Introduction to the gjâ-zym-byn lessons

These lessons are a work in progress, and will probably never be so ample as to teach the whole language; but they should be an easier, less daunting starting place than the phonology, sytax, derivational morphology, and semantics reference documents. Here and there throughout the lessons you'll be referred to appropriate sections of the reference documents for more in-depth or advanced information.

Lesson 0 - Spelling and pronunciation

This should explain the sounds and writing system of gjâ-zym-byn (gzb) more simply, assuming no linguistics background, than the more technical description in the "Phonology & Writing System" document.

The writing system is phonemic. Every sound (or group of sounds which can be used interchangeably) is represented by a single letter, and each letter almost always represents the same sound (with some minor exceptions explained elsewhere and glossed over here).

gzb has three alphabets, but if you're learning gzb you can probably get by with learning only one of them: the Unicode alphabet, at least at first. The handwritten alphabet is described in its own page; the ASCII alphabet is briefly described below in parallel with the primary Unicode alphabet.

There are only 26 lowercase letters in ASCII, so 24 of the letters of gzb are represented by plain ASCII characters a, b, c... z while 28 others are represented by base letters plus x or q. So keep in mind that combinations like 'tx,' 'sq,' and 'px' represent a single sound (like th, sh in English; except that h also represents its own sound in English, while x and q have no other meaning in gzb).

(Remember that this lesson is a simplified overview of the sound system. If you want IPA symbols and articulatory details instead of analogies to similar sounds in natural languages, go here.)

These letters have about the same sound in gzb as in English:

p b t d k g f v m n z s w h l r

These represent sounds also found in English.

Unicode ASCII Explanation of sound
ĉ cx ch in "church"
θ tx th in "bath"
ð dx th in "this"
ŝ sx sh in "hush"
c c ts in "cats"
ź zx dz sound in "rides"
ŋ nx ng in "thing"
j j y in "yard" or "boy"
ĵ jx s in "pleasure"
ĝ gx 'j' or 'dge' in "judge"

These sounds aren't found in English, or aren't so distinctive there.

ķ kx A sound like English "k", but with the tongue further back in the mouth; most similar to the initial sound in English "call" as distinct the final sound in "back", the latter of which is represented by gzb "k".
Φ px Air blown through the lips. A short raspberry.
ĥ/ħ hx / hq Similar to the "ch" in German "ach".
š/ʝ sx / jq Similar to the "ch" in German "ich", or the "h" in Japanese "hito".
č/ž cq / zq Similar to š/ʝ, but starting with a sound like t/d, merging into the "ich" sound.
fx A 'p' sound merging smoothly into an 'f' sound
ƴ vx A 'b' sound merging smoothly into a 'v' sound

gzb also has one ejective sound:

Ќ kq Place your tongue as for /k/ and close your glottis, build up some pressure between the glottis and tongue, and then release the air past your tongue suddenly.

Clicks: Produce these sounds by closing your lips, or pressing your tongue against some part of your mouth, then sucking to make a partial vacuum, and suddenly opening the space closed by your tongue or lips.

Ł lq front of tongue pulled from roof of mouth
ť tq tip of tongue pulled from between teeth
ƥ pq lips pulled apart suddenly
ɱ mq similar as {ƥ}, but with air released through the nose at the same time.

The approximations for the sounds of these vowels are based on my Southeastern U.S. dialect. Again, if you want IPA symbols and more exact articulatory descriptions, go here.

ĭ iq pIck
â ax tAp
ř rq buttER
e e lEt
ě eq Ago, bUt
a a spA
u u sUItcase
i i machIne
y y bOOk
o o pOke
ǒ oq rAW, cOUgh

These vowels don't occur in English; here are French examples.

î ix tu ("i" with rounded lips)
ô ox soeur ("e" with rounded lips)

{ň} (ASCII {nq}) following a vowel means that it is pronounced nasalized. More French examples:

âň faim


If any syllable of a word is nasalized, so are all the others. So {ň} is written only once in any word, after the last vowel.

The tense vowels {i, o, u, ǒ} occur without the following "y" or "w" sound they usually have in English. Some of them also occur in those forms, but they mean different things:

i at (pronounced as in French or Spanish "si")
ij near (pronounced as in English "see")
su standing up (pronounced like French "sou")
suw enjoyment of something/someone's cuteness (pronounced like English "Sue")

Many diphthongs (a vowel plus "j" (y) or "w") occur in gzb. Here are some with English similars.

ej way
aj sky
âw cow
oj boy
yj buoy

gzb words are typically stressed on the second-to-last syllable. There are two main exceptions: if another syllable has the vowel {î} or a schwa {ě} followed by nasal consonant or semivowel (i.e., one of {ŋ n m j w}) then it tends to gets the primary stress. And if the second-to-last syllable has a schwa {ě} that is not followed by a nasal consonant or semivowel, then the third-to-last syllable (if it's {î}) or final syllable (otherwise) gets the primary stress. (There are other exceptions too, but those are the only ones simple enough to describe briefly here.)

gzb has its own usage of standard punctuation marks.

Onward to Lesson 1...

Main {gjâ-zym-byn} index
Syntax and inflectional morphology
Derivational morphology
My conlang page
My home page

Last updated December 2015.