Qohenje    Qohenje

This is the writing system for a conlang by the same name invented by Colin Harrison for a novel that he is (meant to be) writing. The Qohenje language is described in ever-increasing detail at http://perso.orange.fr/cjh/qohenje/.

The Qohenje writing system is organised around its vowel (+tone) symbols, with the consonantal elements reduced to peripheral articulatory gesture marks (see below). The vocalic core is considered the main part of the syllable - the logical reverse of abjads, which tend to feature the consonants, and marginalise the vowels. Qohenje is pronounced [kxɒhɛnjɛ].

The vowel inventory is a simple 5 cardinal system, multiplied by the three tonal possibilities.

The vowel symbols

Qohenje vowels

The consonant diacritics

The consonantal diacritics are representative of phonetic features, rather than phonemes. The Qohenje system has eight symbols that represent five articulation types (the absence of a symbol corresponds to the "default" articulation type (= voiceless stop), and five places of articulation (again with a zero default although the zero place specification doesn't have a clear physiological correlate).

Qohenje basic consonants

These symbols are combined to indicate the particular consonantal values possible in Qohenje, as follows:

Qohenje consonants grid

The linear order of the gesture symbols depends upon their position in the syllable. The above grid shows the order for initial (prevocalic) consonants.


In addition, there are two semivowels (j and w) - used particularly for initial consonant clusters and diphthong formation - that have distinct symbols, not part of the preceding chart:

Qohenje semivowels

The syllable

The syllable in Qohenje has the following arrangement:

Qohenje syllable

Note that while the initial C slots are fixed, and if one of these elements is absent, the corresponding slot remains blank, the final C slots are mobile: the final C symbols are written from right to left, starting in slot 4, except with double vowels.

The double vowel symbols

Word-internally, if two mid-tone vowels are separated only by a glottal stop, they are written with a single symbol.

Qohenje double vowel symbols

Additionally, syllable sequences of the type CVaCVa (i.e. adjacent open syllables with the same V: sje.te, ha.la, no.qo, etc.) are optionally represented with the double vowel symbols corresponding to the repeated vowel, and with the onset C of the second syllable written beneath the V. Such representations are distinguished from normal final C by the order of the C symbols: in normal closed syllables, the final C symbols are written from right to left, while in rhyme syllable representations, they are written as for the onset C symbols: left to right and with fixed positions.


Qohenje examples

The absence of any C specification at all in initial position indicates a glottal stop ('), while the absence of any gesture signs in final position marks an open syllable.


Qohenje is written from left to right. All lexical breaks are signaled with a vertical bar called a cehjan, which stands immediately after the lexeme. A double cejhan marks a phrase or sentence boundary. Spaces after a single cehjan are used for various effects including parentheses, apposition, and the English "comma" function.

Qohenje punctuation

Cejhan are not written before or after ligatures that occupy the full height of the line.


In addition to the standard script described above, there are a large number of "ligatures" - combined symbols with conventional sound-sense associations, a bit like Chinese characters. These ligatures stand for specific lexical items, mostly syntactic markers and grammatical words (pronouns, demonstratives, etc.).

Some examples of ligatures:

Qohenje ligatures

Sample text in Qohenje

Sample text in Qohenje


sjájle 'o neqújla ci te le'ajdja 'o jawhe 'aNqíjd gaxilháwN tójes 'o cojkújros te babàj gani'aN kaj WeHec fiwge pijm hafáran nes te gàj cora


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Further information about Qohenje can be found at:

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