Complex vowels

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "Pronouncing [ṡṡċċḣḣẇẇȧȧ] is easy; you just say it like the 'x' in 'fire'."

See also Gull, Lasenby, and Doran, "Imaginary numbers are not real—the geometric algebra of spacetime", Foundations of Physics 1993 — discussion in "Getting real", 1/20/2011.

And for a sketch of the IPA's relationship with imaginary sounds, see "On beyond the (International Phonetic) Alphabet", 4/19/2019.


  1. Robot Therapist said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 7:54 am

    The IPA vowel plane always makes me laugh hysterically.

  2. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 10:41 am

    People with tongue-related medical issues do usually produce noncentral points of stricture.

  3. Chris Button said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 11:26 am

    I propose we go with schwa in the middle and leave the rest up to surrounding context :)

    I never found consonant vs vowel to be a particularly useful distinction. Obstruent vs sonorant always seemed to be a far more logical way to look at things.

  4. Brett said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 4:03 pm

    Once again, the linguist is drawn as Gretchen McCulloch. (See also xkcd comics 2381 and 2421.)

  5. S Frankel said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 6:53 pm

    @Chris Button

    Kusunda seems part of the way there. Example: "Kusunda consonants seem to only contrast the active articulator, not where that articulator makes contact. For example, apical consonants may be dental, alveolar, retroflex, or palatal: /t/ is dental [t̪] before /i/, alveolar [t͇] before /e, ə, u/, retroflex [ʈ] before /o, a/, and palatal [c] when there is a following uvular, as in [coq] ~ [t͇ok] ('we')."

    There's more –

  6. Ben said,

    August 11, 2022 @ 8:38 pm

    q ̼


  7. maidhc said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 3:53 am

    Those are the vowels of the R’lyehian tongue, used by the Cthulhu race in the distant past, and perhaps, as those ancient sites are brought to light by global warming, in the near future.

  8. Vulcan with a Mullet said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 1:55 pm

    They're all perfectly pronounceable. As long as you can extend your tongue into the 4th dimension.

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