Zurvár Language and Culture - Orthography

This page is an explanation of the orthography the Institute has developed for representing Zurvár. The oksos was designed to avoid digraphs wherever possible, each pereþ retaining it's basic sound no matter what letters surround it (the voldránì are a different matter). The orthography has mirrored this by representing each oksos letter with a single Roman equivilant (with the exception of the almost extinct "rr"). This allows fairly easy pronounciation of the language once the student has memorised them.

In order to present the sounds of Zurvár in the clearest form possible, the associated IPA symbols are presented alongside the letters - for instance /e/ for the English 'short e' sound or /j/ for the English 'y' sound. It should be noted that some inferior browsers may not display these symbols correctly. If your browser is showing strange number codes or 'boxes' rather than the correct IPA symbols then you may wish to consider upgrading to a more standards compliant browser (such as Mozilla Firefox).


There are five basic voldránì in the oksos, which for the purposes of the orthography can be conveniently matched with the basic English vowels.
Letter Value IPA
i bit /ɪ/
e bet /e/
a bat /æ/
u hut /ʌ/
o hot /ɒ/

These are modified with superior and inferior diacratic marks to represent the 15 vowel sounds recognised in Zurvár (for more information on these marks please see the oksos page). In the orthography these sounds are represented as follows.

Letter Value IPA
ì bite /aɪ/
î boy /ɔɪ/
è beet /iː/ or /ɪə/
à bay /eɪ/
á bar /ə/
Letter Value IPA
â taught /ɔː/
ù book /ʊ/
û boot /uː/
ò boat /oʊ/ or /əʊ/
ô cow /aʊ/

As mentioned under certain circumstances individual voldránì alter their sounds. This is typically when preceding an "l" or "r". The sound change involved can be somewhat counter-intuitive to English speakers, hence a chart is provided below. A dash on this chart indicates that each letter is pronounced seperately, for instance gorat ("city") is pronounced "goh-rat" not "gore-at" as it would be in English.

Combination Value IPA
il bill /ɪl/
ìl bile /aɪl/
îl boil /ɔɪl/
el bell /el/
èl feel /iːl/
al pal /æl/
àl pale /eɪl/
ál - -
âl ball /ɔːl/
ul hull /ʌl/
ùl little /ʊl/
ûl pool /uːl/
ol poll /ɒl/
òl bowl /əʊl/
ôl owl /aʊl/
Combination Value IPA
ir - -
ìr fire /aɪə/
îr lawyer* /ɔɪə/
er air /eə/
èr ear /ɪa/
ar - -
àr payer* /eɪə/
ár far /ɑː/
âr bore /ɔː/
ur bird /ɜː/
ùr - -
ûr newer* /uːə/
or - -
òr sower* /əʊə/
ôr hour /aʊə/
* Approximation only - these combinations are rare and hence should not prove problematic.

If a combination with a following 'l' or 'r' is not desired, a punctuation mark called a deñè or 'break' is inserted. This is represented in the orthography with an apostrophe. For instance in the word su'ref ("home").

suref - sir-ref
su'ref - su-ref

For reasons not yet fully understood deñè is not used in personal names. For instance the syllable "hàl" of the Zurvár name Hàlè should be pronounced like the English word "hail". However the name is pronounced as Hà'lè, with the first syllable like the English word "hey". The reason for this ommision is currently unknown, and care should be taken pronouncing and transcribing unfamilar names.

The deñè is sometimes also used to separate a pereþ from a following voldránì. This is most common when dealing with a worn down compound version of a plural, such as m'adár in the phrase m'adár gwárv. This is pronounced as "mmm-adár", where the triple m represents a short hum similar to the traditional English 'mmm' sound expressing appreciation of tasty food.


In late 2004 a change was made to the way that the voldránì are represented in the orthography. New students of the language need not concern themselves with this as all relevant materials have been updated (or at least are supposed to have been updated - the work was delegated to undergraduates). Those refering to older materials may want to check them for compliance with the new system. The Roman representation of three voldránì have been changed, as shown in the following chart.

Sound IPA Old Representation New Representation
boy /ɔɪ/ ú î
taught /ɔː/ û â
boot /uː/ ó û

This change was made after much supplication from students who found the old representation difficult, and from Zurvár waitstaff who were getting tired of tourists asking for còcè on their kamurò*còcè - window. kamurò - ear. Compare cûcè (sauce) and kamurû (shellfish)..


There are 25 consonants or pereþ recognised in Zurvár. These are for the most part similar enough to English consonants as to require no additional explanation. The exceptions are explained below.

Letter Value IPA
r riot /r/
rr riot /r/ trilled
l look /l/
n need /n/
š shoot /∫/ or /ʒ/
c cheat /t∫/ or /ʒ/
y yet /j/
k kit /k/
g get /g/
q loch /x/
ñ sang /ŋ/
h heat /h/
Letter Value IPA
p pull /p/
b beet /b/
w wait /w/
m meet /m/
f feet /f/
v very /v/
ð that /ð/
þ thin /θ/
t tooth /t/
d deed /d/
s suit /s/
z zoot /z/


English speakers should note that "y" is never pronounced as a vowel or vowel modifier in Zurvár (as in English "every", "boy" or "rayon"). It serves only to indicate the palato-alveolar approximant sound /j/ (as in English "yes" or "you").


Most Zurvár do not distinguish between the sounds /ʒ/ (as in English "lotion" or "measure") and /∫/ (as in English "shirt" or "hush"), and as such whichever pronunciation seems easiest to the student is acceptable. Some Zurvár linguists do make the distinction however and use the standard "š" oksos character to represent /∫/ and a variant with a vertical line drawn through it for /ʒ/. This system is not generally found outside of academic texts and is only mentioned for the sake of completeness. Moloqurn speakers (see below) always pronounce "š" as /∫/.


Prior to November 2012 it was believed that Zurvár included the sound /tʒ/, which was represented in the orthography as j. This turned out to be major error, chiefly caused by a researcher spending too much time drinking in a Moloqurn bar in Bal. Most of the Institute's materials have been updated, however any instances of j remaining in Zurvár text should be read as c.


While the majority of Zurvár pronounce "c" as /t∫/ (as in English "church") there is a sizable group within the city of Bal (with small enclaves scattered around the planet) who instead pronounce it as /ʒ/ (English "lotion" or "measure"). These are members of houses Tàvá and Moloqan, who were separated from the main body of nomadic Zurvár for around 200 years from about -ST0230 to ST0032. Speakers of the Moloqurn dialect (as it is known) also pronounce "ô" closer to "û" than in standard Zurvár and preserve a number of archaic words and language structures in their day to day speech. 'Pure' Moloqurn is gradually dying out as its speakers assimilate into main Zurvár culture (in many cases the only surviving Moloqurn features are some unusual family names and the /ʒ/ pronounciation, which is remarkably resistant to change). There are several projects underway to record and preserve this dialect before it becomes completely extinct.


The early -ST0270's through to the mid -ST0290's were a time of great linguistic inquiry and interest for the Zurvár, with much research being carried out into the Zurvár language. While much of this research was sound, one somewhat dubious theory gained a large amount of currency, that of the language being heavily influenced by another culture - known as the Pirenàr - some 500 years before.

The Pirenàr were undoutedly real, they are mentioned in a number of reliable accounts. However a number of influential scholars became convinced that anywhere up to a fifth of all words current in Zurvár were of Pirenàr origin. How they reached this conclusion is unclear, but by the late -ST0270's the Pirenàr theory was generally taken as gospel, despite there being virtually no evidence to support it.

Bundled along with this hypothesis came another, that the Pirenàr trilled or rolled their 'r's. There is even less evidence to support this than the main theory, but it quickly became fashionable amongst the educated classes to roll any and all 'r's found in words of presumed Pirenàr origin (this occasionly made speech completely incomprehensible, as riduculed by the famous satirist Breveklet in her work Mon Károm Man Harem).

Given this climate it is little wonder that when Cufár Bekátal Kuváravik set out to reform written Zurvár in -ST0281 he included two 'r' characters in his new alphabet, one for a normal Zurvár 'r' and one for a rolled Pirenàr 'r'. Cufár's alphabet - the oksos - was accepted (with some minor modifications) as the standard for written Zurvár at the second Wàcurátá conference in -ST0109. At this time the Pirenàr theory was still current - although the mania for sprinkling one's speech with trills had long passed - so his two 'r' symbols were left unchanged.

Over the next 50 years however the Pirenàr hypothesis was systematically demolished by a number of scholars, reducing the number of accepted Pirenàr influenced words in the language from several thousand down to twelve. The associated spelling reforms all but removed the rolled 'r' from Zurvár and the character is now almost extinct, surviving mainly as a way to quickly and cheaply make a body of text seem archaic (similar to the 'ye olde worlde' style of faux-archaic English).

The rolled 'r' symbol is still part of the oksos, but it is basically a linguistic fossil. Of the twelve accepted Pirenàr words in Zurvár only five contain 'r's and only the most pedantic scholars insist on spelling these with the Pirenàr 'r'. The allocation of 'rr' to represent this letter in the Roman orthography is basically for reasons of completeness - it is not envisaged that the casual student will ever encounter it. Even if they do, pronouncing it as a normal 'r' will be acceptable in almost all settings.

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