Thursday, January 01, 2004

more conlang discoveries

Turns out that one of the things that I still didn't find at my parents house was my original chart of the Stofonian alphabet. I seem to recall last seeing it with a map of Knarr that is also missing. All I could find was a computerized version that I made circa 1992. Unfortunately, the actual text file is long gone, and all that remained was a printout. The text file used characters from the OEM character set, and the printer seriously failed to render these properly (see? I've managed to work Unicode into this already... if we'd've had Unicode support back then this wouldn't've happened...) Combine this with the fact that the characters didn't look all that much like the Stofonian alphabet anyway, and I essentially had to go digging through the archives for actual Stofonian writing, and make guesses about the letters for which I couldn't examples.

Looking at all three alphabets (Stofonian, Elosian, Knarrian) the following become obvious:
  • The Knarrian alphabet is almost a superset of the Elosian. It has often been said that the Knarrian alphabet was created by adding letters to the Elosian to make it easier to use. With the Elosian alphabet, distinctions between voiced and voiceless consonants and also between several important vowels must be inferred from context (this may indicate that some historic phase of the Elosian language actually lacked semantic distinctions between voiced and unvoiced sounds, but there is no concrete lingustic evidence for that). This makes it almost useless for any language other than Elosian. It would be natural for someone adopting it to want to add new letters or diacritical marks or something to make these differences explicit (even the Elosians sometimes forced the "context" by adding in tiny letters that were not to be pronounced but only affect the pronunciation of the surrounding letters). However, if this was the case with Knarrian then the additions were done in a completely haphazard and illogical manner, showing an almost complete ignorance of the very phonetic concepts on which any use of the Elosian system would've been based. The creation of the new letters is usually attributed to the great sage Knarrknoxx, but no educated man would've done it the way he allegedly did.

    A possible explanation is that both the Knarrian and classical/modern Elosian alphabets descend from a common ancestor, which contained letters for all spoken sounds in some early Elosian dialect. By imperial times, many of these letters fell into disuse because readers had learned to infer their sounds from context. As a great scholar, Knarrknoxx may have known about these early letters and simply re-introduced them.

  • The Stofonian alphabet is not particularly related to the other two. Certain Stofonians letters appear very similar to certain Elosian latters, but there does not seem to be any logical relationship other than that someone might have borrowed shapes from an alphabet which they couldn't read. The Stofonians either invented the alphabet themselves, or learned it from some culture other than the Elosians. Possibly the the Mayols, whom they succeeded as the rulers of the country now known as Stofonia?

    But neither the Stofonians nor the Mayols were advanced enough to have invented an alphabet themselves... especially since the order of the letters shows some knowledge of phonetic concepts such as voiced/unvoiced, stops, fricatives, etc. Maybe it came from someplace further afield, such as Foelia or even Gullen? I know it wasn't the Ipsilstanst, since Kulstof says that the Stofonians couldn't decipher Ipsilstanst writing.

    (Although perhaps Ipsilstant is the source of the anomalous shared letters with Elosian. Maybe both the Elosians and the Stofonians arbitrarily assigned letters from the Ipsilstanst alphabet to the sounds of their own language? )

Finally, I've noticed that some of the chronologies use dates from the Knarrian calender, which needs to be added to the list of calendars in the master timeline.