Constructed Logographic Writing System
I’m quite passionate about Japanese, particularly because I find the writing systems so beautiful (and delightfully complicated, although often equally frustrating to memorize). While studying Japanese and working on various constructed languages – each suffering from various stages of incompletion – I developed an interest in Logographic writing systems. To be entirely accurate, I suppose I should also include Pictographic and Semanto-phonetic writing systems, since I’ve been looking at Mayan glyphs, the various script styles of Chinese from Running/Grass to Clerical to Oracle Bone scripts, as well as Naxi, Tangut, Khitan, and the Egyptian scripts Hieroglyphs, Hieratic, and Demotic. This interest has led to an attempt at creating my own logographic writing system. So far, I don’t actually have a language to use it with; either one will develop to match the writing system, or I’ll adapt one I’ve already started. Perhaps I’ll simply say that this writing system is supposed to be based on an entirely pictographic writing system that was never tied to a particular language (perhaps some kind of “lingua-franca” writing system), and various languages are now making use of their own versions of stylized/simplified characters. That would allow me to create several related languages, each with their own distinct writing system, but all writing systems based on the “original” pictographic/logographic writing system.
Starting the Script
To begin with, I created a list of “key words”, things that are fairly basic but can be combined to form more complex words/meanings. After listing quite a few words on my own without reference, I took a look at a list of the 214 Chinese “radicals” and added quite a few from that list to my own. I avoided radicals with meanings that I felt were a little to “complex” – meanings that could be derived from combining more “basic” meaning elements.
For example, “forest” is “many trees” (or even more basic: “tree tree (tree)”). This essentially occurs in the Chinese & Japanese character for “forest” – 木 (tree) + 木 + 木 = 森 (forest). 木 + 木 = 林 (woods, forest, copse).
My list does include quite a few meanings that could be considered “complex” – “mountain” could certainly be “stone + stone (+ stone)”, and “body” could be “head + arms + legs (+ torso)”. Both “mountain” and “body”, however, are most often considered “whole things” in their own right; and besides, once you start breaking down “mountain” into “stone + stone”, you could break down “bird” into “beak + wings + feathers + …”. You get the idea. Below is my final list of words; ignore the bolded words for now – I’m just trying to determine what the absolute most basic pictograms will be. You can also ignore the numbers; I just wanted to see how many I had.
|5||Act, Action, Movement|
|25||Stand fast, sturdy|
|88||Plant, sprout, growth|
|117||Time, day (from dawn of one day to dawn of the next)|
|133||Run, go quickly|
|137||Small, little, short|
Initially, I drew fairly simple pictures for most of the words (some of them I couldn’t think of a good way to represent the word as a picture, such as “bitter”). From there, I created a sort of “first pass” of simplified forms, some of which are more simplified than others. This “first pass” would be one direction that a particular people could have gone in when adapting the language-less pictographs for their own language.
In the interest of being thorough, I think the next step will be to actually go back and refine the basic pictograms, before I start simplifying – in any direction. I do already know, however, that I’d like to create a rounded, almost cursive simplified form and a blocky, all-straight-lines simplified form of each pictogram. For the rounded forms I’ll be referencing Hieratic, as well as several non-logographic writing systems with curves and some degree of complexity in their letter forms (such as Mongolian, Arabic, Kaithi, Khojki, Lao, Georgian (Mkhedruli, and possibly Asomtavruli), and the various styles of Thai). For the blockier forms I’ll be referencing the Phags-pa script, as well as Tibetan, Runic, Georgian (Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri in particular), and Hebrew. I’ll also look at Chinese, Japanese (Katakana as well as Kanji), Khitan, and Tangut, as well as possibly Chu Nom.