Re: Camion Code, new phonemic writing / Tamil

Date: Sat Aug 21 1999 - 17:57:32 EDT

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On the question of phonemic writing system, I too am interested in persuading
the Unicode Consortium to see the light in this. We are working on bringing
this facility to the encoding of Tamil. I would also be in favour of a common
international coding for this purpose. Tamil already has a highly phonetical
writing system, though not perfect for international use as yet. We've also
embarked on an alternative form of voice recognition system, thought to be
the perfect blue print.

I've done some priliminary work on this subject (as a hobby) and you could
view my initial thoughts (in graphics and in Tamil) at

and point to the page "Tamil Kutalolihaz". (Graphic immages can explain a lot
before attemting to read in Tamil.)

Sinnathurai Srivas

In a message dated 8/19/99 1:19:13 AM GMT Daylight Time,

<< 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 (

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