Conlangs of a Remembrancer

The Speech of Other Worlds

Falconiform Language – Preliminary Info, Alphabet and Phonemes

 [Note: Unfortunately, the title box will not take the word “!Ka<tá,” which is the name of the language, so I will call it the falconiform language in the titles of the pages, as opposed to the stork language (Towewa) and the grouse language (Gro’at).]

!Ka<tá Language: Basic Information

The !Ka<tá language is rendered in simplified Peders notation.  Ramonda Peders was the linguistic anthropologist who was involved in the first contact with the Krisí’i’aidá in the 28th century.  (Shiras-Peders University of Xenological Studies, with which Prf. Kaitrin Oliva is affiliated, was partially named in her honor.)

The transliteration is simplified because the language is so complex in its tones, pitches, warble lengths, etc. that the use of the more complete notation would be an obfuscation for normal investigation.  At the time of “The Termite Queen,” Asc. Oliva was working on a new music-based notation.  She probably should have had an ethnomusicologist working with her on this.

No human can speak !Ka<tá properly because humans lack the throat structure (syrinx) of a bird.  It is possible for humans to understand it, however.

The language documented in the following study is the dominant dialect spoken by Prf. A’a’ma.  Four or five language families exist, each with many dialects.


The language is written from right to left, as are mathematical equations.


Includes 37 consonants and 17 vowels.  The names of consonants are vocalized with a sliding rising inflection.  The names of vowels are vocalized on an even tone, with a beak-click preceding them.  The letters are depicted here in transliteration (I confess I have never drawn the complex alphabet).


!Ka<tá Phoneme
1. ∙u↑~ [cough]
2. gu↑~ g
3. ksit↑~ ks
4. ku↑~ k
5. khit↑~ kh
6. !u↑~ [click, actually a snap of the beak]
7. kwat↑~ kw
8. krit↑~ kr
9. hu↑~ h
10. wu↑~ w
11. hwat↑~ hw
12. tu↑~ t
13. tsit↑~ ts
14. su↑~ s
15. sfit↑~ sf
16. stat↑~ st
17. chu↑~ ch
18. ju↑~ j
19. yit↑~ y
20. zat↑~ z
21. fu↑~ f
22. frit↑~ fr
23. fsat↑~ fs
24. aft↑~ ft
25. arat↑~ r
26. urrá↑~ rr
27. vu↑~ v
28. vrit↑~ vr
29. bu↑~ b
30. pu↑~ p
31. psit↑~ ps
32. du↑~ d
33. ang↑~ ng
34. nu↑~ n
35. mu↑~ m
36. mrat↑~ mr
37. lit↑~ l


Vowel Transcription Pronunciation
1. !u as in goose
2. !oi as in soil (do not confuse with o’i where the vowels are pronounced   separately)
3. !a as in father
4. !au as in now
5. !aw as in awe
6. !ei as in face (do not confuse   with e’i where the vowels are pronounced separately)
7. !e as in bed
8. !i as in sea
9. !ai as in aisle (do not confuse with a’i where the vowels are pronounced   separately)
10. !o as in oh
11. !ió as in Tokyo
12. !^ a chirp, reminiscent of u in the Inj word tuck (IPA actually uses ^ for that sound)
13. !< the standard whistle
14. !<↘ low-pitched whistle
15. !<↗ high-pitched whistle
16. !<↑ upward sliding whistle
17. !<↓ downward sliding whistle

!Ka<tá employs coughs, clicks, chirps, whistles, trills, and warbles.

The cough [∙] (in !Ka<tá the noun is cha∙) and the click [!] (in !Ka<tá the noun is psi!k^kaw) are considered letters of the alphabet (consonants).  The cough is the first letter of the consonantal alphabet and as a letter is pronounced ∙u↑~. The click is the sixth letter of the consonantal alphabet and as a letter is pronounced !u↑~; it is actually vocalized as a snap of the beak.

The chirp [^] (in !Ka<tá the noun is chirr^’^’ás) and the whistle [<] (in !Ka<tá the noun is chirr<’<’ás) are also considered letters of the alphabet (vocalic).  The chirp is the 12th letter of the vocalic alphabet and as a letter is pronounced !^.  There are five varieties of the whistle, constituting nos. 13 through 17 of the vocalic alphabet; they differ according to pitch and slide.

Certain sounds (called in !Ka<tá ♪u’íchit filitú, or “half-letter”) are not formally part of the alphabet, but they do form an important part of the sound system.  These are the trill [♪] (in !Ka<tá the noun for “trill” is chirr♪♪ás) and the warble [♫] (in !Ka<tá the noun for “warble” is chirr♫♫ás).  They can be vocalized in many subtly distinct ways to make emotional or emphatic alterations of meaning and the written language has different diacritical marks to suggest some of these variations.  They are also used as indicators, to form inflections (plurals, possessives) and diminutives, and sometimes they are used as if they were a true vowel or a true consonant, as an integral part of the word (examples are khechi’írr♫i, to sing, or s^♫lo’a, a jasmine-like flower).

In my unfinished novel, “The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars,” the !Ka<tí informant Pikei says in her still imperfect Inge (English), “Fourteen ways are to write the half-letters, and more when you put those together.  It is some ways for the different uses, and other ways for the different pitches and the sequences.  Some we do not write always or write all the way [i.e., they abbreviate some] – makes too slow.  We just know that they are there.”

Obviously their language is a little bit like Hebrew, where the omitted vowels are clear to anybody who is native to the language.  This is one reason why I use the Simplified Transliteration; Peders’ full transliteration would be enormously complex (in fact, I myself have never worked out a full transliteration).


 Vowels (arranged here in Inj order)

Vowel Transcription Pronunciation
a as in father
ai as in aisle (do not confuse with a’i where the   vowels are  pronounced separately)
au as in now
aw as in awe
e as in bed
ei as in face (do not confuse with e’i where the vowels are pronounced separately)
i as in sea
as in Tokyo
o as in oh
oi as in soil (do not confuse with o’i where the vowels are pronounced separately)
u as in goose
^ a chirp, reminiscent of u in the Inj word tuck (IPA actually uses ʌ for that sound)
< the standard whistle
<↘ low-pitched whistle
<↗ high-pitched whistle
<↑ upward sliding whistle
<↓ downward sliding whistle

 Consonants (arranged in Inj order)

Sounds are as in normal Inj unless specified. Bracketed letters are the names of the characters in !Ka<tá.

Consonant   Transcription Pronunciation
b [bu↑~]
ch as in watch  [chu↑~]
d [du↑~]
f [fu↑~]
fr [frit↑~]
fs [fsat↑~]
ft Never initial [aft↑~]
g as in gag [gu↑~]
h [hu↑~]
hw as in white  [hwat↑~]
j as in jump [ju↑~]
k [ku↑~]
kh as in Bach  [khit↑~]
kr Never final [krit↑~]
ks as in axis or clicks  [ksit↑~]
kw [kwat↑~]
l [lit↑~]
m Never final, except in verb forms [mu↑~]
mr Never final [mrat↑~]
n [nu↑~]
ng as in song; either medial or   final; never initial; never followed by a consonant.  Supply  an apostrophe to show that the n and the g are not pronounced as separate entities.  Example: tung’an (leg)  [ang↑~]
p [pu↑~]
ps [psit↑~]
r A short trill [arat↑~]
rr a longer, gutteral trill, rolled 5 or 6 times [urrá↑~]
s [su↑~]
sf [sfit↑~]
st [stat↑~]
t [tu↑~]
ts [tsit↑~]
v [vu↑~]
vr [vrit↑~]
w [wu↑~] as in with
y [yit↑~] never as a vowel
z [zat↑~]
a coughing sound, a gutteral [∙u↑~]
! beak-click  [!u↑~]


Syllables are pretty much accented evenly unless an accent mark is specified, although some dialects favor the penultimate syllable when no accent is indicated.  A syllable containing an acute accent mark is stressed.  Some words contain two accent marks, because of the etymological history of the word; if it contains two elements that included accents in their originals, the accent marks are retained.  This slightly affects the pronunciation; both syllables are giving slightly intensified stress.

 Transcription Symbols

ˊ Stressed syllables are indicated by acute accent mark
An apostrophe defines a break between vowels, indicating that the combination is not adiphthong.  This symbol also can also be used for a schwa in transcribing and transliterating foreign languages into !Ka<tá.
< moderate-pitch whistle
<↘ low-pitched whistle
<↗ high-pitched whistle
^ chirp; it is also used in transliteration of foreign languages to symbolize the IPA sound ʌ [u as in luck]; the sound roughly approximates the chirp, which is a vowel.
! click, made by snapping the beak together
gutteral cough; symbol under “mathematical operators.”
trill; repetitive sequence consisting of two tones
warble; repetitive sequence consisting of three or more tones

The following are tonal indicators

Preceding vowel or syllable is temporally lengthened
Preceding syllable is high pitch.  See Vowel Table for special application to whistles.
Preceding syllable is low pitch.  See Vowel Table for special application to whistles.
↑~ pitch of preceding syllable slides from neutral to high. 
↓~ pitch of preceding syllable slides from neutral to low 


Period (end of sentence mark) ]  Placed at end of sentence
Exclamation mark ⇞  Placed at beginning of sentence.  Sentence ending is still marked with a bracket.
Question mark Placed at beginning of sentence.   Sentence ending is still marked with a bracket.I used a Wingding for this, which you can see in the print edition of Termite Queen, but it cannot be found in Unicode, so in this presentation, I’m going to substitute a bracketed question mark:  [?]
Separator of sentence elements, used somewhat like our comma, dash, semicolon, or ellipsisAlso used when forming   compound words | Generally used only for clarity as sentence separator, where it is separated from the preceding and following words by a space.  As a compound-word indicator, as in certain numbers and in words like za<its|ha∙ [firebrand], there are no spaces.


The script includes no capital letters, but proper names of people, entities (such as universities, committees, governing bodies, etc.), titles (such as Captain), peoples, languages, and geographical places (including planets, mountains, rivers, cities, oceans, etc.) are underscored when writing in the !Ka<tá alphabet.  Corresponding adjectives are also underscored.  When writing in transliteration, capitalize the first Roman character of the word.

In transliteration, capitalize the first Inj letter of a sentence to clarify the structure.  When writing in the !K♪a<tá alphabetic script, the first morpheme of a sentence is underscored.






Leave a Reply