Development

February 7th, 2010

Developing the Lebanese Language Alphabet, Global Lebanese Latin Letters System (LLL)

By Hicham Bourjaili & Antoine Faddoul

The Lebanese Language Institute, July 2008

The Lebanese Language Alphabet using Latin (Roman) Letters as presented by the Lebanese Language Institute is the fruit of the collaboration of four researchers; Hicham Bourjaili, Antoine Faddoul, Joseph Khoury, and Maroun Kassab. The development of the LLL Global Standard was carried out via individual and group projects from 2001-2008.

In Spring of 2003, and after couple years of individual work, Hicham Bourjaili, Antoine Faddoul and Joseph Khoury, proposed the first version of the Lebanese Global alphabet standard.

The main factors that contributed to developing this Global standard were:

  • An increasing number of Lebanese people were using Latin letters to write the Conversational Lebanese following the spread of the Internet and the means of text communication
  • Multiple methods were used to teach Lebanese, both in America and in Europe, often under the label ‘Arabic’, with each author creating their own concept of a transcription system of Lebanese phonetics
  • People from the West interested in learning Lebanese were often disappointed by spending energy and resources to learn Arabic or Egyptian, later to realize that Lebanese is a different language than either of them
  • Globalization increased the pace of languages paths; some language were spreading worldwide, while others were threatened by extinction

The founders of LLI found an opportunity to provide standards for full communication in the Lebanese language using their linguistic research and studies, and utilizing their knowledge in Latin, Germanic and Semitic languages. As descendents of the Phoenicians who invented the first Alphabet and gave it to the whole world four thousand years ago, they followed a similar task.

The new alphabet in Latin Letters was designed to be simple enough to accommodate any text keyboard having basic Latin symbols, and easy to learn by following, to a large extent, common phonetic patterns to western languages using Latin letters.

While developing the alphabet, the researchers were concentrating on creating a Lebanese dictionary, a written Lebanese grammar including verb conjugation, capturing the Lebanese patrimony, and promoting the use of the Lebanese Language. For on-line teaching, a website was created abcleb.com, with free on-line lessons, and software for phonetics was developed. This first experience was promising. Around fifty thousand visitors from all over the world encouraged the team and expressed their interest in having more products for learning the Lebanese language.

First LLL (Lebanese Latin Letters) System, The V-Rule

The first version of the alphabet was conceived to be phonetic. The number of sounds used in Modern Lebanese exceeds the number of the basic twenty six symbols of the Latin alphabet used in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and many other western languages. A reduction method was applied and baptized the v-rule. The letter v was added to selected Latin symbols to produce by a combination of two letters a simple representation of the outstanding Lebanese sounds. The letter v is not a colloquial sound of the Lebanese Language and therefore the combination could not be confused with other sounds. The alphabet was a complete system of representing sounds, using only the basic symbols of the Latin alphabet and as a consequence could be typed from any text keyboard. The introduced system was called LLL, Lebanese Latin Letters System.

New LLL System, The Dot Rule

Meanwhile, another researcher, Maroun Kassab, was working on his side to produce a Phoenician language package. An expert of the Phoenician language and civilization, he was interested in studying the History of the Lebanese language and its roots back to Antiquity.  Kassab was working on developing a Lebanese dictionary and shared the goals of the other group. He has developed on-line resources through the canaanite.org website.

Together, the four researchers founded in Spring of 2008 the Lebanese Language Institute, with lebaneselanguage.org serving as the Institute’s Internet domain. Combining their experiences and taking advantage of the opportunity provided by communication technology, a second version of the alphabet was created using the last version of Unicode 5.0. The new and current version of the alphabet is more elegant for writing, and provides representation for all the sounds needed to write Modern Lebanese and other Semitic languages like the Arabic. The new LLL system was finalized replacing a ”v” after the new letter with a dot above it .

The Lebanese alphabet will be a standard for documenting the Modern Lebanese language. Since local variations of the language could be found in Lebanon, and since Lebanese people have a very creative way of speaking, including on purpose for the sake of the conversation words and sounds from local dialects, two combination of vowels were added for people who wish to use them due to specific regional pronunciation. The combinations are “ei” and “oa”, and more inventions may be complied by regional Lebanese to express specific sounds that are not considered wildly “standard”.

The present version of the alphabet is designed to provide a standard and stable form for writing the Modern Lebanese. Yet, additional accommodation might be included in the future as is the case for any living language.

Some people still use the v rule, especially for SMS texting when a dot-over-the letter is not available yet, pending the release of the mobile keyboard software.

The schedule below shows the development of the LLL system and the Alphabet.

Basic Latin Letters

Lebanese Alphabet Version 1

LLL

Lebanese Alphabet Version 2

New LLL

Phonetic Example in English/Other

Lebanese Word Example

A a

A a

A a

Bargain

amar

B b

B b

B b

Bold

baba

C c

C c

C c

Shoe

cajra

Cp cp or Cv**

Č č

Throw

načir

D d

D d

D d

Dog

dawle

Dv dv

hard d

baya

E e

E e

E e

Fair

nem

F f

F f

F f

Fantasy

finjen

G g

G g

G g

Glue

guitar

Gh gh

Ġ ġ

rue in French

ġariib

H h

H h

H h

Hair

hawa

Hv hv

hard h

ilo

I i

I i

I i

Bin

birġol

Ii ii

Ii ii

Dear

iid

J j

J j

J j

smooth j, Beige

jabal

K k

K k

K k

Kayak

karam

Kh kh

j in Spanish

ibiz

L l

L l

L l

smooth l, like in Spanish

libnene

M m

M m

M m

Mouse

mama

N n

N n

N n

Neck

nur

O o

O o

O o

Open

fo`

P p

P p

P p

Party

party

Q q

Q q

Q q

hard q

Qadiica

R r

R r

R r

rolled r like in Spanish

ras

S s

S s

S s

Fast

sama

Sv sv

Bus

abe

T t

T t

T t

Fat

tlete

Tv tv

But

awle

U u

U u

U u

Flu

jura

V v

V v

V v

Victory

video

W w

W w

W w

Walk

walad

X x

X x

X x

guttural a

xalam

Y y

Y y

Y y

Yacht

baydar

Z z

Z z

Z z

Zebra

zahra

Zv zv

Ż ż

hard z

buża

Zp zp **

Ž ž

That

južur

** Letters such as Č and Ž were developed to accommodate sounds that do not exist in Lebanese. Those letters are useful for Arabic words. They have an accent instead of a dot on top of them as they were developed for non-Lebanese sounds.

Lebanese Latin Letters LLL Script: Click Here to Download if you don’t have it already

Lebanese Latin Letters LLL Script: Alphabet, Lebanese Latin Letters

Lebanese Latin Letters LLL Script: About, Strategy

Lebanese Latin Letters LLL Script: Reading Samples

Lebanese Latin Letters LLL Script: FAQ

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