This is a syllabic script for the SIGIL language, which emerged when the author was struggling with the phonotactics of that language. Unlike the linear script, which simply shows the phoneme stream, this script breaks the stream into syllabic units. For SIGIL, these units comprise at most two parts; most easily recognized are the consonant+vowel units.
- syllabary built from phonetic components
- shapes depict perceived processes of phonemic production
- read from left to right, with fixed-width glyphs
- small number of strokes per glyph
The Consonant Part
Similar to the linear script described elsewhere, there are a number of consonantal bases, to which modifiers of articulation are attached. For convenience, the bases (which represent regions in the mouth) are labeled:
These go from front to rear: labial, dental, alveolar, alveolo-palatal, lateral, retroflex, palatal-velar, velar-uvular, and glottal.
The simple modifiers are: unvoiced plosive, voiced plosive, unvoiced fricative, voiced fricative, nasal, unvoiced affricate, and voiced affricate. Here they are shown next to a dotted circle which is where the consonantal base will sit:
Upon the base + simple modifier there is space for a vowel. Together, the consonant + vowel make a syllabic unit, which is drawn to fill a fixed-size rectangle (rather like Chinese characters). Not all base + modifier combinations make sense, but it is possible that unnatural combinations come to take on special, non-phonemic meanings.
There are also double modifiers, which fill a syllabic unit: double unvoiced fricative, double voiced fricative, double nasal, double unvoiced affricate, and double voiced affricate. This also shows the normal height of a full syllabic unit:
In addition, there are modifiers involving stoppage which are considered to take a whole syllabic unit: ejective, unvoiced stop, voiced stop (actually the stops are shorter in height than other units):
Here is the entire P series, showing how the parts join together. The vowel above the simply-modified consonants is /a/.
The Vowel Part
Above a single non-stopped consonant sits a single vowel. Here the vowel set is shown upon /m/ in red. A plosive may also go “without” a vowel, which means its inherent short, vague vowel schwa will be sounded.
The second vowel set here is of single vowels which are drawn to fill a syllabic unit. They are not “syllabic” in length, but their sound will end with a following consonant, which must signal the start of a new syllabic unit. A vowel in the lower position is referred to as an even-numbered vowel.
A sequence of vowels may occur, and may occur in both the lower and upper parts of a syllabic unit. The vowel in the upper position is referred to as an odd-numbered vowel.
It can also be seen here how a high tone is marked by a little tick in the bowl of the respective vowel.
The in-breath marker from the linear script is used unaltered (resembling the numeral 3), and stands in the space of a syllabic unit. This is used in a similar manner to comma. The symbol for out-breath is simply a double /h/, and together with a preceding in-breath forms a longer pause, similar to a period, or end-of-paragraph:
Also, blank syllable-wide spaces can be used to separate blocks of text in a general manner. On a page, the glyphs thus sit in a regular grid, not unlike the way Chinese characters are printed. And because of the way SIGIL is structured, lines can break after any syllable, not just between “words”.
This is a transliteration of the first sentence of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born
free and equal in
dignity and rights.”
Here is the rest of the Article in a quicker, less formal hand:
“They are endowed with conscience
and reason, and should
act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood.”
A version of this page can also be found on Omniglot.