EBEO, a phonetic Latin orthography for English (E fenétik Látin órŧogrefi for Iŋgliś)

English has a very complicated orthography that is inconsistent and troublesome, with its many silent letters such as ‘gh’ in the word ‘though’ (đò) and the ‘b’ in ‘debt’ (dét). And shockingly, some letters can be pronounced differently – ‘gh’ is also pronounced ‘f’ in words like ‘laugh’ (laf) and ‘cough’ (kof)! There’s surely a better way to write it phonetically, isn’t it?

Introducing EBEO (Even Better English Orthography), a revised Latin script orthography that utilises 15 additional diacritic-capped letters and 3 additional letters to expand the traditional 26 letters to cover all 43 English phonemes. Unlike traditional English orthography, each letter represents exactly 1 single English phoneme, and only that phoneme.

It’s not the prettiest orthography out there, but it makes a good starting point for describing any alternate scripts I choose to adapt. It can also be used for transcribing texts written phonetically in other alternate scripts for English, such as Shavian, Deseret and Quikscript.

Advantages:

  • It uses simple diacritics and simple letter modifications (so you don’t have to learn too many weird letters like Þ)
  • Supported by just about every professionally designed Latin script font
  • Each letter represents a single English phoneme, avoiding the ambiguity that can be caused by using 2 or more letters (digraphs) to write a phoneme
    • Common English diphthongs are also written with 1 letter
  • More compact than conventional English orthography
  • Some common English words retain their spelling

Disadvantages:

  • It uses diacritics (need to use a special keyboard layout)
  • Many other common English words will have different spellings (kof kof)

Vowels (11 letters total)

5 vowel letters are not enough to describe the full range of English vowels. To represent 5 of the monophthongal vowel sounds, the acute ´ is placed over a closely related vowel, and the ‘a’ sound in ‘father’ is written with a dot ̇ over the letter ‘A’.

Some of the letters are assigned 2 phonetic values, which sound close enough to be considered variations of the same sound.

Guide: /IPA phoneme/ Letter (example word with letter’s indicated phoneme in bold)

/ʌ/ a (sun)/æ/ á (can)
./aː/ ȧ (father)
/ə/~/ɜ/ e (sure)/ɛ/ é (red)
/ɪ/ i (bid)/iː/ í (bead)
/ɔ/ o (pot)/ɔː/ ó (call)
/ʊ/ u (pull)/uː/ ú (pool)

Diphthongs (8 letters total)

Diphthongs are indicated by one out of 2 diacritics, which are used depending on the property of the diphthong:

  • Rising to an ‘ɪ’ or ‘ə’ sound = ¯ (macron): ai = ā, ue = ū
  • Falling to an ‘ʊ’, ‘u’ or ‘ə’ sound = ˋ (grave): au = à, iu = ù
/aɪ/ ā (side)/aʊ/ à (now)
/ɔɪ/ ō (toy)/oʊ/ ò (dough)
/eɪ/ ē (say)/ɪə/ è (hear)
/ʊə/ ū (tour)/ju/ ù (news)

For any other diphthong not defined here, just put the 2 letters of the diphthong in order (example: /ʊɔ/ = uo).

Triphthongs

These are the most commonly found 3-vowel sequences in English. The first 2 vowels in the triphthong are indicated by one of the diphthong letters described above.

/aɪə/ āe (flyer)/aʊə/ àe (tower)
/jʊə/ ùe (cure).

Rhotic vowel sequences

IPA charts for English often include these phonetic vowel sequences as well. This shows how they are represented with EBEO:

/aː(ɹ)/ ar (far)/ɔː(ɹ)/ or (north)
/ɛə(ɹ)/ ér (chair)/ɜː(ɹ)/ er (nurse)

All other rhotic vowel sequences (e.g. /oʊɹ/) are represented by appending the letter ‘r’ at the end of the vowel, e.g. /oʊɹ/ = òr.

Consonants (24 letters in use, 26 total)

In addition to 19 existing Latin consonants, there are 7 additional letters to indicate the remaining consonants.

The letters for the consonant sounds in ‘Thank’ and ‘The’ were derived from ‘T’ and ‘D’ respectively as the 2 sounds are closely related, while the ones for ‘Share’ and ‘Azure’ were derived from ‘S’ and ‘Z’ likewise.

The letter ‘C’ is currently used in English orthography to represent 2 other phonemes that are already represented by the letters ‘S’ and ‘K’ depending on context. This is why in EBEO, ‘C’ is used only to represent the ‘Ch’ sound’ in ‘Change’, similar to its pronunciation in Indonesian and Malay.

The letters ĥ and ĝ are not used in English, but can be used for transcribing other languages that do have their sounds (e.g. German).

/p/ p (port)/b/ b (born)/f/ f (free)/v/ v (van)/m/ m (muse)
/t/ t (tree)/d/ d (drive)/θ/ ŧ (thank)/ð/ đ (the)/n/ n (new)
/k/ k (call)/g/ g (get)/x/ ĥ (loch)/ɣ/ ĝ/ŋ/ ŋ (sing)
/s/ s (soon)/z/ z (zoo)/ʃ/ ś (share)/ʒ/ ź (azure).
/tʃ/ c (change)/dʒ/ j (joke)...
/ɹ/ r (run)/l/ l (laugh)/h/ h (house)/w/ w (way)/j/ y (yell)

Special contractions (1 letter total)

EBEO uses ‘x’ to represent both /ks/ and /gz/, as /ks/ and /gz/ do not contrast with each other and are both very common sequences in English words, particularly those derived from Latin.

/ks/, /gz/ x (box)

It should be noted that ‘x’ is only to be used if the /s/ or /z/ sound does not indicate a plural. Hence, /æksɛs/ (access) is spelt ‘áxés’ and /bɔks/ (box) is ‘box’, but /lɔks/ (locks, plural of lock) is spelt ‘loks’.

Miscellaneous letters

The following letters can be used for transcribing particular accents of English.

/ʍ/ ŵ (what)
  • ŵ is to be used if the 1st consonant in ‘what’ and ‘way’ needs to be distinguished.

Examples

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in my idiolect)

Ùniversel Diklárēśen of Hùmen Rāts

Ol hùmen bíŋs ar born frí ánd ikūl in digniti ánd rāts. Đē ar éndàd wiŧ rízen ánd konśens ánd śud ákt tòerds wan enađer in e spirit of brađerhud. (Artikel 1 of đe Ùniversal Diklárēśen of Hùmen Rāts)

Excerpt from a short story I wrote a while ago

For comparison, you can view the original one here.

Ā hád e strēnj drím đát nāt.

In đát drím, Ā fànd māsélf ewēkeniŋ, lāiŋ on soft grín gras, in e fántesi 8-bit ūrld serànded bā kompùters. Đe luminens of bliŋkiŋ mòdéms ánd wóm, cèrful ciptùn mùzik fild đi ér. Olđò évriŧiŋ lukd bloki ánd skwér, it brót mi bák tu đòz dēs. Of ol đe kompùters Ā só, 1 of đém ūs plēiŋ mā fēveret soŋ! Ā jamp ánd líp in jō òver đe sāt. Ā đén só mā hàs, ánd Ā séd “Hā” tu mā bést mēts, hu ūr wētiŋ àtsād. Wi wókd tugéđer, háviŋ e cèri cát ebàt đe kompùter gēm Ā ūs ūrkiŋ on erlèr.

“Sò wats đát kul gēm gona bi ebàt, ē?” wan of đém askd.
“If ù levd Mariò, ùl lev đis!” Ā séd.
“Ósem!!! Kant wēt tu sí it!” Insād mi đe fāer tu kíp mi gòiŋ bikēm stroŋger.

Wi wókd intu e vivid sansét. Ā réminisd đe mémoris of past samers, plēiŋ rétrò vidiò gēms in đe kul śēd, iven đò đe san àtsād píkd át 42 digrís ánd mélted évriŧiŋ éls.

EBEO Keyboard layout

kb_ebeo

To type EBEO efficiently, I created a keyboard layout that augments the traditional QWERTY layout with the additional accented and stroked letters. The additional letters are accessed by pressing the Right Alt key on your keyboard.

Download links

Want to try EBEO on your computer? Here you can download the Windows, Linux and Android (Multiling O) versions I have made.

You can find more information on how to install keyboard layouts here.

5 thoughts on “EBEO, a phonetic Latin orthography for English (E fenétik Látin órŧogrefi for Iŋgliś)

  1. Is ɔː actually still used in modern english? everything I’ve found suggests that ɔː been absorbed into ɔ ɑ or ɒ.
    /ɑ/ in lot, want, start, father, and palm.
    /ɔ/ in boss, dog, all, thought. /ɑ/ & /ɑː/ in lot, want, start, father, and palm, art, spa
    /ɑː/
    /ɔ/ in boss, dog, all, thought
    in North America /ɐ/ sounds exactly like /ɑː/. ɑː is often called “short o”. see https://teflpedia.com/Phoneme_/%C9%91%CB%90/_in_General_American

    Like

  2. I have to admit, as an Esperanto speaker seeing ĝ used for ɣ was different because ĝ is dʒ in Esperanto but it makes sense. I’m using the layout for multiling. It seems to be missing ȧ so I added it. Gud job.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.