A Proposed System for the Phonetic Representation of English Sounds with the Feanorian Letters

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[page 9] <The following text is handwritten.> a proposed system for the /phonetic/ representation of english @English@ sounds with the <Tolkien script> letters- <End handwriting.> ... as devised and told to {Signature: Greg Shaw} by Don Simpson Don Simpson has come up with a system of tehtar (vowel-signs) which, when combined with the Tengwar, are capable of representing phonetically any sound that occurs in the English language, and he has given me permission to tell you about it. We do not claim it is The Perfect System; but in all cases it is clearly and logically derived from Tolkien's notes, and until someone comes up with a better one, which will probably be a long time, it will do quite admirably as a standard system to allow communication in the Fëanorean script between fans that was heretofore cumbersome and impractical. I'm going to try and explain this thing so that anyone can understand it. Whether you plan to carry it further and actually memorize the signs is up to you. Basically, what we're doing is writing in the English language, but using different letters, letters which correspond to the sounds of the English letters. This might seem rather pointless, but the reason we do this is not simply for that reason. Any set of esoteric marks will not do. The thing that has fascinated so many people is Tolkien's letters themselves. To the philologist, the Tengwar is obviously one of the most beautifully conceived, logical, consistent alphabets ever conceived by man. In addition of course is the fact that the letters have an ae sthetic @aesthetic@ beauty all their own. And though we're not all philologists, I think most of us can see hints of the splendour of the Tengwar. Included in this article are two tables. Table 1, the Tengwar, consists of the signs representing the consonants. Table 2, which is the most important part of the whole thing, is Don Simpson's tehtar. Actually, all that's needed to learn to read and write with these letters is these tables and Tolkien's Appendix E. The purpose of this article is merely to explain it in simpler term [page 10] _Table I: the consonants._ This table is fairly self-explanatory. I might point out a few matters of usage, though. No. 8 should in all cases be a hard _g_. The 'sogt g' @'soft g'@ of English being of course represented by #7. There is no _c_, since In a phonetic language _k_ or _s_ can be substituted just as easily. No. 13 is used for the sound at the beginning of the word 'there', and #9 for the sound in 'think'. _H_ is not used unless it is actually pronounced, as with all silent letters for that matter _Q_ is written as kw. _w_, like _h_, is only used when actually pronounced. _X_ like _q_ can be written with two other letters, _ks_. When _s_ is pronounced like _z_ , _z_ should be used. There is really no need to show doubled letters or silent es at the end of words, altho @although@ Tolkien has given us signs with which to do so. Also in Table 1 you will see off to the right some variant forms of some of the letters. we did not make these up; Tolkien explains them. In the first box is shown a method of adding an _s_ at the end of a word (only!). This trick works with any of the first 24 letters of the Tengwar, and when the final _s_ sounds like a _z_ you can of course substitute a backwards _z_ for the backwards _s_ in the example. The next box shows how you can represent two consonants with one and a sign. If you look at Grade 5, you see that they are all 'nasal' sounds : _n_, _m_, _ng_. The rule here is that when one of these nasals is followed by on~ of the consonants above it in the same series (altho @although@ we only apply it to those in the first two grades) then that consonant can be merely written with a bar, or tilde, above it to imply the preceeding nasal. Which brings up a point I ought to mention. Tne last example, _nk_, which is actually _ngk_, represents the sound at the end of the word 'think@'@. This should be obvious; I think it is fairly easy to see that then _n_ 'think' has the same sound as the _ng_ in 'song.' #The third box shows a method of doubling letters, which we seldom use in our phonetic system. The next box shows that two underposed dots represents a following _y_ (and _i_, too, when at the end of a word. The next 3 boxes are three forms Tolkien tells us about for representing various common words. The last box is self-explanatory. _Table 2: the vowels._ Now we came to the vowels, where things get a bit hairy. Of course this is where the whole problem lies. Tolkien gives us some vowel signs, but not nearly enough for a truly phonetic system and it is obvious that we're going to have to make up more. Well with everybody making up their own tehtar, only chaos can result. But if a system such as this can be accepted as standard, all our problems are solved. The basic idea of the vowel signs is: in the writing of the Tengwar all consonants are written the way we write our language, but the vowel sounds are represented by various signs, generally located above the donsonants. In Table 2, the most important signs, and really the only ones you need memorize, are the first 13. The others seldom occur, and anyway are merely a matter of combining two signs to represent a sound that is the combination of two vowels. Now there isn't really too much to explain here, but this section is important because I'm asking you to accept these values, see how they were logically derived from Tolkien's (if you are somewhat of a scholar in this area and need official justification for them), and agree to use them should you decide to do any experimentation or communication with this field, for the simple sake of order. The punctuation marks on this table are merely helpful suggestions and you needn't feel bound too rigidly with these in usage. [page 11] _The Tengwar_ <A double arrow pointing left and right> Series <A double arrow pointing up and down> Grade {Chart: The following chart is made up of 9 numbered rows (series) and 4 numbered columns (grades). The intersection of each series and grade is a Tengwar symbol with the equivalent English phoneme in the lower right corner. All intersections are numbered 1-36, The order of the letters, following a series:grade formatting is as follows: 1:1 T 1 1:2 P 2 1:3 CH 3 1:4 K 4 2:1 D 5 2:2 B 6 2:3 J 7 2:4 G 8 3:1 TH 9 3:2 F 10 3:3 SH 11 3:4 GH 12 4:1 DH 13 4:2 V 14 4:3 ZH 15 4:4 GH 16 5:1 N 17 5:2 M 18 5:3 [no phoneme] 19 5:4 NG 20 6:1 R 21 6:2 W 22 6:3 Y 23 6:4 [no phoneme] 24 7:1 R 25 7:2 RH 26 7:3 L 27 7:4 LH 28 8:1 S 29 8:2 S 30 8:3 Z 31 8:4 Z 32 9:1 H 33 9:2 WH 34 9:3 (Y) 35 9:4 (W) 36 [Notes on series 1]: Some common Construction Patters That May Be Used: [Notes on series 2]: TS <Tengwar> PS <Tengwar> KS <Tengwar> ...etc. [Notes on series 3]: NT <Tengwar> ND... <Tengwar> MP <Tengwar> MB <Tengwar> NK <Tengwar> [Notes on series 4]: TT <Tengwar> NN <Tengwar> (USW FOR #S 1-24) [Notes on series 5]: TY <Tengwar> LY <Tengwar> ...same for all letters [Notes on series 6]: THE <Tengwar> [Notes on series 7]: OF <Tengwar> [Notes on series 8]: OF THE <Tengwar> [Notes on series 9]: AU or AW <Tengwar> (at end of word only) table 1 [page 12] In Table 2 you will see three columns, each with 3 subcolumns. In each column the 3 subcolumns are, left to right: (a) the English letter(s); (b) an English word with the sound of the vowel within it and underlined; and (c) the actual sign or tehta. _Pragmatic Applications_: The whole point of this article is to teach you how to read & write this stuff, so I'd better explain a few things about how it's done. First of all, the most basic matter is deciding what mode to use. We know about three different modes: Beleriand, Quenya, and Sindarin. We know, however, very little about the first, so it is for reasons of simplicity ignored. Quenya and Sindarin were the two Elvish languages of Middle Earth in the Third Age, and although they were seperate @separate@ languages, they used the same written letters, but they used them differently. Most dabblers in this area have chosen Sindarin, because we know more about it, because it is easier to use, and because it fits the English language for purposes of transliteration quite well as witness the fact that Tolkien used it on his title-page inscription. The main differences between the two modes are that @1)in@ Quenya the vowel sign was placed above the preceeding consonant, while in Sindarin it is @place@ above the following consonant. The simple reason for this is that most Quenya words ended in vowels and thus had no following consonant in the case of final vowels, and in Sindarin most words ended in consonants; and 2) the tehtar in Quenya are the same as those in Sindarin but their values are reversed. Thus the signs for _o_ and _u_ are reversed, and also those for _e_ and _i_. Anyhow, the point is, we have chosen Sindarin, and again we're asking you to accept this. Now the first thing to do when writing in Tengwar is to pronounce the word, aloud or to yourself, enunciating each phoneme (sound) as clearly as you can. Regardless of the English spelling, this is a phonetic system and you should choose the appropriate sign for each phoneme in the word, and write them in order. At first, you will probably want to write all the consonants in order and then come back and add the vowel signs in the proper place, altho @although@ you may find it easier to do it all as you go along, too. Remember that the vowel sign goes above the consonant that follows it. Example: the word think. You would write the _th_ sign, the _ng_ sign, and the _k_ sign, and put the _ii_ tehta over the _ng_. By the way, you may have noticed that in Table 1, #s 29 & 30, and #s 31 and 32, have the same values, and are the same, only upsidedown. This is because #s 30 and 32 are to be used with tehtar above them. For a good example of Tengwar writing, look at the ring inscription on p. 59 of the hardcover Fellowship otRing @Fellowship of the Ring@. I prefer to write this way, but I've noticed that almost all beginners find it easier to write their letters separately, unconnected. This is OK, but as you become more proficient try to connect your letters. You will also notice in this inscription the fact that the 'bows' of all the letters are in 1 line, regardless of whether the 'stem' goes up or down. This is always true of all the letters except _l_ (#27). Note how Tolkien places it. A bit of logic behind table 2 is the fact that in cases of a tehta that is two or more tehtar combined, they are read (or pronounced) from top to bottom. You can see this in many of the examples on the chart, and using this knowledge you can extrapolate other signs from this system to represent _any_ sound. For example, how would you write the word 'tired'? It's not pronounced 'ty-red' as it's spelled, but 'ty-erd' which is 2 vowel sounds in a row. So to represent this in Fëanorean, you would have to put the _ai_ diamond above the _r_ sign, and for the other [page 13] The Tehtar {Table: The table shows 22 vowel sounds represented by the Latin alphabet, an English word to serve as a phonetic example, and the corresponding tehtar. After the vowels, tehta are included for four different forms of punctuation. The chart is built from three large columns, each of which contains the three subsections described above. There appears to be no special significance to which of the larger columns the tehta are in.} [Column1]: a b_o_ttle <tehta> a s_a_t <tehta> e s_e_t <tehta> i s_i_t <tehta> ii s_ea_t <tehta> o _owe_ b_oa_t <tehta> oo f_o_r <tehta> [Column 2]: u f_oo_t <tehta> uu b_oo_t <tehta> u b_u_t _a_noth_e_r b_i_rd <tehta> ai fl_y_ <tehta> ei d_ay_ <tehta> au n_ow_ <tehta> ea b_ea_r <tehta> iii b_ei_ng <tehta> [Column 3]: uu long U <tehta> eu th_e_re <tehta> iu h_e_re <tehta> oi b_oy_ <tehta> ui r_ui_n <tehta> uu g_ou_rd <tehta> iu b_eau_ty <tehta> <a double line divider> - hyphen <tehta> -, dash, comma <tehta> ;: semi-colon, colon <tehta> . period <tehta> table 2 [page 14] vowel you would of course use the _u_ (as in bird), which is a dot underneath. To someone reading @readint@ he, he would pronounce the _ai_ first, then the _u_, and then the _r_. Thus vowel signs are always read from top to bottom, and all vowel signs about a consonant are pronounced before the consonant itself, except in case of the 'following y' sign. When a vowel occurrs @occurs@ at the end of a word, we must use what is called a 'carrier', which is nothing more than a sign that the tehta can be placed over to take the place of the consonant that isn't there. You can also use a carrier within a word should you be confronted with some wild vowel combination that it is simply impossible to get entirely over one consonant. In a case like that you would put the first vowel over a carrier and the others about the consonant. At the end of a word you merely tack the carrier on. There are two types of carriers, the long carrier and the short carrier. According to Tolkien the long carrier looks like an undotted English _j_, and the short carrier is merely a shorter version. The long carrier is used for long vowels, the short carrier for short vowels. Very simple. An example of the short carrier can be seen on that same p.59 inscription in the word _ishi_. And I also notice in this inscriptiona @inscription@ @poing@ I ought to make about the trick of using a tilde to represent a preceeding nasal consonant. When you are using this, and a vowel sign must also go above the consonant, the vowel sign should be placed above the tilde, never vice versa. Well I can't think of much more to tell you. You should now be able to read and write the Tengwar, if somewhat laboriously. With a few weeks of practice, if you are seriously interested, it will be the simplest thing in the world. If you are still confused about any aspect of this area of study, don't hesitate to ask me to clarify whatever you're unsure of. But I'd like to point out that all any of us know we got from Tolkien's Appendix E, and that all that's necessary to understand this particular system is Table 2; that's all I had to work with in writing this article. <Characters in Tengwar Script> I would also like to mention that anyone seriously interested in this is invited, nay begged, to correspond with me in this script if they like. It's incredibly fun to write, but its one major use is in writing to other people who understand it. A minor use is inscribing esoteric inscriptions in the mundane world to confound them. I would also like to point out that the best means of writing with the Tengwar is with a fountain pen, with about a 1/16" wide point.

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