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Thread: Conlang construction philosophy? :)

  1. #11
      Jalyha is offline
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    @ LARB:

    I'm sure that's the way most people use their languages. I just hyper-focus on things and obsess unhealthily over irrelevant details, lol (Seriously - those are the terms the Dr. uses -- picture Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory... only, not smart, and female, and, well that's me. )

    I'm excited to hear that you use a syllabary instead of a typical "alphabet"... most people don't.

    And you're quite right about the shape of the letters. If you note my example of the original latin alphabet, above, you'll notice it is mostly straight lines and sharp angles. In modern times, the letters are similar - but softer... rounder. That's from going from a harder medium to a softer one. It's also why my alphabets/syllabaries usually have two instances - a more "prehistoric" iteration, and a more "modern" one.

    Which brings me to:

    @RGC: I still can't get my camera to cooperate, but instead of struggling alone, I'll post the images here and hope someone can assist me!

    Top half:


    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-snapshot_20140115.jpg

    Bottom half:

    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-snapshot_20140115_6.jpg

    You can't really make out the syllables for pronounciation, but you can see the 1st (straight lines/angles) and 2nd (soft curves and prettification) iterations of my preliminary alphabet.

    I usually make the first type in order to form the second more logically (although I sometimes use it for older items in my stories) as a form of reference more than anything.


    Your alphabet looks great... something is bugging me, but I can't quite pinpoint it yet.

    so.. yeah

  2. #12
    Guild Journeyer Gracious Donor rgcalsaverini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larb View Post
    I actually have a half-constructed ancient language of my own. It is a syllabary and I haven't gone into any of the more advanced grammar and such. I just use it for individual words. The alphabet itself is very curved in style.
    Oh sounds interesting! Could you share it with us?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larb View Post
    Which reminds me - I once read that the shapes of the letters tended to follow the medium on which they were most often used. For example: Roman and Norse script was most often (originally anyway) carved onto stones which is why it is made of straight lines and harsh angles. Arabic script and the like was more often written with brush on papyrus or paper so it could be more cursive. I suppose that is something to consider when creating an "alphabet" for a fictional people.
    It does make sense. I'll use that to enrich my future languages, thanks for the info!

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    Guild Journeyer Gracious Donor rgcalsaverini's Avatar
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    @Jalyha:
    I love your alphabet, some very curious glyphs. I like those rounded squares with appendixes, never seen anything like that before. Also those complex ones bellow the one that looks kinda like PI are really cool.
    I made a computer font of my alphabet so its easier to type them in, really makes things simpler!

    You seem a lot more skilled at glyph building, any advice or insights?

  4. #14
      Jalyha is offline
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    I.. don't know how to build a font. That would be SO much easier :/

    Honestly, some of my runes are AWFUL, and some are great, but mostly they are a combination of trial and error and, as I do in all things, starting at the beginning.

    My first "conlang" (I'm laughing so hard at myself) was a bunch of random, cool-looking designs I adapted from letters/symbols in real languages - thrown in no particular order.

    But... language isa living thing, and like all living things, its' life begins somewhere, and seems to follow a logical pattern. I read something, so many years ago, that I don't really remember what it was, much less who wrote it (I think I was 8!??!) about the start of a numbering (or lettering?) system being based on a triangle representing a family... pretty sure they used sticks but...

    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-tri.png

    I was.. pretty fascinated. 3 lines. Each straight line means, in essence, "a person".

    Tilted this way is a man, this way is a woman, this way a child... and together they are a family. 2 lines could be a couple, or a "mother" or "father"...

    8 meanings from combining those three lines. 8 meanings from one shape.

    Pretty cool. Then, since I was 8, I forgot most of it and ran off to play.

    When I started getting interested in conlangs, though, it came back to me.

    This glyph:

    Name:  tri 2.png
Views: 92
Size:  1.5 KB

    (All shapes are glyphs. All letters are glyphs, all numbers... all pictures...)

    1) This triangle.... a single glyph of 3 lines ... can hold 8 meanings.
    2) This glyph has a logical purpose. The man and the woman come together to create the child. They are bound.

    Hieroglyphics are ... words written in pictures. They have a fairly logical meaning.

    It's very exciting for a storyteller to realize that ALL written languages... every single word, and syllable and letter was devised for one purpose: To tell a story.

    There's a whole story in the creation of every letter of every language in all the world.

    Written language is formed so that we can leave a story for someone else.

    "This cave is taken"
    "My family died there"
    "Here there be dragons"

    Sorry, I digress a lot.

    The point is... there should be a logical progression to an alphabet. I start with... hmmm... well it depends on how large the alphabet is

    No more than 6-8 basic shapes. The syllabury above uses 6:

    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-shapes.png

    Then, you turn them. Twist them. Cut them in half. Whatever you like. Experiment.

    Those 6 shapes gave me 34 options. Combining those options, 2 together, gives me 38,148 options. (Unless I missed some, which I'm sure I did.)

    Then, I choose. I either group similar shapes by sound or by meaning. (sibilant sounds, vs guttural sounds, vs vowel sounds... or whatever).

    I try to exclude anything that doesn't *feel* like it fits.

    Once I know what *sounds* I want in my alphabet, I start matching them to their symbols.

    Now I have my *archaic* alphabet. Then I write them over and over again, not worrying about neatness. When you get sloppy, the letters look more... natural.

    So I write the "messy" versions more neatly.

    So the archaic evolves to the most reasonable "medieval" version:

    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-glyph.png

    You can evolve that to something more modern, by writing words in the medieval version over and over until you see how they flow *together* and adapt the letters to that too.

    Mostly, though, it's trial and error. The page I tried to photo for here was page 62 of a 70 page notebook... all trying to create that one alphabet. I'm still not satisfied with either version, but it works well enough for my purposes.

    It's important to remember though, there's no "best" method. Whatever method works for you is great. (I'm always looking for a faster/easier way, lol)

    I showed you the way I got the squares (which are really N (a square) combined with a vowel sound (a triangle-ish shape)

    The ones below "pi" (B) are just the same pi-like symbol combined with a vowel symbol. If you do the combining during the "archaic" (straight line) phase, the later renditions look really varied.


    And WOW I talk a lot...

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      Larb is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by rgcalsaverini View Post
    Oh sounds interesting! Could you share it with us?
    I've attached mine below.

    It doesn't have any grammatical rules as yet. I use it because I needed an "ancient script" and I tend to just make single words or concepts out of it, or place names. Well a lot of place names - but then they tend to translate literally as things like Goldport or whatever. So I'd have a word for "gold" and then a suffix word for port.

    Linguistics was one of the things I did at university so the topic isn't totally alien to me. But I've never done any proper conlanging. Originally I was going to go with a simple substitution alphabet (or cypher I guess) but I decided it wasn't very natural so I did some research and came across things like the Cherokee syllabary. It turned out to be a much more fun and interesting route to take.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Conlang construction philosophy? :)-eskenb.jpg  
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      Jalyha is offline
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    ᏣᎳᎩᏍ ᎯᏬᏂᏍᎩ?

    I don't. Not really. But the cherokee syllabary (see, I caught on to the correct spelling!) is used in a lot of sign-age in some states!

    The only problem I have with using that (or a similar system) is that the *written* language wasn't developed at all until around the 1800s (pretty sure) so it was a late entry... my stories usually start much earlier in history... with early writings.
    It's so beautiful though...
    So... do you just adapt the lettering from that to your own system? It looks great.

    Is the "-M" to indicate that can only come before one of your "M" syllables? Like how q (usually) can only come before a "u" in english? :s

    Or is it a different sound altogether?

    I don't understand the notation.

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    It's not based on the cherokee syllabary - it is completely made up. It was just reading about syllabaries like cherokee and katakana is what inspired me to go with a syllabary instead of a more traditional alphabet.

    Letters that are indicated with a dash after them (A-, E-, I-) are vowel sounds that can occur before other letters. It's so you can get words like Amasa (A- Ma- Sa-). Those with a dash before them would go after one of the regular syllables. So Masak (Ma- Sa- -k).

    If that makes sense.

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      Jalyha is offline
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    Oh, I misunderstood you. I'll stop looking for the connection then


    The dashes make perfect sense now. (I get confused very easily, lol)


    You made it sound like you did many things at University... ? I have not had any linguistics training, unfortunately, just random reading. I'd love to take some classes on that!

    I really do like studying your alphabet! It looks like ... hmmm... it's familiar enough that people could be comfortable with it, but not so much so that it becomes mundane. It looks like something people might have actually written! (Which is what really matters!)

    What does Amasa mean?

    It's pretty

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    Those are really nice symbols Larb ! It does remind me of Korean because of how they use syllabes.

  10. #20
    Guild Journeyer Gracious Donor rgcalsaverini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jalyha View Post
    I.. don't know how to build a font. That would be SO much easier :/
    I love building fonts, I just finished creating my own handwriting as a font, now I can type in and print and no one will notice. (I bet that's useful... somehow...maybe)
    Let me know if you want help with creating a font, its quite easy.

    Ooh! So that's how you got your great conlanguing abilities, you started as a toddler

    My current conlang was a good stepping stone, but soon I'll start working on the more important language of my fantasy world with all that I've learned recently. Thank you for the detailed tutorial! That was most helpful. I'll start over soon and I'll keep annoying you for advice.

    @Larb: Those glyphs do look great! Do you have a method?

    Just as an experiment I tried to write those glyphs I had with a dip pen as fast as I could, then I adapted them a bit and saved my favorites:
    Conlang construction philosophy? :)-cursive.png
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