How to solve for phonetic font


I just learned about the Takeluma project (I would recommend reading it, just to know more about it), which is a new way of writing English. I find the premise interesting, and the creator did a project on it. I am thinking of making a font (or typeface, depending on how it goes) that lets one type the Takeluma alphabet. However, the alphabet is a phonetic one, and keyboards do not type phonetically. If I were to create a font, I would need a way to differentiate between the a in bag and the a in bagel. I figured for things like a double e, I could make a ligature, but with stuff that the difference between bag and bagel, it seems a bit more complex.
Does anyone have a solution? (By the way, I have yet to ask Peter for permission/advice on how to do so, but I will do so very shortly, this is just a preliminary problem)


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,863
    Apart from the technical implementation issues you describe—which could be resolved for the time being by mapping the shapes to corresponding IPA characters in Unicode—, I see a couple of problems with the Takeluma project.

    One is theoretical: the maluma/takete shape mapping is an example of something that has also been tested with other non-words and round/sharp images. This indicates that humans generally associate some sounds with roundness and others with sharpness—there are some exceptions noted in other studies—, but that doesn’t tell us that there are ‘hidden meanings’ conveyed in speech sounds, only that there are a couple of broad and not at all hidden correspondences.

    The other is practical: the shapes of the Takeluma script are inadequately differentiated. Many of them are very similar in shape, and would need to be written very slowly and carefully to distinguish them consistently. Even then, they would remain easily confused. This is not a good basis for confident and competent reading.
  • I didn’t even think about the fact that all takete/maluma proves is that round and sharp images have associations with words, but maybe nothing else. That is a really good point, and a point I do not have a solution to. The second I think is less of a problem: while some are definetely very similar (s and z, for example), there are tons of examples of that in the Latin alphabet (b, d, p, q, E, F, etc). While I agree with you in sentiment, I think that the point isn’t to create a very good alphabet, but a thought-provoking one.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,863
    there are tons of examples of that in the Latin alphabet (b, d, p, q, E, F, etc
    Flipped or rotated letters per se are not necessarily a problem (the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics writing system treats rotation as semantically significant feature in itself). The bigger problem I see in the Takeluma set is that the base set of shapes to be flipped and rotated also lack very significant shape differences.

  • You can use something like respelling ( ) if you're only covering English. There are other mappings to phonetic transcription like X-SAMPA ( ) but you can also make your own and have font features translate them to the right glyphs.

    This reminds me of Alexander Melville Bell’s Visible Alphabet ( ), even if completely different, or some stenographic phonetic alphabets.

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