Phonology and Orthography

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Greek sans flexions has the following sounds (shown here with the usual spelling in the Latin-based orthography).


Consonant sounds of Greek sans flexions
  bilabial labio-
dental alveolar postalveolar palatal velar
plosive π [p], б [b]     τ [t], д [d]   ќ [c], ѓ [ɟ] κ [k], ґ [g]
nasal μ [m] ([ɱ])   ν [n]   њ [ɲ] ŋ [ŋ]
trill       ρ [r]      
fricative   φ [f], β [v] θ [θ], δ [ð] σ,ς [s], ζ [z] (ш [ʃ], ж [ʒ]) с [ç], ј [ʝ] χ [x], γ [ɣ]
affricate ψ [p͡s]     ц [t͡s], ѕ [d͡z] (ч [t͡ʃ], џ [d͡ʒ])   ξ [k͡s]
lateral approximant       λ [l]   љ [ʎ]  


1. [ɱ] does not have a letter of its own, nor is it a phoneme; it's an allophone of [n] or [m] before [f] or [v], as in εμφασι [ɛɱfasi] “emphasis”.

2. The form ς is used only at the end of a word; the form σ is used in other positions.

3. The palatal consonants above can, in some cases, be considered conditional allophones of the velar (for plosive and fricative) or alveolar (for nasal and lateral approximant) consonants. However, since these sounds can occur in other positions and contrast with the non-palatal consonant, I am considering them phonemes for GSF and assigning them separate letters. For details, see the section on palatalisation.

4. Since there is no postalveolar fricative in the standard dialect, the alveolar fricatives [s] and [z] sometimes tend towards [ʃ] and [ʒ].

5. A number of affricates are included, since they pattern in several cases like stops.

6. The postalveolar fricatives and affricates are not present in the standard dialect, but occur in some other dialects: often as allophones of palatalised alveolar fricatives and affricates, but occasionally as separate phonemes. The sounds are also sometimes found in loanwords, depending on the education and competence of the speaker.


Vowel sounds of Greek sans flexions
  front central back
close i [i]   u [u]
mid e [ɛ]   o [ɔ]
open   a [a]  

There are only five vowels; GSF does not distinguish between close-mid and open-mid vowels, and consequently /e/ and /o/ are fairly loosely defined. However, the pronunciation is typically more towards the open-mid end.


When two vowels occur side-by-side, they are usually pronounced in separate syllables. However, there are also a number of falling diphthongs ending in [j] and [w] (the latter nearly exclusively in loanwords).

These diphthongs are written with ϊ and ϋ, respectively, as in νεραϊδα “nereid, fairy” (compare αιδια “repulsion”, without diphthong), бεϊκον “bacon”, φραϋλα “strawberry”, or Ѕοϋνς or Џοϋνζ “Jones”.

Note that this writing convention uses the double-dot diacritic for the opposite purpose: to combine, rather than to separate. Accordingly, its name is not διαљιτικος “diæresis” but σινδιαστικος “combiners”.

(This convention is mostly because I expect diphthongs to be less frequent than separately-pronounced vowels, and because iota-diaeresis is better supported in fonts than, say, iota-breve. Also, I didn't want to re-use the letter ј for this purpose, as the sound is different—αјο is different than a theoretical αϊο.)


Greek sans flexions can be written in three official orthographies: a Greek- (and Cyrillic)-based orthography called αλφαбε, a Latin-based orthography called αбεсι, and an ASCII-only orthography called απλο αбεсι “simple abeci”. (The Greek-based orthography is used for most of the GSF text in these pages, except for the sample texts, which show all three orthographies side-by-side for comparison.)

The usual alphabetical order for the Greek-based and Latin-based orthographies is based on that for the Greek and the Latin alphabet, respectively.

The third orthography can be used in environments where only ASCII can be used. It represents the velar nasal with the ng digraph, a few fricatives and affricates with digraphs that have h as the second character, the alveolar affricates with digraphs that have s or z as the second character, and several palatals with digraphs that have j as the second character.

Comparison of the orthographies

The following gives a comparison of the orthographies.

Comparison of GSF orthographies
Greek-based α б β с ґ ѓ γ д δ ε ж ζ ѕ θ ι ј κ ќ λ љ μ ν њ ŋ ξ ο π ρ σ, ς τ υ φ χ ц ч џ ш ь ψ
Latin-based a b v c g ģ ğ d ð e ž z ď þ i j k ķ l ļ m n ņ ŋ x o p r s t u f h ť č ĵ š ĭ y
ASCII-only a b v c g g(j) gh d dh e zh z dz th i j k k(j) l l(j) m n n(j) ng x o p r s t u f h ts ch jh sh j y

Disambiguating homophones with accents

A small, closed set of homophones is disambiguated (in writing only—the pronunciation remains the same) through the use of an accent. These are:

word without accent meaning word with accent meaning
πυ (relative pronoun) πύ where
πος that (conjunction) πός how
πьο more πьό which
ενα a, an ένα one
μας, σας our, your (possessive) μάς, σάς we, you (pronoun)
ος as ός until

Interrogative πύ, πός, and πьό, as well as ός in the meaning "until", are always written with an accent; number ενα and pronouns μας, σας are written with an accent only if (in the opinion of the writer) this is necessary in order to disambiguate the number from the indefinite article or the subject or object pronoun from the possessive adjective.

Greek-based orthography

These are the 39 letters of the Greek-based orthography, in alphabetical order:

Alphabetical order of the letters of the Greek-based orthography
upper-case Α Б Β С Ґ Ѓ Γ Д Δ Ε Ж Ζ Ѕ Θ Ι Ј Κ Ќ Λ Љ Μ Ν Њ Ŋ Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ц Ч Џ Ш Ь Ψ
lower-case α б β с ґ ѓ γ д δ ε ж ζ ѕ θ ι ј κ ќ λ љ μ ν њ ŋ ξ ο π ρ σς τ υ φ χ ц ч џ ш ь ψ

As can be seen, the following Greek letters are not used for GSF: η ω.

Of these 39 letters, 35 are considered basic, while four (ж ч џ ш) are used for dialects or, occasionally, for loanwords.

The names of the letters of the Greek-based orthography are: αλφα бε βιτα сι ґα ѓι γαμα дε δελτα εψιλον жε ζιτα ѕε θιτα ιοτα јι καπα ќι λαμδα љι μυ νυ њι εŋμα ομικρον πι ρο σιγμα ταφ υ εφ χα цε чε џε шα· ιπεροιο σιμιο· ψι. For the most part, letters that are also in the Greek alphabet keep their letter name. Letters for voiced stops and postalveolar fricatives and affricates, which were borrowed from the Cyrillic alphabet, use names based on the name in that alphabet. с takes its name from that of the Greek letter χ and ј takes its name by analogy; and υ φ χ ц take their names from Cyrillic, mostly because “upsilon” seemed inappropriate given that υ represents neither /i/ nor /y/ but rather /u/ and because the name “chi” was given from χ to с, and poor φ ended up stuck in the middle. The name “engma” is already used for the letter ŋ in some contexts, so I've borrowed it here. The letters for the palatal consonants end in /i/; the symbol for forced palatalisation, ь, is called “palatal sign” (or colloquially μьαχќι ζνακ, a word of unknown origin and meaning). The name for ν was changed from “ni” (which cannot occur in GSF, since /n/ does not appear before /i/) to “nu”, and the name for μ was changed by analogy. The names for the extra affricates /d͡z/ and /t͡s/ are based on the names of the letters in the Cyrillic alphabet, where the letters were also borrowed from.

Latin-based orthography

These are the 39 letters of the Latin-based orthography, in alphabetical order:

Alphabetical order of the letters of the Latin-based orthography
upper-case A B C Č D Ď Ð E F G Ģ Ğ H I Ĭ J Ĵ K Ķ L Ļ M N Ņ Ŋ O P R S Š T Ť U V X Y Z Ž Þ
lower-case a b c č d ď ð e f g ģ ğ h i ĭ j ĵ k ķ l ļ m n ņ ŋ o p r s š t ť u v x y z ž þ

As can be seen, the following Latin letters are not used for GSF: q w. The remainder of the letters are in the traditional alphabetical order (with þ after z and ð after d, as in Icelandic; ğ after g, as in Turkish; ď ť after d t, respectively, as in Czech (though with different sound values: [d͡z t͡s], not [ɟ c]); č š ž after c s z, respectively, as in Croatian; ĵ after j, as in Esperanto (though with a different sound value: [d͡ʒ] rather than [ʒ]); and ģ ķ ļ ņ after g k l n, respectively, as in Latvian; ĭ is placed after i).

Note also that y stands for [p͡s]! (This value is derived from the fact that cursive Latin y looks like cursive Greek ψ.) Also, x is [k͡s], while [x] is represented by h.

Of these 39 letters, 35 are considered basic, while four (č ĵ š ž) are used for dialects or, occasionally, for loanwords.

The names of the letters of the Latin-based orthography are: a be ci če de ďe ðe e fe ga ģi ğa ha i; iperoio simio; ji ĵe ka ķi le ļi eme ene ņi eŋe o pe re se še te ťe u ve xe ye ze že þe; essentially, vowels are called by their sound, palatals are called “Ci” (while the symbol for forced palatalisation itself, ĭ, is called “palatal sign”), nasals “eCe”, velars “Ca”, and all other consonants “Ce”. (In the case of the palatal nasal ņ, the “palatal” scheme wins over the “nasal” one.)

ASCII orthography

The ASCII orthography is essentially the Latin-based orthography, ASCIIfied by using stop letter + h for the non-ASCII fricatives ð þ ğ (h is also used for the postalveolar stops and affricates ch jh sh zh); base letter + j for the palatal letters written with a cedilla[*] as well as forced-palatalised consonants written with ĭ in the Latin-based orthography; dz ts for the alveolar affricates; and ng for ŋ. The alphabetical order is the same as for the ASCII orthography.

The apostrophe ' can be used to indicate that two consecutive letters represent individual letters rather than forming a digraph; thus, sh corresponds to Greek-based ш, while s'h corresponds to σχ.

[*] Note: Taking into account the regular palatalisation of κ ґ λ ν before ι ε, j is not written for the sequences ke ki ge gi li ni, which therefore represent ќε ќι ѓε ѓι љι њι, rather than the impossible *κε *κι *ґε *ґι *λι *νι. (If, however, a vowel follows that does not automatically palatalise the consonant, then j is written. Example: elja for εљα “olive”.)

Note that the sequence ngh stands for [ŋx]. Theoretically, it could also stand for [nɣ], but /n/ turns into /ŋ/ before /ɣ/ in native GSF words, so */nɣ/ > /ŋɣ/, spelled nggh.

Punctuation marks

The punctuation marks (σιμιος απο στιξι) used differ slightly depending on whether the Latin-based or the Greek-based orthography is used.

Latin-based Greek-based Name Meaning/Usage
? ; εροτιματικο question mark
! θαβμαστικο exclamation mark
. τεљια full stop
, κομα comma
: · διπλο τεљια / ανο τεљια colon
; · τεљια ќε κομα / ανο τεљια semicolon
- ενοτικο hyphen
παβλα dash
“…” «…» ισαγοјικος (pl.) quotation marks
(, ) παρενθεσι parenthesis
[, ] αŋѓιљι angle bracket

Note that while the punctuation marks used with the Latin-based orthography distinguish between semicolon and colon, the Greek-based orthography uses the middle dot (ανο τεљια) for both functions.


In several cases, the pronunciation of letters changes according to their surroundings. Some of these pronunciation changes are reflected in writing, but a few are not.

[s] to [z] before voiced consonants

When σ comes before one of the voiced consonants б д ґ β δ γ μ ν њ ρ ѕ (but not ј or λ), it assimilates in voicedness and is pronounced like ζ. (Note: σ cannot occur before ŋ.) This includes the case where one word ends in and the next word in the same spoken phrase starts with one of the voiced consonants named above.

Examples: τος бαρбας [tɔz barbas] “the uncles”, τος дυλαπις [tɔz dulapis] “the cupboards”, τος ґριζος μοљιβις [tɔz grizɔs mɔʎivis] “the grey pencils”; σβισι [zvisi] “to erase”, προσδιορισι [prɔzðiorisi] “to specify”, σγυρο [zɣurɔ] “curly”; -ισμο [izmɔ] “-ism”, τος ναος [tɔz naɔs] “the temples”, τος њισος [tɔz ɲisɔs] “the islands”, τος ριμας [tɔz rimas] “the verbs”, τος ѕαμις [tɔz d͡zamis] “the window panes; the mosques”.


Palatalisation is a fairly common phenomenon in GSF.

In some cases, this is due to the surrounding phonetic environment (in such cases, a given unpalatalised consonant can never occur), whereas in other cases, both the palatalised and the corresponding unpalatalised consonant can occur. I've decided not to analyse this as underlying /i/ or /j/, since there are cases where all three of unpalatalised, palatalised, and palatalised + /i/ occur constrastively, such as δυλα, δυљα, δυљια “doula; work; slavery” or ενα, εњα, εњια “one; care (for someone); meaning”, so simply marking the /i/ or /j/ would make it ambiguous which of the latter two cases is meant. (This is the case with modern Greek orthography, for example, where only context can disambiguate whether an iota is pronounced as a separate vowel or whether it only indicates palatalisation of the preceding consonant.)

In general, “learnèd” words tend to have less palatalisation than more “basic” or colloquial words; this occasionally leads to doublets, or pairs of words in which both go back to the same source, but the distinction between palatalisation or separate /i/ forms a minimal pair and the two words have different (but often related) meanings.

Following Harry Foundalis, I'll differentiate between “regular” and “forced” palatalisation.

Regular palatalisation

Regular palatalisation involves one consonant turning into the corresponding palatalised consonant:

This change always occurs before any ι; that is, there will never be an unpalatalised κ ґ χ γ ν λ before ι. The first four cases also always occur before any ε.

However, the palatalised consonants can also occur before back vowels; for example, ќολας “already”, Ѓονα “Gjona (name of a Greek mountain)”, сοњι “snow”, јο “son”, њατα “youth”, or љοσι “to melt”.

Forced palatalisation

Forced palatalisation involves not the change of one consonant into its palatalised counterpart, but the insertion of a palatal glide between the consonant and the vowel.

This glide is always written as ь (ĭ in the Latin-based orthography), but it is realised as one of с ј њ, depending on the previous consonant. The glide is pronounced:

Forced palatalisation never occurs automatically in a given environment. In other words, anywhere a forced-palatalised consonant can stand, the appropriate consonant can also (phonotactically) stand without the palatal glide. (The resulting collection of sounds is likely to be a non-word, though, or at least a different word.)

Examples: αφьοњι [afçɔɲi] “opium poppy”, πьος [pçɔs] “who”, φτьαξι [ftçak͡si] “to construct”, κλοцьα [klɔt͡sça] “kick”, μοναξьα [mɔnak͡sça] “loneliness”, αњιψьο [aɲip͡sçɔ] “nephew”, βьο [vʝɔ] “belongings”, καμбьα [kambʝa] “caterpillar”, δьαβασι [ðʝavasi] “to read”, νερανѕьα [nɛrand͡zʝa] “bitter orange tree”, μьασι [mɲasi] “to resemble”.


Stress is always on the penult; that is, the next-to-last syllable. (Never mind Esperanto; if it's good enough for Polish, it's good enough for me!)


(Yes, it has some.)


When hyphenating a word of more than one syllable, as many letters as possible are brought onto the new line, providing that this consonant cluster can begin a GSF word.

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