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Appendix i: Spelling and Orthography

In addition to my obsession with creating languages, i also have an even stronger obsession with alphabets, runes, scripts, abjads, abugidas, syllabaries, and all forms of written communication.  So of course, one of my first endeavors was to create an appropriate alphabet for the northeadish language.  It has evolved a great deal over time, but to date there are only a few characters that are impossible to display using unicode characters, so please make note of them where they occur.

After a few years working on northeadish, i began developing alternative alphabets as well, which gave rise to Easthedish.  There are also runes, an alternative “ascii” alphabet, an alternative cyrillic alphabet, and what i like to call the “reform” alphabet, which i envision as some sort of scandinavian efficiency alphabet that in my mind is somehow associated with lutheranism.  But for the most part, the only important alphabets are the Eastheadish and Standard Literary Northeadish alphabets.

The Standard Literary Alphabet has evolved a great deal over the years, but today there are forty-three letters, three of which (I, O, and Œ) are not used because of particular vowel shifts that rendered them obsolete (though their long equivalents are still used extensively).  Long vowels are marked with a macron, and alphabetically they count as separate letters from their short-vowel counterparts.  There are also five syllabic sonorants which are alphabetically differentiated from their non-syllabic liquids and nasals.  Finally, we round it off with three labiovelar letters with fairly complicated rules surrounding them.

The Alphabet

A a
[a, ə]
See rules below.
Ā ā

Æ æ
This is phonetically equivalent to e, but only for the i-umlaut of a.
Ǣ ǣ

B b

C c

Q q

D d

Ð ð

E e

Ē ē

F f
Originally this was a lowered f, almost like a digamma, but it has been simplified.
G g

Ʒ ᵹ [(ʊ)g(w)]
This should look more like an anglosaxon insular g, but an ezh will work in a pinch.
H h
[h, x]

Ƕ ƕ ɧ
Written as ɧ only when final.
I ı
The short vowel is no longer used.
Ī ī

İ i

L l

Λ ʌ
[ɫ̩, əl]
This should really look like a laguz-rune, almost like ɾ.
M m

M м
[m̩̩, əm]

N n

N ɴ
[n̩, ən]

Ŋ ŋ
Ӿ ӿ
[ŋ̩, əŋ]

O o
The short vowel is no longer used.
Ō ō

Œ œ
The short vowel is no longer used.
Œ̄ œ̄

P p

R r
[ɾ, r]

R ʀ
[ɾ̩, əɾ]

S s
[s, z]

T t
The lowercase version of this letter was originally τ, but that's a pain in the ass to write.
Þ þ

U u

Ū ū

Y ᵫ
This letter makes me sad.  It should be a ue ligature, which doesn't exist in an uppercase form in unicode.  But let’s work with what we have.
Ȳ ȳ [y:]
Unfortunately, the character doesn't have the correct spacing yet for a combining macron, either. ( ᵫ̄ )
V v

W w [w]
Originally this was rounded like ω, but it has been simplified.

A short note about terminology:  The word “syllabic” when used in the context of northeadish refers very specifically to the letters /ʌ/, /м/, /ɴ/, /x/, and /ʀ/. A better linguistic term might be “syllabic sonorant characters.”

In addition to the Standard Literary Alphabet above, there are several variant alphabets:
  • The Standard Reform Alphabet is an effort to bring the language into closer compliance with more common unicode characters without losing some of the richness of the orthographic structure of the language. The Reform Alphabet was created as a compromise between the Standard Literary Alphabet and the various ascii variations.
  • The Eastheadish Alphabet is unrelated to the Standard Literary Alphabet, and has a different alphabetic order similar to cyrillic or gothic.
  • For a while i worked on a cyrillic variation for northeadish (or, more specifically, eastheadish, thinking that the area where eastheadish would still be written would most likely have been soviet-occupied), but it just wasn't very well-suited for transcription.
  • Finally, there are several runic variations, derived from the germanic elder fuþark, which are not really used for writing, but remain persistent in the culture. (And by culture, i mean my living room.  Like i said, i’m not really one of those conlangers who creates histories and cultures for the speakers of his languages, but i like to think that northeadish speakers might use runes in daily life, perhaps in architecture or art.)


The letter a can act as both a short open vowel [a] and as a schwa [ə].
  1. /a/ is pronounced as [ə]:
    1. At the end of a word or part of a compound word, when it is unstressed.
      • vata [vat.ə] (water).
      • but þa [þa] (that, when).
    2. In some short words before letters that cannot act as syllabics (usually before /s/).
      • þas [þəs] (of the).
      • mīnas [mi:n.əs] (mine).
    3. In the prefixes ba-, ga-, ha-, and ta-.
      • bagaŋɴ [bə.gaŋ.n̩] (to undergo)
      • gaveðɴ [gə.vɛð.n̩] (to marry)
      • tagaðʀ [tə.gað.ɾ̩] (together)
    4. In inflexions, particularly in the subjunctive tenses of verbs, and in the suppletion of adjectives.
      • grœ̄tast (biggest)
      • iȳt bȳdatþ (you both wait)
    5. In other endings:
      1. -ag (adjective ending)
        • ewag [ɛw.əg] (eternal)
        • hnycag [xnʏk.əg] (stinky)
      2. -tag (decimal ending)
        • ahtag [ax.təg] (eighty)
        • neʒɴtacþ [nɛu.gʊn.təkθ] (ninetieth)
      3. -aðþ (abstract nominal ending)
        • brǣdaðþ (brǣtþ) [bre:dəθ, bre:tθ] (width, breadth)
      4. -at (neuter declension)
        • caldat [kald.ət] (cold)
        • skrutat [skɾʊt.ət] (short)
  2. In all other cases, /a/ is pronounced as [a].
      • man [man] (man)
      • scap [skap] (shape)
The letters /æ/ and /e/ are both pronounced as [ɛ]; however, /æ/ occurs only as a result of the i-umlaut of /a/.
      • hændɴ [hɛn.dn̩] (to catch, cf. hanðþ, from handjan)
      • henðɴ [hɛn.ðn̩] (to catch, cf. hanðþ, from indoeuropean ablaut form henþan)
Similarly, /ǣ/ and /ē/ are both pronounced as [e:] (or [ɛj] in some dialects), but /ǣ/ only occurs as the i-umlaut of /ā/ or as the product of the diphthong /ai/.

The characters /q/, /ʒ/, and /ƕ/ have several possible pronunciations depending on their placement. the letter /ʒ/ in particular is the characterization of the germanic w-verschärfung, which comes from combinations such as /gg/, /gw/, /ww/, and /gwj/. The rules for these three letter, though many, are the same:
  1. [k, g, x] Just the consonants are pronounced after a consonant at the end of a word, or between two consonants.
  2. [kʊ, gʊ, xʊ] The consonants and a following ʊ are pronounced after a consonant and before a syllabic.
  3. [kw, gw, xw] The consonants and a following glide are pronounced before a vowel when initial or following a consonant or syllabic. (/ʒ/ only occurs initially in borrowed words, such as ʒava [guava].)
  4. [ukʊ, ugʊ, uxʊ] After a vowel and before a syllabic. The value of the syllabic’s inherent [ə] changes to [ʊ].
  5. [ukw, ugw, uxw] Between two vowels.
  6. [uk, ug, ux] After a vowel, before a consonant or when word-final.
  7. When any of these letters occur before /v/, the value of /v/ changes to [w].
The pronunciation of /h/ is:
  1. [h] when initial except before a sonorant.
      • hūs [hu:s] (house)
      • hǣm [he:m] (home)
  2. [x] when initial before a sonorant (/hl/, /hn/, or /hr/).
      • hryg [xrʏg] (back)
      • hnuta [xnʊt.ə] (nut)
  3. [x] after a back vowel or /a/.
      • þrūh [θru:x] (through)
      • hlah [xlax] (laugh)
  4. [ç] after a front vowel.
      • tehn [tɛç.n̩] (ten)
      • līht [līçt] (easy)
The letter s is:
  1. Unvoiced [s] when initial, final, or adjacent to an unvoiced consonant.
      • seʒlas [sɛug.ləs] (sun’s)
      • bæst [bɛst] (best)
  2. Voiced [z] when between two vowels or after a vowel and before a syllabic.
      • lœ̄sɴ [lø:z.n̩] (to loosen)
      • rīsa [ri:zə] (i arise)