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Alphabet

Primal uses a phonetic alphabet called "Primal script", which has 47 letters and one punctuation mark.  The alphabet (and this tutorial) requires the Primalfont font in order to show the letters properly.

Throughout the tutorial, an English pronunciation code is used to remind the reader how to say things.  The pronunciation code uses letter combinations to represent each sound, a dash [ - ] to represent a syllable break, and an apostrophe [ ' ] to join consonant slurs.  Examples appear later in this lesson.

In the chart below, the pronunciation code appears in bold in the line below each letter.  This is followed by a common English word illustrating correct pronunciation.  The ordering of the letters is my own contrivance; Primal has no set alphabetic order.

Vowels

,a ,e ,i ,o ,u ,c ,w ,r ,y ,g ,b ,B
a eh ih o uh uo ooh ur ee ohw oar oi
c(a)t p(e)t f(i)sh d(o)g p(u)p b(oo)k m(oo) f(ur) b(ee) d(oe) r(oar) (oi)nk
,C ,P ,F ,V ,S ,Z ,A ,E ,I ,O ,U ,G
auw air ay eer ar ii al el il all ul ohl
c(ow) b(ear) n(eigh) d(eer) (ar)f fl(y) h(owl) p(el)t qu(ill) st(all) g(ull) m(ole)
 

Consonants

,W ,R ,Y ,p ,f ,v ,t ,d ,q ,Q ,x ,X
w r y p f v ts dz th dth sh zh
(w)olf (r)abbit (y)ak (p)elican (f)rog do(ve) pi(ts) ki(ds) (th)orax sli(th)er (sh)eep fi(ss)ure
,j ,J ,s ,z ,k ,H ,h ,m ,n ,N L ,.
ch j s z k khh h m n ng l .
(ch)eetah (j)ackal (s)nake (z)oo (c)amel (h)ue (h)orse (m)ouse pla(n)t sti(ng) (ll)ama (period)

Pronunciation

Primal is spoken at a slow pace.  Stress is used to draw attention to important words.  Several Primal sounds may be formed or stressed differently from their English counterparts; this is discussed in the (advanced) Accent lesson.

The letter ,o (o) can be pronounced like the vowel in English "dog", "rock", or "spa".  The standard pronunciation is like the "o" sound in English "dog", with the tongue low and back in the mouth.

The letter ,u (uh) is pronounced like the "u" sound in English "pup".  However, if a syllable ends in ,u (uh) and does not end the sentence, the ,u (uh) sound changes, as described in the Slurring section of this lesson.

If one syllable ends with a sound similar to the beginning sound of the next syllable, pause briefly between them.  For example, in the word QUlon (dthul-lon), pronounce the syllables separately so that both (l) sounds are heard.  With some sounds this pause may be done as a quick catch in the throat, similar to the pause between the syllables of English "uh-oh".

Individual letters are pronounced by making their sound, with a short pause before and after the sound.  They are treated as nouns in speech.

Slurring

If a syllable ends in ,u (uh) and does not end the sentence, the ,u (uh) sound changes.  If the consonants to the left and right of ,u (uh) can slur together, the letter ,u (uh) becomes silent.  For example, the word formed by fu (fuh) + ,ly (lee) is fuly (f'lee), pronounced like English "flea".

If the consonants don't slur well, the letter ,u (uh) instead becomes a toneless, neutral sound like the "o" sound in English "lemon".  For example, the word  formed by Qu (dthuh) + kiD (kidz) is QukiD (dth'kidz), pronounced like a quickly-spoken English "the kids", where the "e" sound is nearly silent.

Multiple slurs in a row are possible, as in the phrase su kuRyj (s'k'reech), pronounced like English "screech".

Never slur between two sentences or in the middle of a syllable.  For example, the words suk Rw (suhk rooh) are always pronounced like English "suck roo", never like English "screw".  Since ,u (uh) appears in the middle of the syllable suk (suhk), this syllable is always pronounced like English "suck".

In some cases, slurring can cause ambiguity.  For example, notice the difference between these two similar-sounding phrases:

  • Far from a tree: Rij REm (rihch relm, "far-apart tree").
  • Close to each tree: Ri juREm (rih ch'relm "near-to each-of tree").

To prevent ambiguity, a speaker may occasionally choose to pause slightly between syllables, or pronounce the ,u (uh) normally, like English "pup".

Reading

Similar-sounding Primal script letters are often similar in shape.  Voiced and unvoiced versions of a consonant, such as q (th) and Q (dth), look very similar.  Some vowels are combinations of other vowel sounds, and the letters are often combinations too, such as ,e (eh) + ,r (ur) = ,P (air).  Carefully sound out the letters to find these patterns, and Primal script will be easier to learn.  Flash cards are also recommended.

The lower-left and lower-right portion of each letter is called the upswing line [ , ].  These lines join the letters of a word together.  The upswing line does not appear at the beginning of words, except for words starting with L (l).  The upswing line is also used whenever a letter appears by itself, such as ,T (ts).  More nuances of Primal script are discussed in the (advanced) Primalfont lesson.

The letter L (l) can be tricky to recognize, because it does not take up space.  Rather, it appears as a small dash on the upswing line between two letters.  For example, for the word YIlU (yil-lul), notice the small dash between the letters ,I (il) and ,U (ul).

Spaces appear between Primal words, and the period is used to end sentences, much like in English.  Word spacing and sentences are discussed in greater detail in the Grammar lesson.

Writing

Primal letters are written from left to right, starting with the upswing line and ending with the upswing line for the next letter. The pen is lifted if the line isn't connected, as with ,r (ur), or if the upswing line terminates, as with the upper portions of ,T (ts) and ,o (o).  The drawing then continues with the next line, starting in such a way that the pen will not need to be lifted again.  Here's an example, with ,o (o):

The pen is lifted only between steps 1 and 2. The pen is never lifted for curved lines that swing back around, like the upper curl on ,R (r) or the lower curl on ,T (ts).  Half of the Primal letters are drawn with no lift of the pen.  Most others are drawn with a single lift per letter.  The letters ,s (s) and ,z (z) require two lifts, unless they begin a word:

If ,s (s) or ,z (z) appears in the middle of a word or by itself, it is drawn as shown on the left.  But if ,s (s) or ,z (z) begins a word, it is drawn as shown on the right.

Be careful to make letters distinct from each other.  Commonly confused letters include: ,q (th) with ,H (khh), ,j (ch) with ,J (j), and ,k (k) with ,h (h).  The letter ,q (th) can be made clearer by exaggerating the sharp corner on the right-hand side, just before the lower curve is formed.  Always ensure the ending backward curve in letters like ,k (k) and ,W (w) is visible and clear.

Savant has created a Character Worksheet to assist people learning to write Primal's letters.

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