Brief Introduction to Phonetics

When we want to understand foreign writings we also have to know something about foreign languages.
When we want to know something about foreign languages we first have to understand our own language:

Though our Alphabet has only 26 letters our language consists of many more sounds:
1) We distinguish the length of vowels: There is a long "a", like in "bathe" and a short "a" like in "hat".
This is the case for all vowels a, e , i , o , u .
Specialists in linguistics distiguish even smaller differences.

2) American people speak the " r " with the tongue at the back of the mouth, but in South America and in southern Europe they speak a rolling " r" with the tongue behind the teeth.

3) Usually the " s " is spoken without a voice (f.e. " summer ") but we know " s " with a voice (f.e. "is", he has").

4) the combination " sh " sounds without voice in "english", but compare it with "usual", this is the same sound, but with voice, the same is with " Journal ".

We cannot write all of these differences with special characters, we see, our alphabet is missing some.
On the other hand, some characters have lost their special sound. The "c" is used like "k" (hear "car") or like "s" (hear "face"). The sounds of "q" and "k" do not differ.

We discover why this all is important when we see that some foreign writings indeed have special characters for those differences.
For example, in Arabia, "k" and "q" are different sounds, because they place the tongue in a different manner, we will possibly hear the difference by listening carefully.

Quite unknown to us is the closure of the glottis, although we use it daily.
We need this, for to part two identical vowels, for example in " go over ".
Listen careful, between the two "o" you got to close the glottis, otherwise it will sound "gover" !
This "close of the glottis" is in Hebraic and Arabic languages very important, they know two intensities.

After all, who wonders, that you find in Indian languages two different d 's and four different t 's , but they do not distiguish between " f " and "w" ?

Brief Introduction to Transcriptions

In order to read foreign, i.e. non Roman Scripts, you have to part the foreign text into foreign letters and then translate these into our Roman alphabet (transliteration / transscripting).

When doing this we will come across sounds foreign to us. I described those in the section "Phonetics" and we do not have Roman letters/characters for those. That's why scientist developed the "International Phonetic Alphabet"; it contains 118 different sounds and letters and it looks like a completely new script.

Well, this doesn't help us with reading stamps. That's why I cover only the following reading aids :
1. Vowels :
It is very unusual to us that the Arabic and Hebrew scripts do not write short vowels. All the long vowels are only indicated by special consonants. It is as if we would write in nothing but abbrevations (just check out a chatroom and you know what I mean: lol, cyu, brb, etc, and so on..). My transcription stresses long vowels by writing them double: " aa ", " ee ", " ii ", " oo ", " uu "; short vowels are added to the text in parenthesis.

2. Hissing sounds (sibilants) :
Hissing sounds with voice (see above) are marked with a stroke under the letter,
z.B.: s , sch, dsch, the stroke indicates the voice.
Normal hissing sounds without voice are not marked : s, sch, tsch, schtsch.
Because this is a German manuscript, you will find "sch" instead of "sh" !

3. Other specials :
English " th " is written without voice (f.e. "path") = th , with voice (i.e. "this") = th , with stroke.

A rough German "ch" as like in "acht" : ch ;

marked with a stroke is Arabic hollowing " d " : d and hollowing " t " : t ;

Spanish rolled " r " is written as " rr " ;

closure of the glottis is indicated by *a or, more intensiv, **a in my transcription.

Each foreign alphabet has its own order, usually not similar to our alphabet.
To make all tables comparable, our alphabetical order is used in any case, supplementary characters are added behind the columns.

Our Roman alphabet does not mirror all sounds of our language (see explanations above). This is the reason why you cannot transliterate foreign characters 1 : 1 into Roman characters, it would not fit at all.

When transcripting, you have to forget all grammatic rules and only hear the sound.
The letters "c, v, y " I could not use, because they sometimes sound different (s or k, f or w, j or i)
So, please do not bother, if you cannot detect the letter "c" in the Greek alphabet !

But, there are still some other reasons :
i.e. in the Greek alphabet there are no "h, j, q, w" , because these sounds never occur in the Greek language !

Please understand that other languages do not contain certain sounds which are self-evident to us; on the other hand they can contain strange sounds which we have never heard.

The European Alphabet :

Our "Roman" alphabet contains 26 letters, and most of them are used everywhere in Europe.
Some languages have additional letters to distunguish between long and short vowels and many other things. Since the pure Roman alphabet does not suffice for this there are several special letters.

Here is the complete alphabet :

It contains examples from France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Poland, Czechia, Slowenia, Slovakia, Hungaria, Croatia, Romania and Turkey .

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