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Following on Barbara Partee's posting on vwllssnss, here's today's Zits:

Nice conceit about dispensing with vowels in speech (as well as vowel letters in writing).


  1. Haamu said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    Shldn't t b "prnncng"?

  2. Barbara Partee said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 12:36 pm


  3. Chris said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

    Just started reading Crystal's "Txtng The gr8 db8" and he has a nice discussion of vowel omission for the lay person in chapter 3 (the whole book is rather lightweight, not much there for people who've already studied a bit of linguistics, but a good airplane read for the uninitiated). The big points being that this is nothing new, we just used to call them "abbreviations". He cites Eric Partridge's 1942 A Dictionary of Abbreviations which lists many of the very vowelless abbreviations that we're seeing the in use today.

    He also makes the point that even tweens use standard spelling in texts most of the time.

  4. Amy Reynaldo said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

    Frank Longo wrote a book of vowelless crosswords. You can really pack a lot more stuff into a crossword grid if you dispense with the vowels (which, luckily, are still used in the clues).

    Wh nds vwls?

  5. Meesher said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    What does it say about me that I find the "y" in "try" (and to a lesser extent the "w" in "vwls") irksome? And the less said about "prn[n]cng" the better.

  6. Zarggg said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    No, it's obvious he was saying "Try not princing your vowells." There is way too much royalty involved in our alphabet. ;)

  7. Ken Grabach said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

    If one always leaves out vowels it would be hard to tell if clng meant ceiling or cling, or clang. I know, context would (surely) help, but what if something or someone was clinging to the ceiling and heard a clang, and in haste left out the second 'ng' in clinging?
    And I thought he was saying prancing your vowels. Allowing for speedier trotting through the txts.
    I wonder that nobody has yet mentioned the humanitarian effort of Car Talk, during the upheavals in Yugoslavia, to collect Vowels for Bosnia. This was before txtng came into vogue.

  8. spudly said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    Most of hiragana is one character that is a consonant and vowel sound together.

    I think the kids problem is he needs to turn on word suggestions or get a better one. Less typing, more readable.

  9. John Cowan said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

    If y cn rd ths, y cn get mxbl rqds sprd.

  10. Michael Straight said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    Too me, that looks like the forum moderation technique known as disemvoweling.


  11. fs said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 7:16 pm

    He also makes the point that even tweens use standard spelling in texts most of the time.

    Yes. As I mentioned in a comment to another recent language log post, this supposed "txtspk" is apparently more popular among pundits who don't actually use it than it is among the supposed "vowelless generation".

  12. David Green said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

    Works better for English than for Hawaiian, I think.

  13. Simon Cauchi said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

    @John Cowan

    Snc t lst n rdr cnt rd yr cmmnt, cld y pls xpnd "rqds". Bttr stll, "mxbl rqds sprd".

  14. Nathan Myers said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 1:55 am

    Can somebody equipped please comment on how much the experience of reading disemvowelled English resembles reading Mandarin?

  15. Troy S. said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 4:08 am

    Mandarin? It's perhaps a bit like Arabic or Farsi, where the short vowels are supposed to be understood by the reader. Although it's notable that they do write the short vowels in when they romanize the words.

  16. Troy S. said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 4:14 am

    I have noticed the lolspeak "srsly" enter common pronunciation on occastion, so maby it's not so far off.

  17. Nathan Myers said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 5:08 am

    Troy: I'm thinking more of the effort of disambiguating by context. I don't think Arabic or Persian interpretation depends especially heavily on context, but I may be mistaken.

  18. Russell said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    Nathan: do you mean reading romanized Mandarin? If so, you could say the context-dependency is ballpark-similar. As is the greater need to sound out the words. Main difference might be that with Mandarin, you can probably come up with a list of the possible words w/o being sure which is intended right off the bat, whereas with vowelless English you might not even be sure which words to consider.

    (Same goes for many Sino-Japanese compounds. I remember an exam in which we were presented with several dozen sentences and asked to disambiguate words like "taisou" or "kousei" which can correspond to up to 6 or 8 different words)

  19. MB said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

    “I would rather trust the refinement of our Language, as far as it relates to Sound, to the Judgment of Women, than […of men] For, it is plain that Women, in their manner of corrupting words, do naturally discard the Consonants, as we [men] do the Vowels.”

    Jonathan Swift, Proposal for Improving the English Tongue (1712)

  20. Troy S. said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    @Nathan: The written language at least is very context sensitive. Without any context I can't tell if ملک is supposed to be malk, melk, molk, malak, malek, molok, or mollak – all different (although related) words.

  21. phspaelti said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    Most of hiragana is one character that is a consonant and vowel sound together.

    Yes, but the way most tweens input the kana only a C+a combination is one button push. C+i requires two, and C+o five, so the kana do not provide any economy in terms of input.

  22. John Cowan said,

    June 1, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    If anyone is still wondering, the "mxbl rqds sprd" above is mere letter salad, an allusion to the once-familiar ad "If u cn rd ths u cn gt a gd jb w hi pa", i.e. "If you can read this, you can get a good job with high pay".

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