Friday, June 1, 2012

Caddo alphabet, with help from Baybayin

I was viewing some beautiful Caddoan artwork yesterday, and picked out some visual motifs that seem to repeat themselves.  Before long, I had visited Wikipedia's page on the Caddo language, and I quickly scrawled out a proof of concept for a Caddo alphabet.

Why should Caddo languages have their own alphabet?  Why not just use Latin?

Because your alphabet says something about your culture.  If your language has sounds that Latin does not approximate, then custom letters are needed.  (For example, English could use a letter like Thorn!)

A writing system crafted to complement your culture can be an artistic outlet.

More importantly, though: if your culture is distinct from American culture, and it has a language worth preserving as a vehicle for that culture, then a home-built writing system is one of many ways to promote that culture. 

Here's my proof-of-concept Caddoan.  The shapes were taken from Jeri Redcorn's sublime pottery designs, as well as historical photographs of Caddo art.  I also admit a passing influence from Baybayin, since a few of its letter shapes are universal and beautiful, and correspond to some of the Caddo shapes I use.  I adapted three.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ye Olde "Bringe Back Thorn" Post


I'm seeing this sort of thing show up every now and then on the web, and I suppose that means it's time for a grassroots effort to update English by backtracking some.


That's thorn, and it represents 'th' in English.  I've used it from time to time over the past 20 years, and always loved it and its brother, edh (ð).  I'd love to see either one, or both, make more of a comeback, so I'm going to go out of my way to use them more often.  Probably, I'll just settle on one of them.

æ, @

That's ash, which represents the "short a" sound, like the way we say "cat" and "hat" in the USA.  Next to it is the 'at' sign, available on every English keyboard.  I'd like for ash to replace "a" when it's short, but it's not æs easy to write æs just an "a".  So I would fudge a bit, and use @ instead.  I only wish the @ sign in this font were a bit smaller, though.


And that is eng, invented by Alexander Gill the Elder in 1619, and used by Benjamin Franklin.  I've used this baby quite consistently for 20 years, because of the -ing ending of so many of our words.  In fact, I use 'dotted' eng to represent /ing/.  I think it is one of the best thiŋs since sliced bread.

That little guy is Odal or Oþal, a Germanic rune.  It stands for the long-o sound. Assuming we ever get this far, we might need a rounded version of oþal when we split the letter o into its short and long forms.


From Cyrillic, ч for ch, and щ for shch, but here used for just sh. 


@nd l@st, bət not least, ðə lettər ðey're still teaчiŋ in grade sчool -- sчwa -- щould be promtəd @nd replace ðə шort u.

Anyone have other suggestions?

There's my list, for now.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Hawaiian orthography goes native

I was browsing images of Hawaiian petroglyphs the other day, and had a thought. We know the Hawaiians created them. We know the Hawaiian language. We know that many of the petroglyphs represent known concepts.

So, why not use those glyphs to derive a Hawaiian writing system? Sounds fun!

I then sat down with the web on my computer and a very thin tourist-friendly guide to the Hawaiian language, and in no time I had a serviceable first draft. I did it by taking the first sound in a word that has a corresponding glyph, and simplifying or stylizing the glyph a bit, and so I had an alphabet.

For example, the fishhook glyph. I forgot its name (it looks a bit like a capital letter J). I used it to represent the first sound in that word.

After that I tried to build a syllabary, because Hawaiian has no consonant clusters at all, but didn't have enough glyphs or words at hand. But anyway, alphabets are an order of magnitude easier to learn.

If I get the time, I will put my alphabet online as a font.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's in a name: Srividya

Names are interesting and educational. One of my co-workers is named Srividya. I thought that /sri/ sounded familiar: to wit, /sri lanka/, "divine island", but I didn't know what /vidya/ meant - sounds like "video" but Indian names are ancient, plus who still with their wits about them would name their kid "divine video"??

So I do what I do when I'm at wit's end: I ask.  /Sri/ in this case means abundance, as in 'wealth', or 'a wealth of'.  And she said /vidya/ means 'knowledge'.

A little googling gave me more info. Vidya is an epithet of Saraswati, a goddess of knowledge and daughter or consort of Brahma.  Makes me think of Athena, the daughter of Zeus.

Now the cognates. PIE is *weid-, to know, whence Englist 'wit'.  In Latin, it's videre, whence English 'vision'.

And now you know what I know about the word vidya.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baybayin Expanded

In the past year or two, I've looked at Baybayin and how elegant its letters are, how enjoyable it is to write... but also how truncated it is for English. I've come up with ways to represent R versus D, looked at historical letter-orderings, thought about how to use ancestor scripts (including the Nagari) to split out more vowel sounds, and looked at historical samples of Tagalog to see how certain letter clusters are handled.

Now I want to put it all together. Several times (because I expect to do poorly the first couple times, then get better results as I re-try). To extend Baybayin in ways that do the least harm to it.

I'll be needing to see how others have done it. Anyone have suggestions?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

HandyWrite - the Ultimate Shorthand System

It's time for an app that understands shorthand. It's time to bring shorthand back.

Check this out:

This guy designed what looks like a near-optimal shorthand system:

1. He started with Gregg shorthand. Note that just using Gregg letters alone you'll speed up your note-taking significantly. The downside is that the notes themselves are often abbreviations, so you have to transcribe soon after you've taken the notes or else it becomes a bit opaque.

2. He extended it to represent the full range of English pronunciation. Now you have 1:1 sound-correspondence to English. You can read back what you wrote years later. i.e. It's a full writing system.

3. He then added a symbology for just 100 of the most common English words. Not at all as extensive as classical shorthand, but all you need is to be able to record notes as fast as they're spoken.

Ok, the best thing about it in my opinion is that it honors and re-uses prior art in simply extending Gregg shorthand. That alone is worth something in my book -- and not just for sentimental reasons: Gregg is a thoughtful and elegant system.

I've jotted down the letter forms, and will be practicing them little by little as I have time. My goal is to be able to record meetings with it.

Actually, my real goal is to write an app that will let me take notes with it.