The World’s First (and Only) Truly Phonemic Alphabet


Introducing NAVLIPI



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NAVLIPI (see is a new universal orthography (universal script or universal alphabet), a new world alphabet, a common alphabet, that claims to be the world’s first and only truly PHONEMIC orthography (phonemic script or phonemic alphabet)that is to say, the only world orthography or world alphabet conveying phonemic information to the reader in a practical manner. 


NAVLIPI is also a highly phonetic alphabet (phonetic orthography), a universal phonetic script, with one-to-one correspondence of its letters to sounds (phones). It is also able to express, in a very easy and intuitive manner, elements like tones of tonal languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, West African languages) and rare phones like egressive and ingressive clicks of South African languages. NAVLIPI thus conveys a combination of phonetic and phonemic information to the reader. I.e., it is both a phonetic alphabet and a phonemic alphabet. A universal phonetic alphabet and a universal phonemic alphabet. 


NAVLIPI is a phonemic alphabet that uses the Latin (also called Roman) alphabet as used for English (i.e. without diacritic marks, accent marks, etc. and transformed letters, e.g. as found in transcription of Czech or even French in this alphabet). However, the letters (also called “glyphs” or sometimes “graphemes”)  are used more phonetically in NAVLIPI, in their original phonetic sense in Latin or as in modern Spanish, rather than as in the most-unphonetic English! 


The reason for selection of the Latin or Roman alphabet as a basis for NAVLIPI was straightforward: The Latin alphabet is, through a combination of happenstance and colonial domination, the most widely recognized script in the world today. It is found ubiquitously even in places that don’t use it- e.g. in street and store signs in Japan, China, Africa, India, Southeast Asia- literally everywhere. And of course, it is the primary alphabet in North and South America, Europe (including Turkey), Indonesia and East Africa. And it is the script of English, which today is the lingua franca of the world. 


Although it is a phonemic alphabet, NAVLIPI uses the 26 letters (“glyphs”) of the Latin alphabet as used for English, plus just 15 additional letters, three of which are borrowed from Greek, eleven of which are transformed (but still very intuitive) Latin letters; just one is entirely new.


NAVLIPI conveys a combination of phonetic and phonemic information to the reader, as noted above. 


For comparison, the alphabet of the International Phonetic Association (IPA, see is a purely phonetic alphabet and conveys NO phonemic information. The IPA also has certain other, well-recognized deficiencies. For starters, it is extremely Eurocentric. It is very ad-hoc: It started with the Latin alphabet, and the mostly Western European members of the IPA in the 19th and early 20th centuries simply kept adding more letters (glyphs) as they needed them, to describe more new phones from different languages as they were incorporated into the IPA. So most of its backward and twisted and upside-down etc. Latin letters are difficult to recognize and non-intuitive for the lay person. And some look like they’re straight from outer-space! It also has a few errors. E.g. it does not recognize r-vowels but calls them “rhoticity”. And it refuses to classify palatal stops (plosives) found in many languages (e.g. North Indian languages and many Gaelic languages such as Irish) as true stops, but rather insists on calling them affricates, an extremely Western European viewpoint stemming from unfamiliarity with and, sometimes, inability to articulate, such stops! The IPA alphabet is also counter-intuitive in many respects. In contrast, NAVLIPI attempts to be as intuitive as possible. 


In addition to attempting to be intuitive, NAVLIPI, as a phonemic orthography and a universal orthography, was also designed to be recognizable (attempting to overcome the oftentimes “outer-space” character of IPA letters!) and easy to transcribe (mainly by avoiding lots of diacritic marks like apostrophes above and below its letters). 


NAVLIPI, as a universal script, can be an ideal common script (common alphabet or universal alphabet or world alphabet) for writing all languages of the Indian Subcontinentfor which purpose it was originally conceived. In that respect, it addresses the significant phonemic problem which currently prevents various Indian languages being written meaningfully in the same script, most especially Tamil and North Indian languages; this phonemic problem also recurs in trying to write, in a single script, some of the Austro-Asiatic languages of India (e.g. Khaasi and Mundaa, which are actually akin to Khmer), or of the Sino-Tibetan group (e.g. Tibetan languages like Ladaakhi). NAVLIPI overcomes this problem easily, as will become apparent from this website. 


For illustrative purposes, we can cite just a very few examples of how NAVLIPI conveys phonemic information: It uses b to represent both the p- and b- sounds in Mandarin, since these two sounds have the same value in Mandarin, and can be freely interchanged without changing the meaning of a word, i.e. they are allophones of the same phoneme in Mandarin. E.g. in Mandarin, one can say bor pu at will, and still mean “no, not”, or Beijing or Peijing and still mean the same city. As another example, NAVLIPI uses the diglyph vw to represent both the v- and w- sounds in Hindi, since again these have the same value; e.g., in Hindi, one can say “van or wan at will and still mean “forest”. 


The NAVLIPI keyboard is available for free download from the Apple Store (iPhone) and Google Play Store (Android); and also for PC and MAC; see the links above and elsewhere on this website. For the mobile application, there is an ultra-short and very easy-to-understand Manual that displays when one clicks on the NAVLIPI icon. The user can then use NAVLIPI as an added keyboard on their mobile or laptop, just like any other language keyboard. 


(For readers unfamiliar with terms of phonetics and linguistics such as phonemic and phoneme, and with phonetic and phonological terminology in general, these are explained in Primers: Phonetics, Phonemics tab on this website.)