Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What I mean when I talk of ‘writing’

In my daily life, I deal with four different writing systems.

Firstly, of course, I use the latin writing with its modifications and oddities for writing my mother tongue and those others which use it and for transcribing the other languages i deal with. The character set as we use it nowadays, enhanced with a plethora of diacritic signs, proves to be the most versatile for correctly and adaptively rendering basically any language. Of course, due to being used by so many different languages natively, the utterance of its characters is a huge discussion in itself (which makes me understand and sympathise with the dream that gave life to the phonetic alphabet).

Secondly, I use the Devanagari script for reading and writing Sanskrit and, in its slightly modified form, for Hindi. Apart from marvelling at its age and history, I particularly like this script’s quite unified appearance. As one of my Hindi teachers once explained:

your script is slender and fine-lined,
looking good and elegant in italic.
our script, on the other hand, needs
its curves and voluptuous writing.

In that moment, I realised how beautifully this description also fitted the difference of appearance between us Europeans and her, being from Nepal.
(Later, I dedicated her a poem. That, though, speaks rather of her reciting poetry.)

one of Devangari’s main characteristics is the connective top-line

Thirdly, I use the Tibetan dbu can script for reading and writing both classical and modern Tibetan. About this script, I particularly like the calligraphic style of each individual character. Also, it is always cool to show your friends a writing system that seems to resemble Klingon writing, to the untrained eye.

the dbu can script was derived from the Indian Gupta writing

And finally, the fourth writing system I use are the Chinese characters. Since beginning to study Mandarin last Oktober, each week between 15 and 30 new characters are being (or should be) cramped into my head. With hanzi, I obviously love their pictographic character and, beyond all, their calligraphic possibilities.

sometimes I start thinking pictographically even about other scripts…

Apart from learning some of the world’s fascinating languages and slowly accessing the literary traditions they hold, I myself create an own language. Sablung, which also is the origin of this blog’s title, is a project that has been beautifully growing since quite some time now. My dictionary as well as the grammatical compendium are filling with content, and slowly but surely some organic elements are appearing in the language. While the talk about its nature would fill another post, the thing that concerns me here is my seemingly endless strive for an appropriate script.

When creating an own language, it goes without saying that one would also want to create an own script for it. Since my childhood, I have been creating and using new scripts.
For Sablung, though, none of these are even remotely suitable or good enough. Firstly, Sablung’s alphabet is wide and different from the latin alphabet for which I created scripts in my younger years. Secondly, having learned my share of other writing systems, I don’t just want to recreate latin script with differently shaped characters. A script being a writing system, I want the new script to be an own system. And thirdly, I want it to please me, aesthetically. That means being both effective (in using space, the ability to be written in small size [my handwriting is very small] and readability) and artistic.

Over the time I’ve spent with Sablung, I have created several scripts, all of which were quickly discarded. Aesthetically, there are several existing scripts I’d want my script to be influenced by (among them Persian/Arabic writing and Tolkien’s Tengwar).
After so many failed attempts, I’m left to wonder if I’ll ever be able to create something which will please me so much I’d want to stick to it possibly for the rest of my life. Would that require the own genius to be more genial than itself?

So for now, I’ll go on trying and trying. Maybe one fine day, the perfect (perfect for me, that is) pattern will reveal itself in the face of a rose or the ripples of a moonlit pond.


inkessential said...

How very interesting to find you, we have many creative similarities, i can relate to you and feel close without even meeting you... there is beauty.

here is my blog spot: http://inkessential.blogspot.com/

i will link you.


saturninus said...

such a well-formulated and instructive entry. I can't stop marvelling at it.

in fact I've always liked very much the devanagari's connective top-line (observing all these systems from a certain distance and only considering them as aesthetical phenomena, of course).

with kanji/hanzi,my relationship is of course more direct and intense. it is also a love-hate relationship, to be frank. on the one hand, I find them beautiful and immensely interesting, but I can't help being annoyed sometimes by the dysfunctionality encoded in the system (especially when it comes to Japanese and the different readings of the very same symbol).

anyhow, I also feel connected to you (obviously), but nowadays rather by our differences than by our similarities... :)

Anonymous said...

good feeling to learn new views and backgrounds from the own son
;-)) I was never that much interested in scripts, prefer talking in some languages. so this opened my mind a bit more. regards from rainy düsseldorf, best son of all.

Yu said...

@inkessential: there is beauty! and as we both already see, it keeps unfolding. (i deleted your second comment to protect your email address from spambots)

@saturninus: i agree with you on devanagari's top-line. there are related scripts througout india which do not use it, though the characters are very close to the devanagari ones, and i always feel something is aesthetically missing.
as for hanzi/kanji, i only agree about their dysfunctionality within the japanese system; chinese being a much more endogamous system with the characters themselves being of much deeper and vital importance in the structure and thought of the language itself.

@anonymous:i'm always happy to share knowledge, and above that fascination; as you know. and what better compliment could one ask for than to open someone's mind a bit more.