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The following are phonemic transcriptions of Besanese consonants.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ1
Plosive plain p b t d k g
Fricative s z2 h3
Affricate plain ts dz4
aspirated tsʰ
Liquid ɾ~l5
Approximant w j
  1. /ŋ/ appears only in the syllable coda.
  2. /s, z/ are palatalized [ɕ, ʑ] before /i, j/
  3. /h/ is palatalized [ç] before /i, j/; and is bi­la­bialized [ɸ] before /u, w/
  4. /ts, dz, tsʰ/ may be pronounced [tɕ, dʑ, tɕʰ] by some speakers before /i, j/
  5. /ɾ/ is an alveolar flap [ɾ] in the syllable onset; and is [l] in the syllable coda.



Front Central Back
Close i1 ɨ u2
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
  1. /i/ is pronounced /ɪ/ before velar codas /ŋ, k̚/
  2. /u/ is /ʊ/ before velar codas /ŋ, k̚/


In the Besanese language, because semivowels /j/ and /w/ may follow consonants in initial position in a word, which no other consonant can do, and perhaps due also to enmun orthography, which transcribes them as vowels, they are sometimes considered to be elements of diphthongs and triphthongs rather than separate consonant phonemes.

j- w- -i
ja wa
ju1 uɪ~wi2
  1. /ju/ is pronounced /jʊ/ before velar codas /ŋ, k̚/
  2. /uɪ/ is a falling diphthong [uɪ] after a consonant in an open syllable; and is a rising diphthong [wi] when it is a syllable of its own or in a closed syllable.


j- w-
jaɪ waɪ
jeɪ weɪ

Positional allophones[]

Besanese consonants have two principal positional allophones: initial and final. The initial form is found at the beginning of a syllable and the final form is found at the end of a syllable.

Phoneme p t k ɾ
Initial allophone p t k ɾ
Final allophone l

All plosives [p, t, k] are unreleased [p̚, t̚, k̚] at the end of a syllable. Final [ɾ] is a liquid [l].


Besanese syllable structure is maximally CgVC, where the first C is the initial consonant; g is a semivowel glide /j/ or /w/; V is a vowel; the second C is a coda. Any consonant but /ŋ/ may occur initially, whereas only /m, n, ŋ, p, t, k, l/ may occur finally.

Below is the table of all syllable finals (gVC) in Besanese.

Finals Codas
(none) m n ŋ p t k l
a a am an ap at ak al
ɛ ɛ ɛm ɛn ɛŋ ɛp ɛt ɛk ɛl
ɔ ɔ ɔm ɔn ɔŋ ɔp ɔt ɔk ɔl
u u um un ʊŋ up ut ʊk ul
ɨ ɨ ɨm ɨn ɨŋ ɨp ɨt ɨk ɨl
i i im in ɪŋ ip it ɪk il
ja ja jam jan jaŋ jap jat jak jal
jɛm jɛn jɛŋ jɛp jɛt jɛk jɛl
jɔm jɔn jɔŋ jɔp jɔt jɔk jɔl
ju ju jum jun jʊŋ jup jut jʊk jul
wa wa wan waŋ wat wak wal
wɛn wɛŋ wɛt wɛk wɛl
wi wi1 win wɪŋ wit wɪk wil
ɔɪ ɔɪ
jaɪ jaɪ
jeɪ jeɪ
waɪ waɪ
weɪ weɪ
  1. pronounced [wi] when it is a syllable of its own.
  2. pronounced [uɪ] after an onset in an open syllable.

Additional finals /wam/, /wɛm/, /wim/, /wap/, /wɛp/, /wip/ can be found in foreign loanwords.

Vowel harmony[]

Traditionally, the Besanese language has had strong vowel harmony; that is, in pre-modern Besanese, not only did the inflectional and derivational affixes change in accordance to the main root vowel, but native words also adhered to vowel harmony. However, this rule is no longer observed strictly in modern Besanese. In modern Besanese, it is only applied in certain cases such as onomatopoeia and conjugation.

There are three classes of vowels in Besanese: positive, negative and neutral. The vowel classes loosely follow the front (positive) and back (negative) vowels; they also follow orthography. Exchanging positive vowels with negative vowels usually creates different nuances of meaning, with positive vowels sounding fast, hard, solid, hot, dry, focused or aggressive, and negative vowels sounding slow, soft, insubstantial, cold, wet, diffuse or tranquil.

Neutral Positive
Close i ɨ u
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

For diphthongs, the positive vowels are: /ja/, /jɛ/, /wa/, /wɛ/, /aɪ/, /eɪ/; and the negative vowels are: /jɔ/, /ju/, /ɔɪ/, [uɪ]~[wɪ]. All triphthongs are positive: /jaɪ/, /jeɪ/, /waɪ/, /weɪ/.

Pitch accent[]



Writing system[]

The modern Besanese writing system uses two main scripts:

  • Hanji (Template:Bsn lang), ideographs from Chinese characters, and
  • Enmun (Template:Bsn lang), a Korean phonemic alphabet organized into syllabic blocks that make up words.

To a lesser extent, modern written Besanese also uses the Latin alphabet - examples include abbreviations such as "CD" and "DVD".

Romanized Besanese, called romaji, is frequently used by foreign students of Besanese, who have not yet mastered the two main scripts, and by native speakers for computer input.

Usage of scripts[]

Most simple Besanese sentences will have both hanji and enmun in them. Hanji is used for nouns and the stems of verbs, enmun for the endings of verbs and for grammatical particles. Non-Besanese words or new loan words (except those absorbed into the language long ago or those with original hanji expression) are also spelled in enmun.

Hanji are used for:

  • nouns
  • stems of adjectives and verbs
  • Besanese names.

Enmun are used to write:

  • inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs
  • grammatical particles
  • onomatopoeia
  • foreign words and names
  • technical and scientific words, such as plant, animal, and mineral names whose hanji are uncommonly used
  • Besanese words that have no hanji, where the hanji are difficult to read, where the hanji is not known, or where the reader is unlikely to know them.
  • indications of how to read hanji. Enmun serves as a phonetic guide to children and foreign learners. It is used in cases where the reading is non-standard or rare or if the author wishes to render the exact pronunciation where multiple readings are possible.

Romaji (Latin alphabet) are used to write:

  • acronyms and initialisms, for example NATO
  • Besanese names or other words intended for use outside of Besan (for example, Besanese names on business cards, in passports, etc.)
  • company names, brand names or product names, etc. used both inside and outside of Besan
  • foreign words and phrases that appear in an otherwise Besanese context, such as words that appear in advertising, on consumer goods intended for Besanese consumption, etc.

In addition, Arabic numerals are commonly used to write numbers in horizontal text.



Enmun is a phonemic alphabet organized into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least two of the 24 enmun letters (jimo), with at least one each of the 14 consonants and 10 vowels. These syllabic blocks can be written horizontally from left to right as well as vertically from top to bottom in columns from right to left. Originally, the alphabet had several additional letters for pre-modern Korean, however, these letters have never been used in Besanese.


Jimo (Template:Bsn lang) are the units that make up the Enmun alphabet. Ji means letter or character, and mo means mother, so the name suggests that the jimo are the building-blocks of the script.

There are 39 jimo, of which 24 are equivalent to letters of the Latin alphabet. The other 15 jimo are clusters of two or sometimes three of these letters. Of the 24 simple jimo, 14 are consonants (Template:Bsn lang; "child sounds") and 10 are vowels (Template:Bsn lang; "mother sounds"). 5 of the simple consonant letters are doubled to form the five voiced consonants (see below). The 10 basic vowel jimo can be combined to form 10 more complex ones. Here is a summary:

  • 14 simple consonant letters: ㄱ, ㅋ, ㅇ, ㄷ, ㅌ, ㄴ, ㅂ, ㅍ, ㅁ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅅ, ㅎ, ㄹ
  • 5 double letters (voiced): ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ
  • 6 simple vowel letters: ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ
  • 4 simple iotized vowel letters (semi consonant-semi vowel): ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ
  • 10 diphthongs: ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅔ, ㅖ, ㅘ, ㅙ, ㅚ, ㅝ, ㅞ, ㅟ

Four of the simple vowel jimo are derived by means of a short stroke to signify iotation (a preceding i sound): ㅑ /ja/, ㅕ /jɛ/, ㅛ /jɔ/, and ㅠ /ju/. These four are counted as part of the 24 simple jimo because the iotating stroke taken out of context does not represent /j/. In fact, there is no separate jimo for /j/.

Of the simple consonants, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, and ㅊ are aspirated derivatives of ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, and ㅈ, respectively, formed by combining the unaspirated letters with an extra stroke.

The doubled letters are ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ. Double jimo do not represent geminate consonants, but rather a voiced phonation.

Jimo order[]

The alphabetical order of Enmun does not mix consonants and vowels as Western alphabets do. Rather, the order is that of the Indic type, first velar consonants, then coronals, labials, sibilants, etc. However, the vowels come after the consonants rather than before them as in the Indic systems.

Historical order[]

The consonantal order of the Funmintsengim (Template:Bsn lang) in 1446 was,

   ㄱ ㅋ ㆁ ㄷ ㅌ ㄴ ㅂ ㅍ ㅁ ㅈ ㅊ ㅅ ㆆ ㅎ ㅇ ㄹ ㅿ

and the order of vowels was,

   ㆍ ㅡ ㅣ ㅗ ㅏ ㅜ ㅓ ㅛ ㅑ ㅠ ㅕ
Besanese order[]

In the Besanese order, double jimo are placed immediately after their single counterparts. No distinction is made between silent and nasal ㅇ:

   ㄱ ㄲ ㅋ ㅇ ㄷ ㄸ ㅌ ㄴ ㅂ ㅃ ㅍ ㅁ ㅈ ㅉ ㅊ ㅅ ㅆ ㅎ ㄹ
   ㅏ ㅐ ㅑ ㅒ ㅓ ㅔ ㅕ ㅖ ㅗ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅛ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ 

The modern monophthongal vowels come first, with the derived forms interspersed according to their form: first added i, then iotized, then iotized with added i. Diphthongs beginning with w are ordered according to their spelling, as ㅏ or ㅓ plus a second vowel, not as separate digraphs.

The order of the final jimo is,

   (none) ㄱ ㅇ ㄷ ㄴ ㅂ ㅁ ㄹ

"None" stands for no final jimo.


There are a number of methods of rendering Besanese in Roman letters. The Mackenzie method of romanisation, designed for English speakers, is a de facto standard widely used inside and outside Besan.

Mackenzie k g kh (null) t d th n p b ph m ts j ch s, sh z, zh h, f r
IPA k g (null) t d n p b m ts dz tsʰ s~ɕ z~ʑ h~ɸ ɾ
Mackenzie a ai ya yai e ei ye yei o wa wai oi yo u we wei ui, wi yu v i
IPA a ja jaɪ ɛ jeɪ ɔ wa waɪ ɔɪ u~ʊ weɪ uɪ~wi ju~jʊ ɨ i~ɪ
Mackenzie k ng t n p m l
IPA ŋ n m l