On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

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On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Chagen »

Feels embarrassing to post in the Beginners' Corner but I don't know if this is suitable in the Conlangs forum.

I've been trying to make a script for Sunbyaku. However, I am completely stuck. Conscripts are easily the hardest part of a conlang for me to the point where I just don't make them often. But I feel like I need to try at least ONCE.

Anyway: Sunbyaku's native Sunkirnahashi is a syllabary much like Japanese's native kana. Indeed, the entire thing is supposed to be asthetically like Hiragana--lots of flowy lines combined with straight strokes. However, Hiragana was formed from simplifying a bunch of chosen kanji. Sunkirnahashi, on the other hand, was completely home-made in Sunzaku and thus came from nothing before. Thus, I'm finding it hard to come up with a suitable history for each letter even if the actual syllabary itself has a history (it was devised by a monk as his lord asked him to come up with a suitable writing system that was easy to learn and logical, based off proto-writing found in said lord's lands). It doesn't help that I need a LOT of glyphs (roughly 67), and they need to be easily distinguishable as this is not using an logography like Japanese does. Thankfully I have no equivalent to katakana...

So how exactly can I start out with this? Because I don't even know how to BEGIN.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Ahzoh »

Chagen wrote:Feels embarrassing to post in the Beginners' Corner but I don't know if this is suitable in the Conlangs forum.

I've been trying to make a script for Sunbyaku. However, I am completely stuck. Conscripts are easily the hardest part of a conlang for me to the point where I just don't make them often. But I feel like I need to try at least ONCE.

Anyway: Sunbyaku's native Sunkirnahashi is a syllabary much like Japanese's native kana. Indeed, the entire thing is supposed to be asthetically like Hiragana--lots of flowy lines combined with straight strokes. However, Hiragana was formed from simplifying a bunch of chosen kanji. Sunkirnahashi, on the other hand, was completely home-made in Sunzaku and thus came from nothing before. Thus, I'm finding it hard to come up with a suitable history for each letter even if the actual syllabary itself has a history (it was devised by a monk as his lord asked him to come up with a suitable writing system that was easy to learn and logical, based off proto-writing found in said lord's lands). It doesn't help that I need a LOT of glyphs (roughly 67), and they need to be easily distinguishable as this is not using an logography like Japanese does. Thankfully I have no equivalent to katakana...

So how exactly can I start out with this? Because I don't even know how to BEGIN.
I could help, but I don't know your style...
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Ossicone »

My first tip is to decide a writing medium. I'm going to assume you want brush and ink because of your desired appearance.

My second tip is to scribble a lot. Preferable in the medium if available.

Is there anything stopping you from making scribbles of words starting with desired syllables and then trying to simplify those?
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Lambuzhao »

If you're not into traditional ink & brushes,

you could "cheat" with brush tip markers like these

http://www.jerrysartarama.com/images/pr ... -of-12.jpg

They may be a little stiffer than an actual brush dipped in ink, but they can affect pretty good strokes.

Calligraphy markers are another possibility-
http://www.rexart.com/product8040.html
These are one of my favorite presents to myself [:)]

But I'd go with Ossicone's advice: nothing beats trying it with the actual tools, i.e. real ink & brushes, traditional calligraphy pens.


Experiment!
[:D]
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Ahzoh »

If I may reccomend some glyphs, I made some you might use, for syllable "Hva", "Ja" and "Ma", not sure that it's katakana/hiragana style, but surely these should give you some ideas:
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Last edited by Ahzoh on 17 Apr 2014 04:38, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Thrice Xandvii »

I should post some examples of a language I created that has something like 40 or so possible glyphs. I think it could be adapted for more. Actually, I think there is a thread for it around here... Lemme look!

Are you looking for something with a bit of similarity for similar syllables or more like Japanese with lots of unique glyphs?

Found it: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2664
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Micamo »

Here are my problems with conscripting.

1. I can't make consistent-looking shapes. Every time I try to draw a glyph I invent by hand, it looks like an unrecognizble blur. This applies to simple handwriting in english as well: I've had teachers giving me zeroes for illegible handwriting all throughout my school career, and my ability doesn't improve no matter how much I take my time. I haven't been diagnosed with anything but I suspect there's something seriously wrong with me. Which means I have to design a script with a computer which means I don't get a feel for how the script "feels" when you write it, which means my shapes are unnatural and terrible.

2. I don't have the ability to make a script that looks artistically coherent, which is really, really important to me. Even though I can read neither chinese nor tangut nor tibetan, I can look at these three scripts and instantly tell which is which because there's a underlying artistic "core" to each script: The lines aren't just made at random. Every time I try to make a script it comes out as just random squiggles.

3. I feel like it's cheating if I devise a script a-priori, I have to develop the script naturally from proto-writing. Which means I have to make a logographic script and then develop it into a syllabary or alphabet. Combined with the first two problems, I never ever ever ever ever get anywhere with the logographic script and thus I never get to even start on the actual script I want to make.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Lambuzhao »

Micamo wrote:Here are my problems with conscripting.

1. I can't make consistent-looking shapes. Every time I try to draw a glyph I invent by hand, it looks like an unrecognizble blur. This applies to simple handwriting in english as well: I've had teachers giving me zeroes for illegible handwriting all throughout my school career, and my ability doesn't improve no matter how much I take my time. I haven't been diagnosed with anything but I suspect there's something seriously wrong with me. Which means I have to design a script with a computer which means I don't get a feel for how the script "feels" when you write it, which means my shapes are unnatural and terrible.
So you're not a calligrapher - big deal?!
Even at my best, the first trials in conscripting looked like silly, funny child's writing. You just have to establish some sort of basic shapes, and just go with it.

Eventually, I tried kit-bashing some other nat-scripts (Telugu, Arabic). I liked Arabic best for the calligraphic feel. The font in my avatar is that arabesque font.
I suggest you try that, especially if there's a nat-script that has some or all of the aesthetic or "feel" you're after.

2. I don't have the ability to make a script that looks artistically coherent, which is really, really important to me. Even though I can read neither chinese nor tangut nor tibetan, I can look at these three scripts and instantly tell which is which because there's a underlying artistic "core" to each script: The lines aren't just made at random. Every time I try to make a script it comes out as just random squiggles.
Viz. arriba. Start simple. Even childishly simple. And just practice. Try different media: pencil, ballpoint pen, magic marker, chiseled marker, whatever you've got handy. See what thicknesses, saturations, textures enhance what yo're after. And practice doodle, like Ossicone suggests.
3. I feel like it's cheating if I devise a script a-priori, I have to develop the script naturally from proto-writing. Which means I have to make a logographic script and then develop it into a syllabary or alphabet. Combined with the first two problems, I never ever ever ever ever get anywhere with the logographic script and thus I never get to even start on the actual script I want to make.
I have my a script that came from a sentient race of dinosauroid/reptiloid creatures that predated the humans in my conworld. It's originally Ogham~runic looking. Many, many, many years later, I got the idea to have one of the sisterlangs of Rozwi adapt it; I imagine those folk were taught the script by the last of the reptiloid Chesha. In so doing, it became more curlicue/swashy - sort of like Manchurian meets Gujarati divided by Oriya. But I sat on those initial glyphs for over 15 years before I picked them up again. If you have that kind of time and some halfway-decent (okay, partially-decent) samples lying about, I say, go for the marathon. Otherwise, cheat pecca fortiter! [B)]
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Thrice Xandvii »

I think the first thing you have to dispense with is number 3, Micamo. Try to make an alphabet you like... separate from any language you are working on and then try for some more involved and complex ones. Starting with perhaps the most involved script type first is dooming you to failure before you even start!

Just my opinion of course.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Ahzoh »

That's what I did for my abjad. I started with simple lines no more than two or three strokes, some based on objects.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Lambuzhao »

XXXVII wrote:I think the first thing you have to dispense with is number 3, Micamo. Try to make an alphabet you like... separate from any language you are working on and then try for some more involved and complex ones. Starting with perhaps the most involved script type first is dooming you to failure before you even start!

Just my opinion of course.
A darn good one at that.

Starting simple is best.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Micamo »

XXXVII wrote:I think the first thing you have to dispense with is number 3, Micamo. Try to make an alphabet you like... separate from any language you are working on and then try for some more involved and complex ones. Starting with perhaps the most involved script type first is dooming you to failure before you even start!

Just my opinion of course.
Yeah but how do I make a script if I don't know what words I'll be using it to write? And isn't it kinda pointless to work on a script knowing I'm not actually gonna use it for anything? I guess another part of the problem is I don't really get any ideas for scripts the way I get ideas for conlangs, I only ever attempt conscripting because "Well I know their culture has writing, and they can't use any of the writing systems from earth because this isn't earth, therefore I need to invent a script for them to use in-world."
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Thrice Xandvii »

No more pointless than inventing languages in the first place. I just thought it would free you up from any preconceived thoughts of how things "should be" and let you experiment more freely.

Also, there is this thread: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3552
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by clawgrip »

I personally very much enjoy making my own scripts, so I will give some advice I posted elsewhere, and also add some things. Some of this may not apply to all the things that everyone has said, but I think that it is good advice in general, so I will just include everything.

In order to design your own script, you should understand how extant scripts work. I'm going to limit my explanation for the first part mainly to modern scripts since they are the ones that are typeset and uniform, so it is easier to study them.

Part 1
So, first of all, choose any modern script. When you look at the letterforms, you will notice that:

1. Certain shapes, lines, and curves occur frequently.
Examples:
- Latin (lower-case) script has a great number of vertical lines. It also has a lot of rounded curves, especially on tops and bottoms of letters.
- almost all Oriya letters have rounded tops. There are also a lot of circles, "n" shapes, and angled or very short straight lines
- Georgian has a large amount of "O" and "U" shapes

2. Certain shapes, lines, and curves don't occur in any or almost any characters.
Examples:
- No Latin letters have very open curves, like (. There are also very few horizontal lines: in the lower-case letters, only f and t, in upper case only AEFGHLTZ
- Chinese characters entirely lack tight curves and circles
- Buginese entirely lacks horizontal or vertical lines of any kind
- Futhark has no curves of any kind

3. The weight of the strokes (thickness and thinness) varies from script to script, usually because of the writing implement.
Examples:
- Arabic and Devanagari have angled reed-pen style writing that creates predictable thick, thin, and medium strokes
- Ge'ez and Armenian have all vertical strokes thick, and all horizontal strokes thin (more or less)
- Latin (serif) and Tamil have variable thickness based on stylistic considerations
- Oriya, Gurmukhi and Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics have an entirely uniform thickness, regardless of stroke angle or anything else

4. Some scripts have serifs, and some don't.
Examples:
- Latin has rounded triangular serifs
- Chinese brush script has serifs on all the ends and corners (except bottoms of strokes)
- Arabic has hooked serifs on tall vertical strokes
- Sinhala has little ball-shaped flares on little curved strokes on the top (but not on big curved strokes)
- Cuneiform has characteristic flares
- Hebrew has small upstrokes on the ends of strokes along the top
- Batak, Devanagari, Futhark, Thai, etc. have no serifs.

Adding interesting and consistent serifs can add distinctiveness to a script. I was once designing a script that belonged to a script family, but no matter what I did the script just really sucked hard. It was boring and uninspiring. Then I designed a set of comprehensive and consistent serifs, and the script was saved from being scrapped. By no means is it my favourite among the scripts I've designed, but it's grown on me.

Image

Part 2
As others have touched on, it is important to consider what the people write with.

- As mentioned earlier, scripts such as Arabic and Devanagari use an angled reed pen, which produces a characteristic, and mostly invariable, angled thick-thin stroke to the letters.
- The variable thickness of Latin copperplate cursive, on the other hand, arises from the use of a pointed nib (contrasting with the flat-nibbed reed pen). The pressure applied when writing determines the thickness of the stroke.
- The roundness of Oriya, Telugu and Kannada scripts is a direct result of scribes being careful not to damage the palm leaves they were writing on, and is a clear contrast to the rather angular Brahmi script, from which they are descended. Brahmi's angularity, on the other hand, likely arises from being incised into rock.
- Futhark is another obvious example: as it was mostly incised into wood or stone or what have you, it ends up being very angular, like Brahmi. It also lacks horizontal lines, probably to avoid having strokes run along the wood grain.
- The flaring thin/thick contrasts of Chinese lines, as well as the hooks that appear in the script are characteristic of brush writing. The Chinese Ming typeface is a result of a slight adjustment of standard character proportions and shapes to fit on movable type. It has serifs (visible on the right side of the line in '一') that are a stylistic imitation of the enlargement that occurs when the brush pauses at the end of the stroke, and overall the typeface is likely influenced by the Latin script.

One problem I see with a lot of conscripts is that people will just take a pencil, ballpoint pen or marker and just write shapes with it. Only after they have done this will they begin to consider, often as an afterthought, if at all, what implement the script is meant to be written with. This is fine if you're designing an incised or etched script, and for a number of other scripts you can get away with it without much problem. However, the writing implement can heavily influence how the writing looks.

Take a look at these scripts here; can you imagine ever coming up with these letterforms if you were starting out writing with a ballpoint pen?

Sogdian:
Image

Akkadian:
Image

Siddham:
Image

Semi-cursive Japanese:
Image

Khotanese:
Image

Obviously many scripts can be designed with a pen or pencil, but it's something to keep in mind.

Part 3
For people like Micamo who have trouble designing an alphabet or syllabary but want to design an entire logographic script, this is probably a really bad idea. You probably think I am saying it's a bad idea because it takes a lot of work, and you're right, but there is another reason it's a bad idea. Every time I've seen someone design a conscript and show the characters from a logographic script that it supposedly descend from, the characters shown are invariably basic pictographs or ideographs. This simply isn't how it works. If a society has an entire functional logographic script from which to choose source characters for a syllabary, why would they seek out only basic pictographs or ideographs for this? The script is bound to have any number of compound characters and characters with meanings that are obscure or difficult to express in writing that get chosen anyway. For examples, just look at Hiragana (where say, り ri comes from 利 "profit; advantage", ぬ nu comes from 奴 "slave; servant", る ru comes from 留 "stop; halt; detain; retain", き ki comes from 幾 "how much/many") or Hittite cuneiform, where e comes from "barley" or "strip of leather" or "levee" (or who knows what...god, cuneiform makes no sense at all).

Part 4
Here is my suggestion if you're really having trouble:
1. Draw some basic glyphs in the style you want, even if they're not perfect.
2. Choose some restrictions, like "vertical lines are forbidden" or "no tight circles allowed" or "most glyphs have a V shape on the bottom (with a few exceptions allowed)" or "there can never be more than two horizontal lines stacked parallel in a single character (meaning, a letter shaped like <E> would be impossible in this script, and a letter shaped like <F> would almost certainly not exist, instead more likely being a squared-out C) These restrictions tend to be stylistic or practical, like maybe too many horizontal strokes is impossible because the pen makes really thick horizontal lines, or maybe horizontal lines are forbidden because like in Futhark they run with the wood grain.
3. If you're feeling ambitious, choose a writing implement
4. Rewrite all the glyphs, incorporating the restrictions you created (and using the writing implement you chose)

This will help to give your script a somewhat uniform look.

Part 5
If you're having trouble writing letters clearly and distinctly, I suggest getting some grid paper. This is how they teach children to write in Japan:

Image

You can get some even tighter grid paper so that there are, say, 16 squares per glyph rather than four. Try writing out the glyphs

I hope this post helps someone!
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Ahzoh »

@Pirka:
I always thought about how my abjad is written, but I don't own any tools other than pencil and paper.
My abjad is *supposed* to be written on scrolls of a paper like material called Manesh, it's strength somewhere between paper and papyrus, the type of writing implement however I'm not entirely sure of.
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Chagen »

Jeez, Micamo, you're practically me. We have the same problems.

Anyway, I powered on through and managed to make enough glpyhs to write two sentences. Here they are.

The first means "Shio loves Sukyo (as a friend)"


This next one means "I am at the town"


Behold my shitty handwriting.

A dot called a syuzuhi "buzzing mark" indicates voicing. You can see this with kanga on the second sentence. <CyV> sequences are written like Japanese; an i-form of the C, with a small version of the <yV> glyph. <CvV> sequences, though they do not show up here, are written with the u-form of the C and a small version of the <vV> glyph. Gemination is done with a small repetition the a-form for the C (so <atto> would be written A-TA-TO), and vowel length is indicated by using a small form of the vowel glyph placed afterwards.

So, for instance, the word ryūrikke "having excelled", is written as RI-YU-U-RI-KA-KE

.I don't feel it's perfectly consistent, however...man, it looked a LOT better on paper...

I should mention that this is just a start. These shapes are nowhere near final. Most are just taken from thin air, but a few have symbolic importance--for instance the one for <mu> is based off of the word muzen "town", and looks like some houses (the four "squares" at the top) with two roads leaving away from them (the two strokes going down at the sides).
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Thrice Xandvii »

*applauds*

You started... And that can sometimes be the hardest part. It looks like you are going for a combo of katakana and hiragana with a touch of something kanji-ish (exemplified best with your town example).

Its a pretty good first draft of them. Play around with what you have and you'll prolly find places to further refine them.

I'm interested in seeing what the rest of your glyphs look like!
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Chagen »

I don't have many others, but I drew all the ones I made with three examples words as well:

http://i.imgur.com/8UVc5ff.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/1Usud5E.jpg
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Thrice Xandvii »

Ahzoh wrote:@Pirka:
You mean, Clawgrip?
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Re: On making a conscript that doesn't suck.

Post by Sights »

Don't mean to take attention away from Chagen's budding script, but I have a noob question concerning what Clawgrip said...
clawgrip wrote: Part 3
Every time I've seen someone design a conscript and show the characters from a logographic script that it supposedly descend from, the characters shown are invariably basic pictographs or ideographs. This simply isn't how it works. If a society has an entire functional logographic script from which to choose source characters for a syllabary, why would they seek out only basic pictographs or ideographs for this?
I thought that's exactly how a number of characters from the latin alphabet originated. Doesn't the current "A" shape trace its origins to a character resembling an ox head in Phoenician or Proto-sinaitic? My understanding (or total lack thereof) was that certain ideographs eventually became the phonetic characters for the sounds which made up the corresponding word in the first place (most often the first sound of said word, ASFAIK). What I guess Clawgrip is pointing at is that... it would be strange that only certain ideographs were "picked" instead of others, particularly when a complex logographic system was already in use? It sounds unlikely now that I think about it, but I thought the reason for this was that the ideographs concerned represented very basic dimensions of human life: things like "water", "sun", "house" and other words likely to come up in Swadesh lists and things like that. Am I mistaken?

I ask because I'm developing a script too (an alphabet), and I thought that this logic was sound enough [:|]
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