Ian James
© May 2013

language name written with 38ed script

This is the 38th version of the SIGIL script called Slinsen-Yi, which in the Sgai language means “syllables drawn small”. The previous version, Slinseng-Fi, is a very elegant cursive script but suffers slightly from extravagant use of space. The object here was to produce an easy-to-write, pure alphabet which would enable a more compressed presentation of text.


To enable more text per area, there are two strategies in place. First is putting vowels above their consonants, which conserves horizontal space (and is a method used in many Asian scripts). Second is allowing for the smallest possible print size by designing the glyph shapes at the scale of just a few pixels. By restricting the shapes to a 3×5 pixel rectangle and basing their structure on the LCD style shown in my Power Of Seven script, there are 127 possibilities. Some shapes are not full height, but I keep some of those for vowels. After discarding the less distinct and duplicated forms, there is a set of 64 possible consonants and 13 possible vowels (vowels fit into a 3×3 pixel rectangle). Here is the set, shown at actual size; they remain quite legible:

open larger view

Shown below are the scaled-up forms of the final selection, assigned to phonemes. The idea is that at larger sizes, the glyphs would instead reveal curves, serifs, etc, pertinent to a more mature style.


Compared with other versions of SIGIL script, and the Phonological Cypher series, there is less opportunity for maintaining featural relationships based on phonetics; but there is some inner consistency. For the forming of diphthongs, /w/ and /j/ are used for /-u/ and /-i/, and there is a dedicated glyph for /-y/. The medial flap tucks in next to its initiating consonant, and shares its vowel. There is an affricate prefix used before a fricative to signal the arising of an implicit initiating plosive. In almost all cases that will be /d/ or /t/ for voiced and unvoiced fricatives respectively. There is a special glyph for final glottal stop.


These sit above their consonant. There is a vague connection between these shapes and the position of the tongue. In the language name (Sgai) printed at the top of the page, an /a/ can be seen sitting above the /g/. Schwa is always short, and voiced or unvoiced depending on the voice of the previous consonant; it helps to create sesqui-syllables. The other vowels tend to be long. There is a vocalic semivowel /r/ and a syllabic trilled /r/.

Other consonants

These other glyphs are taller and/or wider than the consonants listed above. In all cases they take up a full slot (which for a CV unit at smallest size is 9 pixels high), and represent special items of morphology.

The tonemarks follow their syllable. The nasalizer follows a vowel and in practice tends to one of the three nasal consonants depending on sandhi with a following consonant. For example, before /b/ the nasalizer will tend to be pronounced /-m/. If the nasalizer is word-final, it sounds as /-ng/.

Long /s/ is a dedicated prefix. Short /wa/ and /ja/ tend to acquire a high creaky tone. Ejectives are a distinctive feature of Sgai.


As with all the numeral systems of SIGIL scripts so far, this version’s system is based on joining designated numbers of dots. The numerals 7 to hexadecimal F are taken from version 30 rather than version 37, to keep their shapes and sizes consistent with the other letters.


For an example of Sgai using Slinsen-Yi, here are the first three verses of the Tower of Babel text, with a transliteration and the original English. It is much more space-efficient than Slinseng-Fi, and 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.


All material on this page © Ian James.
Last modified Jun.26,2013