copyright © 1997-1999 Dennis Paul Himes

Phonology, Morphology, and Orthography


Most gladifer phonemes are at best difficult for a human to pronounce. Because of this the Capetown Institute of Gladiology developed a gladifer to human phonemic mapping, known as the Capetown mapping, soon after first contact. This is the pronunciation used in human schools throughout the galaxy, and is what we will use here. Even people who are in regular contact with gladifers or who are experts in gladiology will use the Capetown mapping. Typically when a human and a gladifer converse the human will speak Gladilatian with the Capetown mapping and the gladifer will speak Gladilatian with the gladifer phonemes. Along with this mapping comes a standard way to write Gladilatian in the Roman alphabet, which I will do in this webspace using red letters.

Gladilatian has nineteen phonemes divided into five classes: starts, fronts, whistles, vowels, and ends. The list below gives the Roman letter which represents each phoneme followed by the human phoneme used in the Capetown mapping, using Kirshenbaum's ASCII IPA. For whistles the first human phoneme is used when it is a frontal and the second when it is a base. These terms are explained in the Morphology section. The phonemes in parentheses are not in the original Capetown mapping, but are commonly used when the phoneme being mapped precedes an end. Whether or not you use these is mostly a matter of personal preference, but you should be consistent and either always use them before an end or never do. They are never used when not followed by an end in any case.

The order given here is the traditional Gladilatian ordering.







Like most human languages, Gladilatian is divided into words, which are in turn divided into syllables, which are divided into phonemes. This section gives the rules for forming syllables from phonemes.

Two important terms in Gladilatian morphology are frontal and base. A frontal is either a front or a whistle which plays the same role in a syllable as a front, and a base is either a vowel or a whistle which plays the same role in a syllable as a vowel. A case could be made that a whistle as a frontal and the same whistle as a base are really two separate phonemes, but the gladifers consider them to be the same phoneme and morphological rules which refer to two occurrences of the same phoneme include a whistle as a frontal and the same whistle as a base.

Each syllable has the following form:
zero or one start, followed by
zero to three frontals, followed by
exactly one base, followed by
zero or one end.

In addition, the same phoneme cannot appear twice in the same syllable.

The only extrasyllabic rule is that a phoneme cannot follow itself in a word. The only place where this would otherwise happen is when one morpheme ends with the same whistle or vowel that the next one begins with. In this case a start is inserted into the second base's syllable. An h is used between vowels, and a w between whistles. For example, mrohot "nothingness", from mro "no" (as an adjective) and ot "-ness".


Gladifers use stress and syllable length in somewhat subtle ways to mark importance and unexpectedness, although there is a great deal of debate among them whether doing so enhances or debases the language. When using the Capetown mapping the primary stress should fall on the first syllable of the root (i.e. the word less all prefixes), and if there is more than one syllable worth of prefix(es) a secondary stress should be placed on the first syllable.


Gladilatian is written as a sequence of glyphs each of which represents a syllable. It is not a true syllabary, however, as each glyph is constructed from subsymbols representing the phonemes in the syllable being represented. The basic frame of the glyph represents the base, marks inside this frame represent starts and frontals, and marks above the frame represent ends.

There are also three punctuation marks. One is used to mark the start of the text and to indicate in which direction it is written. Gladilatian can be written in any direction, although top to bottom is the most popular. Another mark is used to separate words, and a third to separate sentences.

For more details, see my illustrated guide to Gladilatian writing.


Whenever Gladilatian words are alphabetized here I simply use the standard English alphabetization on the Roman spelling of the word. Gladifers and the more pedantic human gladiologists use a more complicated scheme, wherein words are sorted by syllable and syllables are sorted first by base, and then by start, frontal, and end, using the ordering I used when describing the phonemes in the Phonology section. When sorting bases by this method whistles follow vowels and when sorting frontals whistles follow fronts.

You can go to the main Gladilatian page, go to my homepage, or mail me.