From the Logical Languages Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gua\spi (loglang)
Gūa spì
created in: 1989
by: Jim F. Carter
influenced by:Loglan
specification:[1] (in English)
regulated by:none

Gua spì (Gua\spi for ‘local language’), described by the author as “an Artificial Natural Language”, is the earliest known example of a tonal loglang. It was conceived in 1989 by Jim F. Carter, a renowned Loglanist; Carter's intention was to create a language like Loglan, but simpler.



The phonemes of Gua\spi are shown below in the International Phonetic Alphabet alongside their orthographic representations, which are in angled brackets.

Note: Carter's consonant and vowel tables do not use the IPA, and he characterizes some phonemes in puzzling ways; for example, he seems to describe the mid central vowel as a voiced glottal spirant. The IPA symbols used below constitute an informed best guess, and may differ slightly from Carter's intended values.

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Voiceless plosive p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ t͡ʃ ⟨c⟩ k ⟨k⟩ ʔ ⟨:⟩
Voiced plosive b ⟨b⟩ d ⟨d⟩ d͡ʒ ⟨j⟩ g ⟨g⟩
Voiceless fricative f ⟨f⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨q⟩
Voiced fricative v ⟨v⟩ z ⟨z⟩ ʒ ⟨x⟩
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ŋ ⟨w⟩
Lateral l ⟨l⟩
Rhotic r ⟨r⟩
Front Central Back
Close i ⟨i⟩ u ⟨u⟩
Near-close ɪ ⟨y⟩
Mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ ə ⟨#⟩ o ⟨o⟩
Low ɑ ⟨a⟩

Carter divides Gua spì's phonemic inventory into two groups:

  • C's, which are all consonants minus the nasals and the liquids (in bold);
  • V's, which are all vowels plus the nasals and the liquids minus /ə/ <#>, which is only used as an optional buffer vowel between two C's.

He then defines Gua spì's syllable structure to be “some C's followed by some V's” — i.e., C(C…)V(V…). There seems to be no upper bound to how many C's or V's a syllable can contain, and many Gua spì words contain two of each (kseo ‘cheese’ is one example). Since all words are monosyllabic, ‘words’ and ‘syllables’ are interchangeable terms in Gua spì parlance.


(Note: As before, Carter did not specify the IPA tone contours; these are here as an example.)

Tone name Contour Diacritic* Symbols Lv Function
High-even ˥ ē -e Form compound with preceding word
Low-even ˩ ẹ, e̱ =e %e Form transitive compound with preceding word
Rising ˩˥ é /e Go up one level; open predicate or clause
Falling ˥˩ è \e !e Start argument sub-phrase
Up-down ˧˥˩ ê ^e @e Open new adjacent phrase
Down-up ˧˩˥ ě |e *e Start clause sub-phrase

Gua spì is the earliest loglang around to feature grammatical tone. Each word (syllable) carries one of the six tones shown above, which determines its relation to the preceding word. The ‘diacritic’ column gives most commonly used diacritic values for the tones; the author did not have the luxury of Unicode back when the language was born, so he used ASCII symbols. (Nevertheless, diacritics create a problem of their own — they sometimes have to placed on the nasal and liquid sounds, which might cause significant trouble.) Those are placed before the syllables they modify. The second column gives variant forms to use on a typewriter when the preferred options in the first column are absent from the keyboard. (However, in his document, Carter uses ! instead of \ for “typesetting reasons”.)


Gua spì also introduces a special mechanic called levels, which encodes the level of nesting of a word in a sentence. The main predicate of the sentence is on the top-most (highest) level — level one; its arguments reside at the next level down (level 2), and if one such argument happens to be a clause, then its arguments can be specified at the third level, etc. To illustrate this, Carter gives the following example:

tàra vḿe cr̄w ksèo tūm kfòr fn̄au
^ :i ! tara / vme - crw ! kseo ^ vu - tum ! kfor ^ fe - fnau
1 . violently eat
2 rat cheese which tool
3 fork and knife


  • starts a new sentence at level 1. (This word works like Lojban .i.) The tone mark on :i is irrelevant; ignore it.
  • tàra has the falling tone, which means that it falls down to level 2, or the level where the main predicate's arguments are specified. In this case, tara ‘rat’ becomes the first argument — x₁ — of the main predicate (which has not yet been presented).
  • vḿe bears the rising tone, so it must go up one level. This means that vme will be the first syllable of the predicate compound.
  • cr̄w continues at level 1, forming a compound with vme. This is an idea unique to Gua\spi (and continued in Toaq under the moniker ‘serial predicate’), where the latter part of a compound is jammed into the former part. In Gua\spi, this jamming behaviour is different with each word (and given in the dictionary). In this case:
    • vme: “X1: does activity (vo) X2+1 violently”. “+” means that the following compounded word is going to be treated as a property (infinitive) and stripped of its first argument place (called a ‘case’); “1” means that this place is understood to be selfsame with the x₁ of the main predicate.
    • crw: “X1 eats food X2*”. “*” indicates that in a transitive compound (signalled with the low-even tone), x₂ is where the right-hand predicate would go. However, since in this case crw is subordinate to vme (and it never works the other way around), this signature is of little interest of us.
      vme cr̄w: x₁ eats food x₂ violently, or: x₁ devours x₂. crw's x₁ place is taken away and merged with vme's x₁, resulting in ‘x₁ does {eating x₂} violently’ (curly brackets show the incorporated crw), which has the same meaning
  • ksèo returns to level 2, starting a new argument phrase. kseo ‘cheese’ will be the x₂ of the main predicate.
  • bears an up-down tone, which means that the previous phrase is terminated and a new one is opened. vu is a special predicate which opens a restrictive relative clause.
  • tūm is in the high-even tone. Since vu has just opened a separate clause, tum will have to be its predicate: “x₁ is a tool for activity x₂”.
  • kfòr with a falling tone goes down one level, which will hold the arguments to tum. kfor ‘fork’ (a borrowing if you look closely!) will be the x₁ of tum.
  • means ‘and’.
  • fn̄au means ‘knife’. Since fe joined kfor and fnau together, tum has its x₂ unspecified. Luckily for us, vu will automatically fill that slot with the antecedent of the relative clause (the sentence we are using vu to describe).

The end result means ‘The rat violently eats (= devours) the cheese with a fork and knife’. Note that we used the phrase ‘violently eat’ — a compound — to mean ‘devour’. Since Gua spì has no lexical compounds, its only method of composing meaning is through these compounds — that is, every time a Gua spì speaker wanted to say ‘devour’, they would have to use the phrase ‘violently eat’. (This has received criticism [from whom?].)