From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Previous lessonMain pageNext lesson

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 in the "ts" of "beats".

Actually, let's start at the beginning. Ithkuil (/'iθkuɪ̯l/) 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/


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


as in bet or Spanish estar ë /ʌ/


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


as in sit or Spanish libro
o /ɔ/


as in dog or Spanish cosa ö /ø/


as in French neuf or feu
u /ʊ/


as in put or Spanish puta ü /ʉ/


as in Scottish book or French du / German über
Note: at the start of a vocalic conjunct, underlined forms are used; refer to 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 the last (ultimate) vowel/diphthong. Stress is pronounced as a tonal shift for the remaining part of a word. Formatives are words that 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 non-Formative words). If a verb consists of only one syllable, you pronounce it with high or falling tone, skipping the mid-level tone altogether.

Ithkuil has 30 consonants (plus the glottal stop). Because the script does 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. Rather, it has some components that represent sounds and some that represent grammatical information. 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] As in bit
c [t͡s̺] As in bits, but pronounced with the tip of the tongue
ç [ç] As in human
č [t͡ʃ] As in chin; not rounded
d [d̪] As in dot with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
[ð] As in the
f [f] As in fall
g [g]

As in gift
h [h] As in hair
j [d͡ʒ] As in jade; not rounded
k [k] As in king
l [l] As in light; lighter sound of Romance languages
ļ [ɬ] As in Welsh llall
m [m] As in mad
n [n̪] As in no with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
ň [ŋ] As in bring
p [p]

As in pot
r [ɾ] [r]

The rolling r in Romance languages
ř [ʁ] [ʀ]

The guttural r in Arabic, French, German, or Hebrew
s [s̺] As in song, but with the tip of the tongue
š [ʃ] As in shore
t [t̪] As in toy with tongue pressed against back of upper teeth
ţ [θ] As in thought
v [v] As in vow
w [w] As in want
x [x] [χ]

Like Scottish loch or German Bach
y [j]

As in you
z [z̺] As in zoo, with the tip of the tongue
[d͡z̺] As in roads, with the tip of the tongue
ž [ʒ] As in measure; not rounded
[ʔ] Unwritten outside of alphabetic writing 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.

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.

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 vowels and diacritics:

a ä e ë i ö o ü u

Words, words, words![edit | edit source]

The most common Ithkuil word type is the Formative. Formatives include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Let's look at these some characters in the Ithkuil sentence with a Formative introducing the loanword "Sam".

That's four characters, a diacritic and a pair of alphabetic markers (the two stacked dots). This is romanized as asala :säm:. The diagonal bar is a primary character indicating the basic form of stem one of the root that follows. There is no diacritic below it, so it is a noun. 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 an animate being referenced by the following foreign or proper name or phrase. 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, and location reference, respectively. Working together, the first two characters are pronounced asal, meaning that the following is an animate reference.

Between the pair of alphabetic markers indicating a loanword, there are two characters: S and M. 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: and the sentence translates to "an animate being Sam".

Let's look at another example featuring a the verbal form of the root and a referential. Referentials function similarly to how pronouns do in natural languages, but in Ithkuil there is much more variety.

That's seven characters and a pair of alphabetic markers. This is romanized as asalá :maria: sa. The diagonal bar with a dot below it represents a verb and stem 1 of the root, and the secondary character than follows is still S. Like before, Stem 1 indicates that the referent of the loanword is animate, stem 2 indicates that it's inanimate or abstract, and stem 3 indicates a location. While this formative can function as a noun, which takes Case, the á at the end signifies that it is a verb (indicated by the dot below the diagonal bar), that the statement is an assertion (Assertive Illocution), and the Validation is Observational, meaning present firsthand knowledge. The formative is verbal and can work alongside Referentials like la, za, and ca, given in the table below. Note that Monadic refers to singular referents and Polyadic refers to plurals. The monadic form sa refers to the singular audience (also known as the 2nd person). The Referential does not precede the Formative because in Ithkuil sentences are verb-initial. The verb here is "to be Maria", so the translation for this sentence is "You are Maria".

Here are some of the more common referentials. Like nouns, referentials also take case markings. Referentials also have different variations based on the referred entity's effect on the speaker. The forms in the table are those for neutral effect.

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

The mixed referential is used for entities with components that aren't animate: a boy with his thoughts, a human-robot hybrid, an animal with the prey it's killed, a driver and her car, or the city and its denizens. You can also combine referentials to get more complicated forms like sla for me+you, ňla for them+I, zna for it+y'all.

Both noun-like Formatives (those with penultimate stress) and Referentials take a category called Case. English nouns don't take cases, but pronouns do, such as the third person pronouns he/she as subjects versus their object forms him/her. (For the sake of conciseness "they/them" will solely be used for plural referents.) Ithkuil cases are more flexible and use an agent-patient distinction to employ middle-voice when needed. (a)ňalá ze lo translates to "I write it", with the first person referential using the Ergative case to mark the agent and the 3rd person referential using the Absolutive case to mark the patient. (a)ňalá le zo switches the cases around, translating to "It writes me" or "I am written by it". We will encounter more cases in the next lesson.


The S root has stems for animate, inanimate/abstract, and location referents. We can say asalâ :jon: for “I remember that it's John”, esaló :ánanas: za for “they say it is an Ananas”, and usalé :losânjëles: for “I've heard from a source that it's Los Angeles”. The vowel at the beginning indicates the stem and the vowel(s) at the end indicate the categories of Illocution (what type of statement is being made) and Validation (if your statement is an assertion, Validation indicates the source for the claim).

Below is a table of common Ithkuil cases:

Vc Cases
THM Thematic theme (a)
POS Possessive circumstancial possessor ai
ERG Ergative agent o
ABS Absolutive patient e
IND Inducive self-initiating agent+patient u

With the exception of -ai (one of the Possessive Cases), these are Transrelative Cases bearing the simplest vowel forms. There are nine Transrelative cases out of Ithkuil's total of 68 (!!) cases which we will dive into in the next lesson.

The theme of a sentence semantically serves as the content which doesn't undergo any change. This is marked with -a for the Thematic case, which can be omitted so long as you can stress the penultimate syllable. It's used in the sentence meaning umalá atala "this is a phoneme". The root L is preceded with the Vr value u indicating stem 3, meaning teen. The root T is preceeded by the default value a indicating stem 1, which can be omitted since the juncture between this Formative and the word before it already has the -á to delineate the boundary between the two words.

As you know, roots are the basis of an Ithkuil Formative. The Formative conveys the its meaning conjugated into three stems under other categories like Specifiation and Version. 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 -T- and -M- roots each also have three stems.

esalái :iţkuìl: etal translates to "Hey, that's an instance of Ithkuil! (what do you have to say about it?)"

Here is a table of the verbal categories used on the Formatives in this lesson:

Vk Basic Verbal Suffixes
OBS Observational present sensory knowledge/experience (á)
REC Recollective remembering past knowledge/experience â
PUP Purportive known from 3rd party/definitive source é
CVN Conventional cultural/conventional knowledge ó
INF Inferential inferred or extrapolated from evidence ú

Lastly, here is a table of some simple roots and their stems:

Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
Root: -S- [animate being] [inanimate/abstract entity] [place/geographical location]
Root: -T- this that that over yonder
Root: -M- communication rhetoric phoneme
Root: -Ň- writing composition letter/glyph
Root: -X- size volume duration
Root: -FH- find encounter meet (by chance)
Root: -KŠ- a performance as a clown absurdist/Dada-esque art surrealist art

Exercises[edit | edit source]

Translate the following sentences:

  • I am ___ [write your name!]
  • The rhetoric takes some amount of time
  • You encounter that (I infer so)
  • It [the people and the things] is Ithkuilstan (conventional knowledge)

Previous lessonMain pageNext lesson