The D'ni Alphabet
The D'ni alphabet consists of twenty-four characters:
eleven of which can be accented:
to give a total of thirty-five individual sounds. D'ni is a phonetic language, meaning that spelling doesn't affect pronunciation; every D'ni character will always be pronounced the same way. Most of the sounds in D'ni also occur in English, save the r and k sounds. The D'ni characters, though, do not resemble Roman letters. Some have compared them to Hebrew or Arabic writing systems. Because a number of characters look alike and can be easily mistaken, it is an important first skill to be able to easily identify and differentiate the various D'ni characters.
One useful tool for helping us understand D'ni characters is transliteration. In order to more easily discuss D'ni sounds in English, we can approximate them with roman letters that produce the same sounds. There are two commonly used systems of transliteration in use today: the Old Transliteration System (OTS) and the New Transliteration System (NTS).
OTS uses both single and double letters to approximate D'ni sounds in a manner that can easily be read but sometimes results in ambiguities. The phrase meaning you're welcome, meUr, is transliterated in OTS as mehoor. It is unclear by simply looking at the transliteration whether to pronounce this as me-hoor (incorrect) or meh-oor (correct).
NTS resolves this problem by establishing a one-to-one correspondence between each D'ni character and its transliteration. Since the English alphabet has only twenty-six letters and D'ni thirty-four sounds, NTS uses diacritical marks and non-standard characters to create enough characters. meUr would be written meúr in NTS, a more rigorous but, for some, less legible way to transliterate the word.
Table of D'ni Characters
Now, read the description of each D'ni character below and study the characters themselves. Pay special attention to the distinguishing features of each, and look at how each character resembles those characters it is commonly mistaken for. You will also find transliterations in both OTS and NTS, followed by a rendering using the International Phonetic Alphabet, a character set used in linguistics to specify phonics. (More info on the IPA can be found here.) The sound of each character is then described with example words in English, and you can click on the link to hear a recording of each sound followed by a D'ni word that features that sound.
Be sure that you take enough time to thoroughly learn the D'ni alphabet and its sounds; these truly are the building blocks of the language, and their importance cannot be overstated. Flashcards may be useful. You will also find transliterations of D'ni words in both OTS and NTS for the next couple lessons, to help familiarize you with D'ni characters in context as you continue to learn.
Two punctuation marks are also known to us that are frequently used in D'ni.
While there is strong suspicion that other punctuation marks exist (namely, an interrogative marker, like the question mark), they have not yet been discovered. In its absence, the . mark will always indicate the beginning of a new sentence.
The Pitfalls of D'ninglish
By far, the most widespread mistakes that get made with new D'ni writers are mistakes of transliteration, especially with proper names. The temptation is to take an English word and simply change the font to D'ni characters, to take each letter of the English word and swap it out for a D'ni character. For example, the name Dianne might be incorrectly transliterated as dianne. Since D'ni is a phonetic language, however, the proper method of transliteration is to first sound out the English word, then find the appropriate characters for those sounds, not for the English letters themselves. Dianne would thus be broken down into the sounds d I a n | d á æ n, and properly transliterated DIån.