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Dingirmeš Orthography and Romanization
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How to read and write Proto-Dingirmeš cuneiform.
This public article was written by Arcaeca, and last updated on 5 Mar 2018, 19:35.

[comments] Menu 1. Romanization / Transliteration Scheme 2. Standard Letters 3. Combining Consonants and Vowels 4. The Exclusively Backwards Letters 5. Why the Duplicate Letters? 6. The Full Box Rule 7. Word Characters 8. Punctuation 9. Exercises 10. Reference Tables

Sumerian cuneiform probably started as pictographs that were simplified and abstracted over a period of several millennia, as scribes discovered that it was quicker an easier to make a few wedge shapes with reeds that naturally grew nearby, rather than more meticulously drawing each picture in the clay. Also, a simple wedge shape would have shown up better in clay - I speak from experience!

But, I didn't want to go to the trouble of starting with pictographs and simplifying them over time; I wanted to jump right into the cuneiform. The result is that this system is not as naturalistic as true cuneiform - but it's also not nearly as messy. Cuneiform was ridiculously complicated stuff - see this video for an example.

In the meantime - how does one write in  Proto-Dingirmeš ?

[top]Romanization / Transliteration Scheme

Before we begin, it may be pertinent to show the transliteration scheme used for  Proto-Dingirmeš:

Aa/ɑ/, [ɑ̃] before a nasal
Bb, B₁b₁/pʷ/
Ḇḇ, B₂b₂ /pʰʷ/
Ee/ɛ/, [ɛ̃] before a nasal
Gg, G₁g₁/kʷ/
Ḡḡ, G₂g₂/kʰʷ/
Kk, K₁k₁/k/
Ḵḵ, K₂k₂/kʰ/
Pp, P₁p₁/p/
P̄p̄, P₂p₂/pʰ/

You'll note that many of these letters have two different transliterations - one with a diacritic, and another with a subscript number. They are completely interchangeable and I don't care which you use (I personally tend to use the diacritic scheme, since I think it looks cleaner), but please, whichever you pick, just be consistent and don't switch mid-text!

[top]Standard Letters

Let's start with the basic letters, in  Proto-Dingirmeš's alphabetical order (because this is the order that I put the letters in when I first came up with them, and it just kind of stuck :P). These are the consonants:

Ss s​ | Dd d​ | Nn n​ | Ll l​ | Pp p​ | P̄p̄ y​ | Tt t​ | Gg g​ | Mm m​ | Rr r​ | Šš š​ | Kk k​ | Ḵḵ x​ | Ŋŋ ŋ​ | Šš w​ | Ss z​ | Ḡḡ h​ | Kk q​ | Bb b​ | Ḇḇ j​ | Nn ò​

And the vowels:

Aa a​ | Ee e​ | Ii i​ | Uu u​

(This wasn't intentional when I made these symbols, but you'll notice that the front vowels have a double-pointed wedge whereas back vowels have a single-pointed wedge, and that open vowels consist of just one wedge whereas closed vowels consist of two wedges.)

[top]Combining Consonants and Vowels

This cuneiform system functions as a sort of alphasyllabary, in which syllables are formed by attaching the vowels to the consonants. The resulting syllabic character is pronounced in the order CV - so "t" + "a" would produce the syllable "ta" and not "at".

Usually the vowels take these shapes:
  • Aa: one single-pointed wedge through the middle
  • Ee: one double-pointed wedge above
  • Ii: one single-pointed wedge above
  • Uu: two single-pointed wedges through the middle

Such as we see in, for example, sa c​ | se ç​ | si ŝ​ | su ş​ or ta ţ​ | te ť​ | ti ŧ​ | tu ƫ​.

But for other letters, the vowels take their default shapes, as if they were standing alone:
  • Aa: one single-pointed wedge through the middle
  • Ee: one double-pointed wedge through the middle
  • Ii: two double-pointed wedge through the middle
  • Uu: two single-pointed wedges through the middle

Such as we see in, for example, ka ķ​ | ke ƙ​ | ki ǩ​ | ku ĸ​ or ša ś​ | še ƨ​ | ši ș​ | šu ȿ​.

[top]The Exclusively Backwards Letters

Remember how I said that the syllabic characters are pronounced as CV - "ta", not "at"? Well, there are a couple characters for which this is not the case. There are three letters which are exclusively pronounced in backwards order, as VC - "an", not "na".

Those three letters are Nn n​, Ŋŋ ŋ​, and Rr r​. The reason that these characters are "backwards" in their pronunciation is that they are forbidden by  Proto-Dingirmeš's phonotactic constraints to occur in the syllable onset; they can only ever occur in the syllable coda (except for /n/ - don't worry, we'll get to that!)

Therefore, we end up with an ń​ | en ņ​ | in ň​ | un ʼn​ | aŋ ƞ​ | eŋ nj​ | iŋ ǹ​ | uŋ ȵ​ | ar ŕ​ | er ŗ​ | ir ř​ | ur ȑ​.

These letters have first priority when transcribing English to  Proto-Dingirmeš.

[top]Why the Duplicate Letters?

The more observant reader might have noticed that a couple of the letters in § Standard Letters have two glyphs that they map to - namely, Nn, Ss, Šš and Kk.
This is because, for each of those letters, one glyph is used to form the CV syllable and the other is used to form the VC syllable:

LetterCV GlyphVC Glyph

So we have sa c​ vs. as ƶ​, še ƨ​ vs. ù​, ni õ​ vs. in ň​, ku ĸ​ vs. uk ƣ​, etc.

These letters cannot exclusively appear in either the syllable onset or coda, but often appear in both, which is why the two glyphs exist.

[top]The Full Box Rule

In the case of the letters Gg g​ and Mm m​, the vowels are placed inside the glyph, as if being placed in a box, as you can see:
ga ĝ​ | ge ǧ​ | gi ġ​ | gu ģ​
ma ñ​ | me ü​ | mi ũ​ | mu ŭ​

The Full Box Rule states, quite simply, the "box" of Gg and Mm must not be left empty.
Those letters must therefore take on some dummy vowel, in particular, whichever vowel was most recently pronounced.

So, you get combinations like iglu iġŀ​ and ampa añƥ​. See how those look like igilu and amapa, respectively? In fact, the vowels are only there for looks. They are sneaky that way!

[top]Word Characters

The last characters to learn are the "word characters" - glyphs that represent and entire word, rather than just a syllable. There are only a handful of these, but they're very important to know:

eḡĕ​you (2.M.SG)
Ekenė​The name of a river
iĭ​ and
ĩ​water (fresh)
-lamł​agentive suffix
šeŋſ​to be (copula, transitive)
šerå​to be (copula, intransitive)
uḵḵuů​water (salt)
p̄ap̄þ​to grow, to sprout
p̄adǫ​border, edge
bunâ​to put forward
ḇenã​to bring
iduì​all, everything
elekè​to rule


The last thing to cover is  Proto-Dingirmeš punctuation - or its lack thereof. There is no word separator, like spaces - only a sentence separator, the glyph .​, equivalent to our period/exclamation mark/question mark/whatever else.

The transliteration of  Proto-Dingirmeš uses many hyphens to separate morphemes, but neither these nor any equivalent appears in  Proto-Dingirmeš writing.

And that's it! Now you know everything you need to know to read and write in  Proto-Dingirmeš! Yaaaaaaaaaaayy


If you'd like to test yourself, try transliterating this romanization to Dingirmeš:

"The king of Šumut, Eken-Para and Iliku"
▼ Solution

Or try coming up with the romanization of this Dingirmeš phrase:
eļaĸaĸƨe​ ťqŀ​ ţ​ uņǩƫwƥa​
▼ Solution

[top]Reference Tables

.​s s​d d​n n​l l​p p​y​t t​g g​m m​r r​š š​k k​x​ŋ ŋ​š w​s z​h​k q​b b​j​n ò​
Aa a​sa c​da ď​an ń​la ĺ​pa ƥ​p̄a ý​ta ţ​ga ĝ​ma ñ​ar ŕ​ša ś​ka ķ​ḵa ć​ƞ​ŵ​as ƶ​ḡa ĥ​ak ɋ​ba ƀ​ḇa ĵ​na ó​
Ee e​se ç​de đ​en ņ​le ļ​pe ƿ​p̄e ÿ​te ť​ge ǧ​me ü​er ŗ​še ƨ​ke ƙ​ḵe ĉ​nj​ù​es ź​ḡe ħ​ek ȣ​be ƃ​ḇe ǰ​ne ô​
Ii i​si ŝ​di ƌ​in ň​li ľ​pi ȹ​p̄i ŷ​ti ŧ​gi ġ​mi ũ​ir ř​ši ș​ki ǩ​ḵi ċ​ǹ​ú​is ż​ḡi ȟ​ik ǥ​bi ƅ​ḇi ȷ​ni õ​
Uu u​su ş​du dž​un ʼn​lu ŀ​pu ȓ​p̄u ƴ​tu ƫ​gu ģ​mu ŭ​ur ȑ​šu ȿ​ku ĸ​ḵu č​ȵ​û​us ž​ḡu ƕ​uk ƣ​bu ȸ​ḇu ɉ​nu ö​

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