forum Advice needed for vowel transliteration
Started by @Riorlyne pets

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@Riorlyne pets

Hi lovely writers,

I am working on the main language for my world, and I've come to a glitch when choosing how to transliterate certain vowels in the Latin alphabet. Basically, my language has the sound ah /ɑ/ like in father and a /æ/ like in cat. The problem? English uses the letter A for both of those sounds.

Ideally, I'd like to use different ways to represent each sound in words within my story. I have a few options:

  1. Use the letter [a] for both of them. Pros: can be easily typed, letters are familiar to English-speaking readers. Cons: they're not distinct, some roots will be confused with others.
  2. Use the letter [a] for the father-A, and [æ] for the cat-A. Pros: matches their sounds in IPA quite nicely, and are distinct. Cons: harder to type [æ] on a keyboard than [a], may look unfamiliar to English readers, doesn't match my e è vowel pair.
  3. Use the letter [a] for cat-A, and [ah] for father-A. Pros: may result in the most correct pronunciation from readers, are distinct. Cons: I think ah is ugly, especially if followed by -th or -dh or -ch. Fahther's Day, anyone? Also, father-A is way more common in my language and if I go with this option every second word will be filled with ah. Example: Othahnahbahn.
  4. Use the letter [a] for father-A, and [à] for cat-A. Pros: distinct, easier to type, the diacritic could represent a shorter sound (and thus match my e è pair). Cons: harder to type than diacritic-less vowels, readers could assume [à] is stressed and get everything backwards.
  5. Use two As [aa] for father-A and one [a] for cat-A. Pros: distinct, easy to type. Cons: I don't like the look of it much, and again, as father-A is more common, if I use this my language will have double As everywhere. One word as a nightmarish example: Othaanaabaan.
  6. Use [a] for father-A and [ae] for cat-A. Pros: easy to type, distinct. Cons: [ae] will be easily confused with where I use [aë] (two vowel sounds), it would be the only diphthong in the transcription.

At the moment I'm using option 4.

I know I can't avoid at least some readers mispronouncing my language's words, and that's okay, but I'd like my system to be as clear and easy to follow as it can be.

Any help is appreciated!


I think option four would work out nicely, seeing as I don’t really see author’s accent words like that. As a follow up for option three, maybe you could put in a different letter that also makes the ah sounds? For example, aw and au, while not perfect, are pretty similar.