Spiraling Syllabics

"Spiraling Syllabics"

What is it? 

    "Spiraling Syllabics" is an experimental constructed writing system, or "conscript", designed by me, Nicholas Maddaloni, in the Fall of 2014. I had originally intended it to be a means of condensing written language, but, as I started to come up with what I felt were unique ideas, I eventually moved on to simply trying to make a writing system as unique and creative as I could. There's farther I could go, yes, but I feel this is a good first attempt at a truly alien method of conveying linguistic information through the written medium. Below, I attempt to teach you the reader all the ins and outs of the conscript well enough so that you too can write in it, if you so wish.

   Small Disclaimer: I am a young American from the 
northeastern region of the continental country (Long Island, NY).
This conscript is meant to be for transcribed English. I've designed it 
around my particular accent, regional dialect, and general manner
of speaking. Many sounds present in British English, for example, are not present
in my speech and therefore I have opted to omit them. I hold that
the principles of the conscript hold and that it could, in theory, be
adapted to any dialect of English or any human language, though
the later would be substantially more work. If you wish to adapt
Spiraling Syllabics for your needs, I ask that you contact me at
TheLocutificator@gmail.com so that I can assist you if you
 wish and then post it on this page for others
in your situation.
Thank you.


    Spiraling Syllabics relies on the writer's previous knowledge of a few phonetics ideas and principles. These include but are not necessarily limited to: a basic understanding of what consonants and vowels are, the anatomy of a syllable (onset, nucleus, and coda), an understanding of diphthongs, and while not completely necessary a basic familiarity with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is useful as I will be using it to refer to particular sounds without needing to rely on you pronouncing words the same as I do. If you feel you are set and these concepts are not totally unfamiliar to you, feel free to skip ahead to the "Constituent Parts" section and refer back to this section if you need to.

        Basic Phonetic Concepts:

    Consonants and Vowels: Most sounds found in human language are divided into two categories: consonants and vowels. 
    A consonant is simply a sound in which the mouth articulates in order to create turbulence as air is blown out of the mouth and/or nose. Such as the "t" sound, [t], in which the tongue touches the top of the mouth for a short period of time to allow the speaker to create a small puff of air. Consonants are defined by four factors: the articulator (in our [t] example it was the tongue), the place of articulation (in our [t] example it was the alveolar ridge which is that bumpy part of the top of your mouth directly behind the top teeth), whether or not it is voiced (which means whether or not you vibrate your vocal flaps. In our [t] example you do not.), and the manner of articulation (which is complicated subject, if you're interested, check out the link). Put all this together, and we can name our sound. The consonant that the IPA [t] refers to is call the, voiced linguo-alveolar plosive.
   A vowel is a sound in which the vocal folds are vibrated and there is no turbulence of the air stream. A lot of factors play into what makes a particular vowel, I will not go into these details as I will simply be referring to each vowel by the IPA. If you wish to know more though, wikipedia is a good place to start.
    I had said that most sounds fall into these two categories, but of course there are exceptions to everything. I will quickly explain some other phonetic concepts you should understand, and will link to the wikipedia page on them if you wish to know more.
  • Approximants  : These are sounds which involve articulation but no turbulence. These include [l] and [ɹ].
  • Semivowels : Approximants which seem to be vowels, but act more like consonants. These include the English "y" and "w". How they are to be understood for our purposes will be expanded upon later.
    Diphthongs are when two vowels act as one. Such as [ai] being [a] and [i] together to form the vowel sounds in the name "Einstein". They play an important role in understanding Spiraling Syllabics.

    Syllables are broken into three parts. The "onset", the "nucleus", and the "coda." The English word "cat" [kæt] is a good example of a syllable. The onset is the first consonant sound or consonant cluster at the beginning of the syllable, in our example it would be the [k] sound. The onset is not always present in syllables. The nucleus is the vowel sound in the "center" of the syllable, it may be one syllable or a diphthong. In our example, it would be the [æ] sound. The nucleus can also be made up of an approximant, such as the word "nurse" [nɝs] in my dialect of English. The coda is the, you guessed it, consonant sound or consonant cluster at the end of the syllable. In our example, the coda would be the [t] sound. Semivowels complicate things a little more,as they sometimes seem to be simply part of a diphthong, while other times they act as a barrier between. Their denotation in Spiraling Syllabics will be explained later.

    The IPA is an alphabet created by an international orginization to standardize to transcription of human speech. All you need for the IPA is this link right here! Open it in another tab a refer to it when you're unsure of what my IPA is referring to. IPA is always written between square brackets []. If you see something between those on this blog, it's IPA.

    Finally, on to the conscript.

Constituent Parts

Table of Contents:
  1. Consonants
  2. Color Vowels & The Vowel Palate
  3. How They Come Together
  4. Punctuation
  5. Numbers
  6. How to Read and Write it
  7. Sample Texts


    There are twenty two "consonant characters." Eighteen of which represent actual consonant sounds, two of which represent approximants, and two more of which represent semivowels. While it is important to note that semivowels are not consonants, for our intents and purposes it is useful to simply represent them as such. Below is the table of consonant character.

Many of the sounds above are voiced and voiceless pairs, such as [p] & [b]. In order to simplify to script, I've elected to just make the voiced counterpart the same symbol as the voiceless counterpart with small dot(s) placed at certain points on the character. This is to make the list of characters small to memorize and so that if two characters are too similar and happen to be mistaken for one another, it won't render the text illegible as the sounds are so similar.
    The character for the dental fricative,[θ], and the character for the palato-alveolar fricative,[ʃ], both represent the voiced and voiceless version of the sound.  If you wish to clarify whether or not the sound is voiced, you can add a dot inside the character. In the same location as the dot in the character for [z].

Color Vowels & The Vowel Palate

    Vowels in Spiraling Syllabics are not denoted via characters like the consonant sounds are. They are instead denoted by the colors of certain lines. This will make more sense in the next section. For now I'm just going to discuss the "Vowel Palate."
Official Vowel Palate
A number of things need to be noted here in reference to the palate.
  • The long colored bars are the colors used to represent the vowels below them. The IPA are those sounds and below each IPA is an approximation for each sound. Please disregard these approximations if you don't speak with my accent, they will simply confuse you. Instead, refer to this handy dandy IPA Chart.
  • The white/black text within the colored bar is the hexidecimal number for said color. Use these when writing Spiraling Syllabics in the "Official Vowel Palate."
  • [aɪ] and [eɪ] are diphthongs. They are made up of two vowel sounds and their colors are the combinations of their respective vowel's colors. For example, [a], which is red, and [ɪ], which is yellow, make up the diphthong [aɪ], which is orange.
  • The [o] sound doesn't really occur by itself in English, so, for our purposes, it will always be accompanied by a semivowel character. The confusing part, is that in IPA, this would be transcribed as a diphthong, either [oɪ] or [oʊ]. Don't fret too much about this though. I have it set up this way to reduce the number of colors, because, as you can probably see, I stretched the color spectrum a little far on this one.
  • The [ɝ] sound in only present in some of the dialects of American English, such as mine, and is sometimes not even considered a vowel. Whether or not it is is irrelevant. Either way, it still acts as a syllable's nucleus and is therefore given a vowel color.
  • Grey is relegated for writing numbers (See the "Numbers" section below).
  • Some of the colors are a little bright and may be irritating or hard to see on a white background. That is why I will be creating another palate which will be a little easier on the eyes. This will, however, remain the "Official" palate.

How They Come Together

    As the name of the conscript might suggest, Spiraling Syllabics is arranged in to syllables. (The Korean writing system uses a somewhat similar idea.) A syllable is laid out on a line. The color of said line represents the vowel. The consonants characters representing the onset and coda, if either are present, are placed on top of this line. The lines are writing in a continuous spiral starting at the bottom left and moving inwards clockwise. How about I show you.

Let's transcribe the word "cat" [kæt]!

Step 1: Nucleus Identification
I find it best to first clarify the vowel sound(s) I'm dealing with.
In our syllable, the nucleus is [æ].
After referring to the vowel palate, we know the color for [æ]
is Purple (#800080).

Step 2: Draw a Line
Let's draw a line!

Step 3: Colorize!
Now let's make the color of the line the color of the vowel.

Step 3: Consonant Identification
Let's clarify what consonants we are dealing with.
We have and onset, [k], and a coda, [t].

Step 4: Accessorize!
Add the correct letters for the consonants.

You may notice that the letters have been rotated ninety
degrees. That's because they follow the line as it
spirals around. This will become clearer later on.
Just understand that you'd read this from the bottom to the top.

Step 5: Add Punctuation

I haven't told you about punctuation yet, but I'm gonna go ahead and
add it for good measure.

Yay! We just wrote a word in Spiraling Syllabics!

Review/Read it


    In order to separate parts of the text into comprehensible parts, I've added five punctuation marks. I've listed them below with an explanation of each. In the example picture, we're reading from left to right.
  • Solid Circle: A solid circle at the end of a line notes that this line was the last syllable in a word.
  • Hollow Circle: A hollow circle at the end of a line notes that this line was the last syllable of the last word in a sentence. These can also be placed at the beginning of the first syllable of the first word of the entire spiral, but doesn't need to be.
  • Hollow Dotted Circle: A hollow circle with a solid dot inside of it placed at the end of a line notes that this sentence was an exclamatory one. This punctuation is equivalent to the exclamation mark used in writing English.
  • Hollow Circle Crossed Through: A hollow circle crossed through with an "X" at the end of a line notes that the sentence was interrogative. This punctuation is equivalent to the question mark used in writing English.
  • Rhombus: When necessary, a rhombus may be placed on a line to clarify which letters are the onset and which are the coda. This would be used when the line is small and there are many letters. It is elidable. 
    The punctuation marks are to be the same color as the line they are on.


    When thinking of how best to write numbers in Spiraling Syllabics, I had to keep a few things in mind. I had to be able to conserve as much space as possible, it had to flow with the line like the letters do, and it had to represent numbers like we say them. I could have simply made new numerals for the digits zero through nine, but I felt this would take up too much space, so I looked at a few other systems for writing numbers and one stood out; Roman Numerals. In Roman Numerals, I can denote the number one thousand in one "slot," if you will, M, while in our Hindu-Arabic Numeral system, we need four slots not including the coma, 1,000. So why did we move from the Roman Numeral system in the first place? There are some limitations, there's a convoluted system for determining which number a Roman Numeral is actually representing which relies on the number of a certain letter and it's position relative to other letters. The Hindu-Arabic Numeral system solves this with positional place values. After some time mulling it over, I thought a good compromise between the two systems was to combine them both. Below I explain how I did so.
    Spiraling Syllabic Numerals rely on two sets of characters, the digit numerals and the place value characters. They are shown below in the chart.

    In order to express a number, the place value character is placed on the line, and a digit numeral is placed within it. "Place holder zeros" are not necessary in this system just as in Roman Numerals. They are always written on a grey line, are grey themselves (except for the digits which are black), and are read in the same direction as the line they are on. Below we will write out the number four thousand six hundred and nine.

How to Read and Write it

    In order to be able to write a script, one must be able to read a script. So let's just jump right into writing.
We'll transcribe these sentences, "One of the man's favorite passtimes is locutification. He'll spend hours and end up with a veritable dictionary."

You don't need to do this exactly as I do, but I'll walk you through it all step by step just to make sure we're all on the same page.

Step 1: Nuclei 
    Firstly, identify the vowel sounds you're dealing with and write them all out. This is how I normally do it.


    I know this seems like a little much, but we'll make it through. Next, let's go ahead and write out the correlating colors.


    Oh my goodness... That looks even more confusing! Let's just move on and hope it all gets better.

Step 2: Set the Spiral
    This is a good time to go ahead and make the spiral. We know how many syllables there are, so we can draw them out. I'm going to make them all black for now.

   I know, I know. It looks like some sort of optical illusion. Just bare with me.

Step 3: Colorize!
    Alright, we have the spiral, we know the colors for them. Let's color the lines of the spiral! Remember, start from the bottom left.

    Ouch! Now you see what I meant about the colors when they're against a white background.

Step 4: Onsets and/or Codas
    Now we need to identify all the onsets and codas, if there are any. Which there are in this case. I like to separate them into each syllable and as to whether or not they are onsets or codas.

[.w n: . v: .ð : .m nz: .f .v .ɹ t: .p s.t mz: . z: .l w.kj .t .f .k .ʃ n::
 .h l: .sp nd: . wɹz: . nd: . nd: . p: .w θ: . : .v ɹ. t. bl: .d k.ʃ n. ɹ. ::]

    Oh my... Is nothing simple? Well, this is just my own sort of shorthand. You do what works for you. But essentially, the periods mark the beginnings and the end of syllables; therefore, if a letter has a period to its left, it's an onset, if it has a period or colon to its right, it's a coda. The colon's mark the end of that word, and double colons mark the end of that sentence. This is so that I can use these notes when doing the punctuation as well, since the punctuation works off the same principles.

Step 5: Accessorize!
    Almost done. Let's garnish our spiral with the consonant characters representing the consonant, semivowel, and approximant sounds we just identified. Place them on each line just as we did for our "cat" example before, and remember to turn your letters ninety degrees clockwise as you move from one line to the next.
   Whoa! That's more like it! It sorta looks like that thing at the beginning of the page now, doesn't it? The astute reader will notice I've already added some punctuation. The rhombus on the word "spend" is necessary because the letters are so close together. They would also notice that the characters get smaller as they go in. This is of course necessary and how much the shrink as you spiral inwards is fairly arbitrary and up to the writer and the circumstances at hand. The only rule when making letters smaller, is that no character should be larger than any of the letters preceding it.

Step 6: Punctuate!
    The last step is just a little tedious. We've gotta add all the appropriate punctuation marks at all the appropriate places. Remember the notes for the consonant sounds? The colons mark where we should put punctuation. So I'm going to just go ahead and use those notes and get that done.

    Yay! Now it all makes sense! Congratulations! You can now read and write Spiraling Syllabics!

Sample Texts

    I've written some sample texts and urge you to write some as well. If you do, please email them to me at TheLocutificator@gmail.com . I'll post them here as long as: they are not profain, not advertisements, and not trying to push any sort of opinion. Please include: a bitmap or .svg file of the actual transcription, the text in the English Latin alphabet, and your name so I can credit you (if you wish to remain anonymous, say Anonymous in lieu of a name).

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