Sliding Vowels Puzzle
by Basil Quinn
The Qaarbäŏngfēian poet Harlan Ŭxborough has written a poem with which he is not particularly happy. Upon careful reflection, Harlan has come to the conclusion that the problem isn’t his poem, but rather the Qaarbäŏngfēian language. The vowels just don’t sound right, and he wants to fix them. Harlan has commissioned a study by the Γραμματο-Χαοτικον to scope out a long-term project to move the vowels of Qaarbäŏngfēian to be more to Harlan’s liking.
The Γραμματο-Χαοτικον claims to have a method to back, front, raise or lower a vowel (or any part of a series of vowels in a row or column) over the course of about a year, and now they need a plan to get from the current Qaarbäŏngfēian vowel system in Figure 1 to the Harlan’s desired vowel system in Figure 2. (Figure 3 shows the current vowels in their final locations in Harlan’s desired end result.)
Ever the poet, Harlan is concerned that certain patterns within his poem be maintained while the vowels are being “improved”. Thus, for reasons of euphony, /i/ and /e/ must move together, and /ə/ and /ɤ/ must move together. Other vowels in sequence can move together or independently as needed.
Given the current vowel system and the desired vowel system, what is the shortest sequence of moves that will change the former to the latter, so that Harlan’s poem, An Ebullient Threnody to a Rhizophagous Syntactician of the X-Bar Persuasion, will sound just the way he needs it to?
If you have a solution for Harlan and the Γραμματο-Χαοτικον, send it to the editors of SpecGram by March 15, 2015, and you could win a prize.* Some most likely correct answers and winners will be announced in the April issue.
Some plausible answers to last month’s query concerning the L’Ishing du Gwujlang/Phicorthogra mnemonically merged definitions (MMDs) are presented below:
- A feeding trough from Deutschland is a German manger.
- A spellbound snare is a rapt trap.
- The span of one’s wrath is one’s anger range.
- To confirm robbery is to uphold a holdup.
- An itinerant pontificator is an errant ranter.
- The prattle of a perambulator is an ambler ramble.
- The faction of the 15th is the ides side.
- If the god of love soared then Eros rose.
- Hackneyed anecdotes are stale tales.
- An invariable flat-topped hill is the same mesa.
- The sludge of citrus fruits is limes slime.
- If a ruffian is obligated then the tough ought.
- To meander thisaway is to rove over.
- A groovy Greek letter is a hip phi.
- An insect of the folio is a leaf flea.
- A soulmate of the mountains is an Alp pal.
- Every single sorrow is each ache.
- A reverberatory option is an echoic choice.
Thanks to Keith Slater and Gretchen McCulloch for their contributions to the decipherment. Each will receive a prize for their help, as eligible.
* Note that SpecGram Anti-Hoarding Guidelines stipulate that puzzle-related prizes cannot be won by anyone who has won a puzzle-related prize in the last three months—though honor, fame, and glory may still be seized† on the metaphorical field of puzzle-related battle.
† Except where taxed, prohibited by law, or otherwise restricted, constrained, limited, regulated, controlled, hindered, impeded, hampered, obstructed, checked, curbed, shackled, confined, or otherwise subject to thesaural interference.