Njaama Orthography

Although I'll be using the romanization for this webpage, Njaama does have its own orthography. This page will detail that orthography. You can also download the Njaama font I created, if you so choose, here (click here for a .zip file).


The Njaama Writing System

Njaama has an alphabetic writing system written as block letters as opposed to cursive (though the letters themselves are cursive-like). It's written from left to right, and, by and large, is phonemic.

Before we get to the alphabet, there's a small matter that needs to be cleared up. As I think I've said before, Njaama is a pitch-accent language, and makes phonemic use of tone. Orthographically, these tones are represented in a unique way. Since Njaama has no contour tones, and can have, at most, one tone change per word, there are four tone characters which represent the four tone patterns of Njaama: high, low, high-low, and low-high. Here's what they look like (in the order I just mentioned):

H  L  HL  LH

One of these four tone characters appears before each word in Njaama. In the case of either the low-high or high-low character, there's a tone shift, which is indicated orthographically by a raised dot directly before the syllable wherein the tone switches:

switch tone marker

Here are some examples utilizing the tone characters:

Letter

Phon.

Environment

Example

Romanization

H high all p'álú p'álú, "to search for"
L low all mula mula, "to release"
HL high-low all nélu nélu, "tongue"
LH low-high all ekér ekér, "to descend"

So that's how tone works in Njaama, orthographically (with one slight, barely mentionable exception). Next will be the alphabet. Each phoneme/letter will be listed in alphabetical order, set off by a divider. Some letters have variants depending on where they appear in the word. Variants to a phoneme/letter will appear within dividers. In either case, the first form listed is the alphabet form, or the "base" form. For each letter, there will be four columns. The first column will list the orthographic form of the letter. The second column will list the phoneme this letter represents (based on the romanization). The third column will be an example word in which the letter appears. The fourth column will be the word written in the romanization, as well as its meaning. All clear? ¡Vámanos!


The Alphabet

Letter

Phon.

Environment

Example

Romanization

a a all mbánte mbánte, "to be green"

aa aa all ááne ááne, "land"

i i all loli loli, "wheel"

ii ii all ííze ííze, "snake"

y y initial yaa yaa, "you"
y y onset clusters syélí syélí, "bright blue"
y y elsewhere néya ya, "alive"

u u all úmé ú, "to habitate"

uu uu all úúngá úúngá, "human being"

w w initial wáázé wáázé, "to talk to"
w w onset clusters hwáp'álú hwáp'álú, "to find"
w w elsewhere sáwmu wmu, "now"

mb mb all mbanáy mbanáy, "to strive for"

p p initial páálá páálá, "tower"
p p elsewhere yaapo yaapo, "you two"

‡ initial ‡azé azé, "cobra"
‡ elsewhere mop'á ooo, "dung beetle"

p' p' initial p'óngá p'óngá, "stone"
p' p' elsewhere mop'á mop'á, "to make"

m m all masú mazú, "flower"

n n all nendu nendu, "spear"

l l all lóóngé lóóngé, "tall"

e e all en en, "of, from"

ee ee all éélé éé, "all"

h h initial hézí hézí, "sun"
' ' elsewhere só'ézí 'ézí, "happy"

s s all sapo sapo, "they two"

ng ng all ngónu ngónu, "under"

k k all kásya kásya, "white"

¢ ¢ all ¢amá ¢amá, "giraffe"

k' k' all k'ómba k'ómba, "to hear"

nd nd all ndyááné ndyááné, "north"

t t all tozu tozu, "black"

! ! initial !ítu !ítu, "brick"
! ! elsewhere vú!óka !óka, "to rotate"

t' t' initial t'otu t'otu, "mud"
t' t' elsewhere ity'óózu ít'yóózu, "to set on fire"

o o all o o, "no"

oo oo all oole oole, "red"

Punctuation

There are three punctuation marks in Njaama. One is for a pause within a sentence (i.e., a comma); one is for a full stop (i.e., a period); and the other is to mark questions (i.e., a question mark). Here they are, in that order:

comma      period      question mark

A comma is used whenever there is a pause in speech, or sometimes to set off emphasized phrases. A period is used at the end of a sentence. A question mark is used in two ways. It can be placed sentence finally to indicate a question that has a WH word in it (e.g., "who", "what", "where", "when"...). To indicate a yes/no question, though, the question mark is reversed and comes sentence-initially, and then the sentence ends with a period, as usual.


Number System

Njaama has a base 10 number system, like English (Sathir doesn't), but the characters themselves are used in a slightly different way. If a character, rather than the word for the number (i.e., 4 vs. four) is used in a text, the shortened version of the character is used. If it appears by itself, its full form is used. Also, for numbers larger than one digit, only the last digit can bear the full form; all others always appear in their shortened form. Here are the numbers from 0 to 9: Full form on the left, shortened form on the right:

0 = zero5 = five
1 = one6 = six
2 = two7 = seven
3 = three8 = eight
4 = four9 = nine

Here's an example of a larger number. This is the number 18,967:

18,967

And that just about does it for the orthography. Hope you enjoyed it. Of all the orthographies I've ever created (and there are many, because I love orthography), this is probably my favorite (hence, why it was the first to go up). Now, you can move on to brighter and better things.

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This page was last modified on Tuesday, March 3, 2009.
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