The rest of the vowels

Here are the last of the vowel symbols. These six are like the vowels we looked at earlier, but written with a thick dot or dash instead of a thin one.

You remember that a light dot in the first (top) position stands for the short “A” sound. A heavy dot in the first position stands for “Ah”. This is the long A sound in words like “army”, “Aardvark” or “Arctic”, or “the army of Arctic aardvarks.”

A heavy dot in the second position stands for “Ey”, as in “hay” or “weigh” or “slay the grey jay, May – the laser ray may splay your brain.”

I’ve written it “Ey” rather than “Ay” as a reminder that it’s in the same position as E. Ey is a “heavier” version of E. At least, that’s how it seemed to Isaac Pitman’s fevered imagination.

A heavy dot in the third position is a long version of the “I” sound. It stands for “EE”, as in “me” “tree” or “Flee the green bee!”  It’s easy to get confused on this one. You might think that “EE” should be the long version of “E”, not the long version of “I”. Cast this heretical notion from your mind. The infallible truth his that, if you stretch out an “i” sound, and believe hard enough, you get “eeee”, as Nintendo so correctly observed when naming their Wii.

The heavy dashes are “AW”, “OE” and “OO”. The “Aw” is the vowel sound in words like “law” or “sauce”. “OE” is the sounds in “boat” or “show”. “OO” is the long vowel sound in “soon”, “shoot” or “prove the glue true” – but not words like “book” or “look”. Again, they’re supposed to be long versions of the light dash symbols, but it only really works well for the “OO”s. Beware the Ooze.

Pitman has four more basic vowel sounds. They’re all diphtongs – that is, sounds made up of two “phthongs”.

A downward wedge is the sound of “IE”, as in the word “eye”. It’s always written in the first position – high up. The sound “OW”, as in the word “ow!” is the opposite – a wedge pointing upwards. It’s written in the third position – down low. The sound of “OY”, as in “boy”, is written as a sideways-pointing wedge. Actually, it’s a straight line sideways, with a diagonal ilne beneath it. Again, it’s written in the first position. Finally, there’s a small arch, written in the third position. This represents the sound “yoo” – as in “you” or (depending on your pronunciation) “Tuesday”. Technically, this last one is redundant, as you could also write this same sound as a “Y” and an “OO” sound stuck together, but generations of Pitman writers decided it was useful to have a separate vowel symbol. Pitman is proudly redundant.

That’s all the sounds. Now you can finally make words!