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2. Spelling and pronunciation

Pandunia is phonetic in two directions:

  1. When you read a word, you can always pronounce it.
  2. When you hear a word, you can almost always write it. (Foreign names can be an exception.)

Once you have learned the few rules and the way letters are pronounced, you can read Pandunia aloud and be understood.

Basic Latin Alphabet

Pandunia is written in the basic Latin alphabet – the same as English! It doesn't have any of the accented letters, which are different from language to language. So it can be typed, printed and used with computers and smart devices in most countries without any difficulty.

A B Ch D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S Sh T U V X Y Z

Note on phonetic notation

In this page, we use the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to show pronunciation in writing. We use square brackets and slashes to show that we're talking about a sound and not a letter.

Physical speech sounds are written between square brackets, for example [r] and [ɹ] indicate two different r-sounds, the trill and the glide. However, [r] and [ɹ] are not distinguished in Pandunia, but they are perceived as one sound. These mental sounds or phonemes can cover several physical sounds and are written between slashes. So, speakers of Pandunia perceive mentally always one sound, /r/, regardless of which physical sound, [r] or [ɹ], is actually heard. It is said that Pandunia has the phoneme /r/, which has alternative physical pronunciations [r] and [ɹ]. This can be annotated /r/ = [r] ~ [ɹ].

Sounds

Pandunia has its own sound system and its own spelling system that are mostly similar to those of the languages of continental Europe and Latin America.

The complete speech sound inventory of Pandunia is presented in the table below.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops b p t d ch j k g
Fricatives f s z sh h
Nasals m n ng
Lateral l
Trill r
Semivowels v y
--------------- ------- ------- ------- ------- -------
High vowels u i
Mid vowels o (ə) e
Low vowels a
Back Central Front

Vowels

Pandunia has five oral vowel sounds. They are represented by the letters a, e, i, o and u in the writing system.

The list below shows how each vowel is pronounced by using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as well as pronunciation advice in plain English.

  • a = [a]
    A is pronounced as in father.
  • e = [e]
    E is pronounced as in bet.
  • i = [i]
    I is pronounced as in machine.
  • o = [o]
    O is pronounced as in or.
  • u = [u]
    U is pronounced as in rule.

In addition, there is an optional mid central vowel sound [ə], which is also called the schwa. It is pronounced as the a in about /əbaut/ or the a in sofa /soufə/. It is the most basic vowel sound that can be created without much effort. It is called optional because it is never written and in many cases not even pronounced.

The purpose of the schwa is to make speaking Pandunia easier. It can be inserted after consonants that are difficult to pronounce without a vowel. Different people can insert schwas in different places depending on what is natural to them. (There are native languages that don't allow any consonant cluster and final consonants.) The schwa sound can be inserted between the consonants of a consonant cluster and after word-final consonants. For example the word skol can be pronounced /skol/ or /səkol/ (where the initial consonant cluster is broken apart by a schwa) or /səkolə/ (where the final consonant is followed by a schwa). All these pronunciations sound almost the same, because the schwa sound is always very short and unstressed. Schwas don't ever change what syllable of the word is stressed! Everybody is free to insert schwas or to omit them depending on what is most comfortable for them.

Semivowels

A semivowel is a sound that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions like a consonant as the syllable boundary. Pandunia has two semivowels y and v. They appear only in the beginning of a syllable and they are always followed by a full vowel.

  • v = [w] ~ [ʋ] ~ [v]
    V is pronounced as the w in wet, but some speakers may pronounce it more like the v in vet.
  • y = [j]
    Y is pronounced as the y in yes.

There are also several common vowel sequences – au, eu, ou, ai, ei, oi – which are pronounced as the consecutive vowels with or without a hiatus in between.

Consonants

Pandunia has 19 consonant sounds. They are represented in the writing system by 19 Latin letters and their combinations. Most of them are pronounced in roughly the same way as in English.

If alternative pronunciations are possible, they are joined with the tilde (~).

  • b = [b]
  • ch = [tʃ]
    Ch is pronounced always like ch in chat, never as in chateau or choir.
  • d = [d]
  • f = [f]
  • g = [g]
    G is always hard as in get, never soft as in gel.
  • h = [h] ~ [x]
    H can be rougher than in English.
  • j = [dʒ]
    J is pronounced always as in judge or as the soft g in gel.
  • k = [kʰ] ~ [k]
    K is preferably always pronounced with a puff of air as in kin.
  • l = [l]
    L is always "light" as lip in and never "dark" as in cold.
  • m = [m]
  • n = [n] ~ [ŋ]
    N is pronounced with the tip of the tongue except in combinations nk and ng, where it is velar [ŋ] like in banker and finger. In the end of a word, the g in ng can be silent. So the word pang can be pronounced [paŋ] as well as [paŋg].
  • p = [pʰ] ~ [p]
    P is pronounced with a puff of air as in pin.
  • r = [r] ~ [ɹ]
    R is preferably trilled as in Scottish and Indian English, or smooth as in American English. Never silent!
  • s = [s]
    S is always voiceless like s in sissy.
  • sh = [ʃ]
    Sh is pronounced as in shop.
  • t = [tʰ] ~ [t]
    T is pronounced with a puff of air as in tin.
  • x = [ks] ~ [s]
    X is pronounced as ks when it is between vowels. For example maxim is pronounced /maksim/. In other positions it may be pronounced as s, for example max /mas/, xenon /senon/.
  • z = [z] ~ [dz]

External letters and sounds

There are also additional letters and letter-combinations, which can be used only in external words, which do not belong to the ordinary vocabulary of Pandunia, like names of places and people. They are not used in any common Pandunia words.

  • c = [ts]
    Like ts in bits.
  • kh = [x]
    Voiceless velar fricative, like ch in Loch in Scottish.
  • gh = [ɣ]
    Voiced velar fricative
  • ph = [ɸ]
    Voiceless bilabial fricative
  • bh = [β] Voiced bilabial fricative
  • q = [q]
    Voiceless uvular stop.
  • qh = [χ] Voiceless uvular fricative.
  • rh = [ʀ] ~ [ʁ]
    Voiced uvular trill or fricative like rh in rhume in Parisian French.
  • th = [θ]
    Like th in thing.
  • dh = [ð]
    Like th in they.
  • zh = [ʒ]
    Like z in azure.
  • w = = [w] ~ [ʋ] ~ [v]
    W is pronounced the same as v.

The additional letters and digraphs are used locally. Their purpose is to help to transfer names in local languages to the international language, so that local people can recognize them. It's OK if you don't know how to pronounce any of these sounds. The letters c, q, and w can be pronounced the same as ch, k, and v, and all digraphs can be pronunced as if the h was not there. So, for example, zh can be pronounced simply as z in the simplified international accent.

For example, the capital of Greece is called "Αθήνα" /aθina/ in the local language, Greek. The Pandunia version of this name is "Athina". It can be pronounced either /aθina/ (as the Greek do) or /atina/ (in the simplified international accent).

More examples:
Khartum Khartoum (the capital of Sudan)
Rhone Rhône (a river in France and Switzerland)

Word Structure

Pandunia words are structurally rather simple. Syllables are structured (C)(L)V(S)(N) where

  • C is a consonant.
  • L is a liquid consonant (l or r).
  • V is a vowel.
  • S is a semivowel (i or u),
  • N is a nasal (m, n or ng), a liquid (l or r), or a voiceless fricative (f, s, sh or h).
  • The sounds between brackets are optional.

In the table below there are some syllables from the lightest to the heaviest. Each of them is also a word in Pandunia.

Syllable (C) (L) V (S) (N) Word meaning
a a 'at'
ai a i 'love'
an a n 'un-'
pa p a 'father'
pai p a i 'pie'
pan p a n 'all'
plan p l a n 'plan'

Adapting Loan Words

As a general rule, loan words are adapted to the phonetic spelling system of Pandunia. This rule is applied to both common words and proper names.

Common words

A common word refers to a thing as a member of a group, not as an individual. For example dog is a common word but Sam is not, it is a proper name.

Common words, which are in general use, must fit into the normal word structure, and they can include only the normal sounds of Pandunia.

Most Pandunia words are structurally simpler than the corresponding English words. Difficult consonant groups are avoided in the beginning, middle and end of words, so stadium is estade, act is ate, and saint is sante in Pandunia. Also final stop consonants are avoided, so for example soup is supe in Pandunia.

Proper names

Proper nouns and rarely used common nouns can be more complex than ordinary words. They can even include sounds that don't belong to the normal sound inventory of Pandunia.

For example, family name Smith may remain Smith in Pandunia, although it is structurally more complex than common Pandunia words, and it has the external th sound. However, foreign people probably will pronounce this name incorrectly. Therefore it is advisable to adapt also proper names to the phonetic system of Pandunia.

Large and small Letters

Pandunia has its own rules for using the large letters (i.e. upper-case letters) and the small letters (i.e. lower-case letters).

The only case when large letters are absolutely necessary is writing standard international acronyms, because using wrong letter-case could result into wrong meaning. For example, 1 mm (un milimitre) means 'one thousandth of a metre' and 1 Mm (un megamitre) means 'one million metres'. Otherwise all text in Pandunia can be written in small letters. In particular, the first letter of sentences is not capitalized!

There are three reasons why large letters and rules about their usage are not necessary.

  1. Writing represents speech and there are no "capital letters" in speech. Yet understanding spoken words is as easy as understanding written words in spite of this "shortcoming".
  2. Most of the scripts and alphabets of the world have only one letter type, i.e. they don't have separate large and small letters.
  3. It is simpler to use only small letters. No need for special rules for capitalization.

Proper names

Proper names may be capitalized according to the writers preference. Family names may be written completely in large letters. It is helpful because names are written in different way from language to language and they can include several given names and family names. However, all names may be written completely in small letters too.

Examples of written names:
(1) ludoviko lazaro zamenhof, edgar de val, mizuta sentaro
(2) Ludoviko Lazaro Zamenhof, Edgar de Val, Mizuta Sentaro
(3) Ludoviko Lazaro ZAMENHOF, Edgar de VAL, MIZUTA Sentaro

Acronyms

Initialisms, like ASEAN, EU, NAFTA and UN, are always written in large letters. Other acronyms may use a mixture of large and small letters, like for example GULag, which is an acronym of the Russian words "Glavnoye Upravleniye Lagerey".

Capital letters are also used in the standard international acronyms. For example: 10 Mb (des megabite), 100 GB (sento gigabaite), 2 mm (du milimitre), 1 kJ (un kilojul).

Syllabification

« - » Words may be divided into syllables with a hyphen. The hyphen is placed between spoken syllables. For example: bus, ka-fe, hu-mor, pos-te, hi-drar-gen-te.

Punctuation

« . » All kinds of sentences may end with a full stop.

« ? » Questions may end alternatively with a question mark.

« ! » Exclamation mark indicates loudness or emphasis.

« ... » Three dots (i.e. ellipsis) indicates incompleteness or uncertainty.

« : » Colon indicates the beginning of an explanation, quotation or list.

« , » Comma indicates a small pause or separation between clauses or listed items.

Tip! Because the first word of sentences is not capitalized, sentences can be set apart with more than one space. One may (1) insert two spaces after the punctuation mark, or (2) insert one space before and after the punctuation mark. This practice helps to separate sentences more clearly.

(1) sal!  tu hau, he?  mi vol go a kafekan.  tu vol lai kon mi, he?
(2) sal ! tu hau, he ? mi vol go a kafekan . tu vol lai kon mi, he ?

In informal texts, smileys, emoticons and emojis may be used like punctuation marks to end sentences but in addition they indicate the mood of the speaker. For example :) indicates happiness and :( indicates sadness.

mi visi tu :) – I see you.
tu no visi mi :( – You don't see me.