In addition to letters, the Musa script includes punctuation.

End of Word: Dot

In many fonts, Musa uses a dot instead of a space to mark the end of a word. This helps you read the separation between words as different from the separation between letters. In Abjad gait or Akshara fonts, we don't need a dot - words are separated by the break in the stroke linking the letters. We also don't use the dot in Alphabet or Ligature fonts with kerning, since there isn't enough whitespace inside each word to be confused with the space between words.

A Dot is one cell wide, like all the letters. Musa fonts are fixed-width, and the glyphs are designed to be be of equal width (monospace). You don't need to break a line at the end of a word or to indicate a word that is split between lines ; just write letters all the way to the end of the line and then write the next letter on a new line. This means that lines of Musa text are always both left- and right-justified, and "soft" newlines are not embedded in the text.

End of Sentence: Double Dot

One Dot ends a word; two consecutive Dots ends a Sentence. As you saw on the Intonation page, the end of a sentence is almost always marked with intonation. But after the intonation, we still write a Double Dot to mark the end of the sentence.

New Paragraph: Colon

In Musa, a new paragraph is marked with a colon composed of two big thick Dots stacked vertically. It's typed by pressing the circle key twice, as if you were typing a letter that looked like an 8. But the two dots of the colon are solid, and not connected.

It's used where, in older typography, we might have used a pilcrow ¶, a section sign §, or even a fleuron ❦. For example, here's a text from around 1500AD showing paragraph markers in use.

If the colon follows a dot, then some whitespace appears between them, which helps the paragraph break stand out. In Musa, we don't usually break paragraphs with newlines, blank lines, or indentation. That helps keep Musa text justified.

A colon followed by a dot forms a triple colon, which is used to indicate a new section.

Two consecutive colons is used to indicate an entirely new chapter.


Outlines and other forms of structured text, like laws and contracts, also use colons to start each new section, with the section numbers to the left of the colon. Section numbers are left-justified, so subsections are pushed to the right - indented - by their numbers.

Here's an example, in Roman but with Musa punctuation:


Where do spaces go between words?

I mention above that a dot marks the end of a word, without discussing when a word ends. There are two types of difficult case: the first when words are too long, and the second when words are too short.

A famous example of the first is German, which seems to have very long words. The rule of thumb for Musa is to split the word in front of every stressed syllable, whether the stress is primary or secondary, even though only the last is inflected. For example, the Viennese company DDSG stands for Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft, which is currently spelled as one word, even though its abbreviation breaks it up into Donau Dampf Schiffahrts Gesellschaft (Danube Steam Shipping Company). The three final words each start with "secondary" stress, but Musa would spell them as individual words, even though only the last is inflected.

In English, we distinguish between a greenhouse and a green house, and here again, stress is a good indicator of the word boundary. But there are languages without (lexical) stress, like French, or with words with more than one stressed syllable, like Swedish, so stress isn't a definitive marker. In general, lexical items usually have their own words. Green and house each have their own meanings, but the meaning of greenhouse can't be predicted from them: it's its own word.

The other tricky case concerns small grammatical words, the kind of words that we usually don't stress at all in English. Our current spelling attaches prefixes and suffixes directly to their base words, and so does Musa: cat-s demand-ed un-reason-able help-ing-s. Our current spelling separates prepositions and articles, and so does Musa: in the room. But the word for the in Swedish is a suffix that Musa attaches to the base word, and Japanese has postpositions that Musa attaches to the base word. We don't have a definitive rule.

Then there are cases when words combine - we'll discuss them in the next section.

Contraction, Elision, Liaison and Crasis

In many languages, words gain, lose or change sounds depending on the context. For example, the word a is pronounced an when the following word starts with a vowel: a pear, but an apple. In this case, we spell the difference, too, but the word the also changes its pronunciation, to thee, and we don't indicate that in the Latin spelling. But in Musa, we spell that difference, too.

In French, many words have lost their final consonants, but these consonants are still spelled, and they are pronounced when the following word starts with a vowel. For example, the first s in les femmes is silent, but it's pronounced in les hommes (where the h is silent!). In Musa, we would spell the word as it's pronounced, with no s in the first case.

These are both examples of liaison: the two words are still kept separate. In a crasis, however, they become a single word, and we use neither a space nor an apostrophe. In the first example below, you can see both a crasis (de + les) and liaison (the s being pronounced).

Here are some familiar crases from English :

A crasis often arises as a result of contraction: the loss of a sound in one of the words, as in the words le and el in French and Catalan:

Sometimes, you'll see a whole series of crases, elisions, liaisons and contractions. In the following example from French, the original ne i ã ends up pronounced nyan :

As the two sections above explain, Musa has a definite bias against "maintaining the word image" in favor of "one letter, one sound". We spell going to as gonna if that's how you say it. The result is to make Musa a little harder to read, but a little easier to write. This issue is discussed in more detail in the Allophonic Spelling page.

Defective Punctuation

In addition to the system just presented, Musa offers a second, simpler system of punctuation for use when there isn't enough data for full punctuation. This might arise, for example, as a result of transcription of existing Roman text, as opposed to text written directly in Musa.

In this defective system of punctuation, the period, question mark and exclamation point are simply transcribed using double accents :

Punctuation within a sentence uses some other signs :

Musa text can be bold, italic or underlined, for example for text cited from a different source or quotations.

Punctuation in Other Gaits

Kana and fangzi gaits use the same punctuation, but adapted to the spacing of each gait. Sentence-final (and clause-final) punctuation - intonational or defective - takes the same space as a kana or fangzi. So does the kana comma, but the fangzi comma is a little narrower - it doesn't end a clause.

The twin goals of this adjustment are to help the punctutation jump out from the text, visually, using whitespace, and at the same time to reduce the amount of whitespace consumed by alphabet gait punctuation.

< Intonation Gaits >

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