so for context

  • this kind of alien possess no vocal cord to make sound like human had

  • instead, they communicate by making sounds akin to whistle,chirp,and clicks.

  • this kind has no native writing system

  • when mankind came. they establish a good relationship with them.

  • and as such.this kind will adapt human latin script to start recording their own speech.

  • (thanks alex) i looked more for generic answer for this question. about how they adapt the latin script into they way of speak.

question :

How will they adapt the latin script to their own language and way of speak ?

  • $\begingroup$ They will adapt it very well indeed. If you want a more detailed answer you need to actually describe the language. How does it work, what is the set of distinctive / contrastive phonological elements, how are words and sentence made up, and so on. Or do you want a "generic" answer? In this case, look how the Latin or the Cyrillic alphabets are used for [writing Mandarin](tab_FeatureValue). Please edit the question to make it clear if you are looking for a specific spelling system (and in this case include a description of the language), or you are looking for a generic method. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 14:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ P.S. In real life, whistled languages do exist. Can you imagine, for example, a way of writing Silbo? It's not all that difficult. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 14:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Fair Warning: Your Q needs to be adjusted to ask a specific question about the rules of your world. You might be tempted to ask for help coming up with the iconography of the written language. That's off-topic because iconography can be anything (unicode? music? shorthand? they'll all work and none of them are "best"). So, please think through your Q carefully and keep what @AlexP said in mind. This Q might have more to do with your story than your world, and that's a reason to close questions ("Too Story-Based"). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ You should look to the Canary isles, the whistle language from there isn't tied to the originating language, the language of the canaries has changed from one to another over the centuries while the whistles stay the same, it can be applied to any language because the whistle sounds replace vowels & consonants rather than words. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ [Continued] ^ how it's written is irrelevant, you simply wright the language you're whistling the way it's normally written, or any other way you want, the same way you can write text in ordinary modern English using old runes to replace the modern letters, I used to be able to do that using the runes in Tolkien's the Hobbit without having to reference the handy conversion list found in the book when I was a kid, been a long time, can't any more. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 23:48

4 Answers 4


TL;DR: Do not try to represent the sounds of the alien language using the usual value of the English letters. Use the 26 letters of the English alphabet to represent the the meaningful distinctions and roles of the sounds of the alien language.

(Reusing quite a bit of text from my answer to the question "How does one approach phonology notation for a non-human constructed language?".)

In practice, whether the aliens themselves adopt the Latin alphabet is not the only problem: when the alien language is to be represented in a book one must necessarily use some sort of transcription scheme using English letters, possibly with diacritics, or with a variation in font (to remind the readers that the letters do not stand for their usual sounds), or both.

So, what do you do? You assign special meanings to the 26 letters of the English alphabet. This is in no way unusual, and it is done all the time. For example:

  • Chinese Pinyin is a (relatively) widely known transcription scheme, which uses Latin letters in a most un-Latin way. For example, let's say that you see quanxu; a naive English reader might naively imagine a pronounciation like /kwænksu/ whereas a savvy reader will know that it should be /tɕʰwanɕy/ (sort of like chʰwahnshü, with ah the vowel in car and ü as in German).

    The most striking features of Pinyin are:

    • It uses the pairs p / b, k / g and t / d to represent a correlation of aspiration, instead of a correlation of voicing as in European languages. (The "natural" Roman representation would have been ph / p, ch / c and th / t. But the Chinese are not Romans, and they don't care about how a foreign ancient people would have done it.)

    • It assigns a very unusual value to the letter q (representing /tɕʰ/, sort of like English ch in the word march, but strongly aspirated).

    • It assigns moderately unusual values to the letters c (representing /tsʰ/, similar to the value it has in German or Czech, quite like English ts in the word nuts, but strongly aspirated), ch (representing /ʈʂʰ/, sort of like English ch in the word choose, but strongly aspirated), x (representing /ɕ/, similar to the value it has in Portuguese, sort-of like English sh in the word shin), z (representing /ts/, like in German, similar to English ts in nuts), and zh (representing /ʈʂ/, sort of like English ch in the word choose, whereas English speakers would expect /ʒ/ as used in the transliteration of Russian names).

  • Egyptologists use a special transcription system (complete with a conventional pronounciation) to represent ancient Egyptian words: Twt-ʕnḫ-ı͗mn, pronounced conventionally /tuːtənˈkɑːmən/ is much easier to show in print than the actual hieroglyphs. (Wikipedia says that the original pronounciation may have been something like /taˈwaːt ˈʕaːnxu ʔaˈmaːn/.)

  • And in general, European languages differ a lot on the sounds assigned to the letters c (oscillating between /k/, /s/, /tʃ/, /θ/, and /ts/), g (which can mean any of /g/, /dʒ/, or /x/), j (which can mean any of /dʒ/, /ʒ/, /x/, or /j/), w (which can be either /w/ or /v/), and x (which can be any of /ks/, /gz/, /ʃ/, or /s/).

  • Finally, I cannot end the list of examples of real-world unusual values for Latin letters without mentioning that the Māori language of New Zealand uses wh to represent the sound /f/. Which in a roundabout way makes perfect historical sense; originally, the letter F represented the sound /w/ in the Western Greek alphabet that the Romans adopted; the Romans used initially the combination FH to represent the sound /f/. Only later did they realize that they could use V to represent both /u/ and /w/, freeing up F (without the useless H) for the sound /f/.

So that to write the alien language, you can certainly use English letters, in some sort of systematic way, trying to represent not the sounds of the alien speech but the meaningful distinctions and roles of those sounds.

Use the letters normally assigned to vowels for sounds which can be pronounced (by the aliens) continuously and can form the center of a syllable; for example, you may use the human front-to-back order /i/-/e/-/a/-/o/-/u/ to represent some alien natural order, for example high pitch to low pitch; use continuant consonants such as f, v, s and z to represent sounds which can be pronounced continuously but are not syllable centers; l, r, m and n can be used in both roles; use stops such as p, t, k to represent momentary sounds which cannot be sustained; use h and possibly also n (and even m) to indicate some sort of variation corresponding for example to human aspiration or nazalization.

And don't forget that you can use diacritics to represent melody, like Chinese Pinyin, or the normal spelling of ancient Greek, do.

Also, don't forget that you can have rules involving sequences of two or three letters. (Those are called digraphs and trigraphs, if you need technical terms.)

  • $\begingroup$ You forgot to mention what is probably the most relevant part of Pinyin for this question: Written correctly it uses diacritics (specifically macron, accute accent, caron, and grave accent) to mark tonality. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AustinHemmelgarn: I did, second to last paragraph. (And the normal spelling of Ancient Greek uses diacritics for similar purpose.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ Replace individual letters with whistle sounds? You're doing it the hard way, you only need vowels and consonants, as with Silbo Gomero in the Canary Islands. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore: As per the question, the language also has chirps and clicks. (And I don't see the difference between what I said and "you only need vowels and consonants". Of course you only need vowels and consonants; because there is nothing else to be had.) (And you are misled by your a priory knowledge that Silbo is a form of Spanish. Try to forget that, and consider Silbo a standalone language.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP it's not a form of Spanish, it predates spoken Spanish in the islands and was originally used with another language entirely, it can be used with any language because rather than words it's a system of word sound whistle-equivalents that can be used to express any normal spoken language in whistles // that aside at the time I posted that I'd missed that this is seemingly about an alien language that existed b4 contact with humans which changes things, & probably makes the OPs question unanswerable without a bunch of other detail // as for consonants etc. I was having a brain fart 🤗 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 1:35

They probably won’t. Latin-based scripts are hardly the only ones in use on Earth, and that’s not likely to change. Most writing systems for human languages are ill-suited for a whistle-click language; a better representation would likely be based on modifying notations for representing music (which doesn't necessarily mean the five-line staff with ball-and-stick note symbols).

What the eventual notation looks like would depend in part on the significance of various characteristics of the “spoken” language, for example:

  • is the absolute frequency of the sound important, or is it the relative “tone contour”?
  • is the timing of changes in an “utterance” important, or only the sequence of changes?
  • What sort of changes represent “minimal pairs” in the language? (A “minimal pair” is two utterances that are distinguished in one phoneme only, and that change also changes the meaning.)

This sort of question can get very heavily into linguistics theory, and really isn’t going to be amenable to a simple answer here. You will probably need to do a fairly detailed workup of the ‘speech’ physiology of your aliens to determine what whistles, clicks, and so on they’re capable of, and then work up what the ‘structure’ of the language is (without worrying about the written form - use whatever notation is convenient during development), before worrying about how to “officially” represent it in writing. Some of the questions about your language may be suitable for Constructed Languages.

  • $\begingroup$ "Most writing systems for human languages are ill-suited for a whistle-click language": Citation needed. I see no reason why the 26 letters (maybe plus diacritics, if needed) of the English alphabet would be insufficient for writing any reasonable language. Do you have a source for this (in my opinion, untenable) affirmation? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - How are you going to represent the tune (not the lyrics) of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" using the Latin (or Cyrillic, or Armenian, or Georgian, or ...) alphabet? Then, once you've done that, how are you going to represent Indonesian pelog music - again, tune, not lyrics - or Indian ragas? (neither of the latter two use the standard "western" tonal intervals). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - I'll also suggest that support for the assertion you're questioning is evidenced by the fact that we don't normally use the Latin (or Cyrillic, or ...) alphabet to represent music; we use a completely different notation (the five-line staff with ball and stick notes). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Actually, the tune can be represented by the Latin alphabet just fine. Musical notation may be efficient, but any notation can be used to the same effect. You're arguing that the iconography is important. No, it isn't. It's just iconography and any icon can be used to reflect any meaning. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ "How are you going to represent the tune (not the lyrics) of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" using the Latin (or Cyrillic, or Armenian, or Georgian, or ...) alphabet?" Have you ever heard of Lilypond? It can represent music vastly more complicated than Mary Had a Little Lamb. In particular: \new Staff { \new Voice { \time 4/4 \key d \major relative d' { fis4. e8 d4 e | fis4 4 2 | e4 4 2 | fis4 a4 2 | \break fis4. e8 d4 e | fis4 4 4 4 | e e fis e | d2. r4 } } }. And, of course, that is useless in practice. Languages are very much simpler than that. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:22

Like ideographic languages

Simply put, you're asking to pair an audible language to a written representation that has almost no meaningful direct correspondence.

That almost certainly means that, as in Jeff's answer, there will be a writing system more suited for directly representing the audible language.

However, if having a written language that uses Latin script is a specific goal... it's not inconceivable. We already have languages like that. For example, 冬 is pronounced "fuyu"¹, but the phonetic pronunciation has essentially nothing to do with the ideograph. Perhaps your Latin representation of this language similarly uses combinations of Latin characters that map to words, but lack any direct correspondence to pronunciations.

(¹ In Japanese. In some cases.)

Using encoding

Binary data can be represented in Latin script using various encoding processes. I could imagine a whistled language being encoded similarly; for example, certain letters correspond to specific starting pitches, others to ascending or descending scales, others (and/or symbols) to various clicks or other stops.

A "word" might look like «Bggh'ijf», indicating an absolute middle-low starting pitch ('B'; a lower-case letter would indicate a starting pitch relative to the previously voiced phoneme) which descends a sixth (each 'g' represents a third, and 'h' represents a step), followed by a click (apostrophe), followed by the previous note briefly sustained (each 'i' represents a duration of sustain) before rising a step ('j' represents a step up) and finally descending an octave ('f').

Of course, I'm assuming something like a chromatic scale with no minor intervals, which would actually break down almost immediately, but hopefully you get the general idea. In order to design a system like this that's actually usable, you'd need a solid understanding of how your audible language actually works, at least in terms of knowing its set of morphemes. Essentially, what you're doing is making a semi-arbitrary mapping of those morphemes onto Latin symbols.


The key point in either case is that you can get a mapping that uses Latin symbols, but obviously the "pronunciation" won't map from the Latin script in a way that anyone not exposed to the alien language will recognize.

If you take the latter approach (morpheme encoding, as opposed to arbitrary word mapping), there actually is not any particular reason to use non-Latin symbols, especially if the ability to interact with text using existing human equipment (like a US keyboard) is a goal. After all, most languages, including Latin-derived ones, don't have any particular rhyme or reason behind what symbols are associated with which morphemes.

That said, there is a certain amount of hubris in assuming that Latin scripts even still exist, but that can be explained away by translation convention.


As with the Khoisan click languages of southern Africa, special symbols are included with the Latin alphabet. Such as, ǃ, ǂ, ʃ, || and |.

For example,

Sandawe Hadza Khoe Ju ǃXóõ

'person' ǀnomese ʼúnù khoe ʒú tâa

'man' ǀnomese ɬeme kʼákhoe ǃhõá tâa á̰a

'child' ǁnoό waʼa ǀūá dama ʘàa

'ear' kéké ɦatʃʼapitʃʼi ǂée ǀhúí ǂnùhã

'eye' ǀgweé ʼákhwa ǂxái ǀgàʼá ǃʼûĩ

'ostrich' saʼútà kénàngu ǀgáro dsùú qûje

'giraffe' tsʼámasu tsʼókwàna ǃnábe ǂoah ǁqhūũ

'buffalo' ǀeu nákʼóma ǀâo ǀàò ǀqhái

'to hear' khéʼé ǁnáʼe kúm tsʼàʼá tá̰a

'to drink' tsʼee fá kxʼâa tʃìi kxʼāhã


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