Friday, April 20, 2018

Consonants & Vowels: Taking Stock

I think it's time to take stock now. I've published quite a few articles on this topic over the last month or so, and it would probably be good to allow it all to ferment for a while. I'll mull over what I have and come back to it all afresh at some point in the future. Otherwise I'm going to end up getting a little lost :)

So I now have 12 consonants and 10 vowels. Not the 7 vowels that originally began this chain of thought in my original series a few years back.

These are the consonants I'm left with;


And these are the vowels;


Giving us an alphabet that looks somewhat like this;


However, if we ignore the removal of the "push" consonants - which would perhaps be more sensible at this point - then we would get this alphabet, with 16 consonants and 10 vowels. Back to a full 26 :)


The Vowel Sounds Compared

What follows are the seven sacred vowels (plus the two extra sounds we found in other variations of the seven), then the ten vowel sounds I'd identified. The bracketed numbers next to each show the correspondences between the two.

The Seven Sacred Vowels;

A - [a] as in father (1)
E - [e] as in pet (2)
H - [e/a] as in thread, day, say (3)
I - [i] as in meet, tree (4)
O - [o] as in got, cold, oh (7)
Y - [i] as in French une, you (8)
Ω - [o] as in law (6)
extras
"my" "eye" sound (5)
"uh" "cup" sound (9)

My Ten Vowels;

[a] as in angle "a" (1)
[a] as in angel "ay" (3)
[e] as in egg "e" (2)
[ee] as in speed "ee" (4)
[i] as in igloo "i" (-)
[i] as in my "eye" (5)
[o] as in oxen "o" (6)
[o] as in go "oh" (7)
[oo] as in zoom "oo" (8)
[u] as in snug "u" (9)

The one sound without a correspondence is the [i] sound, as in igloo.

Much as I would like to reduce the number of vowels down to a core seven for aesthetic taste I still think it would be much better to keep the ten. Each one sounds quite distinct and the language would suffer for the loss of any.

Going forward the question now is what symbols I use to represent each sound. The Greek letters [H] and [Y] are already in use as consonants so they're off the table. I'm tempted to use the omega symbol [Ω] to represent the "aw" sound. I'm also tempted to keep the double O [oo] and double E [ee] usage just for the sheer practicality - though it would undermine the technical purity somewhat. If I used these symbols it would leave me with just two vowels without symbols.

[Ω] as in for "o" or law "aw" (6)
[oo] as in zoom "oo" (8)
[ee] as in speed "ee" (4)
[a] as in angle "a" (1)
[e] as in egg "e" (2)
[o] as in go "oh" (7)
[u] as in snug "u" (9)
[i] as in igloo "i" (-)

Leaving just;

[-] as in angel "ay" (3)
[-] as in my "eye" (5)

There's also the problem of choosing symbols that are available on a standard keyboard - which [Ω] isn't of course. There's also the problem that the lower case [Ω] symbol is just like the symbol for the letter [W]. I could borrow symbols from another language. Or perhaps use some type of diacritic - the little accents and symbols that appear above a letter to signify a different pronunciation - à, ë, etc.

It would perhaps be cool to use an eye symbol of some sort for the "eye"/"my" sound. Maybe the "ay" as in angel could be a little [a] with a halo :)

I've just had a look and a line that goes over the top of a letter is called a macron - an [a] with a macron looks like this; ā. There's also a little symbol called an overring that can appear above a letter, though it doesn't look as much like a halo as I'd hoped - å. I'll go with it for the time being though.

Come to think of it the [i] symbol has a little dot above it already in its lowercase form, so maybe I would be better off keeping that symbol for the "eye" sound and then using another variation for the igloo [i]. I think I'll go for an [i] with two little dots above it - ï. Perhaps not ideal, but at least it gives us a way to distinguish the two for the time being. I think I'll use an [o] with two dots above it to symbolise the "aw" sound too - ö - instead of the omega symbol [Ω].

Finally, having looked at the various other symbols and accents used in other languages I quite like the idea of using symbols that join two letters together for the double [E] and double [O] sounds. These are called ligatures, the most common example probably being the conjoining of the vowels [A] and [E] - Æ (æ in lowercase). I managed to find two [O] symbols conjoined [ꝏ] but not the [E] symbols.

So I now have;

(1) [a] as in angle "a"
(2) - [e] as in egg "e"
(3) - [å] as in angel "ay"
(4) - [ee] as in speed "ee"
(5) - [i] as in my "eye"
(6) - [ö] as in oxen "o" or law "aw"
(7) - [o] as in go "oh"
(8) - [ꝏ] as in zoom "oo"
(9) - [u] as in snug "u"
(10) - [ï] as in igloo "i"




Monday, April 9, 2018

The Seven Sacred Vowels Continued..

When we last left off we were trying to catalogue the various vowel sounds. After looking at different online interpretations of the "seven sacred vowels" I put together the following table;


My next move will be to try to see how these sounds correspond to the vowel sounds I myself identified when I was looking into the problem. At the time I noted ten distinctive vowel sounds commonly used in the English language;


Before I do that though I'm going to make note of something else I came across when looking into this. One variant of the seven sacred vowels I found online included the [M] and [S] sounds in their seven. Now both [M] and [S] are consonants of course. However, unlike all the other consonants they can be sustained. Much like vowel sounds can be. The [M] can be sustained by humming. Hence the famous sustained "Om" sound sometimes used in meditation. When we hum we close our mouth and breathe through our nose. In fact, if you hold your nose it's impossible to hum. The sustained [S] produces a hissing sound like a snake. The similarity of the letter [S] to a snake is one of the first things we notice about the written language as children - "It's pronounced "Ssss", like a snake". It just makes sense on some fundamental level. It's almost hardwired into nature.

The [M] sound holds a similar onomatic truth to it. Though slightly less obviously. It's the starting letter of the word mouth. We also have the word mum or mam - with the double [m] sound. Often the first word we learn for obvious reasons. From this we get the word mammary. It's also interesting that [M] is the onomatopoeic sound of eating - "Mmm" ...and, of course, our first nourishment comes via mammaries from our mothers. Oh, and I nearly forgot the word milk as well.

Perhaps this is why Freemasons are so found of the number "33" - which is in effect just two M's on their side.


Also, returning to the [S] sound we also have many words that seem to be associated in similar ways. For example, the word snake itself. Words like slither, slide, sneaky, silent. In fact, when we want to silence someone we give them the shush sound - "Shhh! Be quiet". This is a combination of the [S] and [H] sounds. [H] is a breathy sound so it makes sense that it would be used to intone silence. [S] is more sinister and threatening. A hiss. So again, it makes sense that a combination of a hiss and a hush would implore someone to silence.

Maybe there's some relation to both seven and sacred that I've yet to fathom. Either way it seems that many of the sounds we use are in some ways rooted in the mechanics of nature, and are not just randomly selected to connote the various meanings assigned to them. With all this in mind I wonder if it would perhaps be useful to put [M] and [S] in a slightly separate category from the other consonants.

Incidentally, the variant of the seven sacred vowels I came across online which included the [M] and [S] sounds gave the entire run down as this;

EE - written I, pronounced as in "tree"
EH - written E, pronounced as in "red"
O - written O, pronounced as in "so"
AH - written A, pronounced as in "fall"
U - written U, pronounced as in "you"
M - as a hum
S - as in a hiss

It's clear there's quite a broad array of opinions on this topic, I think I'll continue to focus on the normal vowel sounds though, and leave [M] and [S] just as consonants for the time being. It's still very curious though, and worth bearing in mind as we go forward.

Actually, it would probably make sense to finish this blog post here and start the actual comparison between my vowel sounds and the seven sacred vowel sounds in another post. It might be quite a painstaking task come to think of it. Hopefully there won't be too many difficulties though :)