Camion Code, new phonemic writing system

From: JoAnne Marie (
Date: Wed Aug 18 1999 - 20:08:40 EDT

Hello all, I joined the list about a week ago and this is my first posting.
I have included below a 'broadly targeted' text explaining why I am
proposing a new (non-alphabetic!) form of writing (description on my web
site - in 'signature'). This system (the Camion Code) would extract Patrik
(and others) from the clutches of the 'castrated ram', and Eric, his (P.S.)
'least' for 'lest'. Any feedback (wild enthusiasm preferred ;-),
suggestions, or help! would be greatly appreciated - particularly with
regard to preparing binary coding suitable for submission to Unicode (? -
recent postings have left me a bit confused as to 'standards bodies'...).
I'll be happy to answer any questions or supply further elements on
request. Thank you. JoAnne ('An American in Paris')

              Why Invent a New Form of Writing?

English is a somewhat eclectic language and its spelling shows the traces
of its borrowings from various other languages and cultures over the last
1000 years or more. However, this has left its spelling something of a
'hodge-podge', with multiple spellings for a given sound, and several
pronunciations possible for a given spelling (e.g. to 'read', and to be
'read', or the infamous 'ough').

The Camion Code takes various phonetic principles and puts them into a
*simplified* 'schematic order'. For instance, 'nasal' isn't, strictly
speaking, a 'place of articulation' but a 'manner', and the 11 or so 'place
categories' of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) have been reduced
to 5 (for English). The intention is to provide a new 'phonemic' way of
writing 'one sign, one sound' - without the alphabet.

The 'marks' of this code are also simplified to represent *how* they are
pronounced: thin (voiceless), thick (voiced), short (plosive), long
(fricative) - and each (consonant) on the schematic line representing the
place - from front to back. Similarly, the vowels are 'schematically
placed' *between* the lines (front to back) with the more 'stretched'
sounds being thin, and the more rounded sounds represented as thicker
marks. (See for a more
complete description.)

One of the principle objectives for this new writing system is its
potential for speed, and very low 'coding cost' in particular for hand-held
communications devices (phones, PDAs...). It is faster because one doesn't
have to think how a sound is *spelled* in any particular word, there is
just one (miniaturized) 'keystroke' per sound - as fast as speech (but a
lot 'quieter'). The resulting 'code' is so logical that children will pick
it up very quickly, altho(!) its a bit of a 'leap' of imagination for those
who have already 'mastered' (with more or less difficulty) the latin
alphabet. Where necessary, this simple, logical code could then be
transcribed to 'traditional English orthography' via appropriate software.

In terms of its binary coding, once the text has been designated as
consisting of Camion Code 'characters', I envisage that the (furthest
right?) digit should be 0 for punctuation to follow, and 1 for a speech
sound. The second digit would be 0 for a vowel sound, and 1 for a
consonant. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th (2 * 2 * 2 = 8) would indicate the
positions (on the lines/between the lines). The 6th bit would denote
whether a consonant is voiceless (0) or voiced (1), or, if its a vowel,
whether its 'stretched' or 'rounded'. And the 7th bit would be 1 when a
'button' is pressed to indicate that this sound is to be 'linked' to
another sound following it (as in diphthongs and digraphs, for example).

In addition, the 'fricative' (sustained) sounds could, in effect, be
represented as 'double plosives', thus reducing the number of (1k) 'gif
files' needed to around 20 to 22! I foresee the 'longest' code being that
for the *sound* /h/ (linked fricative marks (double 'plosives') on 3
'non-spacing' lines). A second (in the case of non-linked sounds) octet
could be used for various 'supra-segmental' information (prosody,
stress...) but where this is not needed, the code could be compressed

The Camion Code is a simplified, logical, one sign - one sound, 'phonemic'
writing system, that 'eliminates' spelling (if you can pronounce it, you
can represent it), is fast, compact, and portable. It would also be a boon
to learners of English as a second language - or for the learning of other
languages (imagine Camion-coding what you *hear* in Chinese - indicate the
'tonality' *on* the lines above and below the vowel sound...).

It could also be adapted to speech synthesis applications (that guy who
gets a phone call in the theater - now he can just 'kwik-write' on his
Camion Coder and have it transformed to speech to his caller, or written to
a screen). I believe that a 'basic' writing device could be credit card or
playing card size, and the lines, 'hollows', and labels could be made
tactile - for writing in the dark or for the visually impaired. It could
also incorporate (rudimentary or not) sound files for each phoneme - either
as a 'confirmation' as one 'writes' or like the man with the phone, to give
audio output.

Any 'information' which the shape of letters may have once contained (such
as: 'A' = 'aleph' which refers to the outstretched horns of a bull...) has
been 'lost in the mists of time' and makes for fascinating study. But for
technical or ordinary communications in the 3rd millennium, I think the
time has come for something 'new'.

Copyright 1999 JoAnne Marie (

Camion Code description at:

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