How to Build a Writing System

Writing systems have been invented and reinvented throughout history. In this tradition, I give you Pseudoglyphs.

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This website provides information on the design and development of the writing system, as well as the constructed language (conlang) which came after.

Influences

My goal was to imitate a logographic writing system—where a single character can represent an entire word. Pseudoglyphs was influenced by several famous natural writing systems.

Korean

Because the speech of this country is different from that of China, it [the spoken language] does not match the [Chinese] letters. Therefore, even if the ignorant want to communicate, many of them in the end cannot state their concerns. Saddened by this, I have [had] 28 letters newly made. It is my wish that every man may easily learn these letters and that [they] be convenient for daily use.

King Sejong the Great, 1446

More than any other writing system, Hangul has been my inspiration. This writing system is amazing. It uses what’s called a featural alphabet. Individual letters are grouped together in syllabic blocks.

Each glyph looks unique but is made of smaller phonetic components. This was my goal with Pseudoglyphs—except rather than grouping syllables, I sought to group words.

Mesoamerican

The writing systems created by the Maya, Aztec and epi-Olmec are famous for their complex and highly pictorial glyphs. The system is logo-phonetic: some glyphs represent words (ideas, objects, concepts, actions, ect.) and some represent sounds. Together, they make up one of the most beautiful and intriguing scripts in history.

In it’s full glyphs form, Pseudoglyphs has a similar aesthetic.

Chinese

Chinese is the most highly developed and widely used logographic writing system on Earth. Over time, characters have become so stylized that their original form is hardly recognizable. Like Mesoamerican writing, glyphs represent a combination of ideas and sounds. A single character can contain multiple glyphs, joining concepts together to create new words and shades of meaning.

Egyptian

Egyptian hieroglyphics need no introduction. Throughout its history, the writing system evolved from a highly pictorial logo-phonetic system, to a simplified handwritten form, and eventually on to a purely phonetic alphabet-like script.

This evolution inspired the pseudoglyphic shorthand, creating a simplified version of the ornate original.

Ojibwe

The Ojibwe syllabary was created in the 19th century by James Evans. It spread literacy to thousands in less then a generation. A distinguishing feature of this system is its directional vowels—the direction a symbol faces indicates it’s vowel sound.

This feature is used in Pseudoglyphs, which is basically a syllabary in disguise.

On to Design Process