Vowels, like consonants, also have their own features and categories. It's a travesty that very few understand that, let alone consider this when designing their writing systems.
First, there are rounded and unrounded vowels. Rounded means the lips pucker up. In Flownetic some vowels are only straight lines (unrounded), while others have some type of curve (rounded). For the most part, the table of vowels follows the IPA chart
of where each vowel sound is placed. Vowels are further divided by other features. Back sounds on the left, front sounds on the right. Close vowels at top, open vowels at bottom.
The shapes of the common vowel sounds (in my familiar languages, namely English, Cantonese, and Mandarin) is how I envision them is my mind. For instance
/i/, is a consistent, flat sound that shoots straight out of one's mouth. The flatness also resembles a closed mouth.
Consonants are organized similarly on the table. Pharyngeal and glottal sounds on the left, palatal and alveolar in middle, then dental and labial to the right. A vertical line in a letter can be the throat, lips, or palate. A curvy line shows tongue placement or movement, or sibilant sounds.
for /k/ sound. If the speaker is facing right, then the throat is on the left. Hence the vertical line is placed at the left of the letter. Pronouncing /k/ involves curling the tongue towards the throat. Hence a curvy line protrudes from the vertical line.
A mirror of that is
for /t/ sound. If the speaker is facing right, then the teeth are on the right. Hence the vertical line is placed at the right of the letter. Pronouncing /t/ involves the tongue touching the teeth. Hence a curvy line touching the vertical line.
Other main features of consonants are voiced/voiceless and aspirated/unaspirated. The base consonant is voiceless and unaspirated. In Flownetic, voiced consonants have something repeated from the base consonant. For example, /v/ is a voiced /f/. So the slash part of
is repeated, becoming double slashes, like so:
Likewise, aspirated consonants have something added to the base consonant. So a /k/
, moves the curvy line up and adds another protruding line. This is important to languages like Cantonese and Mandarin, where /k/ and /kʰ/ are distinct sounds.
The sibilant sounds, such as /s/ and /z/, are shaped like sine waves. This was the most challenging consonants, since there are so many sibilant sounds used across different languages that I wanted to cover. The current version has the /s/ and /z/ vertical like the Latin letters of the same sounds. Then there are extra letters with additional curves above the main symbol, to denote different areas the tongue touches. The more complex sibilant sounds become horizontal sine waves. These sibilant sounds are actually compound consonants. In IPA these are preceded with /t/ or /d/. However, I needed simplify them because they are quite common in some languages. Mandarin has 9 sibilant sounds (in Pinyin, they are s, sh, c, ch, z, zh, x, q, j).
Many phonetic alphabets suffer from what some call Tengwaritis
. At first glance, it's very hard to distinguish letters because they all look so similar. That was the light bulb moment that led me to create a fresh phonetic script that steers clear of having every letter look almost identical, while still retaining featural clues based on real human anatomy. Not unlike Hangeul, which was another major influence. However, Hangeul suffers another problem, is that most people around the world aren't used to rules of putting letters in certain areas of a box. I prefer the simplest rule: place the next letter to the right.
Thus, the name of Flownetic embodies many different meanings. Flow (1) is the flow of each letter somehow resembles the position and gestures of your tongue, lips, and mouth (when viewed as if mouth is facing to the right.) Flow (2) is the flow of the words and sentence structure. Each letter follows another, flowing like water. This is the case of most writing systems, including English, French, other European systems, Japanese, etc. Flow (3) is the ease of writing it using pen and paper. Using simple lines, simple curves, and simple shapes. As counter-examples, Greek and Cyrillic have complicated, convoluted shapes. Flow (4) is the ease of reading it and learning it. Partly because of simplicity, partly because of distinction between letters (i.e. free from Tengwaritis.)