Writing System

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The Qohenje writing system is a "reverse abjad" (like the logical opposite of the Arabic or Hebrew writing systems, for example), with the dominant symbols being those showing vowels (+ tones), and with consonants shown by diacritics written above or below the vowel (see below). The vocalic core is considered the “main” part of the syllable (or more precisely the "glyph", see below), which accounts for the range and complexity of the Qohenje vowel inventory: there are 90 vowel symbols in Qohenje!

 

The vowels

Pure vowels

  V i V î V ǐ   V e V ê V ě
  V a V â V ǎ   V y V ŷ V
  V u V û V ǔ   V o V ô V ǒ

Simple glottalised

  V i'i V î'i V ǐ'i
  V a'a V â'a V ǎ'a
  V u'u V û'u V ǔ'u

Fronting diphthongs

  vowel ei vowel êi vowel ěi
  vowel ai vowel âi vowel ǎi   vowel yi vowel ŷi vowel y̌i
  vowel ua vowel ûa vowel ǔa   vowel oa vowel ôa vowel ǒa

Centering diphthongs

                vowel ya vowel ŷa vowel y̌a

Backing diphthongs

  vowel ia vowel îa vowel ǐa   vowel ea vowel êa vowel ěa
  vowel au vowel âu vowel ǎu   vowel yu vowel ŷu vowel y̌u

Fronting glottalised

  vowel e'i vowel ê'i vowel ě'i
  vowel a'i vowel â'i vowel ǎ'i   vowel y'i vowel ŷ'i vowel y̌'i
  vowel u'a vowel û'a vowel ǔ'a   vowel o'a vowel ô'a vowel ǒ'a

Centering glottalised

                vowel y'a vowel ŷ'a vowel y̌'a

Backing glottalised

  vowel i'a vowel î'a vowel ǐ'a   vowel e'a vowel ê'a vowel ě'a
  vowel a'u vowel â'u vowel ǎ'u   vowel y'u vowel ŷ'u vowel y̌'u
                vowel o'u vowel ô'u vowel ǒ'u

 

The consonant marks

The consonantal marks in Qohenje do not correspond to the consonant sounds of English. They are representative of phonetic features — more fundamental than full consonants. The English consonants m and p for example are both pronounced between the lips. They are both bilabial sounds. It is features like bilabial that the Qohenje symbols correspond to. The basic symbols can be divided into two sets:

Place marks

These symbols show the place in the mouth where the articulation occurs. Each symbol has four basic forms: an isolated form, a combining form, a palatalized (= followed by a j sound) form and a labialized (= followed by a w sound) form, although these vary a little depending upon their position in a glyph (see below)

QOHENJE NAME ISOL COMBINING (QOH) PALATALIZED LABIALIZED
LIP lip p lip labial lip lab + j lip lab + w
TOOTH tooth1 tooth4 dental tooth4 dent + j tooth4 dent +w
TONGUE tongue1 t tongue4 alveolar tongue4 alv + j tongue4 alv +w
THROAT throat1 k throat4 velar throat4 vel + j throat4 vel +w

As the chart indicates, these symbols have a full consonantal value when they occur alone, but in their combining, palatalized or labialized forms, require an accompanying symbol to acquire a full reading, specifically, one of the following:

Manner marks

The manner marks give the kind of sound (as opposed to its location). The absence of a manner mark indicates voiceless stop, ("light" consonants in Qohenje) which corresponds to the isolated readings of the place marks (above)

    ISOL VALUE
hvy voiced r
sth nasal / liquid l
shp breathy fricative h
rgh affricate c

As indicated, these symbols may also occur alone (i.e. without a place mark), with the full consonant values indicated. Once again, depending upon their orientation (= position in the glyph, see below) these symbols have slightly different forms.

The following table gives the full range of combinatorial possibilities for these symbols as initial consonant marks (with the vowel e). Note that the standard pronunciation of these combinations is not always the sum of its parts (note particularly the "rough" series)

  LIP TOOTH TONGUE THROAT FLOATERS
(light)          
heavy          
smooth          
sharp            
rough            

These consonant marks appear in different positions and orientations around their vowel symbol according to the glyph type, and their position within it. Note that the isolated Place forms (see above) can only occur in glyph positions 1 and 3 (see below). Isolated readings in positions 2 or 4 use the Combining form alone.

The "glyph"

The "glyph" in Qohenje is an arrangement of consonant marks around a single vowel symbol. Glyphs are arranged in the following general pattern:

1 2
V
4 3

with the vowel (+tone) symbol occupying the center of the arrangement. The consonant marks occur in any of the four peripheral positions shown in the above diagram (1,2,3,4). Qohenje consonantal marks are written in different orientations, depending on the glyph type. The diagram shows the consonant patterns of Kun type glyphs, which are the simplest: the initial place mark (if there is one) occupies the upper left quadrant (1). If there is an initial manner mark, it will be on the upper right (2), etc.

Note that the absence of any initial marks at all indicates an initial glottal:

The absence of any final mark indicates an open syllable (vowel final).

Glyph types

There are eight different glyph types, depending upon the orientation of the consonant gestures, and the nature of the vowel. In the following chart, the abbreviations are P(lace), M(anner), V = simple vowel or diphthong, and V'X = broken vowel. The arrows indicate the direction of reading in each case. (All glyphs are read from top to bottom.) Beneath each pattern is the paradigm example, which is also the name of the pattern.

             
P M   P M   M P   M P   P M   P M   M P   M P
V   V   V   V   V'X   V'X   V'X   V'X
M P   P M   M P   P M   M P   P M   M P   P M
             
             

 

Kun glyphs

P M
V
M P
 

The arrangement of the consonant gestures in Kun glyphs is clockwise from the upper left (seq: 1-2-V-3-4). Kun glyphs may contain simple vowels or diphthongs. The coda consonant marks are written rotated with respect to the center of the vowel, and in the direction of reading, hence,

Despite the name, open or vowel-initial syllables are also considered examples of the Kun type.

       

 

Kunu glyphs

P M
V
P M
 

When two open syllables with the same vowel/diphthong occur in sequence, the Qohenje script allows them to be written in a single glyph, called a Kunu glyph. The Kunu glyph is read 1-2-V-4-3-V (the lower quadrant consonant symbols are written in the opposite direction with regard to the basic Kun type.)

The symbols are again rotated with respect to the center, and follow the direction of reading, e.g.

Note therefore the distinction between,

       

Kunu glyphs can contain a toned vowel in the first syllable. The tone is pronounced on the initial syllable, while the second will always be read as toneless:

   

 

‘Ukun glyphs

M P
V
M P
 

The ‘Ukun type is read with a short untoned "echo" (called a "preduplicate") of the main vowel first, followed by the rest of the syllable, i.e. v-2-1-V-3-4. The "preduplicate" is either a simple repetition of the main vowel, if the main vowel is itself short, or else the coda of a complex vowel (diphthong or broken vowel).

   

The ‘Ukun glyphs can be closed (as above) or open (no final consonant gestures)

   

 

‘Ukunu glyphs

M P
V
P M
 

The ‘Ukunu glyph has its consonant gestures in the opposite orientation to the basic Kun glyphs. It is read with "preduplication" (as for the ‘Ukun type) followed by two open syllables with the main vowel, the first with the upper quadrant consonants (read 2-1), and the second with the lower quadrant consonants (read 4-3), i.e. v-2-1-V-4-3-V.

   

If the main vowel is toned, the tone is pronounced on the second syllable (the middle syllable): v-2-1-V-4-3-V

   

 

 

Ko'un glyphs

P M
V'X
M P
 

The complex vowel equivalent of the Kun glyph, Ko'un glyphs contain broken vowels (V'X) but are read just like a Kun glyph, with the sequence 1-2-V'X-3-4

   

Like their simple vowel (Kun) counterparts, the Ko'un type is considered to include open and v-initial examples:

   

 

 

Konu glyphs

P M
V'X
P M
 

The Konu glyph is like the Kunu type, only with a broken vowel. All Konu glyphs are ambiguous between two possible readings: 1-2-V-4-3-X (where the broken vowel is standing for two simple vowels in sequential open syllables) or: 1-2-V'X-4-3-V'X (where the broken vowel is repeated in full in both of the open syllables)

   

The "konu" reading is more common, but only context will disambiguate particular cases in texts

 

 

‘Uko'un glyphs

M P
V'X
M P
 

The broken vowel equivalent of the ‘Ukun type, ‘Uko'un glyphs are read x-2-1-V'X-3-4

   

 

 

‘Okonu glyphs

M P
V'X
P M
 

The rare ‘Okonu glyph, like the more common Konu glyphs are ambiguous between two readings: v-2-1-V-4-3-X (where the broken vowel is standing for two simple vowels in sequential open syllables, the first of which is preduplicated) or: x-2-1-V'X-4-3-V'X (where the broken vowel is repeated in full in both of the open syllables, as well as being preduplicated):

   

Once again, only knowledge of the lexeme in question can determine which reading is appropriate in a given context.

 

 

 

Punctuation

Qohenje is written from left to right. All lexical breaks are signaled with a vertical bar called a cehjan, which stands immediately after the lexeme.

The example above shows a single cejhan separating the two lexemes and . A double cehjan marks a phrase or sentence boundary. Spaces after a single cehjan are used for various effects including parentheses, apposition, and the English “comma” function.

Cejhan are not written before ligatures that occupy the full height of the line (such as verbal auxiliaries)

 

Lexeme ligatures

In addition to the standard script described above, there are a large number of “ligatures” – combined symbols with conventional sound-sense associations. These ligatures are not part of the Pepfetyko'o but stand rather for specific lexical items, mostly syntactic markers and inflectional forms, e.g.

Present realis auxiliary
Animate agentive trajector
Proximal demonstrative :

Ligatures will be introduced in the relevant sections of the grammatical description.

The Qohenje "Alphabet"

Qohenje does not have a linear “alphabet” that can be recited (as in English, for instance). The 25 initial non-glide consonant phonemes of Qohenje are expressed in a grid that exemplifies each of them in combination with a particular vowel. Each column has a name which evokes objects at various depths in air or water, relating to the perceived “depth” of the vowel. Rows  have names evoking shapes or textures.

FLYING
SKIMMING
SURFACE
SWIMMING
DIVING
light

pe

ṗe

ty

ko

o

heavy

be

ḃe

dy

go

ro

smooth

me

ṁe

ny

ŋo

lo

sharp

ɸe

fe

sy

xo

co

rough

ẉe

ḥe

ĵy

qo

ho

The top row of this table gives the system its name - the peṗetyko‘o (sometimes spelt Pepfetekoo in English). Jihira-Tejlija children learn the ten "words" that correspond to the lines of the two axes of this table as follows:

light
( )
 
flying
( )
heavy
( )
 
skimming
( )
smooth
( )
 
surface
( )
sharp
( )
 
swimming
( )

rough
( )

 
diving
( )