Post-GenAm: An Emergent Orthography

The current global pandemic and resultant social deprivation has inspired a wide range of quarantine-induced fuckery. This project is one such example and should be understood as a mere expression of prodromal psychosis.

Post-GenAm (PGA) is an alternative writing system that I am currently developing for the General American English dialect. At present, the system expands the Classical Latin Alphabet to include multigraphs for English phonemes that were not previously represented. Diacritics have also been introduced to signal lexical stress (accent), a much-needed feature in the orthography of written English. Additional grammatical conventions have also been developed to address the plethora of issues that tend to arise within a project of this nature.

The creation of this system was largely inspired by my Spanish-speaking wife’s ongoing bewilderment with the pronunciation of written English. As such, PGA primarily attempts to improve upon the graphemic representation of GenAm’s phonological units, though it is my hope that this script will one day function as an official ESOL learning tool.

Critiques and suggestions for improvement are welcomed in the comments field. The following sections detail the orthographic features of the system thus far.

PHONETIC ALPHABET

ah
/a/
ae
/æ/
eu
/ɜ/
e
/ɛ/
uh
/ə/
ei
/e/
ih
/ɪ/
i
/i/
u
/u/
uw
/ʊ/
o
/o̞/
ua
/ʌ/
aw
/ɔ/
a
/ɑ/
ng
/ŋ/
n
/n/
m
/m/
g
/g/
k
/k/
d
/d/
t
/t/
b
/b/
p
/p/
j
/d͡ʒ/
c
/t͡ʃ/
h
/h/
xz
/ʒ/
x
/ʃ/
z
/z/
s
/s/
thz
/ð/
th
/θ/
v
/v/
f
/f/
w
/w/
y
/j/
r
/ɹ/
l
/l/
The pronunciation of each phoneme is indicated by the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) character displayed beneath it. To listen to the intended pronunciation of the phonemes, please refer to the audio charts in the “Pronunciation Guides” section.

ORTHOGRAPHY

  • An apostrophe (‘) is always placed before the stressed syllable of a word (Example: abandon = uh’baenduhn) except when the stressed syllable is the first syllable of the word, in which case it is not marked.
  • The standard possessive ending -‘s is rendered -‘z (e.g., father’s = fawthzuhr’z)
  • The standard possessive apostrophe at the end of a pluralized noun (-‘) is rendered the same (e.g., workers’ = weurkuhrz’)
  • Standard contractions are rendered in PGA as follows:
Full FormContractedPGAExample
will/shall-‘ll-‘lI’ll = Ai’l
have-‘ve‘vcould’ve = kuhld’v
are-‘re-‘rthey’re = thzei’r
does/is/has-‘s-z’who’s = hu’z
not-‘t-t’wasn’t = wuhzn’t
had/did/would-‘d-‘dwho’d = hu’d
I am-‘m-‘mI’m = Ai’m
let us-‘s-‘slet’s = let’s

EXAMPLE TEXT

The paragraph below, sampled from the UNC at Chapel Hill Writing Center, is rendered in PGA, IPA, and Standard American English. The IPA transcription from which the PGA text is subsequently transcribed is based on the open-source Carnegie Mellon University Pronouncing Dictionary:

Peruhgraefs ar thzuh bihldihng blaks uav peihpuhrz. Meni studuhnts dih’faihn peruhgraefs ihn teurmz uav lenth: uh peruhgraef ihz uh grup uav aet list fahihv sentuhnsuhz, uh peruhgraef ihz haef uh peij lawng, et’setuhruh. Ihn ri’aeluhti, thzo, thzuh yunuhti aend ko’hihruhns uav ahih’diuhz uh’muang sentuhnsuhz ihz wuat kanstuhtuts uh peruhgraef. Uh peruhgraef ihz dih’fahihnd aez “uh grup uav sentuhnsuhz awr uh sihnguhl sentuhns thaet fawrmz uh yunuht” (Lunsford aend Connors 116). Lenth aend uh’pihruns du nat duh’turmuhn wethzuhr uh sekxuhn ihn uh peipuhr ihz uh peruhgraef. Fawr ihnstuhns, ihn suam stahihlz uav rahihtihng, par’tihkyuhluhrli jeurnuh’lihstihk stahihlz, uh peruhgraef kaen bi juast wuan sentuhns lawng. Ualtuhmuhtli, uh peruhgraef ihz uh sentuhns awr grup uav sentuhnsuhz thzaet suh’pawrt wuan mein ahih’diuh. Ihn thzihs haendahuwt, wi wihl ruh’feur tu thzihs aez thzi “kuhn’trouwlihng ahih’diuh,” bih’kawz iht kuhn’trolz wuat haepuhnz ihn thzuh rest uav thzuh peruhgraef.

ˈpɛrəˌgræfs ɑr ðə ˈbɪldɪŋ blɑks ʌv ˈpeɪpərz. ˈmɛni ˈstudənts dɪˈfaɪn ˈpɛrəˌgræfs ɪn tɜrmz ʌv lɛŋkθ: ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf ɪz ə grup ʌv æt list faɪv ˈsɛntənsəz, ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf ɪz hæf ə peɪʤ lɔŋ, ˌɛtˈsɛtərə. ɪn ˌriˈæləˌti, ðoʊ, ðə ˈjunəti ænd koʊˈhɪrəns ʌv aɪˈdiəz əˈmʌŋ ˈsɛntənsəz ɪz wʌt ˈkɑnstəˌtuts ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf. ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf ɪz dɪˈfaɪnd æz “ə grup ʌv ˈsɛntənsəz ɔr ə ˈsɪŋgəl ˈsɛntəns ðæt fɔrmz ə ˈjunət” (ˈlʌnsfərd ænd ˈkɑnərz 116). lɛŋkθ ænd əˈpɪrəns du nɑt dəˈtɜrmən ˈwɛðər ə ˈsɛkʃən ɪn ə ˈpeɪpər ɪz ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf. fɔr ˈɪnstəns, ɪn sʌm staɪlz ʌv ˈraɪtɪŋ, ˌpɑrˈtɪkjələrli ˌʤɜrnəˈlɪstɪk staɪlz, ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf kæn bi ʤʌst wʌn ˈsɛntəns lɔŋ. ˈʌltəmətli, ə ˈpɛrəˌgræf ɪz ə ˈsɛntəns ɔr grup ʌv ˈsɛntənsəz ðæt səˈpɔrt wʌn meɪn aɪˈdiə. ɪn ðɪs ˈhænˌdaʊt, wi wɪl rəˈfɜr tu ðɪs æz ði “kənˈtroʊlɪŋ aɪˈdiə,” bɪˈkɔz ɪt kənˈtroʊlz wʌt ˈhæpənz ɪn ðə rɛst ʌv ðə ˈpɛrəˌgræf.

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. In this handout, we will refer to this as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.

PRONUNCIATION GUIDES

IPA Vowel Chart w/ Audio
IPA Pulmonic Consonant Chart w/ Audio
English to IPA


[Post Last Revised: 09.22.2021]


Featured image by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

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