Creating a simple writing system

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OTʜᴇB
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Creating a simple writing system

Post by OTʜᴇB » Sun 22 May 2016, 16:33

If you are struggling to come up with an alphabet or series of symbols for your language or maybe already have one but want to evolve it over time to create a "modern" system that your population may use today as a pose to thousands of years ago, then this technique can very easily and quickly produce some surprisingly good results.

Start by writing the letter or symbol you want to develop or represent, I chose the letter "Q". I wrote this down, and then wrote it again, but this time, trying to take minor shortcuts or extending lines a bit or just completely omitting a part of the character. I do this between 3 and 5 times until I have a "first phase" character. I will write this out quickly a few times until it begins to evolve into something else and repeat this process up to 20 times. You will begin to notice just how dramatically the symbol can change, in my case, it went through a fancy "G", a "£", a backwards "q", a somewhat copperplate "f", and ended up as the number "8". These dramatic changes can be arbitrary or deliberate and has given me up to 50 natural alphabets to choose from after 2 hours work.

As with all things, practice makes perfect. However, this only took me an hour of practice to properly get the hang of and I highly recommend trying it before claiming it will "always look the same". It really doesn't. I've had the letter "t" end up as a whole myriad of things, all of which are in no way similar (other than they are lines on a piece of paper, written with a pen etc.).

You can even add variations to this and throw in bits of other symbols as you go, merge alphabets, flip, cut, rotate, the whole works. It's much like improvised cooking: You could use all the same ingredients but end up with 50 different meals.

Here is a photo of my results just from the letter "Q" after 2 minutes. Thisnk what can happen in 20!
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AndrewTheConlanger
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by AndrewTheConlanger » Mon 23 May 2016, 02:48

I know you began this with the obligatory 'if,' as in 'if you're left without options,' but I would have to thoroughly disagree that this is by any means an effective means of creating constructed scripts.

If one is creating a script, a good one that can't be directly connected to any existing script by simply looking at it, it's silly to begin doodling with the IPA character or the romanized one - there's no purpose in 'morphing.' Good scripts take weeks of thought and experimentation, but they don't require countless permutations. They require a goal in mind, a look and feel for the finished product that should always be kept in mind with every character. That's why a good script has never come from mindless scrawling.
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by elemtilas » Mon 23 May 2016, 04:04

AndrewTheConlanger wrote:I know you began this with the obligatory 'if,' as in 'if you're left without options,' but I would have to thoroughly disagree that this is by any means an effective means of creating constructed scripts.

If one is creating a script, a good one that can't be directly connected to any existing script by simply looking at it, it's silly to begin doodling with the IPA character or the romanized one - there's no purpose in 'morphing.' Good scripts take weeks of thought and experimentation, but they don't require countless permutations. They require a goal in mind, a look and feel for the finished product that should always be kept in mind with every character. That's why a good script has never come from mindless scrawling.
And yet this is largely how the modern Roman (& Cyrillic) scripts came about -- mindless scrawling undergoes centuries of directionless "morphing". Real languages and most real writing systems do not actually undergo much in the way of careful planning, thought or experimentation.

Hmmm. Kind of scary, really.

In any event, I do agree with AndrewTheConlanger that good scripts come about after much thought and work. And especially for the artlanger, the idea of mindless and directionless creation might be off-putting! This I agree is probably not the best tool to use when taking great care in fashioning a script for a language. But it does have its uses. Also, the OP does reference "simple writing system" and OTheB does rather stress quantity over quality. I that took that to mean "something is better than nothing" rather than "here's the best way ever invented to make a script for a conlang".

As a means of coming up with a script on the fly or perhaps as a matter of doodling, I see no real problem with this method. You may even come up with some interesting letters. Will every letter come to something usable or aesthetic for the conlang it's made for? Probably not. I'd also argue that "morphing" is actually a good tool for discovering diachronic forms of the script. Morphing can be simple like the pen-n-paper example, but it could also involve considering (and perhaps even using different writing tools and materials (trying quill on actual parchment or stylus on actual papyrus is an enlightening experience)), consider how a scribe in the law courts will write versus a gent of lesiure penning his most erudite thoughts for distant posterity.
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by OTʜᴇB » Mon 23 May 2016, 17:11

I did suggest the roman or IPA character to be for a starting point of sorts. You can go and plan out a meticulous way that's perfect and is amazing and I'd love to see one, but I tend to use this more as "artificial evolution" at a "days of work by a human" level. I will normally evolve an existing system rather than make a new one from scratch using it. I've also got some very good results by using different writing implements and also different ways of using them. I've tried it with my other hand, writing on the underside of the paper, using stamps, carving into cardboard or tree-bark with a stanley-knife, and once even chiseling into stone.

There is no right or wrong way to approach it but it works surprisingly well as a basis for a technique.

Note that I also mentioned that these changes can be "arbitrary or deliberate" so your carefully thought out alphabets could be created (to a lesser extent of course) with this technique - I don't recommend it though.

AndrewTheConlanger, I suggest you use this technique on one of your meticulous writing systems, maybe only for 20 seconds per character, and see what you get. You never know, you might create a masterpiece. [;)]
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by clawgrip » Tue 24 May 2016, 15:34

I have to agree with the OP that the process of "morphing" as you call it is very important. This is basically always how scripts evolve, and is pretty obvious when you look at charts showing the evolution of scripts. Minor variations early on can escalate and cause extreme variations along the line. In fact, I have used the process of successive alterations to evolve scripts into new ones.
AndrewTheConlanger wrote:They require a goal in mind, a look and feel for the finished product that should always be kept in mind with every character. That's why a good script has never come from mindless scrawling.
Now you can tell me if you like my scripts or not, but I like them well enough. Here is a selection of glyphs from a larger script that demonstrates my own mindless scrawling with no final goal in mind. Obviously, I had some ideas in mind and applied the same style of alteration uniformly across the whole script, but the important thing to remember is that I had no idea where I was going until I got there.

(1, 3, 6, and 7 are fonts, the others are ballpoint pen(!) and paper)

Image

Can you recognize the script on the right as having derived from the one on the left?
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by HoskhMatriarch » Fri 27 May 2016, 06:56

AndrewTheConlanger wrote:I know you began this with the obligatory 'if,' as in 'if you're left without options,' but I would have to thoroughly disagree that this is by any means an effective means of creating constructed scripts.

If one is creating a script, a good one that can't be directly connected to any existing script by simply looking at it, it's silly to begin doodling with the IPA character or the romanized one - there's no purpose in 'morphing.' Good scripts take weeks of thought and experimentation, but they don't require countless permutations. They require a goal in mind, a look and feel for the finished product that should always be kept in mind with every character. That's why a good script has never come from mindless scrawling.
My script comes from mindless scrawling and it's fine (although it's not finished).

clawgrip, your script looks a lot like Siddham, except it's not an abugida as far as I can tell. I think Siddham also had a similar evolution since it came from the Brahmi script which looks like the thing on the left (well, yours are a lot more complicated than the Brahmi script).
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by clawgrip » Fri 27 May 2016, 14:10

It's a syllabary, not an abugida. You can find the whole thing here. The thing on the left is also a syllabary, designed by someone else in a collaborative conworld.

I think that the script was mostly influenced by Siddham and Khotanese. I think have a preference for making scripts with very thick and bold strokes.

The thread I made about how to design your own script has examples of me doing more or less what the OP here suggests; making some random garbage, then adjusting it until it turns into something nice. Unsurprisingly, the best of the final products is one with thick and bold strokes, because I guess that's what I'm best at making.
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Re: Creating a simple writing system

Post by mahagugu » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 11:46

one idea would be to just use five symbols or less and combine them.
A dot above , a dot below and some other diacritic ....

Years ago I created following quite easy writing system which has just very few basic
elements and mostly uses the vowel dot and the nasal dots to modifiy sounds.

. (dot) below, above , in the middle , or right after some character ( below = u, above = i , middle = a)
.. (nasal dots) two dots indicate nasalization ... used to make the nasal sounds m and n

u ... (tooth) should look like a tooth and represents a dental or alveolar stop ... t , d, etc... ( n with nasal dots)
- ... (mouth) should look like a closed mouth ... represents a labial or bilabial stop ... ( usually m with nasal dots)
3 ...(wind) should look like blown smoke and should represent a sibiliant , approximant or fricative (usually used for s)
¬ ... (upper right corner) used to represent velar sounds ( usually used for k )
! ... (Zapferl, uvula) used to represent the uvula at the back of the mouth .. (usually used for R because it is moving when making that sound)
I ... (stroke) ... used to represent glottal stop, glottal sounds or being just a carrier for vowel dots

3 with dot above means "sh" ... the dot above comes after the 3 it means "si"
the same could also be written with 3 and stroke I and then a dot above the stroke ...

u and dot above mean usualy "ts" ...
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