  • Thai script has 2 diacritics for /aj/: ไอ and ใอ. In this adaptation, ไอ is used for /aɪ/ while ใอ is used for /eɪ/.
Continue reading “Thai script for English v2 ไท หริฏ ฟ็ร อิงฅิ้ช พ๒”

I created a personal blog written entirely in phonetically spelt English

Recently, I created a personal blog called ‘Glory to Randomness‘. It might not sound like much, especially with the pretentious name, but I’ve decided to write all articles in my YAAEO alternate English spelling scheme just for fun – I’ll be posting articles about topics I find interesting every now and then. If you’ll like to see how a more consistently spelt English would look like, feel free to check it out.

Cyrillic for English v2: Yet Another Cyrillic English Alphabet (Сірілік фор Іњґліш в2: Йет Ьнаѕьр Сірілік Іњґліш Элфьбьт)

Cyrillic is one of the most widely used alphabets in the world, used to write a diverse range of languages in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I had a go at adapting Cyrillic for English some time ago, but wondered what it would be like to fully utilise a wider range of the letters used across the Cyrillic-using world. This meant reusing some letters in unexpected ways to represent the most common English phonemes instead. The end result is what I shall call ‘Yet Another Cyrillic English Alphabet’, or YACEA for short, to distinguish it from all the other English Cyrillic attempts out there.

Adaptation process

Cyrillic is fairly straightforward to adapt to English. However, it does have some peculiar features that can be taken advantage of to represent English in the most efficient manner.

Continue reading “Cyrillic for English v2: Yet Another Cyrillic English Alphabet (Сірілік фор Іњґліш в2: Йет Ьнаѕьр Сірілік Іњґліш Элфьбьт)”

Georgian script for English ჯორჯიჷნ სქრიფთ ჶორ იღგლიშ

Latin, Greek and Cyrillic are not the only alphabets in town. Far less known are the 2 unique alphabets of the Caucasus region which are used widely today: Armenian and Georgian. It’s a shame that they are far less known than the Big 3, because these alphabets have turned out to be remarkably suitable for adapting into English with only minor modifications. For instance, both Armenian and Georgian have dedicated letters for /ə/ and /oː/, and other spare letters can be easily used for writing /æ/.

Georgian has a distinctive rounded aesthetic that is very similar to the Myanmar (Burmese) script in many ways. One surprising coincidence is that both the Myanmar and Georgian letters for /t/ are identical: Myanmar တ – Georgian თ. (Convergent evolution perhaps?)

Continue reading “Georgian script for English ჯორჯიჷნ სქრიფთ ჶორ იღგლიშ”

Armenian script for English Առմինիըն սկռիպտ ֆոռ Իղգլիշ

Latin, Greek and Cyrillic are not the only alphabets in town. Far less known are the 2 unique alphabets of the Caucasus region which are used widely today: Armenian and Georgian. It’s a shame that they are far less known than the Big 3, because these alphabets have turned out to be remarkably suitable for adapting into English with only minor modifications. For instance, both Armenian and Georgian have dedicated letters for /ə/ and /oː/, and other spare letters can be easily used for writing /æ/.

Similarly to the more well-known alphabets, Armenian comes in uppercase and lowercase forms. In lowercase, Armenian has a highly uniform, Latin-like aesthetic with its own twist, most of which are very similar to their corresponding uppercase forms.

Continue reading “Armenian script for English Առմինիըն սկռիպտ ֆոռ Իղգլիշ”

Tongyang Script – a hanzi-style alphabet for English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Vietnamese

Tongyang Script is an alternate alphabetic writing system for English, Chinese topolects and Vietnamese inspired by the major writing systems of East Asia.

‘Tongyang’ (pronounced ‘Toong-young’) is the Chinese and Korean pronunciation of 東洋, a Korean and Japanese term for East Asia.

A few years back, I wondered if it was possible to make a phonemic alphabet for English that was based on the principles of Chinese calligraphy, since there were none I had heard of. You know, the Eight Principles of Yong and all that. After starting off as a weird-looking mishmash of Japanese katakana and fragments of Chinese hanzi arranged in Hangul-style syllable blocks, I made gradual improvements over time to make it easier to write, more aesthetically pleasing and more capable of representing complex syllable structures in an elegant way. Tongyang script was the end result, and I’m pretty glad with how it turned out in the end.

In Tongyang Script, letters are arranged within a single square frame in a similar manner to Korean Hangul. Core letters were derived from selected portions of hanzi characters containing the desired sound – the rest of the letters were based on simple modifications of a core letter representing a closely related sound. Simple letterforms consisting of 2 or 3 strokes were chosen, where possible. Unlike some of the other syllable block scripts out there, each letter has been carefully selected to be able to form syllable blocks with the calligraphically balanced look of Chinese characters.

As an Asian, I like to imagine this as a writing system for the East Asian diaspora, an artform by which one can express Asian identity.

Continue reading “Tongyang Script – a hanzi-style alphabet for English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Vietnamese”

Yet Another Alternate English Orthography (YAAEO) – a clean and consistent alternate orthography with minimal diacritics and additions

Yet Unåþur Olturnut Iŋgliș Orțogrufi (YUOIO) – u klyn and konsistunt olturnut orțogrufi wiț minimul daiukritiks and adișuns

Note: this is an updated version of a previous alternate English orthography I had created not too long ago, which used digraphs for some consonants and the acute diacritic instead of the ring diacritic but is identical in all other aspects.

Many English spelling reform proposals have been created since long before the 18th century, when the spoken language had already drifted from the written form by a lot. Given that this is the Alternate Script Bureau, a blog dedicated to adapting other writing systems to write English and any other language I find interesting, I wondered: What would the ultimate Latin script adaptation look like? How much can I squeeze out of the Latin script to represent all 42 of the English phonemes without relying too much on diacritics, invented letters and digraphs?

The end result is yet another contribution to the hundreds of amateur spelling reform proposals concocted in the last 400 years by individuals from all walks of life. That’s why I’m gonna call it Yet Another Alternate English Orthography (YAAEO), for lack of a better name: while it would be really cool if all the English-speaking countries could come together and agree to a new and more phonetic spelling standard, I’m very much aware this won’t be happening in the forseeable future. YAAEO is simply a reflection of what I feel a highly phonetic orthography for English should be like.

So what makes my newfangled orthography different from the rest? Efficiency. It uses just 2 additional diacritic-capped vowel letters (Å and Ů) and 5 additional consonant letters (Ț, Ð/þ, Ŋ, Ș and Ż) to complement the existing 26 letters of the alphabet and allow them to be able to cover all of the English phonemes with minimal ambiguity. And a whole bunch of highly opinionated stuff that not everyone might agree with – but we’ll get to that shortly.

Clarification: before September 2022, YAAEO used an acute diacritc – ⟨á⟩ and ⟨ú⟩ instead of ⟨å⟩ and ⟨ů⟩. The change was made to improve aesthetics but is otherwise identical to the original version published in late December 2021.

The problem with other alternate English orthographies

Many of the alternate English orthographies promoted by English spelling reformers have issues that make them more complex:

  • SoundSpel uses just the original 26 letters with an emphasis on retaining the existing phonetic English spelling conventions (e.g. ‘all’ to represent /ɔl/), but contains a sizable amount of exceptions to the rules that increase its overall complexity.
  • Cut Spelling aims to reduce redundant letters in the current orthography and make it more phonetic to a limited extent, but doesn’t try to re-spell words in a more phonetic manner.
    • It introduces an additional layer of guesswork as unstressed vowels are completely removed – for instance, ‘permanent’ gets re-spelled as ‘permnnt’. When someone sees this, should they pronounce it as ‘permanent’, ‘permnent’ or ‘permnanet’?
    • Also, this system only seems to cater for those who already know how to read the current English orthography.

Many other alternate orthographies have also been published by individuals over the years, most of which have issues of their own:

  • Overuse of diacritics – it’s tempting to use diacritics for every single English phoneme not covered by their own letter, liberally sprinkling them across even the most common vowels and consonants. The end result is an unsightly mess that would be troublesome to handwrite easily – I mën, órganäsing it betür wûd bë mâçh mõre ëffectivè. (Admittedly I had fallen into this trap once: see this monstrosity from a few years ago, for instance.)
  • Overuse of digraphs and ligatures – on the flip side, one can also try use some familiar digraphs to represent the most common vowels (e.g. the /iː/ sound in ‘see’). The problem with overly using digraphs (and their conjoined cousins the ligatures) is simple: Texts get long and unwieldy pretty quickly – eemajeen eef everytheeng loookd like thees!?! bæd oorgeaniceayshaen!
  • Not designed with universal communication in mind – many of them tend to focus exclusively on representing 1 particular English dialect. Those that are based on American accents tend to merge the /ɔ/ sound in ‘not’, ‘lock’ and ‘bother’ with the /a/ sound in ‘father’, while some of those based on non-rhotic accents leave out final -r altogether. This makes them harder to understand for those who are not familiar with the accent of the creator.
  • ‘-z’ at the end of words – this one’s probably just me, but let’s be honest: ‘-z’ at the end of wordz can get quite jarring sometimez. Maybe it’s because ‘z’ is the only lowercase letter with sharp angles. Who knows.
  • Retention of ‘deviant’ English vowel pronunciation – some of them also preserve the traditional pronunciations of ‘a’ = /eɪ/, ‘e’ = /iː/, ‘i’ = /aɪ/ and ‘u’ = /a/~/ʌ/ that the current English orthography uses. This is rather different from how these letters are actually pronounced in the rest of the world.

Why I reckon YAAEO is better

YAAEO aims to overcome the previously mentioned issues by adopting the following principles:

  • Minimal additions – YAAEO aims to minimise the usage of diacritics and new letters except where needed, with only 7 new letters added to the existing 26 letters of the Latin alphabet: Å, Ů, Ț, Ð/þ, Ŋ, Ș and Ż.
  • Represents a blend of British RP and General American – these are the 2 most widely known English dialects, widely understood by many around the world. YAAEO preserves the vowel distinctions of the British accent and the final -r’s of the American accent.
  • The -s suffix is always written as -s – to minimise the ‘-z at end of words’ jarring effect, I decided the ‘-s’ suffix (as well as final -z in the most common words such as ‘was’, ‘is’, and ‘always’) shall be always written as ‘-s’ no matter how it’s pronounced, significantly reducing the jarring effect without sacrificing too much phonetic information.
  • Based on ‘continental’ vowel pronunciation – in YAAEO, vowel letter pronunciations more closely correspond with their original values, which are widely used in continental European languages and many other languages that have adopted the Latin script: Å = /a/~/ʌ/, E = /ɛ/ or /e/, I = /ɪ/ or /i/, O = /ɔ/ and Ů = /ʊ/ or /u/. This would make it much easier to comprehend for anyone familiar with a phonemic Latin orthography such as the ones used to write Spanish, Turkish or Indonesian.

Other advantages

  • Directly represents long vowels and diphthongs (such as the ‘ay’ sound in ‘say’) with their constituent vowels, not as something else.
  • 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’.
  • Usually more compact than conventional English orthography – in YAAEO, the 11-letter word ‘acknowledge’ becomes ‘aknolij’, which is just 7 letters.
  • Easy to type – in my YAAEO keyboard (see below), most new letters are located on the left side of the keyboard opposite the Alt Gr key for easy access.
  • Easy to typeset – supported by a large variety of high-quality Latin script fonts of all shapes and sizes.
  • Where introduced, new letters have been carefully selected to graphically fit in with the existing letters for a clean look.

Disadvantages of YAAEO

  • Many words will have different spellings (kof kof).
  • Requires a new keyboard layout to write the 7 new letters.
  • Some words become longer, especially if they have a lot of diphthongs: ‘isolation’ (9 characters) becomes ‘aisouleișun’ (11 characters).
  • The use of the letter ⟨C⟩ in YAAEO differs from its normal usage in the current English orthography.

Defining the vowel letters

In YAAEO, the ⟨E⟩, ⟨I⟩ and ⟨O⟩ vowel letters have the expected continental pronunciations:

  • E e = /ɛ/ (as in ‘bed’)
  • I i = /ɪ/ (as in ‘bid’)
  • O o = /ɔ/ (as in ‘lot’)

The /ɑ/ vowel found in American accents corresponds to /ɔ/ in British RP and does not contrast with /ɔ/, so I’ll consistently refer to it as /ɔ/ from here on.

Continue reading “Yet Another Alternate English Orthography (YAAEO) – a clean and consistent alternate orthography with minimal diacritics and additions”

Glorious English Orthography (GEO) – an easy-to-read alternate orthography that uses minimal diacritics and additions

Glorius Iŋglish Orthogrufi (GIO) – an yzi-tú-ryd olturnut orthogrufi dhat yúsus minimul daiukritiks and adisiuns

Note: This orthography is identical to the newer Yet Another Alternate English Orthography (YAAEO) in all aspects, except that this one uses digraphs for /θ/, /ð/, /ʃ/ and /ʒ/.

The English orthography is widely known to be inconsistent and troublesome, with its many silent letters (such as ‘gh’ in the word ‘though’ and the ‘b’ in ‘debt’) and exceptions to the rule (‘gh’ is also pronounced ‘f’ in words like ‘laugh’ and ‘cough’). There’s surely a better way to write it phonetically, isn’t it?

Introducing GEO (Glorious English Orthography), a phonetic Latin script orthography that utilises 2 additional diacritic-capped letters (‘á’ and ‘ú’) and 1 additional letter (‘ŋ’) to complement the existing 26 letters of the alphabet and allow them to be able to cover all 43 English phonemes without relying too much on diacritics. In addition, GEO uses common digraphs that are widely used in current English orthography, such as ‘sh’ for the /ʃ/ sound in ‘sure’, and diphthongs such as the ‘ay’ sound in ‘say’ are directly represented with their constituent vowels, not as something else.

Continue reading “Glorious English Orthography (GEO) – an easy-to-read alternate orthography that uses minimal diacritics and additions”

Cherokee Script for English ᏤᎶᎩ̣ ᏍᎧᎵᏋᏘ Ꮙ̤Ꮈ ᎢᎿᎬᏟᏍ̤

Cherokee is the first Native American language to have their own writing system, invented by a Cherokee man named Sequoyah. Its history is somewhat like that of Korean Hangul, as they are both invented scripts created by individuals to write their native languages accurately for the first time, raising suspicions from the establishment before they were widely adopted and embraced by their compatriots.

As the only syllabary besides Japanese kana to be widely supported on major OSes, I decided I had to learn the Cherokee syllabary. And with 86 characters total, it was definitely a worthwhile challenge to learn.

Adaptation process

To adapt any script for a different language for English, we must consider its features and limitations. As English language consonants are somewhat different from the Cherokee language’s consonants, I had to change some things around for maximum efficiency.

Continue reading “Cherokee Script for English ᏤᎶᎩ̣ ᏍᎧᎵᏋᏘ Ꮙ̤Ꮈ ᎢᎿᎬᏟᏍ̤”

Greek script for English (Γρίκ σκριπτ φωρ Ιν̣γλισ̣)

Greek was one of the first alphabetic writing systems to be created, and its letters are widely used as symbols in the mathematics, science and engineering fields. This is my take on using Greek script to write English phonetically.

Adaptation process

When adapting Greek, the biggest challenge was finding a way to distinguish the /b/ and /v/ sounds, as the letter that once represented /b/, beta ‘β’, is now pronounced /v/ in Modern Greek. The same issue arises with /d/ and /ð/ for delta ‘δ’. (This is not the case for gamma ‘γ’, as its modern Greek pronunciation /ɣ/ does not exist in English.) And then there’s the problem of differentiating /s/ and /ʃ/ without resorting to digraphs.

My solution was pretty simple: put a dot underneath the aforementioned letters (U+0323 Combining Dot Below) to indicate the fricative version (that is, /v/ instead of /b/ and /ð/ instead of /d/, since the stop consonants are more common than the fricatives). I selected this diacritic because it was able to display on many devices in a highly consistent way (other diacritics did not render properly), and ended up using it to distinguish the following phonemes:

  • β /b/ -> β̣ /v/
  • δ /d/ -> δ̣ /ð/
  • ν /n/ -> ν̣ /ŋ/
  • σ /s/ -> σ̣ /ʃ/
  • ζ /z/ -> ζ̣ /ʒ/
  • κ /k/ -> κ̣ /tʃ/
  • γ /g/ -> γ̣ /dʒ/

Note: depending on your font, the dot diacritic may not show as intended, especially on older devices.

Continue reading “Greek script for English (Γρίκ σκριπτ φωρ Ιν̣γλισ̣)”