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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

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.

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

Yet Unáþur 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 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 (‘á’ and ‘ú’) and 5 additional consonant letters (‘ț’, ‘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.

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:

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 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.

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Cyrillic script for English (Саирилик скрипт фор Иңглиш)

Cyrillic is one of the most widely used alphabets in the world, besides Latin, and it was only a matter of time before I had a go at using it to write English phonetically.

Adaptation process

Adaptation was fairly easy, as many Latin letters can be easily substituted for their Latin counterparts. For some of the letters, I used digraphs or Cyrillic letters from the Serbian and Bashkir orthographies, and also took some inspiration from an earlier Latin script orthography called BEO.

In Cyrillic for English, ‘ь’ is used as a vowel to write the schwa /ə/. Although it is primarily used to modify the sound of consonants in most Cyrillic orthographies today, it once represented a vowel a long time ago, and it seemed more natural that I use it as a vowel in my adaptation. Also, since there appears to be no letter for /w/ in Cyrillic, I used the vowel letter for ‘U’ as a stand-in.

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Hebrew script for English היבּרו סקריפּט פָר ינּגליש

After adapting the Arabic script for English in my previous post, it was only natural that I have a go at the only other widely used right-to-left script in the world today: Hebrew.

Adaptation process

Like the Arabic script adaptation, I used the consonant letters for ‘y’ and ‘w’ as vowels. Unlike Arabic, though, Hebrew has a larger set of vowel markers that I could use to represent a wider set of vowels without digraphs. Some consonants were also derived from others using the dagesh diacritic ּ , which indicates a different but closely related sound (e.g. /f/ פ -> /p/ פּ). Also, some features were also taken from other Hebrew orthographies – the use of ע to write /ɛ/ originated from Yiddish.

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Arabic script for English ارابيك سكريڤت فُر يعگليش

The Arabic script is one of the most widely adopted writing systems in the world, together with Latin and Cyrillic. Its main distinctive characteristics are that letters are written right-to-left, and letterforms merge with each other in a cursive manner.

Adaptation process

Most consonant letters were fairly straightforward: ف = /f/, ر = /ɹ/, etc. Still, some changes had to be made due to the different consonants – ط, ص and their dotted variants were excluded as their sounds did not exist in English. Additional letters were also added: ژ /ʒ/ and گ /g/ come from the Perso-Arabic variant, while ڤ /p/ and ۏ /v/ come from the variety of Arabic script used to write Malay, called Jawi.

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