I am a bit confused by the languages that use the Latin script, not sure if the version of the Latin script they are using is a transliteration of something else, or if that is actually what the people who speak the language use to write. I'm wondering if one could say if these resources are accurate representations of the selected languages that use the Latin script (that is, this is how each language would be written, at least the symbols part, not necessarily the grammar):

I would like to know if these linked texts are actually how the respective languages are written (or if they are some undesirable variation). That is, if all the diacritics and whatnot are what is actually used in the common language (or at least in the formal written language). That way I would know if it is a good resource for learning the language.

Part of the reason I am getting confused is after having looked through the IPA for languages like Xhosa. They have all those click consonants, yet from what it looks like they are actually using the Latin script to write it down. This means that the Latin Script letters take on different meaning. And I'm not sure if what that link shows, such as [gq] for [ǃʱ], or [ngc] for [ǀʱ̃], or simple [c] for [ǀ] or [x] for [ǁ] is literally how they write it. Selecting a random word from here such as [wesixhenxe], here is how I would write it: /uesiǁʰenǁe/. Which is why I'm asking this question, I don't know if these texts map accurately to the transliterations suggested throughout Wikipedia.

Also, if there are any better resources for these languages I would love to know!

The reason why I am asking is because there is just so many variations I've seen of the orthographies. I want to find one that is "standard".

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    To pick a random word, here's an English one: /θɪŋ/. The Latin alphabet lacks interdental fricative and velar nasal. How would you write it? – jick Sep 23 at 18:06
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    ...Also I'm pretty sure there are much better resources than bible translations for learning (at least) Danish, Welsh, and Esperanto. In general I'd advise against using bible translation to learn a language, unless thou art disposed to speaketh like this. – jick Sep 23 at 18:16
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    It's the only free resource I could find translated across language for easier comparing. – Lance Pollard Sep 23 at 18:24
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    @LancePollard As a general rule, a class will teach you much more about the structure of a language than looking at a single document written in that language. For comparison, imagine trying to learn English with a King James Bible and nothing else. – Draconis Sep 23 at 20:47
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    You say: "... the Latin Script letters take on different meaning" — different from what, Latin? The Latin script letters are nothing more than symbols that can be used to represent whatever sounds one wants. – Gaston Ümlaut Sep 23 at 22:00
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I don't know about the current state of Kele, but the odds are good that this is how the language is currently written (it is a relatively recent translation). Likewise, Navajo. In general, these are representative of the actual spellings. As for your concern about (Zulu and) Xhosa, those sources are as accurate as any orthographic sources in the languages. They fail in the domain of prosody, which is left out of the spelling system; there are breathy sonorants not indicated in Zulu spelling. But as materials in standard spelling, they are okay, and can be augmented with parallel recordings. There is a particular writing style to Bible translations which is not representative of normal speech.

  • I don't know Kele either, but the use of ɛ and ɔ is common among modern orthographies of languages in that area. They aren't used in day-to-day life mostly because so few keyboards include them. – Draconis Sep 23 at 21:14

Xhosa, Zulu, Swahili, Yoruba, Kele, and the vast majority of other Bantu (and Niger-Congo) languages are written in the Latin script. The ones in the south that have clicks tend to use the "spare" letters like C, X, and Q for them, rather than the vertical bars that the Khoi-San languages prefer. The Latin orthographies tend to be slightly defective (e.g. Swahili's doesn't indicate aspiration, which is phonemic in some conservative dialects) but are generally designed specifically for each language and function quite well. Yoruba in particular uses acutes, graves, and underdots to indicate distinctions that the English alphabet can't handle, while Kele uses extra letters like Lingála does—both of these workarounds tend to be ignored in day-to-day usage, simply because they're hard to type and a lot of software won't accept them.

Danish, Basque, and Welsh, like the majority of languages in Europe, have never used anything except the Latin alphabet to write their modern forms. These scripts evolved instead of being specifically invented or developed, so they're full of quirks and eccentricities you wouldn't expect in a fully new orthography.

Hawai'ian and Māori both have official Latin scripts used more often than anything else. However, many books leave off the rather important length marks and glottal stops: the Hawai'ian translation you linked includes them, for example, while the Māori one does not.

Navajo, Quechua, and Nahuatl have Latin-based writing systems that have evolved under strong influence from English and Spanish, and as such tend to be somewhat defective (not indicating certain phonemic differences). Navajo at least has reformed its orthography fairly recently to mark vowel length and tone properly. Nahuatl is sometimes written in "scientific" style, with long vowels and glottal stops marked, but more often is written in "Spanish" style without them.

Esperanto's orthography was invented at the same time as the language, and no alternative has ever really caught on, though people have proposed a few (such as a variation on Shavian).

However, if you want to actually learn one of these languages, talking to native speakers or (better still) taking a class from them will be far more effective than looking at a single document! Even Esperanto can be learned better by speaking it than by reading through the grammar.

  • Wondering if people write Quechua or Nahuatl on a daily basis so to speak, and if it likewise is missing the appropriate phonemic things. – Lance Pollard Sep 23 at 21:27
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    @LancePollard Nahuatl is traditionally written in a Spanish-influenced orthography, which is missing vowel length and glottal stops. Some people add those in to make it properly phonemic. – Draconis Sep 23 at 21:32
  • Yeah it looks like they don't use the IPA for the Nahuatl stuff, but it's a start. When yo usay some people add those, wondering if you have any resources you're using. – Lance Pollard Sep 24 at 17:39
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    @LancePollard I'm far from an expert on Nahuatl, but one author I follow is nahuatlstudies.blogspot.com who marks long vowels and glottal stops (with doubled vowel letters, macrons, and the letter h). – Draconis Sep 24 at 18:03

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