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How to: Phonology
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explanation of the phonology page
This public article was written by Admin Sheep, and last updated on 23 Jun 2018, 07:50.

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13. Pronouns
Menu 1. Intro 2. Phonology Inventory page basics 3. Adding Phonemes 4. Adding Polyphthongs 5. Phonology Inventory page pt 2 6. Phonology Inventory: List 7. Editing Phonology & Orthography - Lightbox 8. Editing Phonology (page) 9. Edit Orthography (list) 10. Glossary of terms
[top]Intro

The purpose of this article is to assist users who are new to CWS learn how to use the Phonology page, including the Add Phonemes, Edit Phonology and Edit Orthography pages. The interface may not seem intuitive to new users, but it isn't hard to get accustomed to and is an effective tool for displaying the sounds in your language.

As a general disclaimer, this article is set up to work with the standard "Human/humanoid" sound system and for spoken languages. With other systems or signed languages, your may have to do a bit of guesswork and experimentation.

If you're not familiar with the linguistic terms phonology, orthography, romanization, phoneme, grapheme, or allophone, check the glossary at the end of this article.

If you have any further questions please ask a on the CWS Help board. If you feel that this article was not clear enough, message @severy.

Important Note: Phonological Systems
This article assumes that your Phonological System/Species is set to the automatic "Human/Humanoid" setting. If your Edit Phonology page looks more like this, it's because you've selected a different PS/S. If you wish to change this, go to your Language Settings page.

[top]Phonology Inventory page basics

To reach the Phonology page, hover over the green (language) menu and navigate to Phonology and then to Inventory. You will then see a page something like this:


Here is a brief explanation of each button's purpose.
Those marked with a * have a section dedicated to them later in the article.

  1. Test Lang - this dropdown box shows you the name of your currently active language (as you can tell, for me, it's my testing language). If your currently active language has any sub-dialects associated with it, they will appear on this drop-down menu, and that's how you navigate to them in order to edit them.
  2. Replace - if you are using a language with registered dialects, you can use this button to replace the phonology of the dialect with that of its parent language, or vice-versa.
  3. Purge - use this button to completely remove everything on your Phonology page and start over from scratch. (I used it on Test Lang before I began this article!) It will ask you to confirm before you delete, but be warned - if you do delete it, there's no going back!
  4. ▼ Consonants - this button will display only the consonants in your language (after you've added some!)
  5. ▼ Vowels - this button will display only the vowels of your language.
  6. Both - this button will display both consonants and vowels, so you don't have to switch between them.
  7. List* - use this button to display a list form of your inventory.
  8. Refresh - exactly what it says; refresh the page if you've made changes that haven't shown up yet. (This will often happen after you delete a single phoneme.)
  9. Add Phonemes* - this will take you to the Add Phonemes page, which is definitely the first place you should go!
  10. Add Blend / Polyphthongs* - does your language have diphthong vowels (like /oi/) that are recognized as a phoneme? Or maybe affricates like /ks/ that aren't on the Add Phonemes consonant table? Use this tool to make this double (or triple) sounds.
  11. Edit Phonology* - after you have added sounds, you can go here to mass-edit certain aspects of the sounds, for instance you can add qualities like length, tone, or palatalization.
  12. Edit Orthography* - after you have added sounds, you can go here to mass-edit the orthography (romanization) of your sounds; this is also where you go to set custom majuscule (uppercase) letters.
  13. Edit Order - this page allows you to set the alphabetical order of graphemes in your language. You can use this to set a completely different order from the roman alphabet, but if you intend to just use the roman alphabetical order, you should visit it anyways to make sure everything's in place. Letters with accents are especially likely to be misplaced. The page is intuitive; you click-and-drag graphemes to the desired location.
  14. Edit Additional - here you can add extra information in text form about your language's phonology, phonotactics, and prosody that aren't easily explained with the basic Phonology interface.

    WARNING! CWS currently has a rogue Random Deletion bug that occasionally purges some settings. These Additional boxes are unfortunate victims. (As is the above Alphabetical Order section.) Make sure to save this information somewhere else as well!

  15. & 16 FYI... these blue boxes will disappear once you have added sounds to your language. 15 will display your phonemic inventory in an IPA table, and 16 will show the inventory in list form.


After phonemes are added, this page will look different - but we'll get back to that then. For now, click the Add Phoneme button to get the fun started.

[top]Adding Phonemes



This is the Add Phonemes page. Despite its name, it is really an add phones page, so you come here to add your allophones as well - and differentiate them later.

This page displays all sounds recognized by CWS in an IPA table. (This includes most, but not necessarily all, sounds recognized in the standard IPA.) The sounds highlighted in green are ones that I've already added (haphazardly) to my language, but you can add duplicate sounds if necessary. If your page looks different, either you have selected a non-standard Phonological System (the standard is Human/Humanoid - you can change this under Language Settings) or there is a glitch.

This first page shows only consonants; to add vowels to your language, click the ▼ vowels button. Note that if you want a sound with a secondary articulation, length, nasality, or other qualities - including ejectives - you'll have to add that quality later on (see Editing Phonemes).

In order to add a sound, simply click on it. The page will collect up to 20 sounds in the Phonemes to add: tab at the bottom, after which you must submit the current set. If you still need more sounds, then start a new set after that. You can add more than one instance of each sound! If you want to have both e.g. plain and palatalized versions of a sound, you can simply click it twice to have it double-added to your inventory.

Now you can click the < Phonology button near the top of the page to return to the main Phonology page. You can always come back and add more phones later if you need to.

[top]Adding Polyphthongs


The Add Polyphthongs page is pretty much identical to the Add Phonemes page except for the tab at the bottom. Again, sounds that you have already added as monophthongs will display in green. To add a polyphthong, simply click two (or more) sounds in a row, and then hit the "next" button on the bottom tab. (You can also just write in a comma.)

You can switch between the consonant and vowel tabs to add diphthongs like /aj/.

Individual sounds you add as blends will not highlight in green on the Add or Inventory pages.

[top]Phonology Inventory page pt 2

Back on the Phonology page, you'll now have simple IPA tables displaying your chosen phones, like this:


If you added polyphthongs, they will display in a row below the table. Consonant blends will display beneath the Consonant table and vowel polyphthongs below the Vowels table ; mixed forms will display as the sound they begin with (so /aj/ with vowels and /wa/ with consonants).

CWS now recognizes what sounds you have in your language (huzzah!) but it still doesn't know how you intend to use them. Most importantly, it doesn't know how you're going to spell them. You might use the IPA as your alphabet, or you might use an English-based system (with <ch> for /tʃ/ for example).

After you have assigned graphemes to your phones, they will appear in green on the Phoneme Inventory page, like this:



There are two ways to set further information (including orthographic) about this phone: you can either edit them individually, or use the mass-edit Edit Phonology or Edit Orthography pages.

[top]Phonology Inventory: List

If you hit the "List" button at the top of the page your phonetic inventory will appear at the bottom of the page in list form (as well as the table form above).


  • Select... dropdown box has two options: Edit phonological data, or edit orthographical data. As soon as you select one of these, you will be taken to the appropriate Edit page for that information (see Editing ... (page) sections below). Despite the information above it, there is currently no way to mass-delete phonemes other than the total Purge function described above.
  • Select... Checkbox column named by CWS's code for this particular phone. For instance, CBNL stands for Consonant, Bilabial, Nasal, voiceLess. Once you navigate with the Select dropdown, only those phones you have checked off here should display on your Edit page.
  • Sound column shows the IPA sound.
  • Graph column shows the grapheme you have assigned to that sound. -- indicates that there currently is no graph assigned! You'll note that in this instance two phones (/m̥/ and [ʐ]) have the same graph (<m>) assigned.
  • Sound name shows the official name for the IPA sound.
  • Quality indicates any qualities that have been assigned to the sound (see Editing sections below).
  • Other columns explained below in Editing sections.


[top]Editing Phonology & Orthography - Lightbox

To edit phones individually, simply click on the phone in question; a lightbox will then appear that looks like this:


  • Grapheme - type in the letter you want to represent this phone. If it's an allophone, write in the parent phoneme's graph. You can use the same graph for more than one phone, but it might make it harder for CWS to estimate your language's pronunciation.
  • Variant of - if this is just an alternate way of writing a sound that already has a main grapheme (e.g. Engish <qu> is really just an alternate form of <k>), you can enter that information here. There is a page that tracks how often certain letters show up in your dictionary, and by marking a letter as alternate, it will put instances of this letter towards the count for the main grapheme, instead of making a different tally.
  • Quality - this is a drop-down menu (it doesn't display well for me) which allows you to set qualities. Qualities include pretty much anything that is indicated in IPA with a diacritic of some sort, such as length, vowel tone, nasalisation, palatalisation, or aspiration. This is also where you assign the ejective status to otherwise base stops. You can add as many qualities to one phone as you like.
  • Allophone? - this dropdown is pretty simple: if this phone is its own phoneme, leave it as "no." If it is an allophone of another phoneme, select "yes." This will make it appear in [square brackets] on the Phoneme Inventory and Language Summary pages.
  • Allophone of... - if this phone is its own phoneme, leave this section blank. If it is an allophone, click the dropdown and scroll until you find the appropriate parent phoneme. This will add a note under the inventory IPA table on your Phoneme Inventory and Language Summary pages such as "allophone of /k/". If you set the Allophone? box to "no," this feature will not work.
  • Notes - here you can add additional notes about a particular phone. For instance, you might want to indicate that a phoneme only appears in borrowed words, or indicate the environment an allophone occurs in. Manually-added notes will always appear before the "allophone of" notes.
  • Non-distinct? - use this to indicate that a graph isn't part of your language's "official" orthography. This will stop it from displaying on your Language Summary page as well as the orange ABYZ widget on the left tab.
  • Loan words only? - this will grey letters out on the Language Summary page in order to indicate that they only appear in loans words, and are not native sounds.
  • Save information - make sure to click this button to save your changes, or all your work will be lost. Or, you can hit the Close button to leave without making changes. Or, you can simply click outside of the lightbox area.
  • Duplicate - you can use this button to make a duplicate of your phone. The new phone will have the same basic IPA symbol, but none of the other information (including grapheme, quality, allophone status). This is useful for adding e.g. a palatalized version of a simple consonant where you want both. Important! Once you've duplicated your phone, look at the bottom of the lightbox; there will be a Switch: /X/ button. You need to click that to edit your new phone (the basic duplication) ; the one that will be displaying automatically is the old phone.


[top]Editing Phonology (page)


The Edit Phonology page allows you to mass-edit the phonological data of your phones in a list format instead of individually via the lightbox.
  • Save changes button - make sure to hit this before you leave the page, or all your work will be undone!
  • Quality column includes a drop-down menu so you can select qualities like length, tone, and nasalization. You can add as many qualities to one phone as you like. At this time, there is no way to quickly mass-assign the same quality to multiple phones - you'll have to dig through the list for each relevant sound. Or, you can use the workaround of adding a Zero Vowel/Consonant (see Editing Orthrography, below) and assigning it a quality (such as palatalized) and a graph (such as <y> so that <ky> and <py> would be recognized as /kʲ/ and /pʲ/.
  • Allophone column can be set to YES or NO to indicate whether a sound is an allophone (YES) or a phoneme (NO). Selected sounds will be displayed in [square brackets] on your Language Summary page. You can see that [ʐ] at the bottom is set as an allophone.
  • (of) column dropdown allows you to set the parent phoneme of an allophone. This setting will only work if you have set the previous column to YES. Setting this will produce a note on the Language Summary page beneath the IPA tables such as "allophone of /k/."
  • Loan-words? column can be set to YES or NO to indicate that a sound is found only in loan words. This will gray out that sound on your Language Summary page.


[top]Edit Orthography (list)


On the Edit Orthography page you can mass-edit the orthographical information of your phones. This is also the only place where you can add Zero Sounds, Letter name, and Custom Majuscules.

  • Save changes - always make certain to click this button before leaving the page, or all your work will be lost!
  • +Zero Consonant / Vowel - these buttons allow you to add a zero/ null/ empty sound to which you can then assign a grapheme. This can be useful if your language uses historical spellings and has silent sounds (like the <h> in "honour"). After adding zero sounds, you can also go to the Edit Phonology page in order to give them qualities (see Editing Phonology above), which allows you to write diacritics separately from a base form.
  • Phoneme → Grapheme is a handy tool; with one click of a button, you assign the IPA phoneme as the grapheme for every blank grapheme in your language. So, /k/ gets <k>, /p/ gets <p>, <ɱp̪> gets /ɱp̪/. This will not alter already-chosen graphs, and it is easy to go in and alter a few graphs as necessary. Remember that you still have to hit the Save button after using this tool.
  • on the table....
  • Grapheme - here you can enter the letter you wish to represent this sound in your language's romanization. You can use the same grapheme for multiple different phonemes but this my cause complications with CWS's pronunciation estimation.
  • Letter Name - if your letters have names (like English Ay, Bee, Cee, Dee, etc) you can set that here. This will display on your Language Summary page. You cannot set letter names for allophonic graphs or non-distinct forms.
  • N/D?* stands for Non-Distinct, indicating letters that aren't part of your language's "official" orthography. This will stop it from displaying on your Language Summary page as well as the orange ABYZ widget on the left tab.
  • Variant? - if this is just an alternate way of writing a sound that already has a main grapheme (e.g. Engish <qu> is really just an alternate form of <k>), you can enter that information here.
  • Cust. Maj. stands for Custom Majuscule. This allows you to set a majuscule (uppercase/ capital) letter that is different from the standard; for instance, if you want the capital of <g> to be <Z>, you would type Z in here. This can be especially useful if you are using non-alphanumeric characters that might not have a default majuscule form assigned to them, therefore causing display issues in your language.


[top]Glossary of terms

This section has a brief glossary of (some) of the linguistic terms used above.

  • Phonology is the linguistic field concerning sounds and the way they change and convey meaning in language.
  • Phones are linguistic sounds. Usually this refers to sounds made with the mouth, although it can also refer to hand shapes in sign languages, or other phenomena in languages for aliens etc. Phones are usually written in [square brackets].
  • Phonemes are meaningful sounds. For instance, in English we have /b/ and /p/ as two distinct phonemes, so we can have words like "bit" and "pit," "buck" and "puck," "buff" and "puff," etc, where the difference between /b/ and /p/ makes a difference of meaning. However, there are some languages that have only /b/ or only /p/, and so pit/bit would sound the same to them, and be considered the same word (sound-wise). Phonemes are written between /slashes/.
  • Allophones are meaningless linguistic sounds. In languages that don't recognize a difference between [b] and [p], and have a basic phoneme of /p/, there may a be a rule where /p/ becomes [b] between vowels. Since it's in a predictable environment, it can't make two words different, so the sound difference isn't meaningful. Allophones can be considered "variations" of phonemes, and are written in [square brackets].
  • Orthography refers to the way languages are written.
  • Romanization is an alternate orthographical system used by many natlangs as well as conlangs, where the language is written out using the Latin alphabet (possibly with some diacritics (accents etc) added). This may not be the main, native, or official writing system; for instance, you can write Chinese with the Latin alphabet, but you're expected to write it in Chinese characters. When setting up your orthography on CWS, you will probably want to use a romanization, although you could also use another script with well-supported characters like Russian, Greek, or Arabic.
  • Graphemes or characters are letters, hieroglyphs, logographs, or other singular units of written language. Like their sound counterpart (phonemes), there is also a "meaningless" form (allographs), and the basic form may be referred to as just "graphs." So, graphemes are written letters/ glyphs/ graphs that have distinct meaning, while allographs are non-distinct; so <qu> may be considered an allograph of <k>. Graphs of all types are written in <triangle brackets>. On CWS forums, you may have to use the tags to display this properly.


Comments (8)
[link] [quote] 26-May-18 16:16
Conlanger
CWS Conlanger
 Fulgur 
@Echethesi thanks
[link] [quote] 26-May-18 00:32
Pro Parshita
The best linguistic fustercluck on Sahar
 Echethesi 
@Fulgur I think enabling the alternate word field in your dictionary might permit that, but I'm not certain as I've never actually tried it.
[link] [quote] 25-May-18 23:37
Conlanger
CWS Conlanger
 Fulgur 
@Echethesi why? Do you have a suggestion?
[link] [quote] 25-May-18 16:34
Conlanger
CWS Conlanger
 Fulgur 
@Echethesi, yeah, basically.
[link] [quote] 25-May-18 15:12
Pro Parshita
The best linguistic fustercluck on Sahar
 Echethesi 
@Fulgur Are you asking if it's possible to implement two different orthographies for a single language on cws?
[link] [quote] 25-May-18 14:45
Conlanger
CWS Conlanger
 Fulgur 
What if you'd like to have a Romanization for certain purposes, but want to use characters, although supported and *typable* as a proper writing system (orthography) is there a way to organize both? I'm just confused as to how ...
[link] [quote] 18-Apr-17 12:53
҉void heart
Ø
 alexis 
what? theyre different phonemes the moment you set it to palatalized. /p pʲ/ are different phonemes.
[link] [quote] 18-Apr-17 11:44
Conlanger
CWS Conlanger
 ConlangChris 
what if you want to distinguish a normal consonant and a palatalised consonant and not have only one phoneme to represent both?
Edit history
on 23/06/18 07:42+116severyclarified a thing
on 12/03/17 02:58+195severyand added another mention of it
on 12/03/17 02:45+402severyadded mention of Phonological Systems
on 07/12/16 22:14+20severymoved to appropriate folder
on 03/06/16 21:43-2severystuff
on 01/06/16 15:42+70severyfix
on 01/06/16 15:40+199severything
on 01/06/16 06:47+4severyreorg
on 01/06/16 06:46-33severyreorg
on 01/06/16 06:45+40severyfdgdfssfh
on 01/06/16 06:43-1severyrgdghf
on 01/06/16 06:42-27severythfdgd
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