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 regular ë

stressed ë

/ʌ/

/ə/ /ɤ/

as in strut, but, or Irish urthu
i /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 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. It is more akin to an abugida, but the script is more of a morpho-phonemic logography. 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 gutteral 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
The hard h in Arabic, German, Hebrew or Scottish
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.

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

You may have noticed that the loanword "Ithkuil" should be pronounced as two syllables, but at the beginning we showed how it is pronounced with three! This goes to show that you can pronounce diphthongs as disyllabic conjuncts if you want, although it is not recommended.

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

The most common Ithkuil word type is the Formative. Formatives give important morphological information like how roots are conjugated. Referentials allow for referring to referents the way pronouns do in English. Adjuncts give supplementary information. Let's look at these some characters in the Ithkuil sentence with a Formative introducing the loanword "Sam".

Ithkuilex001.jpg

That's five characters and a pair of alphabetic markers. 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. 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”.

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 the verbal form of the root and a referential. Referentials function similarly to how a pronouns do 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 asalá :maria: 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 á at the end signifies Observational Validation, which indicates present knowledge. The formative is verbal and can work alongside Referentials like la, za, and ca, given in the table below. The Referential does not precede the Formative because in Ithkuil sentences are verb-initial. Note that Monadic refers to singular referents and Polyadic refers to plurals.

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, or the city she's in. 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 rarely declines nouns into cases, but one example is 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. žrolá ze lo translates to "I throw 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. žrolá le zo switches the cases around, translating to "It throws me" or "I am thrown by it".

The S root has stems for animate, inanimate, and location referents. We can say asalái :jon: for “Hey, it's John”, esaló :ánanas: za for “they say it is an Ananas”, and usalé :losânjeles: 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 rest of the grammar.

We now introduce the final type of Ithkuil word: the Adjunct. There are various types of adjuncts, but we will begin with the simplest. Take the sentence:

eňulú ẓe hlo :katya:

The first word is a verbal Formative with the root "write", the second word is a referential meaning "them" and the last word is the loanword "Katya". Sandwiched in between is an adjunct performing the role of the S root, except that it does not indicate the animacy of the referent. It takes a value of Case, just like asala :säm: from before. The o value represents Ergative case for the agent of the sentence, Katya. (Its unstressed use as a case has an entirely different meaning from its stressed use on the verb as a Validation category.) 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 ulalá atala "this is a teenager". 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.

With penultimate stress, we can say asalai :jon: for “John's”, esalo :ánanas: ekçoilú for “cut by the Ananas I'm sure”, and usale :losânjeles: ardwerçá for “constructing Los Angeles”.

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 -L- and -T- roots each also have three stems.

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

žroló utale elalo translates to "It is said the child throws that thing yonder (to someone/somewhere)"

axalogú ňa has the extra syllable -og ("to a large extent"), translating this to "I figure they are big"

Root: -S- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic [animate being] [inanimate/abstract entity] [place/geographical location]
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: -Ň- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic writing composition character/glyph
Root: -X- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic size volume duration
Root: -ŽR- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic throwing shooting launching

Lastly, here is a table of the verbal categories used on the Formatives in this lesson:

Vk Basic verbal
OBS Observational present sensory knowledge/experience (á)
RSP Responsive OBS with expectation of response ái
CVN Conventional cultural/conventional knowledge ó
PUP Purportive known from 3rd party/definitive source é
INF Inferential inferred or extrapolated from evidence ú

Exercises[edit | edit source]

Translate the following sentences:

  • I am ___ [write your name!]
  • The character has size
  • You are writing that
  • It [the people and the things] is Ithkuilstan
  • We launch her child

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