Specializations > Phonetics and Phonology

Keyboard Layout - Click Letters


Which keys would be most natural to associate click letters with?

I'm working on a keyboard that allows IPA transcription as well as transliteration for a variety of other languages. I do a lot of comparative and historical linguistics. None of the languages I work with use clicks, however, and I'm not very familiar with them.

I'm also interested in making it easy to type historical letters, like 'ʗ' and 'ʇ'

Right now, I'm using voiceless letters for IPA, and voiced/nasal letters for historical alternatives. Ex.
    p > ʘ
    m > ꬺ

    t > ǀ
    d > ʇ
    n > ȵ

    c > ǃ
    j > ʗ

    k > ǂ

    l > ǁ

Does this make sense? Or would something else be more natural?

I tried to make an IPA keyboard map myself a while ago, and I found that there were just too many symbols to make everything convenient. So try to come up with some logic that can be easily remembered. For example, maybe place the clicks as secondary characters on the numerals? (Since "!" is already there.)

In the end, I gave up because it was just too crowded to fit all of the symbols, and wasn't saving me time.

What I use to type IPA is this:

My goal in remapping the keyboard was to roughly follow that layout, not the original letters, which seems more confusing if you have a full set of IPA characters. If you're just adding a few for languages you use often, adding them to the existing layout makes a lot of sense. But if it's everything, you might want to start from scratch. One inconvenience I found, though, is that the keys are not in straight columns up and down, and it ended up being more an exercise in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole than actually making something productive (for myself).

In itself, what you've written above sounds fine: there's a pattern to it, so it's easy to remember, and you seem to mostly be mapping based on place of articulation, which makes sense.

An alternative, which I use, is a character-composition utility like Allchars (free) or Accent Composer (cheap). These work on the principle of invoking the program by tapping a special key (assignable, such as f12 or right-ctrl) then two letters, so for example ŋ can be assigned to 'ng'. There being about 8464 possible entries, you can devise personal "meanings" to letters, for example ɹ='rr', ɯ='mr', ɟ='fr' (for rotated letters).

There are so many fancy characters that there isn't a single keyboard that would include all letters, and the problem that I found with keyboard approaches is that I often need for example t, T, θ, ŧ, ʈ, but I also want access to e.g. ctrl-alt-t to call up a frequent table-creating macro in Word.


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