Orange Tree Orchard


The 'Oink: A Phonetic Alphabet' Booklet

Oink A Phonetic Alphabet graphic

To download a PDF copy of this booklet click:here



Constellation Consonants

Constellation Consonants: Part 1 - Z

Constellation Consonants: Part 2 - X

Constellation Consonants: Part 3 - V

Constellation Consonants: Part 4 - C

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 5 - Q

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 6 - J

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 7 - B

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 8 - G

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 9 - D


Sun, Son, Sin, ...E

The Twelve Sacred Consonants - Part 1

The Twelve Sacred Consonants; Part 2 - The "Push" Problem Solved

The Twelve Sacred Consonants; Part 3 - The "Push" Consonant Trial

How Many Vowel Sounds Do We Actually Need To Represent?

The Seven Sacred Vowels Investigated

The Seven Sacred Vowels Continued..

The Vowel Sounds Compared

Consonants & Vowels: Taking Stock

Cataloguing the Mechanics of the Consonants

The Ten Vowel Sounds in the English Alphabet: Update

The Nasal "Back of the Mouth" N Sound

The 17/13 Alphabet - A Trial

17/13 Alphabet - 2nd Trial

Cringe - Why It's Such An Apt Word

Oink: A Phonetic Alphabet. Vowels Given Notation

Oink - A Phonetic Alphabet: The Full Alphabet

The Letter "S" - Another "Push" Consonant

Ch and J ...and m-m-more mothers

Losing one eye..

Whistle, Hiss and Shush: The Serpent Eats Its Own Tail


What follows is a blog series that investigated the vowel and consonant sounds that make up the English language. It began with a quest to strip the twenty-one consonants of the English alphabet down to a core twelve - this was inspired by an interest in the supposed “seven sacred vowels” of ancient Greek tradition. It then meandered into a look at how all these various sounds are made in our mouth. Which in turn revealed how the particular sounds we use for words are rooted in nature and bodily mechanics, and that they are not just random language evolutions that arose through happenstance.

The posts that follow are lighthearted, but hopefully also illuminating.

Constellation Consonants: Part 1 - Z

Not too long ago I read Joscelyn Godwin's The Mystery of the Seven Vowels. A fascinating book, highly recommended for anyone interested in language and/or music. The theme harks back to the seven sacred vowels in the ancient Greek language. These vowels corresponded to the seven planets/gods of their ancient cosmo-theology.

Anyway, at the time I was thinking a lot about the relationship between the numbers seven and twelve in all things ancient. Seven days of the week, twelve months of the year. Seven travelling planets in the sky, twelve constellations. Of course, these correlate - the days of the week named for their respective gods, the months in loose correlation with the signs of the zodiac.

There are also seven notes in a musical key, and these in turn are plucked from the twelve notes of the western musical scale. Again this correlates somewhat with the Music of the Spheres and the planetary movements.

[As a side note, I also wondered if maybe the birth chart in astrology was essentially the location of the seven planets in relation to the twelve constellations; i.e. that the twelve constellations were the twelve notes and that the planets' positions would essentially pick seven notes by their location. If Mars was in Libra at your birth and Libra represented, say an 'A', then an 'A' would be one of your notes. If you have seven notes that fit harmoniously in a key then that bodes well. If your seven notes are discordant and all over the place then bad luck.]

Anyway, on reading about the seven sacred vowels I started wondering if there were twelve corresponding sacred consonants. I looked and couldn't find anything on-line suggesting this, but I thought I'd try it out. In English we have twenty-one consonants. Can they be stripped back to an essential twelve? How many consonants are needed for a functioning English language?

I've been wondering about this. So for an experiment I'm going to try removing some to see what happens. Maybe I'll remove one a post? Let's see how many posts I can get through.

I'll start with an easy one: Z

I think we can get by without Z - it's just a fancy S really, Fizz can become Fiss. Zebra can be Sebra.

I should point out at this point that it helps to actually mouth the words out as well. Zebra and Sebra might not look the same on paper, but they certainly sound more or less the same, and that's what counts :) We won't miss Z once we get used to not having it. go out, cross the sebra crossing, and buy a fissy drink ...but wrap up warm 'cos it's freesing out there.

Constellation Consonants: Part 2 - X

In my last post I got rid of Z from the English alphabet in my quest to create an alphabet that can adequately notate the spoken English language with as few consonants as possible. Ideally only twelve.

This post I'm removing X, another letter that hopefully we won’t miss too much. X normally stands for an S/Z sound as in xylophone, or a K type sound as in extra. In fact, the K sound is probably more a KS sound. Eks marks the spot. So extra could be rendered ekstra, which sounds eksactly the same.

Xylophone could become sylophone. Zylophone would maybe work slightly better, but since we've decided that S and Z are essentially the same sound we'll have to make do.

We've now stripped the English alphabet from twenty-one to nineteen consonants and things seem okay. It might be a little tougher to decide what's nekst though.

1. B

2. C

3. D

4. F

5. G

6. H

7. J

8. K

9. L

10. M

11. N

12. P

13. Q

14. R

15. S

16. T

17. V

18. W

19. X = S or KS

20. 19. Y

21. Z = S

Minus the five vowels of course: A, E, I, O, U.

Constellation Consonants: Part 3 - V

In my last post I aksed X from the English alphabet. I've had a think about what to akse nekst and have decided to remove V.

V to my ears sounds almost identical to F. Take leaf and leaves for eksample. Or life and lives. So I think it can go. Plus V looks a bit too similar to U for my liking. Get it out of here.

Now I'fe remofed three consonants - X, Z and V. We're down from twenty-one to eighteen and I seem to be managing okay. The spell checker's getting a bit stressed out though. My aim was to get down to twelfe. Just siks more needed.

Constellation Consonants: Part 4 - C

The nekst consonant I think I'll remofe is C. It makes sense to remofe C as normally a hard C sounds identical to a K and a soft C sounds much like an S. The problem is C is a bit more common than the other letters I'fe gotten rid of so far (X, V, and Z), so things are going to start to look a little crasy :p I'll efen hafe to start spelling consonant differently.

So cat becomes kat, much like kitten. Cradle becomes kradle - the kats in the kradle and the silfer spoon.

Cease and Cede bekome Sease and Sede respektifely. Things are starting to look quite weird now, but the sounds of the spoken English language still seem to be adequately represented by the remaining konsonants. We're now down to sefenteen.

1. B

2. C = K or S

3. D

4. F

5. G

6. H

7. J

8. K

9. L

10. M

11. N

12. P

13. Q

14. R

15. S

16. T

17. V = F

18. W

19. X = S or KS

20. Y

21. Z = S

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 5 - Q

I'm going to make things a little easier for myself this time and remofe Q. Q is one of the less frequently used letters in the English language, so hopefully getting rid of it won't be too notiseable.

Q, of kourse, is normally always followed by a U and again, like C, it tends to hafe a K sound. Queue sounds identikal to cue - now both bekome kueue and kue with my stripped down English alphabet.

Queen bekomes Kueen, or maybe Kween. In fakt, that probably makes more sense phonetikally, I'll go with that. Quick bekomes kwik, quiet bekomes kwiet, quack bekomes kwak.

The kwik kween kwietly kwaked.

I'fe now remofed fife. We're down to just siksteen konsonants now. It's going to be fery trikky getting mush lower though.

In fakt, I'fe hit a snag in that last sentense with my attempts to render the word much. In part 3 I stated that C kould be substituted for either a K or an S. Howefer, when it komes to the Ch sound in the word much neither letter seems to kwite (:p) work.

To my ears Ch has more of a T sound. Maybe T + J in fakt. Tj, mutj - does that work? For the time being I'll go with that.

It's going to be fery trikky getting mutj lower though.

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 6 - J

This time I'm going to attempt to remofe J from the alphabet. J is pretty mutj the last konsonant in the English language that doesn't okkur frekwently that I'fe yet to remofe. After that things are going to get really trikky and I'm going to struggle massifely.

In my last post I used J, along with T, as a substitute for the CH sound in the word much - mutj. So remofing it will kause problems here as well. Hopefully things will substitute seamlessly as I re-render eferything.

J is pretty similar to Y. The J in John sounds similar to Y, the J in Johann sounds identikal.

The J in John to my ears sounds a little like D then Y - Dyohn. So I think I'll replase J with DY or simply Y where appropriate.

June kan bekome Dyune, July kan bekome Dyuly, January kan be Dyanuary. Julius Caesar kan bekome Dyulius Saesar and our little lord Jesus kan bekome Dyesus.

How's it going to work for much though. My mutj rendering now bekomes mutdy. Hmm, not kwite right. This is getting hard. I'll hafe to leafe it like that for now though I guess. Maybe I'll get used to it. God knows whitdy letter I'm going to remofe nekst though.

We now stand at:

1. B

2. C = K or S

3. D

4. F

5. G

6. H

7. J = Y or DY

8. K

9. L

10. M

11. N

12. P

13. Q = K

14. R

15. S

16. T

17. V = F

18. W

19. X = S or KS

20. Y

21. Z = S


1. B

2. D

3. F

4. G

5. H

6. K

7. L

8. M

9. N

10. P

11. R

12. S

13. T

14. W

15. Y

Mutdy more konsise.

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 7 - B

I really think I'm starting to hit the wall now. I'fe been rakking my brains thinking of where to go nekst. So mutdy so that I was efen thinking about it when I woke up in the early hours of last light after a nightmare.

I'm kwikly running out of rope and don't hafe many options left so I think I'm going to hafe to get rid of B. This is where we get into the realms of the ridikulous though. B to me sounds fery similar to P. Howefer, they're not similar enough to be anywhere near identikal. Nowhere near as similar as F and V or S and Z.

If you mouth out the letters P and B you'll notise that P is pretty mutdy a B but with a 'push' - the air is pushed out the mouth a bit more. Howefer, a P-word kan sound like a B-word and fise fersa. Plackperry Bie. Burple Bigs. Plue Pirds. I think people would notise the differense though. Plus it looks kwite silly :p

I suppose I kould get rid of either B or P on this logik, but I'll lose B and keep P simply bekause I think P okkurs more frekwently in the English language.

This gets me down to fourteen konsonants now, put it's getting to the point where efen I'm struggling to understand what I'fe written. And I still need two more to reatdy my aim of twelfe. The only two I kan think of at the moment though take us efen further into the madness :(

It should pe fun though :)

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 8 - G

I'm now going to attempt to remofe G from the alphapet - sorry Freemasons. This will pe the eighth konsonant I'fe remofed and will leafe me with dyust thirteen.

G to my ears is fery similar to K, only more guttural. In many ways it's a K from the throat. Again, like my last post apout P and B, the similarity only goes so far and the differense is kwite notiseaple, making it something of a klumsy supstitute.

H is also from the throat, so I was wondering if I kould maype use HK as a proksy for G. Howefer, I'm hafing diffikulty sounding those two sounds out with my mouth to make them form a G, so maype that would pe tdyeating a little. It's an option at least though.

Trying out the G = K supstitution we get stuff like; goal pekoming koal, gate pekoming kate, guard pekoming kuard. It doesn't really work too well, put I guess I'm going to hafe to make do.

Open the karden kate.

Kreet the kracious kentlewoman.

In fakt, gentlewoman is usually spoken to sound more like jentlewoman, We write gentle, put we say jentle. We write giant, put we pronounse it jiant. We write genius, put say jenius. And, of kourse, garden in Frentdy is jardin, so there's klearly some krossofer petween G and J there as well.

I'll now hafe to say that G = K or J. Howefer, sinse we skrapped the letter J two posts ago and put in its plase the letters DY we'll hafe to say that G = K or DY.

Gentlewoman now pekomes Dyentlewoman. Giant pekomes Dyiant. Genius pekomes Dyenius.

Kreet the kracious Dyentlewoman.

That at least sounds a little petter.

One final think apout G I should mention is that a lot of the words we use end in ing. Howefer, I think in a lot of kases the G kan dyust pe iknored. We already iknore it kwite a lot anyway - I'm feelin' fine, and so on and so forth. [Eksept the third word in this parakraph, of kourse, whitdy was supposed to pe thing :p maype that's a kase for HK pein used?]

Dyust one more konsonant to ket rid of now.

Konstellation Konsonants: Part 9 - D

Eferythin's startin to sound Dyerman now. I feel like I'm readin and writin Anklo-Sakson. I'm now onto my final konsonant. After this there's dyust twelfe left.

The one I'm remofin this time is kwite klose to my heart - D. D and T sound similar to me, so one is koin to hafe to ko. The reason I feel a personal affinity with this one is that people are forefer tdyastisin me for miksin these two letters up. I'll often say "I'm going t' d' shops" and that sort of think. This'll often result in someone tellin me "'s the shops", emphasisin the th sound. I think it's maype a konsekwense of my Teesside aksent ...or maype dyust a konsekwense of my dyeneral disrekard for sosial konfention.

Anyway D and T are so kommon in the Enklish lankwadye I kan see remofin one of them pein a real proplem. Drain will pekome train - that's not koin to work. Dear will pekome tear. Efen if they are put into the kontekst of a sentense it's still koin to pe somewhat konfusin. This is where I should propaply throw in the towel and aksept that I'm not koin to ket it lower than thirteen.

It's also koin to play hafok with my CH sound. Much pekame mutj, then mutdy, now it's koin to pe mutty or muddy. As is eferythin else. So I kuess it's kameofer.

It's peen an interestin eksperiment thow. Maype one I'll hafe another krak at later. It's also kot me thinkin that maype I koult kreate a sekret kote or lankwatye paset on this strippet town fersion of Enklish. Maype usin thirteen or so konsonants plus one or more fowels.

Anyway, this is what I entet up with.

1. F

2. H

3. K

4. L

5. M

6. N

7. P

8. R

9. S

10. T

11. W

12. Y

Ant this is what the poem Remember py Christina Rossetti looks like renteret this way;

Rememper me when I am kone away,
kone far away into the silent lant;
When you kan no more holt me py the hant,
Nor I half turn to ko yet turnin stay.
Rememper me when no more tay py tay
You tell me of our future that you plann't:
Only rememper me; you unterstant
It will pe late to kounsel then or pray.
Yet if you shoult forket me for a while
Ant afterwarts rememper, to not kriefe:
For if the tarkness ant korruption leafe
A festitye of the thowts that onse I hat,
petter py far you shoult forket ant smile
Than that you shoult rememper ant pe sat

Sun, Son, Sin, ...E

A common theme of this blog recently has been language and how the vowels in words are interchangeable. For example, my name, Neil, can be spelt Neal, it sounds identical to the word kneel, people often spell it as Niel. It's all the same really. The important parts are the consonants N and L - as long as we know there's a vowel between them we can get by okay.

For example, I've recently been thinking about the words sun and son. The link between Jesus being the Son of God and early Christians/Pagans worshipping the Sun is commonly observed. I was wondering if the word sin could likewise be linked in with these two. Jesus, of course, was the embodiment of our sins. This would bring to mind words like sign and singe and all sorts, and we could go on forever.

Incidentally, there was a Semitic moon god called Sin. So we have Sun and Sin (Moon).

A lot of early written languages only had symbols for the consonants and didn't notate the vowel sounds. I've been wondering how legible the English language would be if this was the case. As an experiment I'm going to try this out. I'll remove four of our five vowels and leave just one to stand as a marker for where a vowel sound should be.

E thenk E'll remeve E.

The ferst lene ef thes bleg weeld new reed;

E cemmen theme ef thes bleg recently hes been lengeege end hew the vewels en werds ere enterchengeeble.

E bet wecky, bet net cempletely ellegeble. E freer ese ef the censenents weeld meybe meke thengs e lettle better. Fer exemple, 'weeld' weeld be better as wed.

E'm seyeng thes, bet ebveeesly E knew whet E'm tryeng te wrete, te enyene reedeng thes et, ne deebt, jest leeks mentel :p

The Twelve Sacred Consonants - Part 1

This follows on from a series of posts I wrote back in 2014 titled Constellation Consonants.

In that series I attempted to strip down the English alphabet from 21 consonants to 12. In part inspired by the notion that there were said to be seven sacred vowels in ancient Greek thought. (The correspondence between 12 and 7 being quite noticeable - for instance, 12 notes in the chromatic music scale, 7 in a key, 12 constellations in the night sky, 7 wandering stars).

The exercise was quite interesting, and in some ways was quite successful. However, there were some sounds that were difficult to represent in such a stripped down language. In this series I'm going to try to address some of these issues.

I'll start by quickly recounting where I left off.

reduced alphabet as it stood

(My reduced alphabet as it stood
at the end of my previous blog series)

This was how things stood at the end of my final post in that series. 12 consonants remaining, with 9 removed. However, there were several that didn't quite work. Some of which I'll deal with below.

With the contentious ones removed the list would look like this:

reduced alphabet minus the contentious substitutions

(My reduced alphabet minus the
contentious substitutions)

Firstly, I'll explain the existing substitutions for anyone new to this topic. I removed "C" with the aim of substituting it for either a "K"; or an "S";. A K in the case of a hard C and an S in the case of a soft C. So, for example;

The word Cat would now be rendered Kat.

And the word Cease would be rendered Sease.

The "J" I replaced with either a "Y" or a "Dy" sound. "Y" in the case of words such as Johann (pronounced "Yo-hann"), and "Dy" for the "J" sound in words like John (it may help if you mouth these sounds out yourself as you read this).

The "Q" sound I replaced with "Kw" - so the word queen would be rendered kween.

"X" can be adequately represented with the letters "Ks". Exactly would become Eksactly. Extra would become Ekstra. The "X" in the word Xylophone can likewise be represented with an "S" - Sylophone. You're probably starting to see how this works by now :)

Finally, "Z" can be removed and also replaced with an S - the word Zebra therefore becomes Sebra, etc.

Again, these aren't necessarily perfect substitutions, however they do seem perfectly adequate, and are reasonably easy to use.

Now the "Push" problem

Now we come to the problematic letter substitutions which I attempted in my first blog series, but which failed to represent the sounds of the English language sufficiently for a seamless transition. These sounds can be grouped into four pairs;

B and P

V and F

D and T

G and K

Now if you mouth out each of these letters you'll notice they're very similar. For instance, if we take "F" and "V" we can see they often overlap. Such as in the case of "leaf" and "leaves". We could easily substitute the "V" in leaves for an "F" and the word would remain almost identical when vocalised. The other three pairs are not quite as similar and interchangeable as "F" and "V", however they are sufficiently similar that they often get misheard or misrepresented.

For example, with "D" and "T" we can see in slang talk how a phrase such as "in the house" can become "in da house". Again if we mouth these letters out we can see how they are sounded in a similar way, using similar parts of the mouth. Try mouthing the letters "t" and "d" ...or "b" and "p". The differences are there, but they are quite subtle.

Now in my previous series I attempted to simply substitute one of these letters for the other. For example; I removed "V" and used "F" in all cases where an "f" sound appeared. So silver became silfer. This substitution seemed reasonable and didn't cause too many problems. However, the other substitutions were much more clumsy and awkward. For example, if we simply substitute "B" for "P" the word bike becomes pike - which of course is quite ridiculous and unworkable.

So, in my previous attempts to strip the consonants down to a core twelve I conceded defeat at this point. Now I'm coming back to the problem to have another go :)

I have a feeling my solution may lie in the consonant "H" - which is a "breathy" sound. Quite a unique consonant in many ways. One which I overlooked in my previous work. I'll attempt to utilise this unique letter in my next post.

The Twelve Sacred Consonants; Part 2 - The "Push" Problem Solved

Now I'm saying "solved", however, that may be a little optimistic. Improved would possibly be a better description. Or attempted even.

So, in my last post I mentioned the similarities and subtle differences between the following consonants;

B and P

V and F

D and T

G and K

If you mouth the letters "p" and "b" you'll notice they sound very similar, and are made by the mouth in a very similar way. This is likewise the case for "v and p", "d and t" and "g and k".

If you mouth out the letters "p" and "b" you will notice that the sound "p" sounds like a "b" - only with a "push" of air coming out of the mouth. In fact, if you hold the palm of your hand an inch or so away from your mouth you'll feel this push of air on the palm of your hand. As you mouth the "b" sound there'll be a slight push of air on your hand, but then when you mouth the "p" sound you'll feel a much noticeably larger push.

Therefore I surmise that the "p" consonant is simply a "b" with a push of air from the mouth.

I also mentioned in my last post the consonant H, and how this unique consonant is simply a breath of air. Again if you sound out the "h" sound you will notice this. It's essentially a breathing or panting sound.

So with this knowledge it may be reasonable to represent the consonant P by the combination of a B and a H. A "B" with a push of air. Now as I've mentioned in previous posts this isn't necessarily going to be a perfect substitution. However, my hope is that it'll be a close enough approximation to do the job.

I would also suggest the same for the other three word pairings.


"f" is a "v" with a push of air.

"t" is a "d" with a push of air.

"k" is a "g" with a push of air.

Again sounding these letters out in the mouth may help.

So, in my new reduced alphabet, the consonant F can now be represented by a V with a H (Vh). The consonant T can be represented by a D with a H (Dh). And the consonant K can be represented by a G with a H (Gh).

Now these new substitutions will no doubt play havoc with the English language. Especially visually. It will look very unlike normal English. Even more so than was the case at the end of my last series (see Konstellation Konsonants: Part 9 ).

In my next post I'll trial these new substitutions to see how well (or unwell) they work. I'm guessing there'll be plenty of problems that arise. Particularly with the disappearance of the letter K which was already acting as a substitute for the letters C, X (with the "ks" sound) and Q (with the "kw" sound).

The "Push" Consonants:

the push consonants

..and a very confused reduced alphabet XD :

the reduced alphabet

The Twelve Sacred Consonants; Part 3 - The "Push" Consonant Trial

So this is where we are as things stand with the new reduced alphabet.

the reduced alphabet

In this post I'm going to trial this new alphabet. I've got the feeling it's going to be fun.

Before that though I should firstly mention the letter Y and the way it's sometimes used as a vowel as well as a consonant. As in words such as very or every, etc. In fact, I will do a post looking at vowels at some point to see if some changes can be made there as well. As for Y I've decided that from now on I'll be using it exclusively as a consonant. So words like very will be rendered with actual vowels in place of the Y. Veree or Verie being possible replacements for example.

To trial the new alphabet I'll render a few famous verses in it. I'll start with a verse of the song Imagine by John Lennon.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

This would now be rendered as;

Imagine dhhere's no heaven
Idh's easie ivh you dhrie
No hell below us
Above us, onlie sghi
Imagine all dhhe bheobhle living vhor dhodaa

You may say I'm a dreamer
Budh I'm nodh dhhe onlee one
I hobhe some daa you'll dyoin us
And dhhe world will be as one

Quite crazy, and a few obvious problems immediately spring up. That's before we even get to the "push" consonant sounds. Firstly, in the very first line we now have a double H with the word dhhere (there). It looks a little bizarre, but I suppose for the time being I can't see any obvious reason why such a repetition can't be allowed. So I'll come back to this later. Sounds like Th and Ch (we had problems with the word much in the first blog series) were always going to be problematic, and it might be worth considering them separately.

Another problem which sprung up concerned the replacement of the letter Y when it's used as a vowel sound. I hadn't thought about words such as sky and today. The "y" in sky sounds like the word eye, and an obvious replacement doesn't spring to mind. Of course "eye" sounds like how we pronounce a capitalised "i" ( I ) - however, we generally don't use it to represent this sound in the English language (except with words like iPad or iPhone, or when we use "I" to refer to ourselves).

[I was being a little dumb here. We do use "i" for the "eye" sound. For example; life, rind, etc. ]

As for the "y" sound in the word today, that, in combination with its accompanying "a", sounds like a capitalised A. However, again we generally don't use an "a" to represent this sound in writing. So adequate solutions are needed. Hopefully I'll address these in my post about vowels.

[Likewise I was being a little dumb here too. Words like angel for example use an "a" for the "ay" sound. Highlighting again how little thought I've put into the vowel aspect of all this and why I need to do some posts addressing the topic :) ]

For the time being though I think I'll use "i" to signify the sound "eye", and a double "a" (aa) to signify the "A" sound. Not ideal, but it'll do for now. In fact, I'll think it may be wise to interject now and do the article about the vowel sounds before we proceed any further with the consonants.

How Many Vowel Sounds Do We Actually Need To Represent?

In my last article I was having some trouble with the vowel sounds. So in this article I'm going to investigate the vowel sounds properly for the first time.

Now we have 5 vowels in the English alphabet (excluding Y which is sometimes used to represent a vowel sound);


However, these vowel symbols don't always represent the exact same sound. So, for example, if we take the letter A. It can be used to symbolise an "ay" sound, as in the world angel, but it can also be used to represent the "a" sound, as in the word apple.

So A can represent either an "a" sound or an "ay" sound. Without prior knowledge of how the words apple and angel actually sound we'd simply have to guess at how they were pronounced if we only had their letters to go by.

With E there's a similar problem only slightly different. E can be used to represent the "e" sound, as in the word egg. However, it can also be used to represent the "E" sound when two are used together. For example, the word speed. At least with these two sounds the difference is clearly illustrated in the written language. Still though, we have the problem that "ee" is a different sound to the sound you would get when two "e" sounds are placed next to each other; i.e. "ee" isn't simply an elongated or repeated "e".

With I we also have a similar problem. "I" can be used to represent the sound "eye" - as in the word life, or when we use a capital "I" to refer to ourselves. However, it is also used to represent the sound "i" as in igloo. Again, like with the vowel A we would not know how to pronounce words such as life or igloo were we just using the word as it's written with no prior knowledge of how the word is actually pronounced.

With O it's even further complicated, as not only do we have the "oo" sound - such as is found in the word zoom. We also have two different sounds represented by the single "o". We have "o" as in the word oxen, then also "oh" as in the word go.

Finally we have U, which thankfully seems to only represent one sound - the "u" sound, as in words like ugly, snug, etc.

I should also point out that this list of vowel sounds I've identified may not be exhaustive. This is just those which I identified when I was thinking about the problem last night. There may be more I've missed. In which case I'll have to add an addendum to this.

So at this point we have 5 individual letter symbols for the vowels - A, E, I, O and U - but we seem to have ten vowel sounds to represent. Or, if we're happy to count the double "o" and double "e" as separate symbols, then we could say we have seven vowel symbols; A, E, I, O, U, EE and OO. And that those seven need to represent the ten sounds. Which, as they stand, are; a, ay, e, ee, i, eye, o, oh, oo, and u respectively.

the ten vowel sounds

(The ten vowel sounds as they
stand at present)

It may also be worth noting at this point that there are many words in the English language where we seem to use the wrong vowels. For example, if we take the word news. We use the vowel E along with a W. However, phonetically it sounds much more like an "oo" sound, similar to how we pronounce the word you. If we spelt news phonetically it would perhaps look more like this; Nyoos. It looks silly spelt this way, but this is just a consequence of its unfamiliarity. This "ew" spelling is quite common in written English (shrew, yew, etc), so if we choose to lose it then our new phonetic alphabet will render the spoken word very differently.

It should also be mentioned that vowel sounds are often quite interchangeable depending on accent. For example, the word town is often pronounced to sound like toon by Geordies (people from Tyneside in the NE of England). When it comes to accent consonants tend to be quite fixed, whereas vowels are very fluid. In some older alphabets only consonants were represented, with the vowel sound simply notated by an undefined placeholder, or in some cases not even represented at all. This is something that we need to bear in mind as well as we go forward.

In my next article I think I'll look at the Seven Sacred Vowels themselves. I'll try to find out what sounds they actually represent, and see what relation they bear to the vowel sounds commonly used in the English language.

The Seven Sacred Vowels Investigated

Having looked online to see what sounds are represented by the "seven sacred vowels" it appears there are various interpretations. For instance, the top two web pages that pop up when you do a Google search give the following slightly different results.

One gives us this:

the seven vowels of the greek alphabet

And [a now defunct link] gives us this:

the greek vowels and their planets

I then came across the following list during a Google Image search.

ee (me)
aa (say)
eye (my)
ah (saw)
oh (go)
oo (you)
uh (cup)

I also found the following very useful web page which explains the Modern and Classic Greek pronunciation of the letters. Which I'll list below. This web page also puts the individual letters in little square brackets to distinguish them from the rest of the text, which I like. So I think I'll borrow that idea from them too :)

A - [a] as in father.

E - [e] as in pet.

H - [i] as in meet - but in classic Greek - a long open mid-[e] as in thread, but long.

I - also [i] as in meet. However, in this case the classic Greek is also pronounced as in meet.

O - [o] as in got.

Y - again [i] like as in meet - but in this case the classic Greek is a rounded [i] as in French une.

Ω - again [o] like as in got - but in classic Greek [o] as in law.

Given that some of these vowels are duplicate sounds in the modern Greek it may be better to rewrite this list with just the classic Greek. After all, I guess the ancient sounds are what we're seeking anyway. So it would look more like this.

A - [a] as in father.

E - [e] as in pet.

H - a long open mid-[e] as in thread, but long.

I - also [i] as in meet.

O - [o] as in got.

Y - a rounded [i] as in French une.

Ω - [o] as in law.

Now we have all this it might be worth comparing these different variations. In fact, looking at the first two having learnt a bit more about the classic Greek it looks as though they're much more similar than I first realised. I think my main confusion stemmed from my assumption that the [i] in the first chart symbolised [i] as in igloo and not [i] as in meet. With this knowledge the tables are all sufficiently similar.

I'll create a chart compiling all this anyway though just to get a more comprehensive view of what we have before I move onto the next article.

sacred vowels chart

The above chart shows the four internet sources I've looked at. The first column showing the classic Greek pronunciations, the middle columns showing the web page charts, and the fourth column showing the seven sounds as they appeared on an image I came across. As you can see two sounds from the final column didn't seem to correlate to any of the seven in the other chart. The eye sound as in my, and the uh sound as in cup. There's also a little bit of confusion regarding the upsilon [Y] sound. In the second column it's a [u] whereas elsewhere it's more of an oo sound, as in you. The [u] maybe could have a possible overlap with the uh (cup) sound in column four.

I'll use this chart as the starting point for my next article, though I'm not quite sure where I'm going to go with it.

The Seven Sacred Vowels Continued..

When we last left off we were trying to catalogue the various vowel sounds. After looking at different online interpretations of the "seven sacred vowels" I put together the following table;

sacred vowels chart

My next move will be to try to see how these sounds correspond to the vowel sounds I myself identified when I was looking into the problem. At the time I noted ten distinctive vowel sounds commonly used in the English language;

the ten vowel sounds

Before I do that though I'm going to make note of something else I came across when looking into this. One variant of the seven sacred vowels I found online included the [M] and [S] sounds in their seven. Now both [M] and [S] are consonants of course. However, unlike all the other consonants they can be sustained. Much like vowel sounds can be. The [M] can be sustained by humming. Hence the famous sustained "Om" sound sometimes used in meditation. When we hum we close our mouth and breathe through our nose. In fact, if you hold your nose it's impossible to hum. The sustained [S] produces a hissing sound like a snake. The similarity of the letter [S] to a snake is one of the first things we notice about the written language as children - "It's pronounced "Ssss", like a snake". It just makes sense on some fundamental level. It's almost hardwired into nature.

The [M] sound holds a similar onomatic truth to it. Though slightly less obviously. It's the starting letter of the word mouth. We also have the word mum or mam - with the double [m] sound. Often the first word we learn for obvious reasons. From this we get the word mammary. It's also interesting that [M] is the onomatopoeic sound of eating - "Mmm" ...and, of course, our first nourishment comes via mammaries from our mothers. Oh, and I nearly forgot the word milk as well.

Perhaps this is why Freemasons are so fond of the number "33" - which is in effect just two M's on their side.

m, 33, momma, milk and mamma

Also, returning to the [S] sound we also have many words that seem to be associated in similar ways. For example, the word snake itself. Words like slither, slide, sneaky, silent. In fact, when we want to silence someone we give them the shush sound - "Shhh! Be quiet". This is a combination of the [S] and [H] sounds. [H] is a breathy sound so it makes sense that it would be used to intone silence. [S] is more sinister and threatening. A hiss. So again, it makes sense that a combination of a hiss and a hush would implore someone to silence.

Maybe there's some relation to both seven and sacred that I've yet to fathom. Either way it seems that many of the sounds we use are in some ways rooted in the mechanics of nature, and are not just randomly selected to connote the various meanings assigned to them. With all this in mind I wonder if it would perhaps be useful to put [M] and [S] in a slightly separate category from the other consonants.

Incidentally, the variant of the seven sacred vowels I came across online which included the [M] and [S] sounds gave the entire run down as this;

EE - written I, pronounced as in "tree"

EH - written E, pronounced as in "red"

O - written O, pronounced as in "so"

AH - written A, pronounced as in "fall"

U - written U, pronounced as in "you"

M - as a hum

S - as in a hiss

It's clear there's quite a broad array of opinions on this topic, I think I'll continue to focus on the normal vowel sounds though, and leave [M] and [S] just as consonants for the time being. It's still very curious though, and worth bearing in mind as we go forward.

Actually, it would probably make sense to finish this blog post here and start the actual comparison between my vowel sounds and the seven sacred vowel sounds in another post. It might be quite a painstaking task come to think of it. Hopefully there won't be too many difficulties though :)

The Vowel Sounds Compared

What follows are the seven sacred vowels (plus the two extra sounds we found in other variations of the seven), then the ten vowel sounds I'd identified. The bracketed numbers next to each show the correspondences between the two.

The Seven Sacred Vowels

A - [a] as in father (1)

E - [e] as in pet (2)

H - [e/a] as in thread, day, say (3)

I - [i] as in meet, tree (4)

O - [o] as in got, cold, oh (7)

Y - [i] as in French une, you (8)

Ω - [o] as in law (6)


"my" "eye" sound (5)

"uh" "cup" sound (9)

My Ten Vowels

[a] as in angle "a" (1)

[a] as in angel "ay" (3)

[e] as in egg "e" (2)

[ee] as in speed "ee" (4)

[i] as in igloo "i" (-)

[i] as in my "eye" (5)

[o] as in oxen "o" (6)

[o] as in go "oh" (7)

[oo] as in zoom "oo" (8)

[u] as in snug "u" (9)

The one sound without a correspondence is the [i] sound, as in igloo.

[Note: As I read all this back it does occur to me that the [i] sound is very similar to the ay sound. [i] seems to be a more nasal version of [a]. Later in this work we remove the "eye" sound from our list of vowels, so perhaps we're down to just eight. Only one away from seven ! ]

Much as I would like to reduce the number of vowels down to a core seven for aesthetic taste I still think it would be much better to keep the ten. Each one sounds quite distinct and the language would suffer for the loss of any.

Going forward the question now is what symbols I use to represent each sound. The Greek letters [H] and [Y] are already in use as consonants so they're off the table. I'm tempted to use the omega symbol [Ω] to represent the "aw" sound. I'm also tempted to keep the double O [oo] and double E [ee] usage just for the sheer practicality - though it would undermine the technical purity somewhat. If I used these symbols it would leave me with just two vowels without symbols.

[Ω] as in for "o" or law "aw" (6)

[oo] as in zoom "oo" (8)

[ee] as in speed "ee" (4)

[a] as in angle "a" (1)

[e] as in egg "e" (2)

[o] as in go "oh" (7)

[u] as in snug "u" (9)

[i] as in igloo "i" (-)

Leaving just;

[-] as in angel "ay" (3)

[-] as in my "eye" (5)

There's also the problem of choosing symbols that are available on a standard keyboard - which [Ω] isn't of course. There's also the problem that the lower case [Ω] symbol is just like the symbol for the letter [W]. I could borrow symbols from another language. Or perhaps use some type of diacritic - the little accents and symbols that appear above a letter to signify a different pronunciation - à, ë, etc.

It would perhaps be cool to use an eye symbol of some sort for the "eye"/"my" sound. Maybe the "ay" as in angel could be a little [a] with a halo :)

I've just had a look and a line that goes over the top of a letter is called a macron - an [a] with a macron looks like this; ā. There's also a little symbol called an overring that can appear above a letter, though it doesn't look as much like a halo as I'd hoped - å. I'll go with it for the time being though.

Come to think of it the [i] symbol has a little dot above it already in its lowercase form, so maybe I would be better off keeping that symbol for the "eye" sound and then using another variation for the igloo [i]. I think I'll go for an [i] with two little dots above it - ï. Perhaps not ideal, but at least it gives us a way to distinguish the two for the time being. I think I'll use an [o] with two dots above it to symbolise the "aw" sound too - ö - instead of the omega symbol [Ω].

Finally, having looked at the various other symbols and accents used in other languages I quite like the idea of using symbols that join two letters together for the double [E] and double [O] sounds. These are called ligatures, the most common example probably being the conjoining of the vowels [A] and [E] - Æ (æ in lowercase). I managed to find two [O] symbols conjoined [ꝏ] but not the [E] symbols.

So I now have:

(1) - [a] as in angle "a"

(2) - [e] as in egg "e"

(3) - [å] as in angel "ay"

(4) - [ee] as in speed "ee"

(5) - [i] as in my "eye"

(6) - [ö] as in oxen "o" or law "aw"

(7) - [o] as in go "oh"

(8) - [ꝏ] as in zoom "oo"

(9) - [u] as in snug "u"

(10) - [ï] as in igloo "i"

my ten vowel symbols

Consonants & Vowels: Taking Stock

I think it's time to take stock now. I've published quite a few articles on this topic over the last month or so, and it would probably be good to allow it all to ferment for a while. I'll mull over what I have and come back to it all afresh at some point in the future. Otherwise I'm going to end up getting a little lost :)

So I now have 12 consonants and 10 vowels. Not the 7 vowels that originally began this chain of thought in my original series a few years back.

These are the consonants I'm left with;

twelve consonants

And these are the vowels;

my ten vowel symbols

Giving us an alphabet that looks somewhat like this;

my revised english alphabet

However, if we ignore the removal of the "push" consonants - which would perhaps be more sensible at this point - then we would get this alphabet, with 16 consonants and 10 vowels. Back to a full 26 :)

my revised english alphabet but keeping the push consonants

Cataloguing the Mechanics of the Consonants

Recent conversations with people on this topic have accelerated my thoughts a little. So I've decided to write an article cataloguing the consonants not just by their sound, but also by the mechanics of how we make them with our mouth. I think this may be a more practical approach.

In my last post on the topic I was left with 12 consonants - or 16 including the "push" consonants. Since then I've came to the conclusion that the th sound - as in words such as the, this, these, etc - is a unique consonant sound, which can't be made by any combination of the other basic consonant sounds I've listed. I think I'll bring back the thorn symbol to represent that particular sound - though annoyingly the word thorn would be spelt forn in my stripped back alphabet.

- - The thorn symbol in its upper and lower case forms: Þ, þ

[For some interesting thinking and theorising regarding the history of the letter thorn, and regarding language in general see the following; > Linguistics > Alphabet Soup ]

The addition of thorn now gives me the following collection of consonants;

the 17/13 alphabet

1. M

I talked about the letter [M] a few posts back. It's the sound made by simply closing and opening the mouth. I also mentioned the many words containing [M] that seem to relate to this simple action. Particularly with relation to eating. We have onomatopoeic terms like Mmm and nom. We also have words like mouth, mother, mam, mammary and milk. Possibly suggesting this association is hardwired deep in our very nature.

Interestingly, the iconic mother figure in western Christian culture is also known by names beginning with M - the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Madonna. You also have Martha of Bethany in the New Testament, another female witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The similarity of the words mother and martha is also worth noting.

Muhammad is another name with the recurring M sound. Perhaps the popularity of the name has something to do with its structure. Maybe there is something aurally pleasing about this [M] sound, rooted in our nature. We also have Maid Marian, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse, etc in popular culture.

(Oh, and I forgot to mention the word meme.)

2. N

The [N] sound is made by pushing the tongue against the roof of the mouth beneath the nose. This may be why we have words like nose and nasal beginning with the [N] sound? We also have words like nudge, knead, nestle, etc that may link to this action of pushing or pressing.

3. Y

The [Y] sound seems to be made by pushing the sides of the tongue against the inside of the top row of teeth.

4. R

The [R] sound is made by curling the tongue backwards. Again, it's interesting that we have words such as roll and curl containing this [R] sound.

5. S

The [S] sound is made by closing the teeth together, but keeping the mouth open. When I was looking at [M] a few posts back I also looked at [S]. With [S] what is obvious is the hissing snake association, giving us words like sly, slither, slink, slide, snide. Again, this seems to be deep rooted in nature.

6. L

The [L] sound is made by moving the tongue up and down. Interestingly, many of the words we have for lifting things up or down begin with L - lift, lay, loll, lull, lie, lever, lower.

7. Þ (th)

When we make the th sound we seem to sandwich the tongue between the top and bottom rows of teeth.

8. H

I consider [H] to be a bit of a special case. It seems to be the natural sound of someone breathing in or out. Basically a breath or pant.

9. W

I also consider [W] to be something of a special case too. It seems to be the fast transition between two vowel sounds.

For example, if you're singing an "aaaah" vowel with a wide open mouth, then you quickly transition into an "ooooh" vowel with a small rounded mouth, then the [W] is just the bit in the middle. And the same vice versa.

I find both the [W] and the [H] sounds quite fascinating. They seem to express something very organic. For example, when someone opens their mouth in shock we have the expression "wow". When someone does this there's a gasp of air. If this gasp is accompanied by a vocalised burst of sound we get the [W] sound as the mouth quickly widens.

We also have words like whoa which convey a similar sentiment. In the case of whoa we also have the [H] sound as well. Again, representing perhaps the burst of breath that accompanies the shock which inspired it. This may help explain the difference between where and were too. For many people these two words often get confused as most of us simply ignore the [H] when we speak or read the word "where". However, when we use the word "where" we're generally using it to ask a question, whereas the word "were" is generally used to talk about the past.

When we're asking a question we're usually much more animated than when we're discussing the past, and when we get a shock or bad news the first response is usually a stream of questions - whoa! what happened? when? where? why? how? So the added [H] in where, and in other similar words, probably reflects this burst of breath that accompanies the question.

The difference between whoa and woe is perhaps a similar example. We usually feel "woe" or pity when we're thinking about bad things that have happened in the past, whereas "whoa" is the response we have to something we're instantly experiencing.

wow, where, what, when, why

10. B (and P)

The [B/P] sound is made by pushing the lips together, then "popping" them apart again.

11. V (and F)

The [V/F] sound is made by biting the bottom lip.

12. G (and K)

The [G/K] sound is made by pressing your tongue to the back of your mouth. Interestingly we have words associated with retching (sorry!) that contain this G/K sound - gag, sick, cough.

13. D (and T)

The [D/T] consonant is made by pressing the tongue behind the front teeth. Interestingly, the words we have for describing the teeth are teeth, with a T, and dentures with a D.

The Ten Vowel Sounds in the English Alphabet: Update

This is just a quick post hopefully. In the last few days I've noticed something that I'm surprised I didn't notice earlier. When I tried to map all the different vowel sounds in the English language I counted ten distinct ones. This gave me a problem as it meant I had ten sounds to represent, but only five vowel symbols in the English language to use. The vowel sounds I identified were the following;

the ten vowel sounds

I then added three new symbols (keeping the double [ee] and [oo] for simplicity), which gave me the following list of vowel symbols, corresponding to the ten sounds above;

10 vowel symbols

Interestingly, what hadn't occurred to me was the difference in the sound of the five standard English vowels depending on whether we pronounce them as a capital or a lower case letter.


[a] is pronounced [a] as in angle, but [A] is pronounced [a] as in angel.

[e] is pronounced [e] as in egg, but [E] is pronounced [ee] as in speed.

[i] is pronounced [i] as in igloo, but [I] is pronounced [i] as in eye.

[o] is pronounced [o] as in for, but [O] is pronounced [o] as in go.

[u] is pronounced [u] as in snug, but [U] is pronounced [y-ou] as in zoom.

So if you combine both the capital and lower case pronunciations the five vowels seem to embody all ten vowel sounds. The only one that is a little iffy is the capital [U] which is pronounced with an added [Y]. Of course, you can't use capital letters willy-nilly, only in certain places. So you would still have the problem of knowing whether the middle [a] in the word parade was pronounced as an "a" or an "ay" if you weren't already familiar with how the word sounded, and had just seen it written down on paper. It couldn't be written down as parAde for example.

It's very curious though, unless there's some obvious reason explaining it that evades me at present. It adds a certain neatness to the five vowels that wasn't previously there too. The way we use vowels in English has always seemed incredibly higgledy-piggledy to me (I'm using some quite fluffy language today xD). For example, taking the [oo] or [U] sound we have; zoo, you, new, blue, lieu, etc - all using different vowel symbols, but essentially conveying the same sound.

10 vowels capital and lowercase

(The list rejigged to include the capitals.)

The Nasal "Back of the Mouth" N Sound

A quick update on the cataloguing of the consonants. I was recently thinking about the ing sound as in Eng-land. Perhaps quite fitting given that the World Cup is just a few weeks away.

When I listed the consonants last time and described how each sound was made in the mouth I mentioned that the [n] sound is made by pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth, beneath the nose. However, when mouthing out the ing sound it occurred to me that with this particular sound the [n] isn't produced in this way. It also sounds a little different too.

When we pronounce words like England we tend to short cut the normal way of producing the [n] sound and make it with the tongue at the back of the mouth instead.

So, to break it up a little; if we take the word ink. Normally an [n] sound would be produced by pressing the end of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, as in the word in. Likewise a [k] sound is made by putting the tongue to the roof of the back of the mouth. However, often when we pronounce words like ink, we seem to squeeze the [n] and the [k] together so we only have to push the tongue to the roof of the mouth once. Just the back. Not the front, then the back.

When we make this back of the mouth [n] sound on its own it sounds very nasal. Almost like a nasal grunt. Fittingly we have the word oink. We also have phrases like bunged up. This nasal [n] seems to always be made in combination with the [g/k] sound. Though I'll be on the look out for any exceptions to this.

oink - that's it

I'm not sure this different [n] necessitates a separate consonant symbol, but I think it might be worth making note of in the future when I list the various consonant sounds again.

The 17/13 Alphabet - A Trial

I thought it was about time that I trialled my stripped back alphabet, so I've rendered some generic text in it. To keep things simple I'll continue using the vowels as they are used in standard English, except for [y] which will forever more be a consonant and nothing else in my new phonetic alphabet. Each passage of text I'll render first with the 13 consonant alphabet, then with the less daunting 17 consonant version, and then finally in standard English.

To refresh our memories this was the consonant list I'd established. With the letter Þ (thorn) signifying the [th] consonant.

the 17/13 alphabet

The first piece of text. Can you read it?

Was andhiendh Adhlandhis a mivh or was idh a real aghdhual bhlase?
Bhladho ghlaimed þadh Adhlandhis had been submerged nine vhousand years ago.
He sdhadhed þadh Adhlandhis lai beyond þe Bhillars ovh Herghyules and þadh idh was þe sise ovh Asia and Libia ghombined.

The 17 consonant version may be a little easier.

Was antient Atlantis a mif or was it a real aktual plase?
Plato klaimed þat Atlantis had been submerged nine fousand years ago.
He stated þat Atlantis lai beyond þe Pillars of Herkyules and þat it was þe sise of Asia and Libia kombined.

And finally, in plain English.

Was ancient Atlantis a myth or was it a real actual place?
Plato claimed that Atlantis had been submerged nine thousand years ago.
He stated that Atlantis lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules and that it was the size of Asia and Libya combined.


The first version looks suitably foreign. I quite like the way it looks on the page, though I think that may just be the novelty factor. The obvious problem concerns the rendering of the "push" consonants. You may recall that I'd decided that P, F, K and T were simply B, V, G, and D accompanied by a "push" of air. So I toyed with the idea that I could remove those consonants from my phonetic alphabet and just use each letter in the second group combined with the letter H - which effectively just represents the sound of a breath of air.

So for example, the letter [P] could be written as a [B] plus a [H] - [BH]. This is a very hard sell, and it looks completely bizarre at first. I'm starting to get a little used to it now though, however I think I'm just remembering what the substitutions stand for, rather than actually reading out the letters phonetically, which was the aim. I think it's worth pursuing further though.

The second version, rendered with the 17 consonants, is much more readable. In fact, I would imagine most people would easily be able to decipher it, providing they remember that [Þ] stands for the [th] sound. The only other thing worth noting is that in both translations I had to remove the [y] from the word lay and replace it with an [i]. Obviously people would have to guess what vowel sound this new rendering was attempting to represent, and therefore would have to essentially guess the word itself too. This is more a problem concerning the vowels though, so isn't in need of addressing at the moment in this article.

Now text no. 2. Will this one be any easier with just the 13 consonants?

William Shaghesbheare was an English bhoedh and bhlaridhe.
He rodhe sudhy worghs as Romeo and Dyuliet, Hamledh and Maghbevh.
He was born and died on Saindh Dyeodye's Dai.
He was aghdhive durin þe Elisabevhan bheriod and also durin þe rein ovh Dyames þe Vhirsdh.

Text no.2. The 17 consonant version.

William Shakespeare was an English poet and plarite.
He rote suty works as Romeo and Dyuliet, Hamlet and Makbef.
He was born and died on Saint Dyeodye's Dai.
He was aktive durin þe Elisabefan period and also durin þe rein of Dyames þe First.

And once again, the plain English.

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright.
He wrote such works as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth.
He was born and died on Saint George's Day.
He was active during the Elizabethan period and also during the reign of James the First.


As with the first example the 13 consonant version is very difficult to follow, but the 17 consonant version much, much easier.

One thing worth mentioning is the rendering of the word such. I came to the conclusion that the [ch] sound can be produced by the combination of the consonants [t] and [y]. This may look strange at first, especially as we're so used to seeing the [y] symbol signifying a vowel when following a [t]. However, if you mouth these consonants out yourself you'll see what I mean. In a similar way the [j] sound can be created by a combination of a [d] and a [y]. The [j] and [ch] sounds are very similar sounds, though this isn't obviously apparent from the way we write these sounds in standard English. After all, does [ch] really sound like a [c] plus a [h]?

Another thing worth mentioning regarding this passage is how I've rendered the word first. Phonetically I don't really need the [r] consonant in there. However, I've left it in as without it first would look identical to the word fist. Again, this is a problem concerning the vowel sounds so not of huge concern in this particular article. However, it's worth making note of as in the case of words such as first the [r] seems to symbolise a sustained vowel, rather than a "curled-tongue" [r] consonant.

For example, the vowel sound in first sounds like an [e] to me - as in the word egg. Ferst. However, the inclusion of a single [e] without the [r] would just give us the word fest. Whereas what we actually want is something more along the lines of "err" -

f -- errr -- st

- i.e. a long vocalised [e] sound. So it would seem from this that we often use the [r] symbol to express sustained, or held, vowels, and not just for the actual consonant sound itself. In fact, we even use the written term err to express the "err" sound we often make when we pause or stutter during speech. This extra use of the [r] symbol is something that hadn't previously occurred to me, and it may present something of a problem if we decide to use [r] exclusively as a consonant, which was my intention.

It may perhaps be time to rethink the vowels once again. However, before that I may continue with a few more trial examples of the consonants as I enjoyed doing the first two :)

I'm now starting to think I may end up with a few different alphabets. Some more pure and accurate, others more for practical use.

17/13 Alphabet - 2nd Trial

Thanks to the World Cup I've fell behind a little bit :) This post will hopefully be a short one, where I'll just run through a second trial of the alphabet, which I promised to do a few weeks back.

the 17/13 alphabet

I'll trial the alphabet with two more short texts.

The first one:

Can you make any sense of it with just the 13 consonants?

Adam and Eve lived in þe Garden of Eden.
God had ghreadhed Eve oudh ovh Adam's rib.
A serbhendh dhembhdhed Eve to dhri þe vhruidh vhrom þe Dhree ovh Noledy.
Eve in dhurn dhembhdhed Adam.
Havin dhasdhed þe vhruidh Adam and Eve beghame aware ovh þeir naghedness.
Þa were ghast vhrom þe Garden of Eden.

With the 17 consonants it gets a little easier.

Adam and Eve lived in þe Garden of Eden.
God had kreated Eve out of Adam's rib.
A serpent tempted Eve to tri þe fruit from þe Tree of Noledy.
Eve in turn tempted Adam.
Havin tasted þe fruit Adam and Eve bekame aware of þeir nakedness.
Þa were kast from þe Garden of Eden.

And finally for reference in its original form.

Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.
God had created Eve out of Adam's rib.
A serpent tempted Eve to try the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
Eve in turn tempted Adam.
Having tasted the fruit Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness.
They were cast from the garden by God.

As per usual the version using just the thirteen consonants looks a little bizarre. With the seventeen it makes much more sense - providing you remember the [th/þ] substitution. Once again the lack of a [y] vowel means that I've had to play with certain vowel renderings too, which may make things look a little tricky on first view. I've had to replace they with þa - unfortunately I couldn't just drop the [y] as it would have been indistinguishable from the word the (or rather þe).

The weirdest looking word in the text is probably noledy - a rendering of the word knowledge. It looks strange and altogether wrong at first, however once you remember that we now use [y] in its consonant form only, and that we sounded out the [j] sound as [d] + [y], it makes slightly more sense. Nolej so to speak.

The second text:

With just 13 consonants.

In 1969 Dyon Lennon and Yogho Ono held dhoo Bed-Ins vhor bhease.
One in Amsdherdam and one in Mondhreal.
Þe aim was dho adverdhise bhease mudhy þe same way þadh someone would adverdhise breaghvhasdh sereal or Ghogho-Ghola.

With 17.

In 1969 Dyon Lennon and Yoko Ono held too Bed-Ins for pease.
One in Amsterdam and one in Montreal.
Þe aim was to advertise pease muty þe same way þat someone would advertise breakfast sereal or Koko-Kola.

And in original.

In 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono held two Bed-Ins for peace.
One in Amsterdam and one in Montreal.
The aim was to advertise peace much the same way that someone would advertise breakfast cereal or Coca-Cola.

I quite like the look of the thirteen consonant version :) For some unknown reason I find it quite aesthetically pleasing. Again it looks very bizarre though. The seventeen version is much, much easier in this case. With the word much itself perhaps being the only one that would be difficult for people to decipher. It's worth recalling that we decided that the [ch] sound is analogous to a [t] plus a [y]. Much like the [j] sound is a [d] plus a [y]. If you physically mouth these sounds out with your own mouth you'll more easily grasp the reasoning behind this.

Yoko Ono - imagine video

Yoko Ono - Imagine video

Finally, as a side note I thought it was worth looking at the name Yoko Ono. I have a great interest in the Beatles, and have been looking into the life and death of John Lennon recently (hence what led me to use the above example). It might actually be a topic I'll write upon at some point in the future come to think of it.

Anyhow, Yoko Ono is often blamed for the break up of the Beatles, and has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and negative press over the years (quite unfairly in my opinion). However, following on from my investigations into the consonant sounds I was wondering if maybe part of it stemmed from her actual name.

I've previously mentioned that some sounds are more attractive to us than others, due to their associations. For example, the [m] sound has positive connotations because we associate it with eating - particularly breastfeeding and motherhood it seems. So we have words like mother, milk, mam, mammary, etc which I've mentioned in this blog series before.

[Another word that has recently sprung to mind is mastication, meaning chewing. I also recently read that the word Amazon is said to mean without breasts (a -'without' + mazos - 'breast'). The story being that the fabled Amazonian warriors would cut off their right breast so they could utilise a bow and arrow more effectively.]

The name Yoko Ono seems to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum though. Firstly we have Ono - which sounds exactly like oh! no - quite a negative statement. Then we have Yoko which contains the [g/k] sound, which we make at the back of our mouth, and that seems to pop up in many words that have a negative feel - yak, yuck, ick, sick, gag.

So perhaps her name inspires associations that we aren't consciously aware of when we hear it - yak, oh! no. I wonder if she would've been received more fondly by the public had she been called something along the lines of Mamma Yes.

As for the alphabet I think I'll leave it for a good long while now so I can return to it afresh at some point in the future. I think I've reached a point with the consonants where I'm reasonably happy with things, the only annoyance now is the vowels. Maybe I may have some eureka moment some point down the line, but for the time being sorting out a useful phonetic alphabet for the vowels seems an impossible task. So I'll draw a line under things for now I want to start looking at maths as well, which I may start tentatively looking into in the next article :)

[Note: There was a single article on the topic of maths, but it went little further. At this point an entire PDF devoted to it remains unlikely lol.]

Cringe - Why It's Such An Apt Word

I haven't done an alphabet post in a while. However, I was thinking about the word cringe, and on reflection it seems like a good topic for discussion. I'm probably not quite young enough to talk about cringe without it being cringe, so hopefully it won't be too bad :)

cringe graphic, that actually looks cringe

If we break the word down we have the "C/K" sound, which we make at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, which we make by curling the tongue backwards. Then the "ing/ng" sound which we make at the back of the nose.

There's also a "J" sound at the end of the word - cr-ingj. Rounding the word off.

So it's like we're drawing ourselves inwards in the mouth when we make the word, as if we're mirroring the overall body movements we make when we actually feel cringe.

When we do something cringey we withdraw into ourselves in disgust. Likewise, when we watch someone do something cringe we empathise with the situation and feel it on their behalf. It's a natural pulling back, like when we physically touch something we find disgusting. Or like a frightened turtle retreating into its shell. It's a natural movement of retreat.

I've mentioned the "K/G" consonant before and how it is often found in words associated with being sick. Gag, sick, puck, bork, yak, yuk. It's all quite icky. Which makes sense with the sound being made at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, the rolling back of the tongue, is quite literally a retreat or pulling back. Then finally, the "ing" sound comes with a similar sense. Being very stuffed up in the mouth, at the back of the nose. In fact, it's the sound we make when we have a bunged up nose. Again, quite icky. You could even perhaps see that final "J" sound, where we put the tongue across the roof of our mouth between the teeth, as a closing off.

So it's the perfect word to describe the pull back in disgust we feel when we witness "cringey" behaviour. This is no doubt why the word feels so right when we use it.

Alternately, when we're confronted with something that we intuitively like, that's the opposite of disgusting, we tend to reach out and open up. When someone brings a cute puppy into the room the reaction is "Awwhhh! so cute!!". Our language reflecting our behaviour in its openness. Big open-mouthed "Ahh" sounds. "Soooo Cuoooooote!". High open-mouthed sounds at the front of our mouth.

So the physical movements we use to make our words in the mouth often reflect, or stem from the actual body movements and feelings we're performing at the time when we're speaking them.

Oink: A Phonetic Alphabet. Vowels Given Notation

This is a little short one. I've recently been re-evaluating all the phonetic alphabet posts. I think it's time I started to nail it down into some sort of usable form. To start really trialling and playing around with it. So I've finally affixed some symbols to the various vowel sounds.

You may recall that we noted how the ten vowel sounds I'd identified, common to the English language, seemed to correlate rather succinctly with the five vowels in the English alphabet - if you took into consideration both their upper and lower case pronunciations.

I knocked up this little graphic at the time.

the ten vowels capital and lowercase

Anyhow, I've decided to stick with this general theme. Keeping the lower case letters as they are, and then representing the upper case sounds with the same letter, only this time accented.

So the above graphic now looks like this.

vowel symbols updated

I've decided to use the forward-leaning acute accent to make the distinction just as these are commonly available in other alphabets, and therefore readily available on keyboards. As opposed to creating completely new symbols say. Or choosing more obscure ones.

I've also decided that I'm going to use the following accented [o] symbol for the "th" consonant sound.

Ø, ø (upper and lower).

Again, as it can be more commonly found on keyboards, as opposed to the thorn symbol I was using. Plus it's not too dissimilar in look to the thorn symbol. So it's a nice substitute.

I'll do another post with the graphic for the consonants next.


Also it's worth mentioning that for elongated sounds I've decided to just double up the vowels. In an earlier post we mentioned the word first. How we tend not to pronounce the [r] sound as we would a normal [r]. With it instead acting as a marker that the [i] sound (actually more of an "e as in egg" sound really) is lengthened. Without the [r] it would just look like fist though (or fest rather). However, fest becomes "ferst" by lengthening the vowel - f-errrr-st. If you get the drift.

Again, I've had to use the "err" sound with the [r] to illustrate this to people reading who are used to standard English spelling, but really that "err" sound. A sound we often make during speech when we stutter or pause, or can't find the right words. Is actually just a single long vowel sound if you mouth it out.

So for words like first I'll just be using two [e]'s together. Feest. Of course, it looks like it would sound like the word feast with our normal vowel conventions. Like as in the word speed in the above graphic. However, as per the graphic, in my phonetic alphabet that would now be represented by an [é] symbol. So I'll be spelling "feast" as fést.

It's all very confusing :)

I think this doubling up though makes more sense as it's a natural thing to do when illustrating elongated, more sustained sounds. For instance, when we "shush" people at the cinema (not that I would ever do that!), we often spell that out for dramatic effect as something like "Ssssshhhh!". The more S's the more emphasis and exaggeration. Or like when someone screams, "Aaaaaaaahhh!".

We naturally do this when writing to illustrate these vocal exclamations, even though they're not proper words in the conventional sense. It just makes intuitive sense, as that's how they actually sound. An "Aaaaaaaaaahhh!" really is just someone saying an [a] for a really long time.

So I'm going to try to follow that logic.

Oink - A Phonetic Alphabet: The Full Alphabet

I've knocked up a little graphic showing the full alphabet as it stands.

the full alphabet

I've ended up with 10 vowels and 13 consonants. Quite far removed from the original aim, which was to strip things back to seven sacred vowels with twelve constellation consonants.

Hopefully I can start using this now to make some, no doubt illegible, texts :)

The Letter "S" - Another "Push" Consonant

This is just a quick one to make note of something I hadn't previously noted. Namely that the letters [S] and [Z] seem to be related in the same way that the other "push" consonants are related. With an [S] essentially being a [Z] with a push of air.

the push consonants

(I'm using an old image as I'm too lazy
to knock up a new one)

I missed this correlation as I quickly dismissed the letter [Z] at the start of all this, what with it being so under used in comparison to [S], and relatively easy to get rid of.

With the above pairs I got rid of the symbol with the push. So [P] went and I kept [B] for example. Following that logic I would also need to get rid of the [S] and leave the [Z]. However, the [S] symbol looks so snake-like and fits its purpose so well that I'm definitely not going to lose it. So the [Z] remains gone.

It has made me consider if I've made the right call on the other symbols though. Is the [V] symbol more fitting than the [F]? Is the [G] symbol better than the [K]? Maybe something worth some further thought. The [V] symbol does look a little too similar to the [U] after all.

The Letter "B"

One pair where I'm fairly sure I have the right symbol though is the [B].

It looks a little bit like the female body (at least the side view anyway - belly and breasts), and seems fittingly related to childbirth. Just as the letter [M] seems to be.

Birth, belly, breast, bust, bosom, born, baby. Words relating to bursting forth. Of course, the mechanics of how we make the sound with the mouth also suggest this. As we purse the lips together and pop them out. We also have many rounded words. Like ball, balloon, bulge.

So the [B] symbol seems very apt.

Ch and J ...and m-m-more mothers

Just a quick post making a few notes in reference to the consonants. It follows on from the letter [S] post I did not too long ago: The Letter S - Another Push Consonant

First up, like with the [S] and the [Z] sounds of that last article, it occurred to me that [J] and [Ch] are quite similar. Just as the [S] sound is a [Z] with a push of air so too is the [Ch] sound a [J] with a push of air. (Mouthing these sounds out yourself and noticing the positions of the tongue and the mouth will help if this all seems a little strange).

So this pair can also be added to our list of "push" sounds.

the six push sounds

Of course, when developing my stripped back phonetic alphabet I'd removed the [J] altogether. After realising it was essentially a combination of a [T] and a [Y] - that's a [Y] as in the word yeah. So the name John for example, would be rendered Tyohn. Which looks very bizarre, but it essentially gives the same sound. People will argue, no doubt correctly, that there are slight, but important and noticeable differences. Making this a clumsy substitution. However, the aim is to strip things back to represent the basic shapes in the mouth used to make the consonants. Not to split these simple shapes into an infinity of minor variations.

Anyhow, given [J] is now gone [Ch] would have to be written Tyh - the [H] representing the push of air. Quite odd looking xD

[Of course, with the [T] gone too the Tyh would actually be Dyh.]

..and more mother words

The second thing I want to make note of are some of the eastern words for mother.

Anyone familiar with this blog will be aware of the links between the letter [M] and motherhood. Not only with various words such as mother, maiden, matron, matre, mademoiselle, mamma, mummy ..the list goes on. But also words associated with eating, which perhaps have their origins in breastfeeding. Mammary, milk, mouth. Along with onomatopoeic words such as yummy, mmm, nom, chomp and so forth.

Anyway, I finally got round to checking the words for mother in some of the eastern languages (in European languages the [M] sound for mother seems almost universal).

The fruits were many.

Firstly we have plenty of [M] words in the Indian languages. Courtesy of this very useful page:

M words for mother in Indian languages

Then in Chinese we have;

the Chinese for mother

We also find the [M] in the Korean word for mother;

the Korean for mother

The only major outlier I've come across so far is Japan. Apparently the word for mother there is the very cutesy haha. ..typical Japan with their cool emojis and text speak :p Though even there the word for daughter has the double [M] sound.

the Japanese for daughter

Obviously it goes without saying that I'm quite far out of my depth with all these languages. I'm basically relying on Google Translate and YouTube videos. Still however, it does very much seem like this [M] / mother association is quite common across much of the world.

Finally, as a consequence of all this I was also wondering about the word more. Does that have similar roots? After all, it too is a word children tend to learn very early. When they want more bottle, etc. "More, more, more.."

Losing one eye..

A quick, slightly dull update regarding my phonetic alphabet.

It occurred to me that the [i] sound, as in the word eye, is really just a combination of an [a] and an [ee] sound. It starts with the [a] then transitions, and ends with the [ee].

I as in eye

(..that's the é with an accent from my alphabet,
which I'm using as a stand-in for the [ee] sound)

I really don't know how I missed that one. It means I can remove the capitalised [i] sound from my list of letters though. So now we just have nine vowels.

Leaving it all looking something like this..

the full alphabet minus the eye vowel

Whistle, Hiss and Shush: The Serpent Eats Its Own Tail

I've been revisiting my phonetic alphabet recently, mainly with a view to compiling all my blog posts on the topic into one book-like PDF. I have toyed with the idea of writing an actual book on the topic, however I think the flow of the blog articles works much better than a book ever could. You can follow the journey from start to finish.

Obviously these journeys and questions never have a true ending, it's more just that you reach a natural point for an intermission. With that in mind a few loose ends are worth commenting upon.

The main one concerns the snake-like letter S.

We noted before that the S sound was essentially a Z sound with a "push of air" (we kept the [S] symbol though as it was suitably snake-looking). Keeping it turned out to be fortunate as I'd forgot about the "Sh" sound - as in the word shush.

With the other letters we've been using the letter H as a way of amending the core consonants - to add that push of air. For example, to create the P sound in our new alphabet we use B + H - as we deemed P to be the B consonant with a push of air.

So in our P-less alphabet the word push would be rendered bhush.

Following this logic S would also be a Z with a push i.e. Zh. However, we really need that H to lift the S/Z sound into the Sh sound.


The Sh sound really is quite unique. It's very similar to hissing, but it's a bit more whistle-like. It's almost a hiss approaching a whistle if that makes sense. (As I often say; making these sounds with your own mouth really helps. Just reading the words and symbols from the page doesn't quite convey the actual sound made, nor the mechanics utilised by the mouth.)

When I was thinking about all this the word whistle itself couldn't fail to strike me. It has the W at the start - the very mouth shape we make when whistling. Plus it contains the word, or rather the sound: hiss. W-hiss-ling. (There really is a certain beauty to how logical our language is.)

Anyway, as noted, it was very fortunate we didn't throw out the [S] symbol to render S as Zh.

In theory we could've used multiple H letters to make the Sh sound - to emphasise the sheer amount of "air pushed out". Zhhhhuzhhhhh! As opposed to zhuzh - which would just give us something that would sound like sus. That would perhaps be a tad too whacky though - even by our standards.

So we'll have to keep Sh as it normally is in the English language, and have S as just a normal S - with no way of differentiating between the slightly different Z and S sounds we have in English.

I think this is probably fairly fine though, and fittingly it brings us right back to where we began this entire blog series. In that very first Constellation Consonants post the letter I chose to remove was Z. Precisely because it was so underused and superfluous ..and as I said in that article we won't miss Z once we get used to not having it :)

Finally: The Actual Alphabet

I've knocked up a final image listing the letters we were eventually left with once everything unneeded was stripped out.

the final alphabet

(The final alphabet)

Again, there's no true ending to these investigations. In fact, it would be really interesting to look further into how pitch is naturally used in language. For instance the way lower vowel sounds are often used to signify things that are low (and also big), and how higher sounds are often used to signify things that are high (and likewise things that are small).

The words low and high being good examples in of themselves. Low having a deep "O" sound and high having a higher "I" or "eye" sound. Hill and hull (or hole) also spring to mind. A hill being an upwards hump and a hull or hole being a downwards one. It makes perfect sense that we would naturally gravitate towards language that mirrors the actual mechanics of the sounds made. These things are ingrained in the fabric of reality. A thick bass guitar string makes a deep bassy sound, whereas a tiny high E string gives a high pitched one. So the association between low and big and high and small is commonly rooted in experience. Just look at words such as tiny and teeny-weeny and then compare them to words like huge and enormous.

This natural musicality of language seems quite underexplored and underappreciated to me. So if we do start a fresh page of notes and observations that could be the place to start. In fact, the ideas explored above - and the revelation that words are often rooted in human nature and natural physics - gives rise to the possibility that there may be some kind of “universal” language. Or at least languages that more greatly harmonise the acoustic roots of words with the word meanings intended to be conveyed.

For instance, we could explore why some words feel more appropriate than others in given situations. Does the poet or songwriter have an intuitive sense of such associations when they choose their beautiful flowing words? Do freer cultures with more freedom to adopt or invent new words have more organic language palettes? Likewise do some languages lend themselves to singing and musical accompaniment more readily because they’re more naturally attuned to such emotional expression? These are all interesting things to look into.

For now though I think we can leave it there.

Thank you for reading.

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