(A page from the Loglan web site.)

Writing Phonetic Loglan (Draft)

by James Jennings

This is a collection of guidelines for writing phonetic Loglan using Apple's Macintalk phonetic symbols. These guidelines are not enough to do the translation automatically (I don't know how, yet) but they will get you close enough so that, with a little tweaking, you may get adequate results.

Keep in mind that these guidelines are provisional. You are likely to encounter a case where they are not the best solution. Some claims made here might even be wrong. Be wary. Be creative. Tell me what you learn.


  • What You Need
  • Getting Started
  • Phonemes
  • Vowels
  • Vowel Pairs
  • Consonants
  • Consonant Pairs
  • Making Words
  • Pauses and Punctuation
  • Polishing
  • Put It All Together
  • Examples
  • Adjustments for Macintalk Pro
  • For Completeness' Sake
  • What You Need

    You need a Macintosh with some form of Apple's Text-to-Speech Extension installed. It comes as part of Apple's System 7.5 (probably under the Installer's "Custom Install" options) or you can download it from Apple's FTP site or their alternate site. These notes assume that you are using Macintalk 3, although there are some additional notes about using Macintalk Pro near the end of this document.

    (It is easy for the listeners of your speech renderings to use Macintalk Pro without realizing it, and then phonetics written for Macintalk 3 won't sound very good. All I can suggest is that you tell your users not to use the Macintalk Pro voices "Agnes", "Bruce", or "Victoria".)

    Once Macintalk is installed, you can compose and test your phonetics using Apple's SimpleText. SimpleText has a "Sound" menu which allows you to choose which voice to use and to speak the text that you've written.

    (Actually, any Macintalk-savy word processor will work instead of SimpleText. I like to use Nisus Writer so that I can write powerful search and replace macros.)

    Getting Started

    You should start every file with the magic incantation:

        [[rate 100]] [[inpt PHON]]

    The first bit sets the speech rate to 100 words per minute. If you leave this out, then the rules that follow (which use shortened vowels) will give you very fast speech. You may also want to adjust the rate depending on the skill of your listener.

    The second bit tells the speech synthesizer that what follows is a phonetic string, rather than English text. If you leave this out, your Mac will attempt to read your custom phonetic information as if it were English text--not what you want.

    Note: Anything in [[double square brackets]] is a special command to the Macintalk speech generator. There are lots of possible commands, but most are unimportant for our purposes.


    What follows is a summary of the phonemes I have found useful in rendering Loglan speech. You can find a more complete but less Loglan specific description of Apple's Phonemic Representation of Speech on Apple's web site, or in Inside Macintosh: Sound, pages 4-32 through 4-36. Apple's documentation is required reading if you want to improve on these notes.

    Whenever the lists below give an example word that contains the phoneme, I've added the phonemic transcription of the word in parenthesis as an example, like this:

    'a' as in father (_f1AA=DUXr)


    Here are the phonetic equivalents to the basic Loglan vowels. (See page 14 of Loglan 1.)

    Phonemes for Loglan Vowels
    Vowel Context Phoneme Pronunciation
    a <AA as in father (_f1AA=DUXr)
    as in palm (_p1AAm)
    e before vowels <EY as in eight (_1EYt)
    elsewhere <EH as in met (_m1EHt)
    i before vowels y as in yet (_y1EHt)
    elsewhere <IY as in feet (_f1IYt)
    o before /r/ or /l/ <AO as in law (_l1AO)
    elsewhere <OW as in note (_n1OWt)
    u before vowels w as in wee (_w1IY)
    elsewhere <UW as in boot (_b1UWt)
    w UH (see notes) 'ü' as in Mühle (_m1UHh=2UX)
    y <UX as in up (_1UXp)


    Vowel Pairs

    There are four diphthongs which are exceptions to the single vowel rules. (See page 14 of Loglan 1.)

    Required Monosyllables
    ai AY as in sigh (_s1AY)
    ao AW as in cow (_k1AW)
    ei EY (see notes) as in day (_d1EY)
    oi OY as in boy (_b1OY)

    Note: The '<' mark is the only difference between 'e' before a vowel (see Vowels) and the 'ei' diphthong. It is vital to make the 'e' shorter than 'ei' so that the listener can tell them apart. [In Macintalk Pro, you can't make 'e' shorter so you must make 'ei' longer like this: '>EY'.]

    Here is a table of vowel (and vowel like) pairs based on the above.

    Vowel (and Vowel-like) Pairs
    VV Phonemes VV Phonemes VV Phonemes VV Phonemes VV Phonemes
    aa 1AA=AA ae AA=EH ai AY ao AW au AA=UW
    ea EY=AA ee 1EY=EH ei EY (see notes) eo EH=OW eu EH=UW
    ia yAA ie yEH ii yIY io yOW iu yUW
    oa OW=AA oe OW=EH oi OY oo 1OW=OW ou OW=UW
    ua wAA ue wEH ui wIY uo wOW uu wUW
    ol AOl or AOr



    Here are the phonetic equivalents to the basic Loglan consonants. (See page 14 of Loglan 1.)

    Phonemes for Loglan Consonants
    b b as in boy (_b1OY)
    c S as in shy (_S1AY)
    d d as in dog (_d1AOg)
    f f as in fog (_f1AOg)
    g g as in get (_g1EHt)
    h h as in hut (_h1UXt)
    j Z as in measure (_m1EHZ=UXr)
    k k as in kin (_k1IHn)
    l l as in let (_l1EHt)
    vocalic (ll) AXl as in bottle (_b1AA=dAXl)
    m m as in met (_m1EHt)
    vocalic (mm) AXm as in rhythm (_r1IHD=AXm)
    n before /k/ or /g/ N (see notes) as in sing (_s1IHN)
    elsewhere n as in net (_n1EHt)
    vocalic (nn) IXn as in listen (_l1IHs=IXn)
    p p as in pet (_p1EHt)
    q T as in thin (_T1IHn)
    r r as in rat (_r1AEt)
    vocalic (rr) UXr as in father (_f1AA=DUXr)
    s s as in sat (_s1AEt)
    t t as in tin (_t1IHn)
    v v as in vet (_v1EHt)
    x k (see notes) as in Bach (_b1AAk)
    z z as in zinc (_z1IHNk)


    Consonant Pairs

    Two Loglan consonant pairs are rendered as a single Macintalk phoneme.

    Single Phoneme Consonant Pairs
    tc C as in chin (_C1IHn)
    dj J as in judge (_J1UXJ)

    Here is a collection of special case consonant pairs based on the above.

    Consonant Pairs
    tc C as in chin (_C1IHn)
    dj J as in judge (_J1UXJ)
    ng N=g as in single (_s1IHN=gAXl)
    nk Nk as in bank (_b1AENk)
    ll AXl vocalic, as in bottle (_b1AA=dAXl)
    mm AXm vocalic, as in rhythm (_r1IHD=AXm)
    nn IXn vocalic, as in listen (_l1IHs=IXn)
    rr UXr vocalic, as in father (_f1AA=DUXr)

    Making Words

    You make words by converting the letters or letter pairs to phonemes and then adding a few extra marks:

    Single Word Examples
    la ~l<AA
    loa ~l1<OW=<AA
    lepo ~l<EH=p<OW
    vizka _v1<IYz=k<AA
    prano _pr1<AA=n<OW
    Loglan _l<1OWg=l<AAn
    Djeimz _JEYmz

    Pauses and Punctuation

    When you string words together to make sentences, you sometimes must add some pauses between words. The basic pause mark is '%', although you can also use '@' for a "breath intake" or an actual comma for an "end of clause". (Macintalk interprets a comma as a pause combined with a change in pitch.) A pause is required:

    You will often want to shorten your pauses like this: '<%'

    There are also a bunch of punctuation marks described in Apple's documentation that can adjust intonation and pauses in the final speech. I have very few suggestions other than


    It's possible that after all of the above, things still won't be quite right. This section contains some suggestions for tweaking your results. Hopefully, these suggestions can eventually be refined into more concrete rules.

    Try changing the length of various phonemes. You can lengthen consonants with one or more '>'s if they seem to be getting lost, as they will in some very un-English-like situations. (E.g. 'n' in puncko -> _p1<UW>>>>n=Sk<OW) You might also need to shorten it to keep it from sounding like it's own syllable. (E.g. 'r' in tradui -> _t<r1<AA=dwIY) (Perhaps there is a general rule involving 'l', 'm', 'n', and 'r'.)

    Sometimes vowels need to be lengthened, E.g. the sentence separator 'I' when it has a pause before (as it always does) and after (when it's followed by a vowel initial word like 'ui'.) '>IY' sounds a lot better than '<IY' when standing by itself.

    Try accenting a little word so that it adds to the lilt of the sentence.
    E.g. The 'lepo' in I na LEpo mi SETfa le PURda lemi SMIna guo...

    Read and use the "Prosodic Control Symbols" described in Apple's documentation. It maybe that some special pitch and/or pause control mark may help.

    Put It All Together

    To translate a particular Loglan text into Macintalk 3 phonemes, you might procede as follows.


    Here are some longer examples. Note that I put some extra spaces in the phonetic strings to make them easier to read. Extra spaces and carriage returns are ignored by Macintalk.

    Vizka la Spat. _v1<IYz=k<AA ~l<AA _sp<AAt.
    Vizka lepo la Spat, prano. _v1<IYz=k<AA ~l<EH=p<OW ~l<AA _sp<AAt <% _pr1<AA=n<OW.
    Prano, hoi Spat. I prano. _pr1<AA=n<OW% ~h>OY _sp<AAt. ~<IY _pr1<AA=n<OW.

    Here is a special little trick you might need. If you use Loglan's strong quoting to include some literal English in your text, you'll need to leave the phonetic mode for a bit. Like this:

    Mi pa cutse liegei, Leave the phonetic mode, gei.
    (Translation: I said, "Leave the phonetic mode.")

    [[rate 100]][[inpt PHON]]~m<IY ~p<AA _S1<UWt=s<EH ~ly<EH=g>EY%
    [[inpt TEXT]][[rate 180]]Leave the phonetic mode[[rate 100]][[inpt PHON]]

    Adjustments for Macintalk Pro

    Macintalk Pro is a more sophisticated version of Macintalk 3. In general it does a better job of speaking regular English text. However, perhaps because it is more closely optimized for English, it isn't as easy to render Loglan with it. Although I have not tried to really use Macintalk Pro with Loglan, I have discovered a few important differences.

    Shortened vowels sound choppy with Macintalk Pro. I recommend leaving out all of the '<' signs before the vowels. This also means that you must lengthen the 'ei' diphthong (like this: '>EY') so that it can be distinguished from 'e' before a vowel. (See Vowel Pairs.)

    If you don't use shortened vowels, then you also don't need the [[rate 100]] specification at the start of your file. (See Getting Started.)

    There are no doubt other rules that you will discover in the "tweaking" stage. Feel free to experiment.

    For Completeness' Sake

    You may want to ignore this. It is a table of Macintalk English phonemes that aren't used by Loglan.

    Unused Phonemes
    AE bat (_b1AEt)
    AX about (~AX=b1AWt)
    IH bit (_b1IHt)
    IX roses (_r1OWzIXz)
    D them (_DEHm) A voiced 'th'. Loglan's 'q' is unvoiced.
    UH book (_b1UHk) Conscripted for Loglan's 'w' = 'ü'

    Last modified December 5, 1996.

    Please send any comments and corrections to:
    djeimz AT megaseattle DOT com.

    [Made with Macintosh]