Ithkuil/Alphabet

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Learn your ABC's![edit | edit source]

A is pronounced as it is in "ah", B is pronounced as it is in "be", and C is pronounced as it is in "beats".

Actually, let's start at the beginning. Ithkuil (/'iθ̟kuɪ̯l/) has 9 vowels, four of which are marked with a diacritical mark (the double dots are called a diaeresis). Their pronunciations for a general American speaker are described using the International Phonetic Alphabet in the table below.

Romanization IPA Audio Description Romanization IPA Audio Description
a /ɑ/

/a/

as in father or Spanish madre ä /æ/
as in cat
e /ɛ/

/e/

as in bet or Spanish estar ë /ʌ/

/ə/ /ɤ/

as in strut, but, or Irish urthu
i ı /ɪ/

/i/

as in sit or Spanish libro
o /ɔ/

/o/

as in dog or Spanish cosa ö /ø/

/œ/

as in French neuf or feu
u /ʊ/

/u/

as in put or Spanish puta ü /ʉ/

/y/

as in Scottish book or French du / German über
Note: at the start of a vocalic conjunct, underlined forms are used; refer to www.ipachart.com for guidance on pronunciation

When stressed (accented), the regular vowels take an acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú) and the diaeretical vowels take a circumflex (â, ê, ô, û). Two vowels can form a vocalic conjunct, including a few pairs that are pronounced as a single syllable: ai, au, äi ei, eu, ëi, ëu, iu, oi, ou, öi, ui These are known as diphthongs. iu is pronounced like eww and ui is pronounced like uhh gliding into a y sound. All other vowel pairs are disyllabic. A grave accent is be placed on an unstressed i starting a disyllabic vowel conjunct (ìa, ìä, ìe, ìë, ìo, ìö, ìü) to remind y'all that it is not pronounced like a y. Note in the table above that a, e, i, o, ö, and u only have one of their pronunciations used at the begin of a vowel group.

By default, Ithkuil words have stress on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable. Otherwise the stressed vowel must be marked with an acute accent (´) or the diaeresis (¨) must be replaced with a circumflex (ˆ). Verbs typically take stress on on the last (ultimate) vowel/diphthong. Stress is pronounced as a tonal shift for the remaining part of a word.

Ithkuil has 30 consonants (plus the glottal stop). Because the scripts do not directly map phonemes to graphemes, a romanization system is used to help with pronunciation. Ithkuil for the most part does not write out the pronunciation of words like an alphabet does. It is more akin to an abugida. You determine how to pronounce a word in a somewhat convoluted way, and the default value separating consonants is a. Ithkuil has markers like :  : to transcribe proper names such as Sam, as given by the International Phonetic Alphabet in the table.

The following consonantal characters explicitly mark part of a word's pronunciation. Usually, they indicate the root or affix of a word or the consonantal pronunciation of a loan word. Note that the characters will be different in the official release.

Symbol IPA Character [Old] Audio Description
b [b] Ithkuil-cons-b.jpg
As in bit
c [t͡s̺] Ithkuil-cons-c.jpg
As in bits, apical
ç [ç] Ithkuil-cons-c-cedilla.jpg
As in human
č [t͡ɕ] Ithkuil-cons-c-hacek.jpg
As in chin; not rounded
d [d̪] Ithkuil-cons-d.jpg
As in dot with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
[ð̟] Ithkuil-cons-dh.jpg
As in the
f [f] Ithkuil-cons-f.jpg
As in fall
g [g] Ithkuil-cons-g.jpg
As in gift
h [h] Ithkuil-cons-h.jpg
As in hair
j [d͡ʑ] Ithkuil-cons-j.jpg
As in jade; not rounded
k [k] Ithkuil-cons-k.jpg
As in king
l [l] Ithkuil-cons-l.jpg
As in light; lighter sound of Romance languages
ļ [ɬ] Ithkuil-cons-l-cedilla.jpg
As in Welsh llall
m [m] Ithkuil-cons-m.jpg
As in mad
n [n̪] Ithkuil-cons-n.jpg
As in no with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
ň [ŋ] Ithkuil-cons-n-hacek.jpg
As in ringer, not as in finger
p [p] Ithkuil-cons-p.jpg
As in pot
r [ɾ] [r] Ithkuil-cons-r.jpg
The rolling r in Romance languages
ř [ʁ] [ʀ] Ithkuil-cons-r-hacek.jpg
The breathy r in Arabic, French, German, or Hebrew
s [s̺] Ithkuil-cons-s.jpg
As in song, apical
š [ʃ] Ithkuil-cons-s-hacek.jpg
As in shore
t [t̪] Ithkuil-cons-t.jpg
As in toy with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
ţ [θ̟] Ithkuil-cons-t-cedilla.jpg
As in thought
v [v] Ithkuil-cons-v.jpg
As in vow
w [w] Ithkuil-cons-w.jpg
As in want
x [x] [χ] Ithkuil-cons-x.jpg
Similar to k with breathing of h or a gargle
y [j] Ithkuil-cons-y.jpg
As in you
z [z̺] Ithkuil-cons-z.jpg
As in zoo, apical
[d͡z̺] Ithkuil-cons-z-dot.jpg
As in roads, apical
ž [ʒ] Ithkuil-cons-z-hacek.jpg
As in measure; not rounded
[ʔ] Ithkuil-cons-glottalstop.jpg
As in the pause between uh-oh or fattening

Be sure not to aspirate a consonant unless it's followed by h. For example, you should pronounce your t as in stop, not as in top and your k as in ski, not as in key and your p as in spin not as in pin. In later lessons we also encounter the voiceless forms [ɾ̥], [m̥], and [n̥]. Also, if l, r, or ř precede a diphthong, it is okay to pronounce it as disyllabic as long as there is no pause in between.

Words are pronounced with a mid-level tone until the stressed syllable, followed by a high or falling tone until the end of the word. You can also use falling-rising or rising-falling tone, but that is typically used for adjuncts. Loanwords are surrounded by a pair of two-dot alphabetic markers. Diacritics are used on them to transliterate vowels and if needed, tone and stress. Below is a table of the diacritics as they apply to loanwords:

a ä e ë i ö o ü u

Exercise 1: Try using the consonants and vowels to write out your nameǃ

Words[edit | edit source]

Ithkuil words come in two types: the more common Formative and various types of Adjuncts. Formatives give important morphological information like how roots are conjugated. Adjuncts give supplementary information, like telling us that the next word is a loanword. Let's look at these some characters in the Ithkuil sentence “(He) is Sam”.

Ithkuilex001.jpg

That's five characters and a pair of alphabetic markers. This is romanized as asalá :säm:. The diagonal bar is a primary character indicating the basic form of stem one of the root that follows. The primary character has a dot on its bottom-left side, indicating that the Formative it is part of a verb so it has stress on the final syllable. Because there are no other grammatical markings, stem 1 is indicated with an a. The following secondary character is the root of the Formative: S. Stem 1 of S means animate reference. Gender and sex are unspecified by default. If the diagonal bar had been modified to indicate stem 2 (e) or stem 3 (u), the meaning of the root would change to inanimate or abstract reference respectfully. Working together, the first two characters are pronounced asal, meaning “is”. The á at the end signifies Observational Validation, knowledge or experience from the present, which is usually marked a quaternary character, but because a is the default value, the quaternary character has been omitted.

Between the pair of alphabetic markers indicating a loanword, the vertical line indicates the case which is at the default value. The horizontal superposed horizontal bar indicates that the remaining characters, S and M form a loanword. Neither consonant has superposed diacritics to indicate a vowel at the start of the syllables, but S has a horizontal bar, meaning ä in this context, underposed to indicate that the vowel is pronounced at the end of the syllable. Thus we get the loanword :säm:.

Let's look at another example featuring a different root and a different type of adjunct. A Referential functions similarly to how a pronoun does in natural languages, but in Ithkuil there is much more variety.

Ithkuilex002.jpg

That's seven characters and a pair of alphabetic markers. This is romanized as asalé :maria: sa (pronounced asaˈle mar'ɪ.a sa).The diagonal bar with a dot in the bottom-left corner still represents a verb and stem 1 of the root, and the secondary character than follows is still S. Stem 1 indicates that the referent of the loanword is animate, stem 2 indicates that it's inanimate, and stem 3 indicates that it's abstract. While this formative can function as a noun, which takes Case, the é at the end signifies Reportative Validation, information from a third party, which is marked before the alphabetic markers. These stems are verbal and take Referentials like la, za, and ca, given in the table below. Note that Monadic stands for singular and Polyadic stands for plural.

Referential Monadic Polyadic
I / me / speaker l
You / audience s n
He / she / they / 3rd person m ň
It / inanimate entity z
Mixed animate+inanimate c

You can combine forms to get more complicated pronouns like sla for me+you, ňla for them+I, zna for it+y'all.

Take the sentence esaló :ánanas: za. We can just as well say hlaḑkwoi-wekca za or waḑkwekca za and save two or three syllables, but they use slightly more complicated grammar. We can say asala :jon: for a person named “John”, esala :ánanas: for a thing named “Ananas”, and usala :losânjeles: for a place named “Los Angeles”.

Cases[edit | edit source]

3. inulû hlü :katya:

Validation (verbs)

OBS Observational (á)

The theme of a sentence semantically serves as the content. This means it is marked with a for the Thematic case, but it can be omitted so long as you can stress the penultimate syllable. e marks the Absolutive Case, the patient of a sentence. o marks the Ergative Case, the agent of a sentence. ü marks the Dative Case, the recipient or possessor of a sentence. We will introduce more transrelative Cases and Appositive Cases in the next lesson.

Transrelative Cases
THM Thematic content (a)
ABS Absolutive patient e
ERG Ergative agent o
DAT Dative recipient / possesor ü

As you know, consonantal characters oftentimes represent roots, the basis of an Ithkuil Formative. The Formative conveys the root meaning, conjugated into three stems under three patterns and two designations (informal and formal). Stem 1 usually refers to the general concept, stem 2 usually refers to a specific or tangible instance, and stem 3 usually refers to another reference or related concept. There are also Functions and Specifications, but for the moment use a for stem 1, e for for stem 2, u for stem 3, followed by the root, followed by al, followed by Case. You're familiar with the -S- root at this point, but the -L- and -T- roots each also have three stems.

Root: -S- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic [animate being] [inanimate/abstract entity] [place/geographical location]

e.g. wesa :iţkuìl:, wusa :tokyo:

Root: -L- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic adult child teenager
Root: -T- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic this that that over yonder
Root: -X- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic size volume duration

Some roots have a related meaning in their interpretation as an affix (using a type-2 character).

Affix -s

CMF

+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
via language via writing via publication via electronic medium via formal sign language via non-linguistic vocalizations
Affix -l

CTR

+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
but/still besides aside from excluding not even exclusive to

I know, but there's this (despite the aforementioned)

I know, but there's also this (in addition to the aforementioned)

I know, ignoring this for a moment (not taking it into account)

I know, excluding this (completely not taking it into account)

I don't even know this (expectation it should be included)

I know exclusively this (only applying to it)

Affix -t

DCD

+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
this that the previously mentioned [head] that [+head] this [+head]
Affix -x

SIZ

+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
too small small mini just the right size large too large

Exercises[edit | edit source]

Translate the following sentences:

  • You are writing that for her
  • These are a thing with size
  • It [the people and the things] is Ithkuilstan

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