Writing system, not sure which one to use.

This forum is for constructed languages, both those invented by UniLang members and those already existing.

Moderators: Ashucky, Dormouse559

caters
Posts: 4
Joined: 2018-01-13, 4:35
Gender: female
Country: US United States (United States)

Writing system, not sure which one to use.

Postby caters » 2018-05-01, 0:39

So, still working on that Keplerian Proto-Arab language but 1 question I have is, what writing system to use. I want it to be Arabic based when it comes to the characters but not written in the same type of system as Arabic.

Here are the writing systems I know of:

Abjad
Image

An abjad is a writing system where vowels aren't letters in their own right but are either particles near the consonant that aren't actually attached to it(impure abjad) or just don't exist and context is needed for someone to know what vowels to use(pure abjad). 2 languages that I know use abjads are Arabic and Hebrew.

If I'm using an abjad with Arabic based characters, even if the grammar isn't similar to Arabic at all, I am basically making a knockoff of Arabic, not good in my opinion for a conlang to just be a knockoff of a single natlang.

Abugida
Image

In an abugida, vowels also aren't letters in their own right but are modifications attached to the consonant like diacritics. This is commonly used in India and Southeast Asia. Abugidas are also sometimes called alphasyllabaries. I'm not sure how well this would work for an Arabic based writing system. I mean, if the whole thing is cursive and the vowel is attached like a diacritic, how would you tell whether you have just a consonant or a different consonant + a diacritic representing the vowel? Sure, you don't need context but still, I think it would be hard.

Syllabary
Image

A syllabary is a writing system where you have a symbol for every syllable. A famous example of that is Japanese. It actually has 2 syllabaries for the same sounds in different contexts. This could get complicated very fast. I mean in Japanese, it is mostly 2 letters per syllable when romanized in the form CV. But if my writing system is based off of Arabic characters, then I could see all these syllables occuring:

- CV, just like Japanese
- VC
- CVC
- CVCC
etc.

That would require hundreds of characters just for the syllables alone. I can't see that being very easy at all, never mind combining the syllables into words. And how am I supposed to represent 1 syllable with Arabic characters, especially with complicated syllables?

Logography
Image

Logographies, in my mind are even more complicated than a syllabary. Sure, you have fewer characters because each character = 1 word but only if the language is analytic and thus has very few long words. I plan for my language to be agluttinative or fusional. Both of these would have longer average words than analytic languages. How am I supposed to compound in a logography? It makes no sense. Even if I hybridized it into a logosyllabary where sometimes a character represents a word and other times it represents a syllable, it would still be complicated.

Alphabet
Image

Then of course there is the alphabet, where every character represents a phoneme. Some are featural like Korean where place of articulation and aspiration are shown in the letter itself and some aren't such as the Latin alphabet that is used for a lot of European languages and the Cyrillic alphabet used for languages related to Russian. This would be simple but in my mind, too simple since that means I could directly translate it character by character from Keplerian Proto-Arab to English and the other way around without even thinking about it because of the letter to phoneme correspondence.

So, what type of writing system should I use? An abugida maybe since that seems to be the least complicated and not a knockoff of Arabic or so easy to directly translate that I wouldn't need to think about it.
(en-us)

xBlackHeartx
Posts: 81
Joined: 2017-02-23, 22:11
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Writing system, not sure which one to use.

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2018-12-21, 19:34

The choice is down to personal taste, but there is a good reason why Arabic and Hebrew use abjads. Its because of how their languages work.

If you're doing this project, I'm assuming you have some knowledge of how Arabic works. The most famous feature of the language is its 'triconsonantal root system'. In it, all verbs are made up a series of 3 consonants, and the various conjugations and derivations are created by inserting vowels and sometimes adding affixes. This also used in derivation of non-verbs quite a bit too.

The reason an abjad is ideal is because that way the consonants that make up a word are always right next to each other no matter what vowels are inserted, which makes it a lot easier to identify the root of a word at a glance. Though it should be noted that the vowels used are largely redundant, which is why they're often omitted, though they do consistently mark vowel length (its most notable feature is its how grammatical gender is marked in the language, which is they see that indication as being mandatory).

Of course, such a language could also be written with an abugida, but that would make more sense if the arrangement of vowels actually hold a meaning of their own (in Arabic specific sequences of vowels don't indicate anything grammatical or predictable, unlike sequences of consonants).

User avatar
Ser
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 7623
Joined: 2008-08-14, 2:55
Real Name: Renato
Gender: male
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Country: CA Canada (Canada)

Re: Writing system, not sure which one to use.

Postby Ser » 2018-12-21, 21:16

xBlackHeartx wrote:The reason an abjad is ideal is because that way the consonants that make up a word are always right next to each other no matter what vowels are inserted, which makes it a lot easier to identify the root of a word at a glance. Though it should be noted that the vowels used are largely redundant, which is why they're often omitted, though they do consistently mark vowel length (its most notable feature is its how grammatical gender is marked in the language, which is they see that indication as being mandatory).

Of course, such a language could also be written with an abugida, but that would make more sense if the arrangement of vowels actually hold a meaning of their own (in Arabic specific sequences of vowels don't indicate anything grammatical or predictable, unlike sequences of consonants).

This is not true, the vowels do indicate grammatical things. It's just that they're rather easily predictable, as most affixes also involve extra consonants, and when they don't you have context.

For example, the word written يكتب <yktb> can mean:
1A. yaktubu 'he writes, as he is writing'
1B. yaktuba 'for him to write' (subjunctive)
1C. yaktub 'he did (not) write; (may) he write' (jussive)
2A. yuktabu 'it is written'
2B. yuktaba 'for it to be written' (subjunctive)
2C. yuktab 'it was (not) written; (may) it be written' (jussive)
3A. yuktibu 'he dictates (something to someone)'
3B. yuktiba 'for him to dictate (something to someone)'
3C. yuktib 'he did (not) dictate (something to someone); (may) he dictate' (jussive)
4A. yukattibu 'he makes (somebody) write'
4B. yukattiba 'for him to make (somebody) write' (subjunctive)
4C. yukattib 'he did (not) make (somebody) write; (may) he make (somebody) write' (jussive)
5A. yukattabu 'he is forced to write'
5B. yukattaba 'for him (not) be forced to write' (subjunctive)
5C. yukattab 'he was (not) forced to write; (may) he be forced to write' (jussive)

That's 15 possibilities, but you can largely tell which form is meant from the grammatical context (what particle is next to it, what construction it is found in) and the semantic context (which one makes sense knowing what you know of the real world).

(It is also common to write the first -u- vowel diacritic in forms 2-5, and to write the geminate consonant diacritic in forms 4-5. It helps.)


Return to “Conlangs”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest