There is a fundamental problem in writing Khowar: There are 42-44 phonemes in Khowar, but the Roman alphabet has only 26 letters. There is a similar problem in writing Khowar in the Arabic/Urdu alphabet.
A solution to this problem was developed by David Munnings for his own personal use (but not for publication). I find the Munnings System (as I prefer to call it) to be the best and indeed the only practicable solution to this problem. Therefore, I am presenting it here.
A paper by David Munnings using this system has just been published in the North Pakistan Newsletter, No. 20, Sept.-Oct. 1997, Islamabad, published by the Joint Language Project of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies and the Summer Institute of Linguistics.
The Munnings solution is essentially to use capital letters to contrast with lower case letters. With 26 letters in the Roman alphabet, the use of capitals to distinguish sounds obviously increases the number of available letters to 52, more than enough.
There are obvious problems with this. In English, it is customary to capitalize the first word in a sentence. This would not be possible under the Munnings system. Also, in English, proper names are capitalized. This might create problems in the Munnings system.
The Munnings system is based in large part on the work of Rolf
Thiel Endresen and Knut Kristiansen of the University of Oslo in Norway, who themselves never heard the Khowar language spoken (expect for on a tape which I sent them) but who had the notes left by the late Norwegian linguist George Morgenstierne.
A central issue in Khowar is the question of how many phonemes there are. My own conclusion, which I published in my Khowar-English Dictionary and on my web site at http://www.samsloan.com/khowar.htm is that there are 42 phonemes. Endresen and Kristiansen concluded that there should be 44. However, they explained that this included two "holes" or phonemes which they felt must exist but of which they had not been able to find examples. Munnings in 1990 claimed that he had filled the two holes and had found the missing phonemes.
For practical writing purposes, it probably does not matter much. Even if Endresen, Kristiansen and Munnings are right (and I am wrong) that there are 44 phonemes and not 42, the examples of these two extra phonemes are so few that it might not materially affect the writing system. On the other hand, linguists interested in studying this language would be greatly interested in knowing about this feature of the two extra phonemes.
Here is the Munnings alphabet (in linguistic order). The 39 consonants are as follows: p, ph, b, t, th, d, ts, tsh, dz, T, Th, D, C, Ch, J, c, ch, j, k, kh, g, q, f, w, s, z, Sh, Zh, sh, zh, x, gh, m, n, l, L, r, y, h.
The five vowels are: a, e, i, o, u.
Please note that ph, th, ts, tsh, dz, Th, Ch, ch, kh, Sh, Zh, sh, zh, and gh are digraphs which represent unique phonemes and are not merely combinations of two letters. Also, kh is an aspirated k, whereas x is the unvoiced velar fricative so often represented by kh in other languages of the region.
Of greatest importance, note that in the following 9 instances capital letters are used: T, Th, D, C, Ch, J, Sh, Zh, L. All nine of these sounds are retroflex. The feature which makes Khowar unique from any other Indo-European language is the large number of retroflex sounds. It is difficult to know from where this feature came. Pashtu has retroflex sounds, but not nearly so many. A more likely source is Chinese, especially because of the rich variety of /ch/ sounds which Chinese also has plus the fact that Khowar has traditionally been spoken in areas bordering on China.
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, retroflex sounds are written by putting dots underneath. However, these dots require non-standard fonts not available on typewriters.
If the Munnings system were adopted to write Khowar, what would probably happen is that many writers would stop bothering with the capital letters and just write everything in lower case. This is a big problem with the Munnings system, but unfortunately there is no good solution. I believe that the Munnings system is the best and indeed the only reasonable way to write Khowar.
All of the 44 phonemes in the Munnings system exist in the initial position of a word. Here is his list proving the existence of each of the 39 consonants in the initial position (in "alphabetical" order):
phi winnowing shovel
tsir snipe, a type of bird
Please note that the C in Cat and the c in ciT will sound to the non-Khowar speaker like the ch in chat and chit. The C in Cat is an unaspirated retroflex affricate. This does not sound like the English name for a cat, a small furry animal.
According to Munnings, all consonants can be found in the final position, except for the aspirated and voiced stops and affricatives, of which there are 14. Here is Munnings' list of 25 examples (in "alphabetic" order according to the last letter) of consonants in the final position:
bits breast area
heT open area
gogh worm / insect
The questionable phonemes which cause the discrepancy as to whether there are 42 or 44 phonemes are /tsh/ /dz/ /zh/ and /J/. Here are Munnings' examples proving the total number to be 44 and not 42.
xondza princess, as in Honzagool
kindzu bumps on the hand, a type of disease
ChonJer stone-bow, sling-shot
pLinju polo ball
tonjeik to lose
Tintsk Indian Pipit, a type of bird
Here are some more examples of Khowar words spelled under the Munnings system:
petshik to throw
bLatsheik to gather up
bLats small and round
isptsar/ispusar/isprar younger sister
roxtsik/roxsik to forget
shoxtsik/shoxsik to pass (intransitive)
shaxtseik/shaxseik to pass (transitive)
an alpine meadow
ghruts cluster of fruit
pLinju polo ball
qLuc korik to swallow
xLik korik to gasp
ghLatsheik to knead
isptsar younger sister
ShirghiSht a type of bird
bend sitting place
phankshal a type of bird
melp village name
kiagh what (pronoun)
khio what (oblique)
kai older sister
oroik to sleep
CiCheik to teach
reShun a village named Reshun
zaq big/big one
qawqaw very old
pelpel very sharp
cawcaw very hard
hamoghar from this
heghar from that
hateghar from that
heghen by that
porik to lie down
poritam I lay down
parim I lie down
poreik to lay down
koritay he did
koroy/koy he does
koreik to arrange
'asur frozen earth
a'sur he is (note the shift in stress)
pongen by foot
The above provides 250 examples of Khowar words written under the Munnings system. This clearly constitutes a fully developed phonemic system for writing Khowar. I believe that the Munnings system is the best yet and ought to be widely adopted.
Here are links: