Although some questions still remain to be answered regarding
the number of ``forms'' to use for the ASCII/ETHIOPIC table, we
have retained the original arrangement of twelve (12) for SERA
pending decisions relating to the Unicode/ISO standards
currently under discussion. We do not believe a change in the
matrix of the table will affect the work discussed in this paper.
An extended discussion on the choice of ASCII characters to
denote the vowel components of the syllabic characters of Fidel
is given in the
paper from ``The Journal of EthioSciences''
Volume 3 Number 1.
This gif also corresponds to the table given below.
The Ethiopic Script in ASCII
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
g`Iz ka`Ib sals rab`I hams sads sab`I diqala -->
1 he hu hi ha hE h ho
2 le lu li la lE l lo lWa
3 He Hu Hi Ha HE H Ho HWa
4 me mu mi ma mE m mo mWa
5 `se `su `si `sa `sE `s `so `sWa
6 re ru ri ra rE r ro rWa
7 se su si sa sE s so sWa
8 xe xu xi xa xE x xo xWa
9 qe qu qi qa qE q qo qWe qW/qWu qWi qWa qWE
10 `qe `qu `qi `qa `qE `q `qo (`q is Chaha)
11 Qe Qu Qi Qa QE Q Qo QWe QW/QWu QWi QWa QWE
12 be bu bi ba bE b bo bWa (Q is Tigrigna)
13 ve vu vi va vE v vo vWa
14 te tu ti ta tE t to tWa
15 ce cu ci ca cE c co cWa
16 `he `hu `hi `ha `hE `h `ho hWe hW/hWu hWi hWa hWE
17 ne nu ni na nE n no nWa
18 Ne Nu Ni Na NE N No NWa
19 e/a* u/U i a/A E I o/O ea (ea as in ``eare!'')
20 ke ku ki ka kE k ko kWe kW/kWu kWi kWa kWE
21 `ke `ku `ki `ka `kE `k `ko (`k is Chaha)
22 Ke Ku Ki Ka KE K Ko KWe KW/KWu KWi KWa KWE
23 Xe Xu Xi Xa XE X Xo (X is Chaha )
24 we wu wi wa wE w wo
25 `e `u `i `a `E `I `o
26 ze zu zi za zE z zo zWa
27 Ze Zu Zi Za ZE Z Zo ZWa
28 ye yu yi ya yE y yo yWa
29 de du di da dE d do dWa
30 De Du Di Da DE D Do DWa (D is Oromiffa)
31 je ju ji ja jE j jo jWa
32 ge gu gi ga gE g go gWe gW/gWu gWi gWa gWE
33 `ge `gu `gi `ga `gE `g `go (`g is Chaha)
34 Ge Gu Gi Ga GE G Go GWe GW/GWu GWi GWa GWE
35 Te Tu Ti Ta TE T To TWa (G is Bilin)
36 Ce Cu Ci Ca CE C Co CWa
37 Pe Pu Pi Pa PE P Po PWa
38 Se Su Si Sa SE S So SWa
39 `Se `Su `Si `Sa `SE `S `So
40 fe fu fi fa fE f fo fWa
41 pe pu pi pa pE p po pWa
* ``a'' is only valid for in transcription for Amharic.
Unicode also defines what 1358->135A that would be: mYa, rYa, fYa under SERA.
The forms may be found in well known references by Cohen and Dawkins. Here, it
would be required that should a composer wish to write ``mya'' as ``mYa'' that
the optional sads separator ' be used as in ``m'Ya''. This conflict with
the use of ``Ya'' for ``ya'' would occur only following these three consonants
m, r, and f.
``sh'' would make logical choices for readers familiar with rules in
English but may not make sense in non-English speaking nations where
a form of the Latin script is used. It is desirable also to keep
the keystrokes to a minimum for humans, the parsing requirements of
computers as simple as possible, also media and transfer sizes to a
minimum by avoiding multiple character representations when possible.
Further, the reader is left to infer the meaning ``sh'' as one or two
Fidel characters. The separator ' presents a solution here but again
complicates parsing and introduces special case rules vs generalized.
The exception to the general rules also lends towards greater
occurrences of spelling errors.
``ie'' may be an easier keystroke than ``E'' but again introduces
inference and parsing complexity. The choice is not always logical
as a phonetic model for the ``ay'' sound with Latin letters when
considering such examples as ``die'', ``vie'', ``pie'', ``lie'', ``tie''
and other words found in /usr/lib/dict/words used
by Unix ``spell''.
``y'' occurs more commonly in speech and written text as a consonant
than as the 5th syllabic form. Hence the lowercase Latin character
is better reserved for the consonant to save on keystrokes.
Permitting the use of ``a'' for ``e'' is done to accommodate the writing
convention for Fidel used in Amharic. Were only ``e'' available for ``''
the ``look'' of some familiar Amharic words becomes peculiar (edis ebeba in example), and the
sound association is poor.
The use of ``a'' for ``'' will only be applied when transcribing
an Amharic document (``e'' remains valid as well). The alternative definition of ``A'' for
will then be the only means in
Amharic text to write the forth form vowel.
A problem that occurs when trying to represent Ethiopic script
phonetically in Latin is the presence of Ethiopic letters that are
phonetic equivalents. These cases are encountered with the two
Ethiopic characters for ``s'' and ``S'' and the 4 characters for ``h''.
Representing one of the 2nd forms with an unused Latin character,
say F, R, or V, would be a digression from phonetic norms and adds
a level of complication to the reading. In the case of what would
be h4 the uppercase ``K'' is chosen for representation. This choice
models the husky ``kh'' sound that the character has in Tigrigna and
For the more common type of email exchanges omitting the number 2
or 3 does not result in a loss of interpretation. The use of the
ordinals becomes more important later if the text is to be read and
translated into Ethiopic script by computer.
The ``2'' is only needed to distinguish the difference between the
two ``s''s in Ethiopic script. In modern writing it is the the 2nd ``s''
appearing in the fidel that finds the most frequent use in the
spelling of words. The first ``s'', , is represented as ``s2'' because it
occurs less frequently in writing vs . Were the 2nd ``s'' labeled as ``s2''
it would give the typist considerably more finger work to perform.
The choice of ``ea'' is thought to be the best model for the sound of
the character vs potentially, ``eW'' or ``W''.
The sound of the character is in Amharic the same as that of ``e''
(, the first vowel) in Tigrigna.
Previously, ``e3'' had been the SERA definition for .
The change was made under SERA-97 after the
consideration that ``ea'' would be an easier to read alternative and
linguistically ``safe'' as the literal ``e''``a'' (i.e.
in Amharic or
in Tigrigna) are unlikely
sequences in words. If two and not one character is truly desired the SERA
separator ' may be applied as per `` e'a ''.
Special consideration is made for transcription of labiovelar classes occurring
spoken languages using Fidel as a writing system. The attempt is made to
keep the transcription to a minimal number of characters while providing an
accurate and recognizable mapping of the intended sound.
The uppercase ``W'' is used to remain phonetically consistent with
the sound of the diqala forms (forms 8 - 12). The lower case ``w'' is
reserved exclusively for consonant 21 with the ``w'' sound. Thus
confusion and ambiguity is avoided with use of the uppercase ``W''.
This is a break in consistency from how forms 1 through 7 of ``h2''
were represented. However, as ``h'' does not have forms after
the sab`I (the 7th form) there is no opportunity for confusion to
arise from the omitted ``2'' of ``h2W''. Hence ``hW'' will be uniquely
identifiable as representing diqala forms of the h2 consonant. The
advantage of dropping the ``2'' in the diqalawoc range, will be the
keystroke saved for typists.
Actually both are valid under SERA. In different geographic regions,
and at different times within the same region, people have been
taught two different sounds for the 2nd form labiovelar (which one
may have learned as a 6th form). Phonetic representations as ``kWu''
``kW'' and "kW'", in example, are permitted for both ways a person may
have been taught. Each form is no more right or wrong than the
While multiple means are provided for transcription of three of the labiovelar forms,
it is best when writing text intended to be read primarily in Latin that all three
characters be given (``mWa'' vs ``mW'') for benefit of the reader. The two character
alternative is intended for special purposes such as for keyboard entry and reduced
text transfer and storage costs.
For consonants having an 8th form; both ``Wa'' and ``W'' will be recognized
following the consonant as the ASCII denotator of the 8th form.
For consonants having 12 forms; "Wu", "W'", and "W" will be recognized
following the consonant as the same form -considered either the
labiovelar-sads or labiovelar-ka`Ib.
``fWE'' and extended labiovelars such as ``pWe'', ``mWe'', ``yWa'', etc are
unfamiliar to many Amharic and Tigrigna speakers but may be found in other
languages such as Chaha1. It is assumed that all labiovelar
forms found in spoken languages that Fidel as a writing system, are
known priori to the SERA designers. The combination of ``W'' followed by
any vowel is then acceptable under SERA, it is left to the software
implementing SERA to provide a resulting written character or handle the
1 Leslau, Wolf, ``Ethiopians speak; studies in cultural background.'',
1964, University of California publications. Near Eastern studies;
v. 7, 9, 11,
The ``left over'' Latin uppercase consonants and vowels; B, F, J, L, M, O, R,
U, V, and Y, are now recognized as equivalent to their lowercase counterparts.
That is ``Y'' in transliteration would be interpreted identically as
``y'' etc. These same Latin characters are considered to be on a
``reserve'' status to model some overlooked sound in an Eritrean or