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On Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 9:55 AM, Michael Everson <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> On 25 Jul 2011, at 21:35, And Rosta wrote:
>
> > Forgive my evangelism, but I see the other features of Shwa, beyond
> simply being a scratchbuilt panlinguistic phonemic script, as adding to its
> allure:
> >  - it's featural (like Hangul)
>
> Why is that alluring?
>

I had to think about that.

The idea of a phoneme is an abstraction of phone : we posit that the Ps in *pot
spot top* are all manifestations of a single underlying thing, even though
they sound different, and then we can play with that thing, for instance
recognizing it in Greek ψ and German pf.  The analysis into phonemes is
reductionism, a form of simplification.

The letterforms of the basic Latin alphabet seem completely unmotivated.
 Maybe the B is supposed to look like a house, and the word for house
started with an unvoiced labial plosive in some long-dead Semitic language,
but that's a tenuous connection, and in fact B represents a fricative in
Cyrillic and Greek.  The symbols are arbitrary.

The features of Shwa letters are only a little less arbitrary - I decided
that left represented the front of the mouth, and that sharp letters
represent plosives - but once decided, the body of the table of letters
(formed with letter tops across the top and letter bottoms down the left
side) fills itself in.   A Shwa letter says much more about its sound than a
Latin letter.  It's reductionist, simplifying and IMHO alluring.

It may also make Shwa easier to learn, and help you when you run across a
letter that you don't recognize (for a sound you don't recognize, either).
 And it enabled the invention of a very small keyboard, about the same size
as the ones on our cell phones (so we don't have to tap a key four times to
get an S).  But the primary motivation is reductionist.

>
> >  - it only needs a 20-key keyboard
>
> Speech-to-text doesn't need a keyboard at all. Nor does a pencil.
>

Which did you use to type that sentence?

>
> >  - (Mr. Everson) the option of using different gaits may make it more
> familiar to people who aren't using an alphabet
>
> Which means two things. One, that a given gait just makes a pastiche of the
> script those people are already using (so why should they wish to use
> something else), and two, that it renders the script illegible to people
> except for the gait they are used to.
>

I had to look up "pastiche", but I'll use it again, thanks.

Yes, of course Shwa in alphabetic gait is an imitation of other alphabets,
partly because I'm simply a technician, not an original thinker, and partly
because a large class of users already knows how to decipher an alphabet.
 Likewise, people who are used to abjads, syllabaries, abugidas and
characters will, I hope, find those Shwa gaits familiar.

As far as legibility, I think the opposite is true.  We all agree that
people read whole words at a time, not decomposing them into letters.  A
challenge for Shwa was to develop a system for combining a small inventory
of features and letters so as to generate the maximum visual variety, so
that words don't all look alike.  I think the gaits help with that; after
all, the more information we can present readers with, the better, no?

For example, there are words in Chinese with two syllables wherein the
second syllable has no onset.  The character gait clearly shows that the
coda of the first syllable is not the onset of the second, while the *pinyin
* romanization, an alphabet,  needs to use an apostrophe.

And I hope that when the name of the city Shanghai appears in English text
in Shwa, it will be written in character gait.  That shows, visually, that
it is a name from the Sinosphere, and it will make the name familiar when
you go to China and see it written there.  It's the Shwa entry in the debate
in this thread on whether Cyrillic transliterates Western brand names : the
difference is that someone who reads English in Shwa will be able to sound
out the Chinese name the first time he sees it.

If everybody only read Shwa in their own gait, then I concede it reduces
inter-gait legibility.  But recognizing the letters in a foreign gait is not
that hard!

>
> >  - I hope it will turn out to be beautiful
>
> Which is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Though the gaits make it
> unbeautiful to me, since they prevent inter-gait legibility.
>
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/
>

 I'm hoping that it's in the hand of the typographer, not the eye of the
beholder.  In fact, I was kind of hoping that this famous font designer in
Ireland would take a crack at it...