2. Consonant and Vowel Assignment

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 SERA-94 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 ``e'' (Aleph-A) 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.

2.1. Why not use ``sh'' for ``x''

``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.

2.2. Why not and ``ie'' or ``y'' for ``E''

``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.

2.3. Why are both ``a'' and ``e'' used for ``Aleph-A''

Permitting the use of ``a'' for ``e'' is done to accommodate the writing convention for Fidel used in Amharic. Were only ``e'' available for ``Aleph-A'' the ``look'' of some familiar Amharic words becomes peculiar (edis ebeba in example), and the sound association is poor.

The use of ``a'' for ``Aleph-A'' will only be applied when transcribing an Amharic document (``e'' remains valid as well). The alternative definition of ``A'' for the Aleph-A rabI member, will then be the only means in Amharic text to write the forth form vowel.

2.4. Why Are Numbers Used With Letters?

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 other languages.

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.

2.5. Why Does ``s2'' Come Before ``s'' ?

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'', ``Negusu-Se'', is represented as ``s2'' because it occurs less frequently in writing vs ``Isatu-Se''. Were the 2nd ``s'' labeled as ``s2'' it would give the typist considerably more finger work to perform.

2.6. How was ``ea'' arrived at for the `` Aleph-A'' 8th vowel?

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'' (``Aleph-A'', the first vowel) in Tigrigna.

Previously, ``e3'' had been the SERA definition for (e3). 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 ''.

2.7. Labiovelar, ``W'', Forms

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.

2.7.1. Why is the capital ``W'' used for labiovelar forms?

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''.

2.7.2. Why is ``hWa'' used in place of "`hWa" or ``h2Wa''?

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.

2.7.3. Why is ``Wu'' used for the letters I learned were ``W''?

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 other.

2.7.4. What are all of the duplicate ways to write the Labiovelars?

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.

2.7.5. ``fWE'' is not a letter, why is it acceptable under SERA?

``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 occurrence alternatively.

1 Leslau, Wolf, ``Ethiopians speak; studies in cultural background.'',
 1964, University of California publications. Near Eastern studies; 
 v. 7, 9, 11,

2.8. What is done with the left-over Latin letters?

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 Ethiopian language.