Ideas for a more flexible Qglic

Every once and a while I get a Qglic bug in my system, and I start tweeting or Facebook-statusing in it. Maybe you know the feeling, maybe you don’t.

Qglic (as previously blogged about) is an alternative orthography for English, which has a goal of providing a more phonemic writing system (for non-linguists, a more one-to-one correspondence of sounds to letters); but the trick to it is to do this without using any “special” characters, and sticking to A-Z.

For it’s part, Qglic is quite good at this, despite the many vowel and consonant sounds in English. General American English distinguishes between 24 separate consonants (maybe 25, if you include the ‘wh’ in which) and 14 vowels. Totaling those numbers, you can see that English has more contrastive sounds than it has letters to write them. Some languages on the other hand, are easily able to get away with having one letter for each contrastive sound, without really running out of letters in the alphabet.

One of the problems, raised to me on Twitter, was that Qglic works great, but only if you have the caught-cot merger. As it turns out, this is probably something that the creator of Qglic wasn’t quite concerned about, perhaps because he doesn’t have this distinction— I think he might even be from western Canada, maybe that explains it? In any case, some words listed by Wikipedia as having separate vowels are the following:

bobble bauble bqbl
bock balk bqk
body bawdy bqdi
bot bought bqt
collar caller kqlr
chock chalk tcqk
hottie haughtyhqti
odd awed qd
stock stalk stqk
tock talk tqk
wok walk wqk

For a good amount of Americans, these sound the same, and in Qglic they would be written the same as well. Qglic instead uses <o> for the sound in ‘smoke’, /oʊ/. Following are the Qglic monophthongs, and some sample words.

Eng. Qgl.
tack tak
tech tek
tick tik
took tjk
toke tok
talk tqk
tuck tuk
teak tyk
Turk trk
tuque twk

For the more visual linguist, here’s a crappy ASCII IPA vowel chart containing Qglic monophthongs…

  y  i           j   w             
    e      u       o               
           r                       
      a          q

…and an attempt at IPA approximation of the sounds that they represent:

i   ɪ                      ʊ   u
   e/ɛ       ʌ/ə         oʊ/ɔ
             ɜ˞/ɚ
      æ                ɑ/ɔ

Qglic also provides some diphthongs:

take     teyk
tyke     tuyk
boy     boy
sound     saond

Demerging

But, how might this work if we had to throw in one more distinction, that is, talk/tock? As it turns out, the solution is already hiding in Qglic itself with <e> and <ey>. Merely making sure to represent the vowel sound in ‘toke’ as a diphthong always would free up one symbol for use with the word tock, and in addition it makes the vowel system a bit more consistent.

take     teyk
tech     tek
toke     touk
tock     tok

And again, a table:

y                   w
   i      u       j
ey        r        ou
    e            o
     a         q

And IPA:

 i                   u
    ɪ     ə/ʌ      ʊ
 eɪ      ɜ˞/ɚ       oʊ
     ɛ            ɔ
      æ         ɑ

This of course, covers 12 of the vowels of the 14-vowel system of General American, however it merges the proposed distinction between /ǝ/ and /ʌ/ , and the rhotic equivalents of these.

Consonantal fun

One of the additional things that has kind of bothered me about Qglic is the use of the apostrophe for the sound /ŋ/ in ‘sing’. One option I’ve come across, aside from writing it with is to use a number— it might give Qglic a cool flavor, but of course, I see how it sort of goes beyond the goal of using A-Z: sin, si9.

Other challenges?

Maybe you know of some other potential distinctions in English that this should cover, feel free to leave a comment. In any case, I’ve tested this kind of vowel system using RP and my own U.S.-ish English and found it to be quite suitable. For these texts I just found an RP transcription and retranscribed, and then found the text which was apparently more acceptable for Americans (you’ll notice some lexical differences) and transcribed my speech.

RP

Xu nox wind un xu sun wu dispywti9 witc wuz xu strqngu, wen u travlu keim ulq9 rapt in u wom klujk. Xei ugryd xut xu wun hw fws suksydid in meiki9 xu travlu teik iz klujk qf cjb by kunsidud strqngu xun xy uxu. Xen xu nox wind blw uz hqd uz y kjd but xu mor y blw xu mo klujsly did xu travlu fujld hiz klujk urajnd him un ut lqs xu nox wind geiv up xy utemp xen xu sun cqn ajt womly un imydcutly xu travlu tjk qf iz klujk, un suj xu nox wind wuz ublqidc tu kunfes xut xu sun wuz xu strqngr uv xu tw.

mercan

Xu norx wind an xu sun wr argywi9 wun dey ubeut witc uv xem wuz strqngr, wen u travlr keym ulong rapt up in an euvrkeut. Xey ugryd xat xu wun hw kjd meyk xu travlr teyk hiz keut qf wjd by kunsidrd strqngr xan xu uxr wun. Xen xu norx wind bliw az hqrd az hy kjd, but xu hqrdr hy bliw, xu tuydr xu travlr rapt hiz keut uraond him; an at last xu norx wind geyv up truying. Xen xu sun bigan tu cayn hqt, an ruyt uwey xu travlr tjk hiz keut qf. And seu xu norx wind had tw admit xat xu sun wuz strqngr xan hy wuz.

Previously…