Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

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shenafu
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Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby shenafu » 2013-01-12, 1:53

"Flownetic is a featural phonetic alphabet created by [me] in 2012. The philosophy is simple, intuitive, distinguishable, practical. The flow and structure of the symbols imitate the flow and structure of your mouth, throat, tongue, teeth, and lips as you utter each sound. Unlike other featural or phonetic writing systems, the letters are easily distinguishable from each other and simple to write. This makes it easy and fun to read and write these letters.

"The problem with most other featural alphabets is that they focus on the similarities between classes of sounds and articulations, rather than the distinct features that make them different. Thus their characters all tend to look alike and cumbersome. Furthermore, vowels tend to get second-class treatment. Too often vowels are represented by nothing more tiny diacritics (or worse, missing altogether). Even in alphabets with true vowels, they usually contain no more than a handful; yet the IPA charts no less than 30 distinct vowels sounds. Even though, in linguistics, vowels are usually called the nucleus of a syllable or word, you couldn't tell from many writing systems of their importance to language. Vowels are just as interesting as consonants, if not more, and deserve more attention.

"The Flownetic script addresses these shortcomings by representing only the prominent oral features and their motions for each sound. To remain simple to read and practical to write, letters consist of mainly simple lines, curves, and dots. These elements form intuitive graphemes (letters) by following these rough guidelines. Straight lines represent unrounded vowels, the throat, jaw, teeth, and closed lips. Curves represent rounded vowels and placement and curling of the tongue. The dots are neutral or breathy sounds, or modify common vowels. Moreover, much emphasis is put on the vowels and their distinctive feel as they are released from the vocal organs. Note, however, that I'm fluent only in English and Cantonese, and some Mandarin, so I'm more familiar with the vowel sounds used in those languages, and thus could only approximate the flow of the other vowels found in IPA but not in those three languages. Nevertheless, I will try to find suitable symbols for them."

Notable features
Type of writing system: featural phonetic alphabet
Direction of writing: left to right
Used to write: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and others
Link: http://www.shenafu.com/code/liyahu/flownetic.php

Official script and examples can be found at the above URL.

Example (click image to see it at full size):
Image

I welcome all serious criticisms. What do you think? Does it feel intuitive for you? Is there enough variety? Is it attractive enough? Would you use it as a phonetic guide?
Last edited by shenafu on 2013-01-12, 8:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Anoran
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby Anoran » 2013-01-12, 22:50

This is a concept I've been trying to visualize for a while now, but I couldn't quite get clear shapes that weren't ambiguous; so I raise a glass to you, as you got farther than I did!

That said, for me, the characters aren't exactly intuitive; I was at a bit of a loss as to how things were done until I read through the descriptions in detail (And I am still a little unsure of some characters). This may however, have more to do with the fact that the phonetic chart is somewhat nonstandard in its layout. If you could arrange the characters in standard format on the IPA chart, I think that would go a long way to aid in learning the alphabet. That would be great.

I should also note that there's a big difference between a featural alphabet designed so you can look at a new character and know how to pronounce it, and a featural alphabet that merely uses shapes that are representative of the articulation, rather than indicative. I am unsure which you were trying to go for here.

There is also the matter of tonal sounds. Your alphabet (currently) cannot be used to accurately portray Mandarin and Cantonese, which are both Tonal Languages. This includes rising notes, falling notes, high notes, low notes, etc. I imagine you would have some trouble reading the Lion-Eating Poet In The Stone Den in Flownetic. It would just be ImageImage over and over and over again.

Another concern is with some of the sibilants. Image and Image represent two fairly different sounds, but look eerily similar, and could be easily confused for one another (Especially if one's handwriting is particularly messy.).

The alphabet is fairly unique in its letter forms. I see a combination of both vertically and horizontally aligned characters, so I imagine it wouldn't be infeasible to write this script from top to bottom, or any other direction. I personally would probably go top to bottom, left to right.

Keep up the good work, and also, welcome to the world of conlangery!
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shenafu
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby shenafu » 2013-01-13, 1:51

Thanks for the good critique and encouragement.

When I charted out the vowels, I did use the IPA chart as a guide. However, I had to convert it to a HTML table as neatly as possible. I guess I should draw up that IPA-like chart into an image file. As for the table, the vowels in rows 1 & 4 are front vowels, 2 & 5 are middle, and 3 & 6 are back. Every other column is unrounded and rounded, working from close to open.

Most of the vowels are drawn based on my personal feel of how I envision it. e.g. /ɐ/ I see it as a falling sound, thus a down-pointing arrow; /i/ is flat, no falling or rising; /e/ drops a bit from /i/; and /ɪ/ transitions from /i/ to /e/.

You may notice some of the symbols match up exactly to their IPA equivalents. It's partly coincidence, partly deliberate. While trying to find symbols that look different, I happened to like some of the IPA ones. And it so happens, their shapes match up with how I envision for that sound.

I understand your concern about what type of featural alphabet this is. My main concern was not trying to be too pedantic about articulation rules. For example, I don't want to end up with something like Visible Speech, where it's all about rules, and you think too much about rules before you can even understand the symbol. By the same token, I don't want something like Visible Speech and Tengwar where everything looks alike. Also, in Tengwar symbols don't give any guide to pronunciation. At least my symbols have simple general guidelines: you know which vowels are rounded or unrounded, you know if a tongue is involved and even how to curl the tongue, etc. So I settled for the best of both worlds--some hints to pronunciation, while having a good diversity and variation in the look of each symbol, and most importantly, being easy to read and write.

It should feel intuitive once you start writing and reading them. So not only the flow of reading, but the flow of writing should also feel smooth, quick, and intuitive.

As for Image and Image, I figure it's very unlikely that a language would use both. So if you write it sloppily, there would be no difference within that language. And if you're on the computer, the difference would be noticeable enough. Anyhow, I can't think of an alternative for now.

You brought up tones like Cantonese. Actually, I was thinking up a syllablic design, not unlike Hangeul, but adding another dimension, namely tone. Suppose a syllabic grapheme is divided into 4 squares. Then, each square is occupied by an initial, a nucleus, a coda, and a tone marker, respectively. Of course, this only works with languages with simple, straightforward syllabic structure, like Cantonese. For Mandarin, it would be a bit harder because of medials /j/ and /w/. Now Cantonese does have some two-consonant combinations, noted as /t͡s/ and /kʷ/. For these, I created new symbols by merging the constituents so that they can fit into the grid where initials are placed.

For the tone marks, we can use the same ones as IPA: ˥ ˧˥ ˧ ˨˩ ˩˧ ˨ . Even though some of those symbols resemble other letters, there will be no confusion since one of the grids are reserved for tone marks. That is, only tone marks can go into that grid, and symbols in that grid mean tone, not phone.
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby Kshaard » 2013-01-14, 17:41

More about Image and Image, or rather Image and Image, I use BOTH of these phones in my Conlang, Konamyôk, and realistically this is not going to be a typed system any time soon. So that leaves a written system which is probably going to end up written untidily and fast, so maybe (if I manage to get more vocab for the lang) could cause some ambiguities.

Sorry if this message sounds a bit spiteful or something, but I wanted to get the point across :)
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby shenafu » 2013-01-15, 2:02

Kshaard wrote:More about Image and Image, or rather Image and Image, I use BOTH of these phones in my Conlang, Konamyôk, and realistically this is not going to be a typed system any time soon. So that leaves a written system which is probably going to end up written untidily and fast, so maybe (if I manage to get more vocab for the lang) could cause some ambiguities.

Sorry if this message sounds a bit spiteful or something, but I wanted to get the point across :)


Are you saying you might employ this script for you conlang?

One solution is to tilt the half-circle 90 degrees counter-clockwise for ɕ. Heck it even resembles the IPA symbol.

Edit: Major update to the sibilant sounds.
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby borg286 » 2017-05-12, 15:38

You have a typo in your transcription
when you transcribed reason you used /d͡z/ instead of /z/
Also should is mispelled. You should have used a /ʃ/ instead of the /t͡ʃ/ you selected

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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-05-12, 18:59

First of all, borg286, welcome to the forum. :) I'd just like to point out we have a rule against reviving old threads. This is okay to do if you intend to make a significant contribution to the discussion. Whether the OP or other thread participants are still active can also be important. Correcting some typos in a thread that's been dead three years when the neither the OP and nor any of the other posters is still active isn't justified in my book. If you want to comment in a thread, just be aware of when it was last posted in and consider the other points I've mentioned to decide whether you should. Consider this an informal explanation of the rule for future reference.

You can have a look at the Forum Policy thread for all of Unilang's rules.
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Re: Flownetic - A simple & intuitive featural phonetic alphabet

Postby borg286 » 2017-05-15, 15:37

You are right. My bad.
Image


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