Pictosounds    Pictosounds

Pictosounds were created by Jerry Prince to be the alphabet for an international auxiliary language he is currently working on. Any feedback would be appreciated.

The Pictosounds are images based on the position of the mouth and tongue when saying the letter. It should be easy to learn the entire alphabet by understanding what the shape of each letter represents.

The Pictosounds are divided into two main categories: Blocked Sounds and Unblocked Sounds. Blocked sounds are sounds made by creating a blockage to the free flow of air through the mouth or throat. The blocked sounds are Pictosounds basic shape roughly equivalent to the consonants. The unblocked sounds are roughly equivalent to the vowels.

There are 27 blocked and 18 unblocked picto-sounds, making an alphabet of 45 pictosounds. All of the pictosound shapes are derived from the familiar image on the right:

The Fundamental Images

The pictosounds all begin from three fundamental images:

  1. The point, Pictosounds point, which is invisibly at the center of the Logos symbol holding it together. The point has no dimension. The point represents the silent idea that precedes writing. It is the source of all the pictosounds. It starts and ends all sentences.
  2. The circle, Pictosounds circle, which represents the breath escaping an open mouth. The circle is an expansion of the point. It is the expression of the will to speak. It is the spirit with which the words are spoken.
  3. The line, Pictosounds line, which represents closed lips, or sound. It is the physical manifestation of the original thought, or point, a connection between mind and body.

The Blocked Sounds (The Consonants)

Pictosounds star A blocked sound is a sound created by blocking the free flow of air through the throat. Blocked sounds therefore give a physical form to a sound. This is what a human being does with words. The human being is represented by the star of the Logos symbol.

All of the 27 blocked pictosounds are shapes derived from the star inside the circle:

There are eight families of related sounds that do not require any movement of the tongue to go from one to another in the group. Unrelated sounds require moving the tongue to a different position. The eight families of sound blocks are used to produce sound by using the following six different methods:

  1. Nasally - meaning that the air/sound is forced to exit through the nose. This is represented by an image of the block alone.
  2. Popping - meaning that a brief blast of air is forced through the block. This is represented by a small circle above the blockage point.
  3. Popping with Sound - This is represented by a small line above the blockage point.
  4. Sustained Breath - meaning a continued stream of air is forced through the block. This is represented by a small circle below the blockage point.
  5. Sustained Sound - meaning a sustained breath with sound. This is represented by a line below the blockage point.
  6. Trilling - meaning multiple pops in rapid succession, like gargling. This is represented by two lines above the blockage point.

The chart below provides a brief description of all the 27 blocked sounds (with IPA symbol and an American English word for clarification):

Sounds of American English in the Pictosounds alphabet

*The glottal stop is not actually a nasal sound. It is a sudden silence caused by using the back of the tongue to block all sound from escaping the throat. The difference between the l's and r's is a matter of whether sound is part of the pronunciation or not.

The Unblocked Sounds (The Vowels)

Pictosounds halo An Unblocked sound is created without creating an obstruction to the free flow of air through the throat. Unblocked vocalization provides the vital energy of words. This is the free expression of spirit that encompasses and gives meaning to a word. With freewill, clear thinking gives meaning to a human being's life. This ideal of clear thinking is represented by the halo (circle) of the Logos symbol.

All of the 18 unblocked pictosounds are derived from this halo around the star:

Unblocked sound is created by changing the size of the opening the air must escape through and the exertion of the vocal chords. The unblocked pictosounds focus on two methods of controlling sound: pursing the lips and changing the height of the tongue.

There are three lip positions depicted by vertical images:

   Pictosounds vowel symbols

  1. The first symbol represents a side view of pursed lips.
  2. The second symbol represents a frontal view of the lips of the mouth open and rounded.
  3. The third symbol represents a side view of the open mouth with the corners of the lips drawn back.

There are two tongue positions depicted by horizontal images:

  1. The Pictosounds vowel symbol represents the tongue lifted up high in the mouth.
  2. The Pictosounds vowel symbol represents the tongue dropped down low in the mouth.

The first unblocked sound is the condensed essence of the halo, Pictosounds point. It represents silence.

The second unblocked sound is the halo itself, Pictosounds point. It is the "h" sound in the word Holy.

The next four unblocked sounds are actually not single sounds, but instructions to move the mouth and blend several sounds together (a glissando in musical terms):

   Pictosounds vowel symbols

  1. This is an instruction to move the lips from a pursed position to an open position. It is like the dipthong sound "ua" in World.
  2. This is an instruction to move the lips from open to pursed. It is like the dipthong sound "au" in Cow.
  3. This is an instruction to quickly move the tongue from a high position to a low position. It is like the "io" sound in Yes.
  4. This is an instruction to quicly move the tongue from a low position to a high one. It is like the "oi" sound in Royal.

These four vowels above are affected by the vowels surrounding them. If a vowel immediately precedes them, they start with that vowel's sound. If a vowel immediately follows, they end with that vowel's sound. Without a preceding or ending vowel, the sound quickly crosses the vowel chart below in a diagonal manner.

The remaining twelve vowels are shown in the chart below (with IPA symbol and sample word):

Other Pictosounds vowel symbols

*The words quoted above are common English sounds that might be helpful in memorizing the chart of unblocked sounds.

A List Of All The Pictosounds (with English pronunciation indicators)

The names of the letters are the sounds themselves.

Pictosounds for English

Using Pictosounds

Pictosounds are meant to be used phonetically. There is only one symbol per sound.

There are no upper and lower case letters or different forms of letters based on their position in a word or sentence. The orientation of the pictosound images should not be changed, i.e. the mouth image should always face left (or forward) to avoid the extra cognitive effort to decipher mirror or rotated images of the pictosounds.

However, the direction of writing can be whatever is most comfortable for the writer. An arrow at the beginning of the page should indicate the direction of writing, i.e. left to right and then down or top to bottom and then left. For example,

Other Pictosounds arrow   would mean read left to right and then return to read the next line below.

Other Pictosounds arrow   would mean read left to right and then turn and read the line below right to left.

Similar arrow indicators should be used for other directions, like top to bottom and right to left writing.

It is possible to use the pictosounds to approximate the sounds of most words in most languages. Below is a sample transliteration of the English rendition of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sample Text

Sample text in Pictosounds


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

If you have any comments on Pictosounds, you can contact Jerry at: jkhalilprince@yahoo.com

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