Language “for the world”

1 Introduction
2 The wiki
3 Examples

language name /sgai/ spelt with Slinseng-Fi

language name /sgai/ spelt with IPA


This page introduces an a priori language called Sgai, known informally as SIGIL. The acronym stands for Scenic Intuitive Glomerating Ideal Language, which hints at some of the important aspects of this project. In its development, all efforts have been made to avoid arbitrary linguistic effects so that, like a true adamic language (original and naive), every detail is worked out from first principles. Also, the internal logistics of structure and phonology were carefully tempered by practical and aesthetic measures; it was always intended to be a real human language, not a conworld conlang curiosity.

From early on, various dedicated writing systems were invented, to help clarify phonological concepts. Alongside development too, the various problems and solutions were recorded in book form, to become Language for the World. The script shown on this page is Slinseng-Fi.


1 Introduction


Originally, this language was to be grammatically simple, and users would be free to frame their ideas in a loose, poetic manner. But, as the language developed and other specifications came into play, the grammar (among other things) became naturally more complex.

There are elements of both agglutinative and isolating phrase formation, with clauses generally verb final. There is some case marking, and both left and right branching order of dependencies. In many cases grammatical rules are loose, where semantics can come from almost any meaningful juxtaposition of rootwords and particles. The reason for what sounds like a hybrid grammar, is that different rules are found to operate at different levels, and SIGIL has several levels, from the level of phoneme up to the level of sentence.


It took a few years to arrive at a final phoneme inventory. SIGIL required distinctness but also a reasonably large range of sounds. There are 33 consonants plus a number of co-articulations including affricates. The vowel-space is roughly 2×2×2, with front–back, open–close and rounding. There is vowel nasalization and tone, both for grammatical purposes.

SIGIL may be spoken as an uninterrupted stream without ambiguity. In English and many languages, we often need gaps and contours of stress to separate words and clauses. In SIGIL, regular “phoneme grammar” ensures proper framing and extraction of meaning; there is no equivalent to the ice cream vs I scream problem.

Two outcomes (desirable by-products) of the phonotactics carefully developed, are that word-building is reasonably intuitive, and there is an interesting flow of sounds. A sentence spoken in SIGIL is perfectly natural in terms of pronounceability, but the combination of sounds is unlike any language I have heard.


2 The wiki


Although all details of the grammar and usage of Sgai appear in Language for the World, I felt little incentive to translate the often complex data and symbols from the book to HTML code, for this webpage. That, and the fact that the Lexicon was far from complete, put further developments on hold. And then the idea for a wiki arose.


The task of completing a Lexicon is rather huge, exceeding the time to design and construct the grammar system. It can also be (as many conlangers have found) quite tedious. I have finished a reasonably full set of Rootwords, but only a small number of words and phrases derived from these. So I need help to fill out the language, as life is short, and Sgai is sunny.


For these reasons I have developed a wiki site at host Wikidot – It is designed to allow perusal of the main details of the Sgai language, and creation of new words and phrases by interested parties. Please feel free to browse and contribute.


3 Examples

3.1 Small talk

Sgai small talk

3.2 Sample text

This is a translation from Genesis XI verses 1–9, the Tower of Babel text. It will be seen that Slinseng-Fi is quite extravagant in its use of space, however lovely a script. For this reason, I developed the highly compressed Slinsen-Yi. The other official script for Sgai is Pranish, an alphabet comparable to Latin in terms of its use of space.

Tower of Babel translated into Sgai

Here transliterated with the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). One can perhaps see why a dedicated script was desired from early on, when accurate depiction of phonemes using the IPA can look very awkward.

Tower of Babel translated into Sgai (IPA)

The original in biblical English:

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

painting by Bruegel


All material on this page © Ian James 2006–2017