Nwehu Nuswei

Nthu   Nusp

6A00 602B

“Communication System
combining natural and artificial elements
in appropriate degree”


General Principles of Nwehu Nuswei

Nthu Nusp Nwehu Nuswei (in International Phonetic Alphabet: [nwɛ'hə nə'swɛj]) is an artificial language for human discourse in speech, writing, and digital communication. It is not based on any existing human language, but makes use of human language universals whenever practicable to make it as easy as possible for all people to learn and use it.

These are the six General Principles upon which the language is based:

  1. Related words have related sounds (sound-semantic relationship)
  2. Phonetic symbolism is incorporated whenever possible
  3. Semantic structure is organized as much as is practical using the me-first” principle.
  4. All words are represented digitally with sixteen bits.
  5. In speech, each word has two syllables composed of a consonant followed by a vowel (CVCV).
  6. Sixteen consonants and sixteen syllable nuclei (vowels) are used.

1. The Sound-Semantic Relationship

Rather than build words based on any existing human language, the vocabulary is built according to hierarchical groups of related concepts. A similar artificial language was created in the 17th century by John Wilkins, and described in his Toward a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1669). Though few are now acquainted with Wilkins' work, it was the inspiration for Roget's Thesaurus, which uses Wilkins' semantic categories as the basis for its organization.

The result of this is that Nwehu Nuswei words that are related to one another usually sound similar. Whether or not this is a good idea has been debated, but never tested in practice. And regardless of the outcome of the debate, this particular artificial language is based on the principle that related words should sound alike.

2. Phonetic Symbolism

Phonetic symbolism is the idea that certain simple speech-sounds evoke fairly predictable associations to speakers of many, if not most, human languages.

I have studied this experimentally and in the literature, and found it to be true to a limited degree. The associations are weakest with consonants, strongest (though never overwhelmingly so) with vowels. The strongest associations are with size and with negative-positive polarity; hence, these are the only sound-meaning associations used in Nwehu Nuswei.

Size Associations

Polarity Associations

/i/ smallest

/i/ Positive

/e/ small

/u/ Negative

/a, ə/ neutral

/u/ larger

/o/ largest

Table 1

3. Me-First Principle

The me-first principle is observed in several languages, but has not to my knowledge been demonstrated to be universal.

It observes first that there are pairs of related concepts which are associated at some level of consciousness:

Group 1 Group 2
ego other
small large
simple complex

Table 2

In English, and in some other languages, when speakers speak about two things together, they tend to put words related to Group 1 first, followed by those related to Group 2. When asked why, they may simply say, It sounds better that way.

Examples in English:

ego vs. other me and them ?them and me
  me and you ?you and me
  to me and Tommy ?to Tommy and me
  This is an interesting case, because children usually have to be corrected when they put me first. In English, children are taught that it is more polite (or grammatical) to name the other person first, but the frequency with which children have to be reminded illustrates the power of the me first principle. In other language (Spanish, to my knowledge) this is not considered a matter of politeness, and the normal word order puts the speaker (me) first.

small (word) vs. large (word):

bread and butter *butter and bread
  cease and desist *desist and cease
simple vs. complex    

4. Sixteen Bit Words

Digital storage and transmission uses the simplest possible building blocks: units that can be either on or off. These are called bits, and can be represented physically in many ways, such as magnetic polarity (north-south), light (on-off), voltage (high-low), surfaces (solid-hole), and anything else that works simply, cheaply, and rapidly.

By themselves, single bits convey relatively little information, so they are clustered together. Because each bit can have only one of two values, two is the number-base upon which everything digital is (literally) based. (Most humans use ten as their number base, probably because we have ten fingers.)

Clusters of bits are therefore based on powers of two. 22 = 4, so four bits together are the next unit to be used above single bits. (These are sometimes referred to as nybbles.) Each letter in Nwehu Nuswei is composed of four bits (one nybble), and one nybble can have sixteen different values (numbered 0-1111 in base 2, 0-15 in base ten, or 0-F in base sixteen).

Four groups of four bits (24 = 16) are usually referred to in computer science as a word. In Nwehu Nuswei, a computer word is a language word. There are 65,536 (base ten) different possible combinations of bits in a word; so Nwehu Nuswei has 65,536 possible vocabulary words. (But one set of 4,096 words those beginning with the sound F are reserved for flexible redefinition within technical fields, providing potentially unlimited expansion as needed.)

5. Syllable Structure

In speech, each Nwehu Nuswei word has two syllables, each composed of a consonant followed by a vowel. This type of syllable is used in all human languages as far as is known; many language use no other type of syllable, and speakers of these languages have difficulty pronouncing other syllable structures. For this reason, Nwehu Nuswei uses only these simple syllables.

However, one consonant, H /h/, can be dropped from pronunciation; and one vowel, U /ə/, can be dropped from pronunciation when unstressed. (Stress falls on the final syllable, but vowels are not to be “reduced” or “centralized” when unstressed.) Words beginning with HU- are particles, intended to be pronounced as a single syllable, but are always written and expressed digitally with the full four letters or sixteen bits. Likewise, words beginning with some SU- combinations can also be reduced to one syllable, though this is not required, since the resulting combinations are not used easily by speakers of all languages.

6. Consonants and Vowels

As explained under Sixteen Bit Words above, each Nwehu Nuswei word consists of sixteen bits considered as four groups of four bits each. (0000 0000 0000 0000) Each of the four groups can represent any of sixteen values. As described above under Syllable Structure, the first letter represented by the first four bits is always a consonant; the second four bits represent a vowel, the third a consonant, and the fourth another vowel.

Sixteen consonants are commonly found in most languages; Nwehu Nuswei uses the most common of these, to make pronunciation relatively easy for speakers of all languages. However, it is extremely rare to fine sixteen distinct vowels in any one language, so Nwehu Nuswei uses clusters of vowels (diphthongs) whose pronunciation is easier for most speakers.

Note that the same 4-bit patterns (numbers) are used for both consonants and vowels, so their spoken value is determined by their position as well as their pattern of bits.

Table 3 lists the values and their interpretations in consonant and vowel positions:

Table 3

Spelling” symbols are commonly used: latin alphabet letters which appear in this document and related materials. Nwehu Nuswei has a set of unique symbols not illustrated in Table 3 (see Table 4). IPA is the “International Phonetic Alphabet” whose symbols have a clearly defined pronunciation. See https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/content/ipa-chart.

Word Structure in More Detail

As discussed above, Nwehu Nuswei words are based on concepts used in computer architecture, adapted to human speech so as to be usable by the largest number of people. Let's take a second, more detailed look at the shape of the words.

The basis of Nwehu Nuswei's word structure is the 16-bit computer word fundamental to computer architecture. A “bit” is a simple entity that can be in either of two states, “on” or “off”, zero or one.

Bit: 0 1

This simple concept enables multiple ways of representing the “bit” physically. Typically, this is done with electronic voltage states or contrasting magnetic polarities. Thus, the “word” of this language is the same as the “word” of a computer, optimizing storage and transmission.

Word: 1010101010101010

There are 65,536 possible combinations of bits in a sixteen-bit word; thus, this language has a potential of just over sixty-five thousand basic vocabulary elements.

Each word - both in computers and in Nwehu Nuswei is composed of four groups of four bits (4 x 4 = 16)

Word: 0100 1100 1010 1101

Computer people sometimes refer to groups of four bits as “nybbles”.

Nybble: 1001

A nybble has sixteen possible variations - that is, it can represent numbers from zero to fifteen, and in Nwehu Nuswei, these sixteen combinations are used to represent “letters”.

These are the sixteen possible combinations of the four on-off bits in a nybble:

0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111
1000 1001 1010 1011 1100 1101 1110 1111

However, rather than a total of just sixteen "letters" for the language, the position of the nybble determines whether the "letter" is a consonant or a vowel. Here's how it works…


Each Nwehu Nuswei word is defined as consisting of two syllables; each syllable consists of a consonant followed by a vowel.

Word: 1010 1010 1010 1010
  Consonant Vowel Consonant Vowel
  --- First Syllable --- --- Second Syllable ---

This very simple syllabic structure was chosen because it is found in practically every human language on earth. Many languages consist primarily of syllables with this consonant-vowel (CV) structure. Adopting this syllabic structure puts pronouncing Nwehu Nuswei easily within reach of just about all humans. All its words have a CVCV structure. This means that the first and third nybbles of each computer "word" represent one of sixteen different consonants; the second and fourth represent one of sixteen different vocalic elements.


Amost all natural human languages have sixteen distinctive consonant sounds. The sixteen chosen for Nwehu Nuswei can be represented its own character set, in the Latin alphabet and in symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA):

 H S X F     R Y N M     K C T P     G J D B
 H S X F   R Y N M   K C T P   G J D B
[h s ʃ f   ɹ ʒ n m   k ʧ t p   ɡ ʤ d b]

These sounds were chosen to be distinctive enough that variations in pronunciation will not affect intelligibility; almost all languages have consonant sounds close enough to these that an equivalent is readily available. In English, the equivalent sounds are

/h s ʃ f ɹ ʒ n m k ʧ t p ɡ ʤ d b/.

which are usually spelled with these letters:

H S Sh F R Zh N M K Ch T P G J D B.

However, English spellings are not used for all Nwehu Nuswei sounds. Sh is represented by the letter X and Ch by the letter C alone, so that each consonant has by only one letter. As mentioned above, each "letter" is also represented by a computer nybble. Refer to Table 3 above for the complete correspondence.

In linguistic discussions, sounds are often displayed in a tabular form based on their underlying organization. In NN, the following table shows the systematic organization of consonants:

    Labial Apical Palatal Velar
  Voiceless p t ʧ k
  Voiced b d ʤ ɡ
  Voiceless f s ʃ h
  Voiced m n ʒ ɹ


But practically no languages have sixteen "pure" vowel sounds without using tones, voice qualities, or nasality - features not shared by a lot of the world's languages. So Nwehu Nuswei combines vowel sounds in the vocalic part of each syllable to produce "diphthongs", a type of vocalic element that is found in the majority of human languages - though by no means all. And some of the resulting combinations are not as easy to distinguish as would be desirable, but the overall structure is relatively simple to pronounce and understand. What is more, this vocalic structure makes possible the incorporation of "symbolic" sounds, or "phonetic symbolism" - a feature which can potentially aid learning, memorization, and the overall intuitive quality of the language. More on symbolic sound qualities elsewhere.

Six common vowel sounds are used as the basis for Nwehu Nuswei syllabic structure. In IPA, these are:

/ə i e a e u/

spelled in Nwehu Nuswei:

U I E a o O W
p U I E A O W

The corresponding English spellings are:


as in

but, beet, bet, bot, boat, boot.

Of course, each of these six simple vowels can be the only vowel in a syllable. But what about the other ten vocalic elements? These are diphthongs formed either by placing a W [w] at the beginning, or an i [j] at the end, or both. This gives us these ten combinations:

/ ej aj oj wi we wa wo wej waj woj /,

for a total of sixteen vocalic elements. The main pronunciation and intelligibility issues here are the EI and WO combinations, which many languages lack. Two widely-spoken languages lack a distinctive differentiation of these sounds: English lacks a distinction between [e] and [ej] as in “say”, which in some variants is pronounced [seː] (Scottish and Irish English) and in others [sɛj]; Standard Chinese lacks a distinction between [o] and [wo], both of which are pronounced [o]. Hence to maintain the sixteen-vowel structure, NN provides flexibility to pronounce vowels in at least two systematically different ways:

Native spelling E F M C T G O D P B
Latin spelling E EI OI WI WE WA O WO WEI WOI
Phonemic (distinctive) system /e ej oj wi we wa o wo wej woj /

Phonetic pronunciation A [ ɛ ej ɔj wi wɛ wa ɔ wɔ wej wɔj ]

Phonetic pronunciation B [ ɛ eː ɔ͝i u͡i u͝ɛ u͝a ɔ oː u͡eː o͡ːi ]

NN vowels can be organized in phonetic space this way:

Phonetic Variant A

Phonetic Variant B








i, wi


i, u͝i



ej, wej


e:, u͡eː


o:, o͡:i



ɔ, ɔj, wɔ, wɔj


ɔ , ɔ͝i


a, aj, wa, waj

a, a͝i, u͝a, u͝ai

How are these sounds related to meanings in the vocabulary space? We explore this in the following section.


Semantic Dimensional Representation using the Final Vowel

In Nwehu Nuswei, detailed semantic space is filled in one of two ways: Ordinal and Dimensional


Ordinal space is one-dimensional, linear. Words may occupy sequential space in a domain whether or not they are related in a complex way to the words adjacent to them in the numerical sequence. Ordinal representation makes sense with concepts like numbers, dates, and measurements, but with other groups of words it is sometimes employed simply to utilize vocabulary space efficiently, regardless of the semantic relations of neighboring terms. When this is done, it is done as a fall-back, because it fails to meet the first two General Principles of the language (above).


Dimensional semantic space makes use of the broad 'meanings' assigned to the (stressed) vowels at the ends of words (see the section on Phonetic Symbolism above). Since the six vowels are used in sixteen combinations, the result is, in effect, a multi-dimensionality in the vocabulary space within a sixteen-word domain.

Semantic Space – How Many Words Are There?

As mentioned, there are 65,536 possible words given the structure of the language. These are organized by letter, from first to last.

Consonant 1 16 '(Word) Family' Level 1

Vowel 1 256 '(Word) Genus' Level 2

Consonant 2 4096 '(Word) Species' Level 3

Vowel 2 65,536 'Word' Level 4

Principle Word Families

The sixteen principle word families are shown in Table 4:

Initial (decimal)

Initial (hex)

Initial Consonant NN

Initial Consonant Latin






Particles: Pronouns, articles, suffixes, various others





The Verb: Copula, modals, aspect, simple tense





Relations: Prepositions, space and time





Variables: to be used as “jargon” in technical fields





Household objects, common tools, vehicles





Living creatures: animals





General phenomena: Feelings, Emotions, Movements, Habits





People, Family & Social Relationships, daily life





Physics and Chemistry





Living Creatures: plants





Quantities and Qualities





Phenomena originating in man and other intelligent creatures (1)





Physics and Chemistry, part 2





Anatomy, physiology, neurology, cellular chemistry, etc.





Inorganic natural phenomena





Phenomena originating in man and other intelligent creatures (2)

Table 4

Nwehu Nuswei Overview.rtf Page 12 20. April 2014