dh^ f^’netik ^’merikin ‘inglish ‘alf^bit

The reason I originally concocted Funymik Inglish was because I could find nothing of the sort on the internet. After I had made the Alfubet, though, I came across Simpel-Fonetik, which was just for what I had searched—I evidently hadn’t looked hard enough. Upon reading of it, though, I actually became quite annoyed.

I wasn’t expecting much from a phonetic system of writing English, but wow was this poorly done. It’s rife with apparent ignorance of English pronunciation (they seem to think that “don’t”, “long”, and “from” have the same vowel, and that “handshake” and “engine” have the same consonant cluster), the imagining of distinctions that don’t exist (they insist that the /l/ in “well” is somehow “stronger” than the /l/ in “will”), and design decisions that don’t make any sense (like using both “s” and “z” for /z/, or deciding to change the pronunciations of words to make them easier to spell).

On a more systematic level, I dislike that it tries so hard to be phonetic rather than phonemic. They go out of their way to use letters in ways that they think are more international, like using “j” for /j/ (even though Chinese, Spanish, most African languages, most Oceanic languages, and most American languages use “y”) and “o” for /ɔ/, but that only works well when there’s some kind of standardisation to pronunciations. It makes no sense whatsoever for me to use “o” for what I pronounce as an /ɑ/.

Worst of all, it compromises on its self-stated design principles. It sets out to assign only one phoneme to each letter, then assigns /s/ and /z/ to “s”, /æ/ and /ɛ/ to “ä”, and /o/, /ɔ/, /ɒ/, and /ə/ to “o”. It tries to have a letter for every sound, then refuses to give /ə/ a grapheme at all. And then they have a third principle which is just about those geminate /l/s they think English has.

So all this got me thinking. What if I took their design principles and made a system that actually met them? What if I took my own dialect and some IPA conventions and made a truly phonetic alphabet? One where

  1. each grapheme represents only one phoneme,
  2. there is a grapheme for every basic American English phoneme,
  3. double letters are used for long vowels and diphthongs,
  4. no Unicode is required, because that makes things so much more difficult,
  5. and double consonants only occur on morphemic boundaries, because that’s the only place where geminate consonants arguably appear in English?

Introducing dh^ f^’netik ^’merikn ‘inglish ‘alf^bit!

/m/m/n/n/ŋ/ng
/p/p/t/t/t͡ʃ/tj/k/k
/b/b/d/d/d͡ʒ/dj/ɡ/g
/f/f/θ/th/s/s/ʃ/sj/h/h
/v/v/ð/dh/z/z/ʒ/zj
/w/w/r/r/l/l/j/j
/iː/ii/uː/uu/ɔɪ̯/oi
/ɪ/i/ʊ/u/æʊ̯/au
/eɪ̯/ei/ə/^/əʊ̯/ou/əɪ̯/^i
/ɛ/e/ɔ/o/ɑɪ̯/ai
/a/ɑː/aa

Yeah, that looks decent. Oh, and it also uses apostrophes for stress marking, because those are phonemic, so it’s actually a little weird that we don’t mark them already. Let’s see it in action!

dhis iz ‘intresting: nou ‘fedr^l ‘g^vrmint ‘ordr or ‘efrt sou faar for ‘ending dhe ‘heltr ‘skeltr ‘speling. dount beg or laang for it. Its haard for th^ big g’ril^ tu staart ‘impl^minting ‘speling ‘daagm^. It wil ‘linggr, limp, ‘loitr, swing fr^m pilr tu poust.

wen juu riid f^‘nediklii, juu m^st pei ^‘tensh^n tu iitj ‘letr. r^‘member: iitj grafiim haz ‘aalweiz dhseim saund, dh^ saund ‘givin in dhe f^‘nedik ‘inglish alf^bit, ri’gaardlis ^v w^t ‘letr iz nekst tu it.

if juu aar ^ ‘neidiv ‘ingglish ‘spiikr, f^‘netik ‘r^iting mei luk streindj tu juu. b^t juu wil suun git juust tu it az juu juz it mor. Nuu ‘lrnrz ^v ingglish, and ‘forinrz huu aar f^‘miliir with dh^ ‘singgl saund pr ‘letr ‘r^iting duu naat hav dhat “‘streindjnis” ‘fiiling. b^t dhei duu iks’piriiins dhat ‘fiiling wen’evr dhei diil with dh^ ‘prezint ‘inglish ‘r^iting.

Alin Kiisk

I tried to leave out some of my more extreme dialectical variations, like my frequent pre-/n/ vowel elisions and my inexplicable affrication of some /t/s before /u/s into /t͡s/s, since I thought it would just make it too hard to read. I did elide my pre-rhotic schwas and merge my pins and pens, though.

And you know what? It’s actually not awful. There’s something appealing about the pure phonetic value of it, despite its specificity to my dialect. Besides, all things considered, if we wanted to set a dialect of English as standard, mine wouldn’t be a bad choice, though someone who knows their pre-/n/ vowels better than I might be a better convention. It also arguably has more international appeal than my previous English orthographies due to the vowels being somewhat more Latin. The caret for /ə/ is a bit weird, I’ll admit, but I stand by that decision. It’s on most keyboards, it doesn’t take up too much space on a page or time to write, and it’s nicely reminiscent of “ʌ”. The kerning is also whack with all the apostrophes and carets, but presumably fonts would adapt to incorporate those into words if this ever became a standard.

This is certainly on the opposite end of the spectrum from th’ Seudoe-Abjd. Where th’ Abjd tried to accommodate all English dialects by simultaneously maintaining old spelling conventions and writing new spelling rules, dhii ‘alf^bit keeps the rules as simple as possible while changing the conventions based on what other languages use with no regard for modern English orthography. I think it’s silly to use “j” for /j/ and “dh” for /ð/, but I also think both have their merits (and I’m quite happy with the “sj” for /ʃ/), and that this system overall would be a perfectly valid contender were we to reform English spelling.

As long as we can all agree that there’s only one /l/ in “g’ril^”!

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