Theodic script

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Theodic

Created byMiles B Huff
Regulated byThe Theodian government
(via the Jury of Linguistics)
Familya priori
TypeFeatural alphabet
Influenced byRoman alphabet, Runes, Hangul, Bimodular numerals; ergonomics
Language(s)Theodian

Writing directionBTB-?LtR V-BTB-LtR.png
Number of styles7
Number of characters25
Number of diacritics3

The Theodic script is a featural alphabet originally designed by Miles B Huff for use with the Theodian language. It is designed to be more ergonomic and intuitive than most existing scripts, while remaining easily extensible (unlike, say, Hangul). The basic form of the alphabet has 25 letters (16 consonants and 9 vowels), each yielded from one of 2 IPA-esque tables. There are 7 "styles" of the alphabet, each with a different intended purpose; and an extended version is being developed, intended to be able to support a wider array of languages than basic Theodic.

Like with the Latin alphabet, each language that uses the alphabet changes it to suit its particular uses. Each letter also has a prototypical name, and the base alphabet has a typical ordering. The first n consonants of the alphabet typically double as numerals.

Development of the alphabet began in 2014, and the basic form was completed in early 2016. The alphabet has seen periodic revisions since then.

This article was current as of 2020, May.
Note that, although Theodic is a vertical script, it has been written horizontally in this article so as to better-fit English typesetting constraints.

Letters

Note that the convention in Theodic is to have sounds from earlier in the vocal tract occur earlier in charts. This is per the following reasoning: Having close vowels be higher up in the chart makes more sense than having them lower in the chart, since the mouth literally rises to make them. Since having close vowels at the top causes the F1 axis to be inverted, it then makes sense to have back vowels come at the beginning of the chart, so that the F2 axis is inverted as well. Accordingly, the consonant-chart also places sounds made further back in the vocal tract earlier in the chart, and (generally) sounds that are more close, it places higher in the chart (although the vertical axis is, in Theodian tradition, more formally defined by sonority).

Consonants

     Th R '!.png Th R k!.png Th R t!.png Th R p!.png     
Th R '!.png Th R '.png Th R k.png Th R t.png Th R p.png plosive
Th R h!.png Th R h.png Th R c.png Th R s.png Th R f.png fricative
Th R x!.png Th R x.png Th R q.png Th R n.png Th R m.png nasal
Th R r!.png Th R r.png Th R j.png Th R l.png Th R w.png approximant
     laryngeal dorsal coronal labial     

The 16 consonants in basic Theodic are assembled by placing 4 basic symbols into a 4x4 place-manner chart, such that one axis has its symbols rotated 180°, and such that the symbols overlay each other. This generates a very regular and schematic set of consonants with which to work, and provides a language with 4 places and 4 manners with which to work (using the extended version if more be needed).

Design-notes

Like with the rest of basic Theodic, these consonants were designed specifically with Theodian in-mind.

Miles, who is thought to have a kind of dysgraphia, drew a number of graphemes innumerous times in quick succession to see what they reduced to, in order to find the stablest forms. He finally came up with a set of symbols, seven of which had central stems. Realizing how 6 of them were just rotations of each other, that they could be merged along their stems, and seeking to design a featural alphabet, he placed them into a 4x4 place-manner chart.

The place axis was decided to have the most fundamental phones, the laryngeals, represented by the most fundamental shapes, and so laryngeals were represented by a line, dorsals by a bar, coronals by a hook, and labials by a bowl (also representative of lip-rounding. This order also makes sounds that are easier to lip-read more complex. However, it also graphically pairs coronals with labial sounds, when it would perhaps be most appropriate to pair them with dorsal sounds (as both are actuated by the tongue).

The manner-axis was decided to have the more complex shapes represent the more sonorous manners, and so plosives were decided to be represented by a line (as they are acoustically characterized by silence, and articulatorily have no gaps between the passive and active articulators), fricatives by a bar (representing the airstream created between the articulators), nasals by a hook (representing the shape of the velum), and approximates by a bowl (representing lip-rounding). This ordering also makes it very clear which sounds can and cannot (typically) be voiceless, as voiced-only sounds have rounded graphical elements. This ordering is, however, not without its drawbacks, as it pairs nasality with coronals, when it would be more appropriate to pair it with dorsals (given that nasality is caused by a lowering of the velum); and it pairs frication with dorsals, when it would be more appropriate to pair it with coronals, as the only sibilant in Theodian is coronal — but it could be argued that the coronal-nasal association is indeed appropriate, given /n/'s cross-linguistic propensity to assimilate to place, and the lack of a reasonable association between hooks and fricatives.

As for the combining of these two symbols, manner was decided to be at the tops of the shafts, and place at the bottoms, as this would make manner most graphically salient for approximates, and place most graphically salient for plosives. For readability purposes, it was decided that letters should be variously positioned on the sentential centerline according to their dominant feature, this being determined by a trumping hierarchy: bowl over hook over bar over line, with the feature highest on the hierarchy being placed on the centerline. If the two features in the letter are identical, the whole letter is centered on the centerline.

Note that these events are presented out of order here, that there were many unmentioned intermediate stages, and that many of these changes happened simultaneously.

Vowels

     2+ 2- 1+ 1-     
2.0 Th R u.png Th R yy.png Th R ue.png Th R i.png close
1.5 Th R oo.png Th R y.png Th R oe.png Th R ee.png mid
1.0 Th R o.png Th R a.png Th R e.png open
     -Front +Front     

The 9 vowels in basic Theodic are assembled by rotating, flipping, and duplicating one basic shape (⟨c⟩) and placing them into a vowel-quadrilateral. This generates a regular and schematic set of vowels, with 3 heights and 2 backnesses, with which to work (using the extended version if more be needed).

Design-notes

Th R i.png⟩ was one of the stable graphemes Miles came up with while designing the consonants. It beared resemblance to ⟨Th C i.png⟩, and Miles had long liked the apparent symmetry between the ⟨Th C i.png⟩, ⟨Th C ee.png⟩, and ⟨Th C e.png⟩ runes, with each being the next with an extra line. As the consonants coalesced around a central stave, it became clear that these symbols' lack of that stave could fundamentally differentiate them from the consonants. ⟨Th C i.png⟩, ⟨Th C ee.png⟩, and ⟨Th C e.png⟩ were graphically rounded to ⟨Th R i.png⟩, ⟨Th R ee.png⟩, and ⟨Th R e.png⟩, and were then chosen to represent /i/, /e/, and /a/, respectively. The reasoning behind having this specific association, as opposed to the inverse, follows this thought-process: (1) /i/ has the highest-pitched F2 of all vowels, and /a/ the lowest of all front vowels; (2) higher frequencies by definition have shorter wavelengths; (3) which means that ⟨Th R i.png⟩ literally looks like the F2-wave of /i/ when compared to that of /a/; (4) as /e/ and /a/ have progressively lower F2's, they should get progressively less repetitive graphemes (hence, ⟨Th R ee.png⟩ and ⟨Th R e.png⟩). However, ⟨Th R i.png⟩ was not ⟨Th R i.png⟩, and it was necessary to decide which direction the letters were to face. Eventually, Miles settled on the modern ⟨Th R i.png⟩, ⟨Th R ee.png⟩, and ⟨Th R e.png⟩, as when reading them left-to-right, they open up; the flipped variants (⟨Th R i.png⟩, ⟨Th R ee.png⟩, and ⟨Th R e.png⟩) were used for front rounded vowels (which no longer exist phonemically in the language), as they round off when read left-to-right.

Th R o.png⟩ was adopted for /ə/, as its being a circle was thought by Miles to be a good representation of the laxest, most-central vowel; and it was also a good graphical middle-ground between the shapes of the front- and back-vowel graphemes. The symbol for /ɨ/ was, at some later date, decided to be ⟨Th R ue.png⟩ — simultaneously two ⟨Th R o.png⟩'s (/ə/) stacked atop each other and a combination of ⟨Th R i.png⟩ (/i/) and ⟨Th R i.png⟩ (/u/) — very appropriate, because both of these descriptions are essentially accurate descriptions of the sound /ɨ/.

At some point, the symbols for the front rounded vowels became the symbols for the back rounded vowels. These symbols were later changed to make Theodic less confusing when read boustrophedonically, where each new line of text is flipped along the y-axis; their new forms were ⟨Th R yy.png⟩, ⟨Th R y.png⟩, and ⟨Th R a.png⟩, respectively — the old rounded vowel symbols rotated 90° counterclockwise. These symbols still provided something of a rounded form for the eyes when being read, and were never ambiguous with the front vowels when reading boustrophedon text.

In early 2016, the phonemic values of the letters were, in Theodian, changed to what they are today, so as to present a more ergonomic inventory. This change, however, would have made /ə/Th R ue.png⟩, since /a/ was now the lowest central vowel; and this arrangement struck Miles as weird, given that /ə/ is used throughout the language as the default/unmarked vowel, yet ⟨Th R ue.png⟩ was arguably the most complex shape of all the vowel-graphemes. After consideration, and per their apparent roundness, the round letters (⟨Th R ue.png⟩ and ⟨Th R o.png⟩) were chosen to represent /u/ and /ɔ/, respectively; and a new intermediate symbol was introduced to represent /o/: ⟨Th R oe.png⟩ (one which had been considered, but avoided, earlier-on, due to its complexity). This had the added benefits, that ⟨Th R ue.png⟩, the symbol for /u/, was now very similar in design to that for /w/, ⟨Th R w.png⟩; and that, when the vowel-chart is flipped along its y-axis and placed immediately below the consonant-chart, such that /u/ is placed below /w/, then /i/ ends up below /j/. The symbols previously used to represent the back vowels, were then taken to represent the central vowels, since they were more graphically rounded than the front vowels, but less so than the back vowels. This had the interesting side-effect of generating a symbol (⟨Th R yy.png⟩) for a vowel ([ɨ]) which is no longer used in the language.

After the Theodic script was somewhat decoupled from the Theodian language, a change, which would improve the schematicity of the vowels and which had been pending for some time, was finally put into effect. The chart was changed to be divided between -Front and +Front rather than into back, central, and front. The unrounded vowels were left the same; but the rounded vowels were now defined as the graphemically rounded forms of their unrounded counterparts. This resulted in ⟨Th R ue.png⟩ and ⟨Th R oe.png⟩ now respectively representing /y/ and /ø/; as well as the addition of two new characters, ⟨Th R u.png⟩ and ⟨Th R oo.png⟩, respectively representing /u/ and /o/. ⟨Th R ue.png⟩ and ⟨Th R oe.png⟩, although generated by these rules, are not a part of basic Theodic; but, rather, a part of extended Theodic.

In March 2019, the central / back-unrounded set was flipped along the x-axis, (⟨Th R a.png⟩ → ⟨Th R a.png⟩, ⟨Th R y.png⟩ → ⟨Th R y.png⟩, and ⟨Th R yy.png⟩ → ⟨Th R yy.png⟩) in order to make Theodic cursive a little easier to read and write.

Styles

The Theodic script has several "styles". These are different ways of writing the script, and are divided into the following "class"es:

  • Class-1 styles are the primary forms of Theodic. They are all constructed per the same schema (place/manner squares) and are so graphically similar that knowledge of one class-1 style confers knowledge of the others.
  • Class-2 styles are constructed per the same square schema as class-1 styles, but are graphically dissimilar.
  • Class-3 styles are constructed per a different schema from class-1 and class-2 styles: binary trees.
  • Class-4 styles are any styles that do not fit in one of the other classes.

Currently, Theodic has three class-1 styles (Carving, Reading, Writing), two class-2 styles (Sketching, Feeling), two class-3 styles (Pinging, Tapping), and one class-4 style (Tapping).

The division of the Theodic script into different styles, with runic, block, and cursive styles being predominant, is not an innovation of Theodic, but in fact dates back to the Milic fuþark, which was the script used to write Þeûdspråxa, an earlier form of the Theodian language.

Class-1

The Carving Style derives the general aesthetic of its graphemes from Milic runes (and so entirely lacks horizontal strokes). It is used for carving and signatures; it is considered a special and ornamental way to write Theodic.

The Reading Style is optimized for reading long texts, and is the most-commonly encountered style on digital apparatuses. It's considered the reference form of Theodic.

The Writing Style is cursive, and is designed to be written by hand. Each syllable can be written without lifting the writing instrument, and the writer writes only in the direction preferred by ser handedness, with right-handed people typically writing BtTtB-LtR, and left-handed people writing typically BtTtB-RtL.

All three class-1 styles are used in calligraphy, but the Carving style is traditionally preferred for this purpose.

Consonants in class-1 styles
Carving Reading Writing
          Th C '!.png       Th C k!.png       Th C t!.png       Th C p!.png              Th R '!.png       Th R k!.png       Th R t!.png       Th R p!.png              Th W '!.png       Th W k!.png       Th W t!.png       Th W p!.png   
Th C '!.png Th C '.png Th C k.png Th C t.png Th C p.png Th R '!.png Th R '.png Th R k.png Th R t.png Th R p.png Th W '!.png Th W '.png Th W k.png Th W t.png Th W p.png
Th C h!.png Th C h.png Th C c.png Th C s.png Th C f.png Th R h!.png Th R h.png Th R c.png Th R s.png Th R f.png Th W h!.png Th W h.png Th W c.png Th W s.png Th W f.png
Th C x!.png Th C x.png Th C q.png Th C n.png Th C m.png Th R x!.png Th R x.png Th R q.png Th R n.png Th R m.png Th W x!.png Th W x.png Th W q.png Th W n.png Th W m.png
Th C r!.png Th C r.png Th C j.png Th C l.png Th C w.png Th R r!.png Th R r.png Th R j.png Th R l.png Th R w.png Th W r!.png Th W r.png Th W j.png Th W l.png Th W w.png
Vowels in class-1 styles
Carving Reading Writing
          2+      2-      1-             2+      2-      1-             2+      2-      1-  
2.0 Th C u.png Th C yy.png Th C i.png 2.0 Th R u.png Th R yy.png Th R i.png 2.0 Th W ue.png Th W yy.png Th W i.png
1.5 Th C oo.png Th C y.png Th C ee.png 1.5 Th R oo.png Th R y.png Th R ee.png 1.5 Th W oe.png Th W y.png Th W ee.png
1.0 Th C o.png Th C a.png Th C e.png 1.0 Th R o.png Th R a.png Th R e.png 1.0 Th W o.png Th W a.png Th W e.png

Class-2

Sketching Style

The Sketching Style is a shorthand and designed to be capable of transcribing speech in realtime. It is yet to be developed.

Feeling Style

The Feeling Style is a 6-dot Braille, and the first non-class-1 style. It is schematically very similar to the class-1 styles, with the main difference being that the Feeling Style does not have the same formal relationship between sonority and graphical complexity as the class-1 styles, in which more-sonorous consonants and less-sonorous vowels have higher graphical complexity. In the Feeling Style, what made the most sense was instead to use the simplest Braille patterns for the letters in the smaller (vowel) chart, and this sensibility was compounded by vowels being the most-common letters. With all vowels being graphically simple, sonorous consonants (such as semivowels) had to follow suit; and graphical complexity accordingly shifted towards labial stops.

The Feeling Style is not as a priori as many other elements of Theodian society, being that it is a Braille, rather than something truly novel. There may be better ways to design touch-read scripts; and if such a way is discovered, the current Feeling Style may be replaced.

fyɔ́ tya⟩ is ⟨⠟⠺⡄ ⠷⠺⠤⟩ in the Feeling style.

Consonants in class-2 styles
Sketching Feeling
                                                   ⠒       ⠚       ⠓       ⠛   
Vowels in class-2 styles
Sketching Feeling
                                           -       ±       +   
+
±
-

Class-3

Class-3 styles store their letters in a binary tree with a variable bit-length.

A variable bit-length was chosen over a fixed one, so as to reduce the number of bits necessary to unambiguously encode information (a maximum of 4 is needed with a variable length, whereas a maximum of 5 is needed with a fixed length).

Bits were chosen over trits (even though trits are the norm for the language, as well as more space-efficient), as they are significantly less subject to interference and much easier to make.

Of the main ways of organizing Theodic's orthographic inventory (alphabetical, frequency, graphical, phonological) into a binary tree, a mixture of graphical and phonological was deemed to be most-mnemonic.

For these styles, spaces and pauses come between letters, rather than between syllables or words.

Pinging Style

The Pinging Style is a Morse-style code, using dits (·) and dahs (–).

Scanning Style

The Scanning Style is a linear barcode. Intra-character bars are separated by thin white bars, and different characters are separated by thick white bars. ⟨fyɔ́ tya⟩ is ⟨ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ ǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ⟩ in the Scanning style. This style was revised in 2020 to make it more-schematic.

Class-3 styles, relative to the Reading style
Consonants Vocoids
P · P P
R ʼ R ə R
S ǀ S ǀ S
P · · · – P – · – – P
R t x R e o R
S ǀǀ ǀǀ S ǀǀ ǀǀ S
P · · · · · – · – · · – – P – · · – · – – – · – – – P
R k p h r R i ɛ ɔ u R
S ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ S ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ ǀǀǀ S
P · · · · · · · – · · – · · · – – · – · · · – · – · – – · · – – – P – · · · – · · – – · – · – · – – – – · · – – · – – – – · – – – – P
R c ŋ f m t s n l R j ɨ ə a ɔ ø ʉ w R
S ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ S ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ ǀǀǀǀ S

Class-4

Tapping Style

The Tapping Style is a tap-code/knock-code. Given the nature of tap-codes, a 5x5 chart was utilized for schematization. The letters were then placed into this chart in alphabetical order, for to make it easy for laypeople to remember. The first group of dots is equal to 5(n - 1), and the second to n; these two values are then added together to yield the alphabetical index of a letter. As the current alphabetical order of Theodic is yet tentative, the exact ordering in this chart is subject to change. A slight irony is that the Tapping style's numbers are effectively in base-five, which is essentially a simplification of base-ten; whereas the language's numbers are in base-twelve. The tap-code also has an extended form.

The Tapping style, relative to the Reading style
Tapping Reading
           1       2       3       4       5               1       2       3       4       5   
1 · · ·· ·  ··· ·   ···· ·    ····· ·     1 ʼ m c l i
2  · ·· ·· ·· ··· ··  ···· ··   ····· ··    2 x h w ə ɨ
3   · ···  ·· ··· ··· ··· ···· ···  ····· ···   3 p j t a u
4    · ····   ·· ····  ··· ···· ···· ···· ····· ····  4 r f n ɛ o
5     · ·····    ·· ·····   ··· ·····  ···· ····· ····· ····· 5 k ŋ s e ɔ

Conventions

Alphabetical order

The alphabet is ordered similarly to in Theodian, but with the addition of ⟨ɨ⟩:

ʼ x p r k m h j f q c w t n s l ə a ɛ e i ɨ u o ɔ

Names of letters

The common names of Theodic letters are designed to be unambiguous in high-noise radio-environments. Currently, the names of the letters are, where possible, much the same as the names used in the ICAO spelling alphabet, due to the robustness of this system; but there may eventually be a native system designed, such that it is relatively mnemonic, and such that they will be minimal overlap with existing systems, like the IACP, which will facilitate system-mixing.

Ligatures

In class-1 styles, certain graphemes can merge together to create ligatures, such as ⟨ Th T fj.png ⟩. These ligatures are typically only used in the Carving Style; the Reading and Writing styles use only the circle-circle consonantal ligatures. Ligatures in Theodic are always composed of two or more consonants, and are meant to graphically unify consonant clusters to make the script more visually appealing. Although most consonant clusters have their own ligature, some do not; and not all ligatures are formed in exactly the same ways. The ubiquity of ligatures in the Carving Style is due in part to the ease with which runic forms can combine with one-another; and has its origins in the bind runes of yore.

As shown above, if any two letters present circles to each other (eg, ⟨ Th C p r.png ⟩ / ⟨ Th T p r.png ⟩), then the circles actually merge together (eg, ⟨ Th C pr.png ⟩ / ⟨ Th T pr.png ⟩). If the two letters present stems to each other (eg, ⟨ Th C r p.png ⟩), then they merge along their stems (eg, ⟨ Th C rp.png ⟩). Arch letters, like ⟨ Th C x.png⟩, can also merge at the edge of their arches (eg, ⟨ Th C tx.png ⟩). Bar letters can likewise merge along their bars ⟨eg,  Th C kh.png ⟩. Many hypothetical ligatures represent clusters that can't happen when Theodian is spaced syllabically (the norm), like ⟨ Th C rp.png ⟩; and others are even phonotactically illegal in Theodian, like ⟨ Th C kh.png ⟩.

Writing-direction


Alignment
An example of boustrophedon text flushed end

Theodic has two typical ways of aligning text: flush end (vertical), and justified (vertical). Justified works much the same that it does in Latin, in that it stretches and shrinks the spaces between words and letters in each line, so that each line has an equal width. Flush end, however, is a novel alignment, and one created for the unique needs of a boustrophedon script. In flush end alignment, each line starts at the point where the line before it ended. It results in jagged edges on both sides of the passage, but even spacing, and easy eye-tracking. In Theodic, the difference between justified and flush end is slight, as the script breaks everything up into syllables, meaning that flush end will never be particularly jagged. As well, the last line in justified text is, in Theodic, flushed end.

Flush left (vertical) and flush right (vertical) are also used, but typically only in the writing and sketching styles. Here, right-handed people conventionally flush left, and left-handed people flush right.

As Theodic is boustrophedon, it is possible to start text from the top of a page, instead of the bottom (which is more common). This is useful in some lists.

Theodic does not hyphenate, as everything is already written syllabically. Words simply wrap wherever there is a space.

Punctuation

The following table details the punctuations used in the various styles of Theodic, providing an equivalency table (with Roman included) and a description.

Roman Theodic[1] Description
Class-1 Class-2 Class-3 Class-4
Reading[2] Writing Carving[2][3] Feeling Sketching Scanning Pinging Tapping
For spaces between letters
For spaces between syllables[4]
For spaces between words
·
·
 ⠂⠐  For literals
,
 :
⠸ 
For pauses[5]
.
For the ends of sentences
́
̇
Primary stress
̀
̗
̣
Secondary stress
̄
̀
̗
̇
̣
Prosodic stress

[1] Most of the "Theodic" symbols here are just Unicode approximations, and not the real codepoints.
[2] A special punctuation-mark is used when Theodic is written boustrophedon in Carving or Reading; it shows how the lines wrap, and is essentially an elongated parenthesis (in Reading) or an elongated angle-bracket (in Carving) that has its end-points centered on the lines it connects.
[3] The carving style only applies diacritics to the first orthographic vowel of a syllable.
[4] This makes the orthography be, in effect, not only featural and alphabetic, but syllabic — at least for most styles.
[5] Unlike in Latin, these pauses are not syntactical; they simply indicate that there is a pause in speech at that point.

Design-notes and history

Modern Theodic punctuation was first formalized in 2016, with multiple revisions since.

Primary stress was originally decided to be represented by an overline (macron), as in Theodian it only occurred in the first syllable of a lexeme, which was more-likely to have free space above than below. Secondary stress was, correspondingly, then represented by an underline; this was originally used to denote clitics in Theodian, since they were guaranteed empty space below them. Prosodic stress was then represented by both, as it is stronger than either. These diacritics could also be used for simple register tones. These over- and under-lines went over all letters in the syllable, stopping at any intersections; and were chosen over single-letter diacritics in most styles since they were more-noticeable, as well as more-legible at small font-sizes.

These long lines were later deemed too cumbersome relative to simpler diacritics, and they presented issues with typesetting. As such (by 2019, but possibly earlier), they were replaced by acute accents that went over/under only the nucleus of a syllable. An acute was chosen both above and below the letters, as it seemed easier to write with a pen than a grave, macron, vertical line, dot, or a number of other diacritics.

In May 2020, the Feeling Style received some updates, with its primary/secondary stress diacritics getting swapped, and with it finally getting quotes and commas.

See also