Transcribing English in Verdurian

Posted by Philip Newton on 5:32 10/1/01

In reply to: (none)

Is there a semi-standard for transliterating English with Verdurian letters?

Here's a guess at one. The basis for the set of phonemes is a combination of the Shavian alphabet and the description of JBR RP (Justin B Rye's pronunciation) as described on his page on a phonemic transcription key, from where I've also stolen the examples for each sound.

The phonemes are written in ASCII IPA (letter case is significant here). In the examples, the capital letter shows the sound that is being described.

Note that JBR RP is non-rhotic while Shavian is rhotic (that is, 'r' is marked in spelling in such things as 'far', which RP pronounces like 'fah'). I've taken the ASCII IPA from JBR's page, so it'll represent non-rhotic pronunciation, but this doesn't make a difference except for /A:/, which can be either <a> (e.g. <father>) or <ar> (e.g. <far>.), /O:/, which can be either <aw>/<au> (e.g. <saw>) or <or> (e.g. <sore>), and /@/, which can be either schwa/wedge (e.g. <AbUndance>) or schwa + -r (e.g. <fathER>). These sounds have split rows for the two representations.

I've included <r> in the Verdurian representation of sounds where speakers of rhotic accents make a difference; a non-rhotic effect can usually be attained by replacing the <r> with an <a>, e.g. "beard" <bird> --> <biad>, or deleting it (for <ar> and <or>) while possibly adding a long mark.

Also, /@/ in JBR RP stands for both unstressed shwa and a stressed vowel, sometimes represented with IPA wedge (ASCII IPA /V/); Shavian distinguishes between them, but since Verdurian can't, I've left them together. In general, vowels are more problematic to transcribe since English's phonemic vowel inventory is rather broad. (JBR RP also uses /@/ for the last syllable of words such as <abundance>, <button>, <bottle>; many accents speak those without a vowel, the <n> or <l> functions as a vowel (like in Ismaîn!).)

Phoneme Example Verdurian
/T/THinkeTHdh [1]
/N/haNGiNGng [2]
/r/Rah-Rahr [3]
/w/Wah-Wahu [4]
/h/Ha-Harh [5]
/@/bUd, Abundancea
bettER, ARrayar
/V":/bIRdör [6]
bAtha, ä
sAWo [7]
/i:/bEAdi [7]
/u:/bOOedu [7]


  1. This phoneme often turns into /t/ or /s/ when speakers of languages lacking /T/ learn English. But I think that /D/ is closer.
  2. There's a letter representing /N/ in Verdurian script, apparently (Verdurian ŋ/eng, Maraille Ŋ/ENG), but since it's not described on the page on Verdurian phonology, it's probably better to transcribe this sound as <ng> (just as the letter eng is not usually used in e.g. newspaper transcription of other languages in English).
  3. English <r> and Verdurian <r> do not sound the same, but it's probably still the best correspondence.
  4. Using <u> as a semi-vowel here. Maybe <w> (Verdurian w) or <ŭ> (u-breve; Verdurian ŭ/u-breve) could also be used here.
  5. This was the hardest for me to find a good letter for, since Verdurian doesn't have this sound at all. I don't think using <h> (Verdurian h) is a good idea, since that letter is completely silent in modern Verdurian. <h'> (Verdurian h'), which represented /h/ in Cadhinor, dropped out on the way from Cadhinor to Verdurian, so it's not that good, either. Using a representation of /x/, as in (modern) Greek or Russian, doesn't work, since Verdurian doesn't have such a sound (though Cadhinor did, and wrote it kh). So <rh> seems the best approximation to English /h/.
  6. I think this is the closest approximation to the sound of English <ir>/<ur>/<er>.
  7. I considered using a lenge cuzea on those letters to show their phonetic (though not really phonemic) length in English -- that is, ō/ò ī/ì ū/ù instead of o i u. However, I guess plain transcription would probably not include it, though specialised scientific/linguistic material might.


Mark responds:

By the way, this is posting #200 to the VV Bulletin Board! And, if that weren't enough, the date, 10/1/01, is palindromic!

RP??! Heh... well, I like Justin's pages, and there won't be that many differences between his RP and my GA, especially when filtered through Verdurian's restricted vowel inventory.

The /&/ vowel in 'bad' occurs in Flaidish (where it's written a or ai; Verdurians transcribe this as as in fleád) and in Barakhinei (â). For a more 'scholarly' transcription of English, you might look at the Barakhinei lax (circumflexed) vowels. Verdurian scholars use the same convention for studying dialects and foreign languages.

The /I/ in 'bid' should be written î (or i-breve), no?

English /k/ should be c, not k! The latter is a uvular stop, like Arabic or Cuzco Quechua q.

J is used in quite a few language of the Plain (Flaidish, Ismaîn, Caizu), so it'd probably be an acceptable alternative to dzh. (But it would be quite foreign-looking. If Jeerio the flaid came to Verduria, he'd be well advised to write his name Dzhirio.) Similarly, the th letter is known from Cadhinor and Kebreni, and might be used in a scholarly transcription.

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