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



Remember that NAVLIPI is a phonemic orthography and universal orthography, a phonemic alphabet and universal script; it uses the Latin alphabet as used for English, but with the letters used more phonetically, in their original phonetic sense in Latin or as in modern Spanish, rather than the most-unphonetic English! Also note that NAVLIPI, attempting to be a universal alphabet, does use and distinguish between upper-case (capital) letters and lower case (small) letters, unlike most of the Indian alphabets, which do not


2.1 Long VOWELS:


  • Represented by reduplication: Thus, short i (as in English hit, Hindi ) becomes long ii (as in English heat, Hindi ). Similarly, short u (as in English good, Hindi ), becomes long uu (as in English boot, Hindi ), etc., etc. And similarly, short o, (as in Spanish no) becomes long oo (as in Spanish favor, Hindi ). [aa is an exception, see below.]


2.2 Some common VOWELS which are used a bit differently from how they are used in English or Spanish:


  • a as in English but, Hindi .
  • aa as in English fatherHindi .
  • as in English about, 2nd vowel in Hindi यन्त्र.  (This is an example of NAVLIPI re-purposing a letter redundant in the Latin alphabet; phoneticists call this the schwa.)
  • as in English bet; but long form ee  as in English fair, vowel in Hindi है
  • ε (Greek Epsilon, one of the letters borrowed from Greek) as in English gray, Hindi , Spanish que. 
  • Ω (Greek Omega, another of the letters borrowed from Greek), as in English ball, vowel in Hindi कौन
  • ɔ (inverted-c) as in English Jack, vowel in Hindi मै(This is a rare example of NAVLIPI transforming a Roman letter– here inverting it.)
  • as in French tu, German ȕber. (This is another example of NAVLIPI re-purposing a letter redundant in the Latin alphabet.)
  • o// as in French feuille; 
  • o/ as in German schön. 



2.3 Some common NON-VOWELS (consonants) which are used a bit differently from how they are used in Spanish or English:

In attempting to be a true world alphabet, a world orthography, NAVLIPI addresses non-vowels in very diverse languages, as the following illustrate:

  • English yes Hindi . (This is of course the original pronunciation of the later-Latin j, still used in German, Dutch, Polish, etc.)
  • ƪ (inverted-j) English Jack Hindi . (This is another example of NAVLIPI inverting a Roman letter.)
  • Spanish chica Hindi  . (This of course also represents current Italian usage.)
  • Aspiration (महाप्राण): Add ho to letter aspirated. So k (Hindi ) p (Hindi ), become kho () pho  ().   
  • Fricatization (hissing sound): 
    • Add h0 Thus, dental non-vowels (as in Spanish tu) and (as in Spanish dos) become, respectively, the corresponding dental fricatives th0 (as in English think) and dh0 (as in English then). 
    • Fricatives which have their own letters in NAVLIPI: 
      • x  for the velar unvoiced fricative (Scots loch, Hindi/Faarsi  ख्वा). 
      •  ƹ  for the voiced velar fricative, as in Hindi/Faarsi . . Arabic image   (babaƹa, “parrot”).  
      • sh0  English shoot, Hindi 
      • zh0 English pleasure
  • “Rolled” or “trilled” vs. semivowel r-sounds: The most common <emr-sounds in Spanish, Hindi, etc., and also some dialects in other languages (e.g. Quebecois French), are “rolled” or “trilled”, whereas those in English etc. are generally semivowel or even vowel (vocalic) sounds. To distinguish these from the semivowels, NAVLIPI simply uses the double letter, rr for the “rolled” or “trilled” sound and the single letter r, for the semivowel sound. [It uses an entirely different letter, ȓ, for the purely vowel (purely vocalic) r-sound (Dewanaagari ) which is found as a different, distinct phoneme in Indian and other languages; see below under the Indian Subcontinent discussion.]



2.4 Some common NON-VOWELS (consonants) specific to particular languages or language groups:

  • European languages, except Spanish, alveolar sounds:
    • Alveolar t- and d-sounds (tongue touching the alveolar ridge which is further back from the teeth), found e.g. in English, German, Russian and Italian, and distinguished from the Spanish and Old Latin true dental t- and d-sounds. For these alveolar sounds, NAVLIPI uses the transformed letters tt (or alternatively, just tt) and dt (or alternatively, just dt)
  • Languages of the Indian Subcontinent
    • Retroflex (मूर्धन्य) non-vowels () are written in NAVLIPI as t, tho, d, dho, ր . These are all transformed letters. 
    • For flaps (also called taps), add dot (.), exactly as in Dewanaagari. Thus . become t.  d.  ր. .
    • Vowel (“vocalic”) r-sound ():  written as ȓ This is distinguished from the standard, “rolled” or “trilled” r-sound, which is written in NAVLIPI as rr (see above). But this sound is also found in American English, e.g. in bird
    • Wisarga (विसर्ग) (which is actually the glottal stop), is written in NAVLIPI as a colon (:
    • Diphthongs , if actual diphthongs, written in NAVLIPI as aaε, aau respectively.  [But note that these are frequently pronounced as vowels ( cf. Hindi  मै,  है कौन) ]
    • Retroflex Tamil l-like sound (, written as zh in Latin transcription of Tamil), is written in NAVLIPI as  (or, alternatively, r) 
  • Arabic: 
    • Unvoiced uvular k-sound, written as in Latin transcription (e.g. as in Quraan, Qutb): written in NAVLIPI as k.. (i.e. with double dots, e.g. K..urraan, K..utb).  
    • Pharyngealized (“faucal”) dental t-, d- sounds, written in NAVLIPI as t.., d..  (i.e. with double dots).  
  • Mandarin:
    •  4 standard tones: Placed after syllable having tone. (NOTE: These are the leftmost four keys in the top row in the 3rd Navlipi keyboard for mobiles; see keyboards presented elsewhere in this PRIMER.): 
      • | (1st Mandarin tone, high and level.)
      • (2nd  Mandarin tone,  rising.)
      • ⌠ᴗ  (3rd  Mandarin tone, falling-rising.) 
      •  ┌   (4th   Mandarin tone, falling.)
    • hs-sound (in Latin transcription, as in Xie Xie, “thank you”, or Xinhua (the news agency): written in NAVLIPI as th0 , to reflect that it is the fricative (h0) of the retroflex dental (t). 
    • Some illustrative examples in Mandarin: 
      • “Thank you”:  Latin transcription xie4 xie4 ni3 (numbers denote tones). Chinese transcription 谢谢你 NAVLIPI transcription th0ie  th0ie┌  nii⌠ᴗ.
      • “Eat”: Latin transcription chi1 fan4 (numbers denote tones). Chinese transcription 吃饭.  NAVLIPI transcription ci faan
  • Select African languages: 
    • “Velarized” bilabials are written in NAVLIPI as kp, gb. E.g. Igbo. 
    • Initial nasals are written in NAVLIPI as n00, m00. E.g. names Ngoma, Mbeki written in NAVLIPI as N00gomaa, M00bƐki



2.5 General NAVLIPI usage applicable to ALL languages:


  • r-sounds, generally(as briefly noted above)
    • Standard, “rolled” or “trilled” r-sound, as articulated in most languages of the world, is written in NAVLIPI as rr (i.e. with double-letters). 
    • Semivowel r-sound as in American English, Irish and Mandarin, is written in NAVLIPI as (i.e. with single letter). 
    • Vowel (“vocalic”) r-sound, found in Indian and some Slavic languages, (Dewanaagari ), written in NAVLIPI as ȓ .
    • Extra-trilled r-sound: Spanish distinguishes phonemically between the regular, “rolled” or “trilled” r-sound as in pero, “but” and an extra-trilled r-sound, as in perro, “dog”. This is easy enough to transcribe in NAVLIPI as rr (standard rolled sound) vs. rrr (extra-trilled sound), while maintaining the distinctions with the semivowel r-sound (simply in NAVLIPI) and the vowel (“vocalic”) r-sound, written as ȓ in NAVLIPI. 
  • Nasalization of a vowel is indicated in NAVLIPI in several ways: 
    • using the tilde symbol (~), placed after the vowel. 
    • using nor m0, placed after the vowel. 
    • The tilde (~) is preferred, as it is very distinct and much easier to use. 
    • Examples: French on is rendered in NAVLIPI as Ω~ or Ωn0 or Ωm0Portuguese Saõ rendered in NAVLIPI as Saao~ or Saaon00 . Hindi हां rendered in NAVLIPI as haa~ or haan00.  
  • “Flap” or “tap”: A “flap” or “tap” is when the tongue or other articulating organ makes light or fleeting rather than solid contact. In NAVLIPI, rendered with a dot following the letter. As illustrated for Indian Subcontinent languages above, and similar to its use in the Dewanaagari alphabet. 
  • Uvularization and pharyngealization of a sound is indicated by taking the velar analogue and adding two dots after it, as shown for Arabic above (of Quraan, qutb, written in NAVLIPI as k..). 
  • Tone indicators for tonal languages are placed after the syllable carrying the tone, as illustrated for Mandarin above. 
  • Stress Accentswhere important in proper pronunciation of a word, e.g. in Spanish, are expressed in NAVLIPI with the apostrophe, placed after the accented. E.g. Spanish aquí  is rendered in NAVLIPI as aakii’
  • The Glottal Stop is rendered as a colon (:).  Thus English Cockney lo’ o’ money (“lot of money”) is rendered in NAVLIPI as LΩ:o  mani.
  • Ingressive clickse.g. as found in South African languages such as !Xo, are rendered with z (letter with strikethrough), placed after the sound being clicked. Thus, the sound used by horsemen or cattle drivers made with the side of the tongue (the “giddyap” sound) is rendered in NAVLIPI as lz (or Lz) and the English alveolar double click (“tsk tsk”) is rendered in NAVLIPI as ttz ttz (or just ttttz). 
  • In general in NAVLIPI, most markers or indicators, e.g. for aspiration (ho), fricatization (h0) and click (z), are placed after the phonetic or phonemic element they are acting on. NAVLIPI calls these post-positional operators, or post-ops



2.6 PHONEMES: Some examples of their representation in NAVLIPI:

As a phonemic script, a phonemic alphabet, NAVLIPI handles phonemes in very different languages in a simple way. Some examples from diverse languages:

  • Mandarin: 
    • For both the p- and b-sounds; written in NAVLIPI as b
    • For both alveolar and d-sounds written in NAVLIPI as d
    • Example: “Apple”, ping2 guo3 (numbers denote tones), 苹果, written in NAVLIPI as bi ⌡nog   guo⌠ᴗ (including NAVLIPI tone marks).
  • English: 
    • po for both (unaspirated) and ph (aspirated) sounds, which are part (“allophones”) of the same phoneme in English; i.e. they have the same value, and interchanging them does not change the meaning of a word. 
    • tto for both alveolar t and th-sounds, which are again part of the same phoneme in English.
  • Hindi/Urdu, several other North Indian languages:  
    • vw for both the and w sounds. As is well known, in these languages, these two sounds are part of the same phoneme and have the same value; they can be freely interchanged without changing the meaning of a word. E.g., one can say van and wan and still be understood to mean “forest”. To convey this information, and accommodate this, NAVLIPI uses the diglyph vw. 
    • ph8 for both and ph-sounds. Again, in these languages, these two sounds are freely interchanged without changing the meaning of a word; as an example, one can say phal (फल) or fal (.) and still be understood to mean “fruit”.   In NAVLIPI, this word would be rendered ph8al. 
  • Standard French, Hochdeutsch (standard German):  
    • xr for both the “throaty-r” (uvular sound) and the “rolled-r” (or “trilled”) sounds, which are part of the same phoneme in these languages.  Thus, French rouler would be rendered in NAVLIPI as xrouler.  
  • Tamil: 
    • Both dental and th sounds written in NAVLIPI as to . Again, this is because Tamil doesn’t differentiate between aspirated (महाप्राण) and unaspirated (अल्पप्राण) sounds which are part of the same phoneme in Tamil; Tamil speakers frequently freely interchange and confuse the two. 
  • Spanish: 
    • Spanish distinguishes phonemically between the regular, “rolled” or “trilled” r-sound as in pero, “but”, and an extra-trilled r-sound, as in perro, “dog”. This is easy enough to transcribe in NAVLIPI: As >rr (standard rolled sound) vs. rrr (extra trilled sound). This still maintains the distinctions with the semivowel r-sound (simply in NAVLIPI) and the vowel (“vocalic”) r-sound, written as ȓ in NAVLIPI (see above).