Description of Pictographic Phonetic Alphabet

A novel structural principle (see PPA Inventory)

The PPA characters represent phonemes, linguistically distinctive sounds characterised by a particular set of phonological features. Yet these signs are not chosen arbitrarily but are composed of symbols that represent these distinguishing phonological features. The power of each symbol lies more in its combinatory abilities and its place within the character than in its own iconic shape.

Thus, on the level of its symbol inventory, PPA is a writing system based on an entirely new alphabetic principle: one symbol for one phonological feature. This is a higher level of phonological abstraction in relation to other comparable systems; for example, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is based on the principal of one sign for one sound.

A new type of alphabetic sign (see PPA Characters)

The main novelty of PPA consists in a new way of sound representation, one based on the sound articulation. The PPA composite characters are best described as stylized pictograms of the human articulatory apparatus.

Unlike existing alphabets, then, which are systems of arbitrary signs that encode the corresponding sounds in an impervious manner, the PPA offers motivated signs that are easy to interpret and to memorise thanks to their pictographic nature.

However, the composite signs of the PPA differ from the realistic pictures or pictograms used in phonetic textbooks to represent the articulation of sounds. The difference lies again in the level of abstraction and in the combinatory ability of the inventory: its primary symbols can be combined in such a way that all phonological features necessary for the description and articulation of the represented sound can be combined in one pictogram, whereas the use of conventional pictures requires several representations to describe one sound, not to mention the many phonetic characteristics that cannot be captured by a realistic picture.

A novel approach to suprasegmental marks (see SUPRASEGMETALS in PPA Inventory)

To mark stress or length, PPA does not require the addition of extra symbols. Instead, the pictographic nature of this new alphabet’s signs allows for the changing of a character’s form itself in a logical and visually recognizable way: an enlarged character marks a stressed sound, a lengthened character a long sound. Breaks between words can be indicated by spacing or by the vertical bars used in IPA. The characters in syllabic units, on the other hand, are linked with a horizontal line at the bottom to emphasize their unity.