Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Creating a Writing System


Good morning, Interweb. Let’s worldbuild. In order to create an interesting writing
system you need to: Pick a type of script, pick a writing medium, and pick a set of rules to govern that script. Before you start creating symbols, ask yourself:
how many sounds do you want represented per glyph? This will determine the type of writing system
your script will be. In an Abjad, only consonants get symbols. Vowels are inferred by the reader, not written. Alphabets contain a separate glyph for each consonant and vowel. Abugidas, contain a separate glyph for every consonant-vowel pairing. Vowels here are of secondary importance, and are usually marked in as diacritics. Syllabaries have entire syllables represented
by a single glyph, logographic systems contain a separate glyph
for every word or phrase, and ideographic systems contain symbols that represent entire concepts or ideas. Oftentimes ideographs are also pictograms like everyone’s favourite modern day example: emojis. Now, featural systems are kinda weird, in that they encode phonetic information, not sounds. Like you have a couple of base glyphs associated with certain sounds. You systemically add a certain mark and everything becomes a plosive, say. Add another and those plosives get devoiced. That sorta thing. All you gotta do now is pick one of these systems. But, like, feel free to modify or combine things, or just come up with something totally different. It is 100% up to you. For context, writing systems on earth emerged in this order. Ideographs were a feature of proto-writing, and date back to as early as the 7th millenium BCE The first writing systems proper were logographic, and emerged in the early Bronze Age So, if you want to give your glyphs an evolutionary history, start with a picture and then simplify it over many, many iterations. Lastly, and probably most importantly, pick a type of script that suits your language’s phonotactics. Logographic systems, work well for analytical languages like Mandarin – where words are not annexed to convey grammatical meaning. Abugidas and syllabaries suit languages with
very simple syllable structures, and Abjads, they work well for languages in which words are built upon consonantal roots How a culture writes greatly effects the look of that culture’s script. Does you culture carve their glyphs into stone or wood? If so, think about the limitations those materials impose. Carved glyphs will tend to be angular, have very few, if any, curves, and may contain artefacts of the carving tools. Does your culture write on paper using calligraphic pens or ink quills? If so, expect flowing lines and a very natural
variation in stroke thickness. Bearing in mind that angle at which the pen is held will affect the look of the script. Regular pens or pencils on paper produce lines of uniform thickness and encourage fast writing, so expect a cursive hand to evolve. What happens to a cursive script when speed is the most important factor? What about the use of styli? Press a stylus into clay and the shape of
the individual elements – the graphemes that make up your glyph – will be limited to the shape of the tools available. Write with a stylus on foliage and expect to see a script that favours curves – angular gestures tear leaves. Brushes can produce a very flowing calligraphy with massive variation in stroke size. Maybe your glyphs are to be painted, hieroglyphics-style, allowing for the creation of elaborate pictures in full blown technicolor. Are the colors superficial or do they carry
meaning? Are there any limitations on the colors to
be used? Has your culture invented the printing press? If so, glyphs will become standardised. Fonts can get extremely elaborate because manual reproduction isn’t a factor. Maybe your culutre has computerised everything. Fonts could incorporate animated gifs, videos, have opacity; be ultra-HD, extremely detailed, photoshopped logographs… the sky is the limit. Speaking of which, maybe your culture “writes” on a non permanent medium like in the sky or the on the earth. Flag semaphore, anyone!? Perhaps, for literary reasons, your glyphs should reflect the dominant traits of your culture: peaceful, warlike, evil, advanced,
funny, elegant, and so on. Regardless of medium, ensure that your glyphs each look distinct, yet related. Ambiguity is never a good thing. Also, think about scalability: can your glyphs be shrunk down and blown up large? Can they be read at a distance? If not, perhaps make them less detailed. Are you going to create upper- and lowercase forms? If so, why? Will you create a single glyph for every phoneme in your language? Or will some glyphs account for multiple sounds. Above all else, the name of the game here is iterate. Iterate, iterate and when you’re sick of iterating…iterate
some more. Once you have a set of glyphs, think about
what rules govern them. On the macro level, what is the directionality
of block text in your script: top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right, right to left or even alternating? The latter being lines that alternate in direction, with the glyphs flipping to indicate the current reading direction – known as Boustrophedon,
aka as the ox plows. Do your glyphs only encode sound, or do they also encode extra features like stress, tone, loudness, tempo, intonation, word breaks, emotions, double meanings and so on? What are the rules of spelling in your language? Has spelling become standardised? What are the rules regarding capitalisation? Does your scripts require spaces? I mean, we don’t speak… with… spaces, so why
write with spaces? Is context sufficient or is punctuation needed
to supply extra meaning? If so, what role will punctuation play? Do numbers get there own glyphs or are they
written out? Lastly, I want to make a case for a thing
called the acrophonic principle. That is, the idea that the name of each glyph should starts with the sound that glyph represents. Kinda like “B”. Moreover, you can set up a situation whereby each glyph can represent two distinct sounds depending on its location within a syllable. This, for example, could represent “r” in
initial position but “l” in final position, say. Thus, using the acrophonic principle, this
glyph could be called “ral”. Which I think is just a very neat system. Anyways, there you have it. How to come up with a writing system done! Pick a type of script, pick a medium, set some rules, then go forth and iterate… until you can iterate no more. So, inspired by the epicness of [an Artifexian viewer], link’s in [description], and my recent trip to South Korea, I decided to create a writing system for Oa, and here it is! Awesome! Video done. See you all next time. Edgar out. Oh! You’re still here. Right. Well, here’s a picture of the human food hole. Nasal cavity, roof and floor of the mouth, lips, teeth, toungue, and glottis. All graphically abstract…

100 Replies to “Creating a Writing System”

  • Plus if you're Ogier, you can move a leaf from amongst that lovely flowing script to access the ways.

    (I'm in the middle of book 7 and was like "egwene? Lan? Loial???)

  • Υιպε ακօփ ած՚θ «իօπβ! Όπ´ρoθո«տξκu
    (Seaձյπο θιյ՛յէօa se.) uիօղιπ λο (this is my language. Greeganese! By the way it’s a mix of 2 weird languages.)

  • I'm making a language myself to help with stories and troll my class by making pretend letters from a peaceful yet hidden world called Zikuba. The language is called Ulcathaen (pronounced ool Kath ein) and the language occurs throughout the timelines of all stories. This video helped a ton!

  • Me: how bout I go to bed early tonight
    Me at 3am: I wonder how long it would take me to make an entire fucking language

  • 1:44 I chose nothing, 1:44 I chose nothing, sees as

    fans of geography now could have know the * hush * language and in that hush language there are no vowels,and This is an example soo in “hush” you is psst and nice to meet you in hush is “psst chk chk huwe” but at that e in huwe that e you have to finish it very fast 💨.

  • I'm thinking about a script derived from ancient people pressing broken bits of human rib bone into wet clay. Im justifying this as only the priests of the ancient civilization had access to bones of the dead and knowledge of writing. By breaking and sharpening the tips of cross sections of these stylus you could get many interesting shapes. Arches ∩,angles∧, lines ∣, points ∴, ovals (albeit angular ovals later simplified to circles.) I'm thinking each ancient characters would be combinations of no more than two imprints from a rib stylus and a writing kit had four two ended ribs.

    The trouble for me is I'm having trouble constructing the modified handwriting descendant of this cuneiform into non-Roman alphabet letters that can easily be written in cursive.

    Thoughts?

  • I have created a wrting system made solely out of straight lines and dots.
    The history of this language is that it was orginally carved into stone, often extrenely deep to avoid destruction and erosion of the text.
    The vowels are easy to tell apart from the consoants as pure vowels always have 2 straight lines parallel to each other and diphthongs have 2 intersecting lines, with dots. Only symbols that represent vowels or be used as vowels (like l and r) have dots

  • My language called Tejin, has an alphabet with 35 glyphs wth 9 vowels & 26 constants. The number of sounds in my glyphs vary.

  • I saw that Nail and Gear, Tim. Slightly unrelated, I'd kinda like to hear Brady and Grey talk about language sometime. Could be interesting

  • "make sure that your glyphs look distinct and related" This is one of the things that irks me about Shavian. More of the characters in Shavian are ambiguous than there should be. Like, the character for f looks too similar to the character for a (as in ash), the character for v looks too much like the one for a (like ado), the one for p too much like o (in on), etc. I like Shavians phonetics, but I really hate its glyphs!

  • Just pretend to say things in Russian, that's the spoken part, now for writing just take the English version of the text and flip it upside down

  • Another thing you can consider when coming up with a writing system is something about the physical presence of one who is writing it. I'm thinking of the "writing" of the aliens from Slaughterhouse 5, who exist as 4th dimensional beings which means their writing is also 4th dimensional, using 4D letters, and how that might appear to a 3D character like humans

  • I already made up 3 languages/writing systems all on my own and I'm very proud of myself because they're based on real-world languages. And by real-world languages I mean I mostly based it off of Korean since I can kind of read and speak it. The first one had 23 characters, each representing a word with a different random sound I just felt like using, then just combine stuff and bam, words (yes it's limited but at least blood literally translates to life water). The second is based on the first one, with words being just twisted versions of the original and the writing with phonetic letters. The third is just random scribbles and gibberish combined with Korean. Benefits of being sorta bilingual, I guess 🙂 Edit: also the third language is very hard to write because just like Korean it has rules where you place certain letters under others to create a word and sound. But unlike Korean, all the letters are hard to write perfectly, like imagine the written language love child of Russian cursive and Arabic on drugs and that's what it looks like. (That was a really weird analogy but that really is the best way to describe it).

  • O:33 no its not you have lines and other shapes to write how to pronounce it like a line above is a 'a' sound and a line under is a 'oe' sound but some people can read it without them but then they will need to know the word

  • I see no comment about this so I‘ll mention it: the Incas had a method of recording that involved knotted ropes in different colors for storing information. It was called kippuh or kippu I believe, too lazy to look it up.

  • I know no language naturally has spoken punctuation, that being said, what is your take on it?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eixevXANKAo (Victor Borge)

  • 5:56 My script goes bottom to top, top to bottom, alternating, right to left. That's the last thing anyone would ever guess! Oh wait, I just told the entire planet. Dang it…

  • I had one
    A mix of the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets
    A – Long A
    Б – /b/
    В – /v/
    Г – /g/
    Д – /d/
    Е – /i/
    Э – /e/
    З – /z/
    I – /ı/
    И – /aı/
    N – /j/ (as in y ahoo)
    K – /k/
    Л – /l/
    М – /m/
    Н – /n/
    О – /əu/
    Ə – /ə/, /o/
    П – /p/
    Р – /r/
    С – /s/
    Т – /t/
    U – /ju/
    У – /u/
    Y – /w/, /hw/
    Ч – tsh
    Ш – sh
    Ж – zh
    Х – /h/, [glottal stop]
    (Missing characters untypable in mobile:
    Ukrainian Ie – /'/
    Latin Alpha – /a/
    Komi Dje – dzh)

    Letters in / represent the IPA representation of the character.
    Letters in represent the transliteration of the IPA representation of the character.

  • With (V)V((C(V)) phonotactics, ten vowels and seven consonants, and a distinct tendency toward vowel cuddling (up to eight in a row, maybe more), I decided the god who bestowed Oraata upon his people would grant them an alphabet. I was disinclined to creating a logography or syllabary, abugidas assume consonants are at least as common as vowels, and as for abjads, see above.

  • Okay so. A culture of sentient rag dolls that used sound first. And since the first dolls didn't have voices, they used Morse Code (or something like it). After they discovered their ability to sew, they began using that to document text into physical copies. The shape of their glyphs mimic the dots and dash sounds used in their tapping language. Then the dolls that began speaking started to annunciate those glyphs into spoken word

  • Me and ny friends havr been working on this lnaguahe for the past 2 years and we just nasterd it. Let me show u a few things.

    £ello £i £ani ýîc €ršič.

  • Im making my first conlang and you and all your vidoes have been really helpfull. Thank you for doing what your doing

  • But… My fictional language has clicks, ejectives and implosives… Many.
    What and how do I have to do in that case? (I mean, how do I represent them if I actually choose a syllabary or an abugida? And how do I have to latinize it?)

  • Tryreadinganythingwithoutspacesbecausetrustmeit'snottheeasiestthingtodlikeyouhavetoreadstuffslowlyandgobackafewwordstomakesureyoureadwhatyoureadcorrectlylol

  • Have you ever created a working font and keyboard layout for one of your writing systems?
    I would use inkscape to model the glyphs, make a font out of them using fontforge and create a keyboard layout for windows in Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4. But I have yet to find out, how to create a font for a right to left font with more glyphs than for example hebrew has, because I think, I have to use existing unicode glyphs. Otherwise it would be impossible to create the keyboard layout.

  • Are there ways to computerize your script. In order to type the script in documents on your computer. To make things easier than writing the script on paper?

  • I want mines to have everything like Tempo emotion and all that stuff that he said and I wanted to not be combined with everything but like be really detailed

    And you know best for like stories and writing stuff

  • I made up a magic rune writing system. Rune words can be writed or gravered in metal, then filled with magic power that gives them power depending on what they mean. Rune words can be aslo compressed to glyphs which are just small chinese like pictograms. Each rune mean one sound, like our alphabet, except of "hs" or "ae".
    What do you think about it?

  • What if I want to do a nice looking replacement for a script? Like, let's say, the Cyrillic script, I want to replace it with something that doesn't look like a ripoff of Latin

  • This is SO INSPIRING for my writing!!!! Thanks a lot!!! I'm going to make a new playlist!! I don't know if I'm the type of author to go THIS in-depth, but I'll definitely use this for inspiration!! Thank you so much!!!

  • 4:48 "Perhaps, for literary reasons, your glyphs should reflect the dominant traits of your culture:"
    begins modifying Devanagari script to show peaceful writing system

  • I've been trying to think how a textile-based society would work.
    Their writing system could be embroidered onto tapestries, colors becoming synonymous with tones of voice, all sorts of things. Now all I gotta do is make up a language!

  • 5:06: "Ambiguity is never a good thing." Try learning Traditional Mongolian Script and you'll see exactly how true this is.

  • When thinking about spaces, we should be thinking about how to differentiate words from each other and particles or possibly punctuation. All European languages I know of use spaces to differentiate words; Japanese uses a combination of Kanji and kana to make the reader's life easier; and traditional Mongolian script uses different cases for the beginning, middle and end of a word. Perhaps one could also use some kind of brackets or similar punctuation to separate words as well.

  • I have absolutely no clue where to store anything in my conlang, and I think that there is an extreme lack of videos that give tips on how to organize your conlangs’ lexicon, grammar, or even basic roots.

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