Writing systems

Discussion about specific Akana topics.

Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Wed Oct 21, 2009 18:24

Radius wrote:a mixed syllabary [...] (Also aesthetically preferable, IMO)

+1.

Radius wrote:That said, I have had an idea. We can reduce a lot of logographic labor by drawing conceptual representations of the glyphs instead of the glyphs themselves - forget about style/appearance and just smack some dang lines down to roughly represent how each glyph might have been drawn, by showing its conceptual basis.

I had been about to suggest, along related lines, that we could decide on the glyph inventory first, without drawing a single line. Then we could distribute the actual work of glyph drawing: when someone wants an actual glyph shape they could go create it themselves, just making sure it's stylistically and structurally in line with the rest of them. I'll wait to see what you create, but perhaps there's still room for something like this.

So I'm giving it a try. I have started by re-drawing Legion's source logographs with straight lines (easier to do in paint software). Now I'm going to spend a few hours doing more for other words in the NT lexicon (under the assumption that we're drawing what the Ndak borrowed, rather than the source itself). Let's see how far I can get tonight - I've got time to kill and don't really feel like doing more with Kennan tonight. I'll post whatever I've got within 24 hours and we can start arguing again from there.

Bravo!
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Thu Oct 22, 2009 07:34

So here's 114 of them; I first adapted Legion's 27 logograms and then created 87 more - all of them basic nouns. Note that these are NOT intended to represent actual glyphs, but instead provide their approximate pictorial layout.

I am not assuming the Ngauro used only straight lines like I did, as that would depend on their writing medium - I just used them because curves take too long to make pretty in a paint program, and badly-drawn curves are much uglier than no curves. I also made no more than a rudimentary attempt to keep them all the same size, just out of expediency.


Image

My additions were taken from the core NT noun list here. If anyone wants to sign on for creating more, please feel free! But first, say what section you'll take on, like "verbs up through M" or something, so I don't duplicate your work.

----

principles

I tried to follow several conventions throughout:
- male and female are distinguished consistently for people, parents, gods, etc.
- a + or x symbol is often used to indicate a thing wherever it doesn't matter which thing, such as the bits that fall in snow, or the object of "to hit", or the like.
- by extension, + and x also serve as something akin to deictic centers - note how the directions for left and right have the person to the left/right of the DC. Brother/sister are formed similarly, a person next to a +. "Left" should be read as follows: the person is drawn to the left of the DC, and it is to his left (assuming he's facing you).
- plain squares are associated with: gods; males; the sun; bounded objects like rocks and islands. Squares and rectangles also enclose some other symbols to indicate a vague set of notions like subordination, internal-ness, and boundedness, as well as significance.
- specific animals are all based on a fundamental "animal" glyph, with specifying features added. If the "rabbit" one is confusing: he's drawn over an arrow-like glyph I intended to represent "speed" but forgot to include as an independent symbol.
- symbols are freely combinable; typically they are arranged either one over another, or else next to each other. In the latter case they often appear horizontally compressed, much as in Hanzi.
- the symbol for water shows up all over the place: blood, swamp, island, lake, river, and sea all use it; I imagine many others will, as well.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby tzirtzi » Thu Oct 22, 2009 09:13

Those look great :D and your explanations mean it should be relatively easy for others to expand the set.

Personally I like the only writing with straight lines - it gives a script a lot of character from the outset, and would be realistic if the script was carved or used a stylus rather than a brush to start with, I would think?

If we're going to start creating logograms, with the possibility that really quite a large set will eventually be defined, can I suggest we need some convention for labeling/naming them, as opposed to just saying "the glyph meaning X"? That way multiple glyphs can exist for the same concept/word, glyphs can be created with indeterminate meaning just for the sake of deriving new glyphs in daughterscripts, etc. It also gives something to order them by in tables, and a notation for writing out sequences of glyphs when you can't be bothered to cut and paste all of the img tags, and potentially a way of describing variants of the same glyph. I would suggest something like ng_X/ng_Xa (where X is a glyph number and a/b/c/d/etc. refers to the variant where relevant).

Edit: so, the glyphs in Radius' above post would be ng_000 to ng_114.

On the question of NT writing, I'd be in the camp in favour of a (probably rather inefficient) syllabary mixed with some logograms. It seems more realistic, more interesting/aesthetically pleasing, and gives more scope for development in different directions for the daughterscripts.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:32

Mmm. Well, I do have some thoughts about it. I am going to take adjectives up through L now, btw.


Onward... I'm wanting to say that the script as borrowed by the late Talo-Edasteans was taken mainly just in its logographic use; perhaps the Ngauro phonetic subsystem was simply weak, or maybe the T-E were not in great contact with the Ngauro at the time and too few had enough familiarity with their language for the syllabic aspects to be borrowable directly, so instead, they - knowing that's how it's supposed to work - simply worked out their own, probably within the first century of having writing.

There's a good parallel for this: the Japanese borrowed Kanji primarily for their meanings, but quickly assigned their own syllabic values to the characters and did not take more than half a millennium to develop a mature syllabary from them (or rather two syllabaries, but the point remains). Following this path, we don't need Ngauro to be done before proceeding. Unless Corumayas will be ready put out a substantial description soon? If that's the case we could revise this plan to adapting the Ngauro phonetic pattern.

But assuming the innovated-phonetics scenario.... by the Akan dynasty, 2-3 centuries later, they probably are using a true syllabary, which maybe hasn't quite reached the level of maturity that Kana have, and the Ndak would still be using a number of characters logographically.

Designing that syllabary I will leave to anyone who wants to take it on, if anyone; but I think I can put together the early Talo-Edastean system myself, if the group assents to the following. Let's call it Proto-Ndak Script for now. PNS. Given the initial-stress tendency, I am envisioning a system whereby most glyphs are polyvalent: having both a semantic and a phonetic reading, or even more than one apiece. The semantic reading of any particular glyph can include multiple actual words (e.g. "fire" and "burn" could well be covered by a single character), and the phonetic reading will consist of the first (C)(C)V(V) of that root, provided it has initial stress (if it doesn't, it is never used as a phonetic indicator). If there's more than one word it can represent, any of their stressed first syllables are fair game for the phonetic reading. Most proper nouns are spelled purely phonetically, except for some of the gods; so are most grammatical words. But most content words are spelled with ONE logogram that also covers the word's first syllable, plus enough additional phonetic glyphs to indicate how the rest of the word is pronounced. So this isn't the rebus principle, it's using phonetic indication for the UNstressed parts of a word. This should be plenty good enough to disambiguate words in Ndak Ta (even though it might not be a good choice for many other languages). Also, in PNS, there is no requirement that all the phonetics of a word be spelled out - you only need to use as many glyphs as it takes to make clear what you're saying, even if they fail to indicate the entire pronunciation. Grammatical information is left to word order anytime it's clear enough. So, for example, case marking on the determiners won't normally be spelled out.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:53

Oh, also: writing medium. Anyone have any objection to going with my original proposal from 2005? Except for the runes - those are out. But for the medium, how about having the Ngauro script be drawn with a stylus on clay tablets? Much like Cuneiform, except there's no reason to make it actually wedge-shaped. Column 2 in the runes image is meant to be done that way. It consists entirely of line segments that can be of any angle, but uniform length, by repeatedly pressing in a stylus (never dragging it across, just repeated stamping motions). The stylus is rotated in the fingers between pressings to achieve the different line angles. The Ndak later developed a streamlined and simplified brushed mode for most daily use, on papyrus or similar, and retain the original Cuneiform mode for inscriptions and anytime they wanted a permanent record of something.

Anyone prefer a different plan? I rather like the Cuneiform idea but we could certainly also go with something else. I have no stake in what the script ends up looking like, only in how it should work. If the Cuneiform approach isn't desired, I'll just migrate it to Xsali. :P I'll see if I can adapt the old runes to become the basis of the new Kennan alphabet too, but they'll need some adjustment.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby thedukeofnuke » Thu Oct 22, 2009 16:58

I like this. :D

Technically, I'd suggest a list of logograms to be used in mature Ndak Ta writing. Nothing official, but it would give a good idea for everyone to know what is generally retained as logograms and what is spelled out (or has its glyph adapted to represent a syllable).

Aesthetically I'm all for clay-and-stylus idea, although I should very much like to have the brush style that was used for the original runes.

Otherwise... beaut! Keep up the good work
Last edited by thedukeofnuke on Thu Oct 22, 2009 22:28, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Thu Oct 22, 2009 17:28

Very nice.

I'm going to try to knock off some basic number glyphs, to get my toes wet.

Edit: okay, here they are, mostly based in obvious ways off the 'hand' glyph, with tzirtzi labels. Where should I have put the files, btw?

Image 'one' ng_201 Image 'two' ng_202 Image 'three' ng_203 Image 'four' ng_204 Image 'five' ng_205
Image 'six' ng_206 Image 'seven' ng_207 Image 'eight' ng_208 Image 'nine' ng_209 Image 'ten' ng_210
Image 'hundred' ng_211
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Corumayas » Thu Oct 22, 2009 21:45

Those look really nice!

Radius wrote:Following this path, we don't need Ngauro to be done before proceeding. Unless Corumayas will be ready put out a substantial description soon? If that's the case we could revise this plan to adapting the Ngauro phonetic pattern.

Well, not a substantial one. I'm trying to get a wordlist going (which should be all we really need for this, no?), but how long it'll take me will partly depend on how urgently it's wanted.

What date are you thinking the pre-Ndak adopted their script, by the way, and what was their culture like then? I ask for a couple of reasons:

1. There's more than one model for a relationship among early scripts, even in the Near East: while the Ndak conquest of Kasca makes them seem like the Akkadians (who adopted cuneiform to write their language when they came to power), maybe in their earlier history they were more like the Elamites (who apparently developed their first script almost as early as the Sumerians, although it's undeciphered and seems to have been short-lived). As I understand it, both groups were at least somewhat urbanized and were part of the Uruk trade network from quite early on; it seems like the pre-Ndak would have to be in a similar position (vis-a-vis the Ngauro) for their adoption of a full system writing to make sense.

2. If we did decide to use Ngauro phonetic glyphs, we'd need to know when they were adopted because Ngauro's phoneme inventory changes over time.

Also, I'm not sure whether clay tablets are realistic for the climate of Kasca. I'm trying to take more inspiration from China (and North America) rather than Mesopotamia-- which I think might suggest inscribing on fired pottery or something, rather than on soft clay.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Fri Oct 23, 2009 01:49

4pq - cool! For right now, put images anywhere its convenient - we can sort this out later.

In working on adjectives and thinking about verbs, I have come up with some more principles to help make these things work, since neither are normally as easy to draw as tangible nouns are.

- Firstly, I needed a negator. So I made a symbol for that, I'll put it online in a bit. It's used full-height and on the left to negate an entire symbol, or shortened and immediately left of a particular element of a symbol to negate just that part. For example, the "night" character consists of a moon over a horizon; for the word "dark", I re-used the same symbol but negated the moon, to suggest moonless night.

- To describe tactile or other physical qualities, a hand or an arm is drawn overlapping something to indicate the notion of touching it. Like "hard" is an arm on a rock.

- For visual qualities like "beautiful", and some colors, a reduced eye symbol is placed next to or above the thing seen. For instance "green" consists of an eye with a "plant" symbol.

- For verbs: I imagine many of them will take the same form as closely related nouns - fire/burn, mother/give.birth, and so forth. But for others, a common theme should be to indicate a typical participant plus an operator indicating an agent or a patient. The agent operator is probably a little stick figure, drawn in an appropriate pose (taken from Legion's rendering of "to need"); the patient operator is the x/+ "thing" symbol (taken from Legion's rendering of "to hit"). Some glyphs, like "need", actually show both agent and patient operators with the semantics carried by the person's pose, but in most cases only one of the operators will be present with a symbol for some other noun, especially an instrument. Like I haven't made anything for "cut" yet, but a knife plus an X should do the job.

- For the sake of completeness: I neglected to mention before that horizontal lines often represent the horizon. Day, night, soil, and farm all use this. Among others.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Fri Oct 23, 2009 09:36

I'm now working on the rest of the main adjective set. It should get my total up to around 200-ish, so I will do exactly enough to reach ng_200 since 4pq's number set starts at 201.

I should also number them on the charts, I think. Maybe even split off the meanings into a separate catalog... uy, work! All help is welcome. :)
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Re: Writing systems

Postby eodrakken » Fri Oct 23, 2009 17:30

Hi folks, just checking out what you're working on here. :)

The logography is looking good so far, though I'd have one nitpick -- to me it looks weird to not have everything face the same direction, like "rabbit" and "mouse" face right while the other animals face left, and "knife" points right except in "meat" where it points left. If it were me I'd make "fingernail" and "leg" point left too. (My prejudice is probably due to looking at Egyptian a lot, where of course everything always faced the beginning of the line.)

Good luck, logographies are a huge project to take on.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Sat Oct 24, 2009 05:54

I'll try to have the rest of the 200 done tonight and posted. But I may be running out of steam for now. Last night I got through ten-ish new symbols and then said meh, I'll go read my book instead.

4pq - were you intending to do any more? If you want to it's very welcome, and if not that's okay too. Just wondering. :)

eodrakken - I've done the direction/orientation of elements pretty flexibly. Nothing wrong with that, surely? No reason it has to work like Egyptian, and changing the orientations so that elements fit together into more compact glyphs seems like a nice Hanzi-like thing to do, IMO. It also will make it easier for later derived scripts to mess up the original elements a lot.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Sat Oct 24, 2009 06:28

Radius wrote:4pq - were you intending to do any more? If you want to it's very welcome, and if not that's okay too. Just wondering. :)

I wouldn't mind doing some more, yeah. But I'm not sure what to do -- are there parts of the adjective or verb list which you don't have covered?

As for direction -- well, presumably this would be a point of variation, esp. in the cases which don't have the predominant direction as Radius drew them, with the left-facing "leg" glyph appearing in one inscription, the right in the next.

Oh yeah, Cedh suggested earlier that Legion's "female (adj.)" glyph 009 probably shouldn't be in the list, and instead "female" would probably be the "woman" glyph 021 used adjectivally or something; and this fits with your conceptualisation as well. Shall we uninclude it?

Here's a quick version of your first set with the numbers on.
Image
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:55

Aside from the couple in Legion's first set, I have done no verbs at all, and am not likely to to draw any of them soon. I have tackled only nouns and adjectives from the green page; all the other word classes remain open - verbs, prepositions, and adverbs at the very least. We might want a way to represent some basic pronouns too.

We could drop 009, but we could also keep both glyphs and have them cover the same semantic territory. We did want some mess, right? ;) I accidentally did my own "grass" one in addition to Legion's, and elected to keep both, for the verisimilitude.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Sat Oct 24, 2009 20:40

Alright, I'll see what I can do with verbs through (edit:) J on the green page.

Good point re duplication.

Edit: I'll want to see the adjectives (oh, and the nouns past "water", if those are done) to design some of these, and I might leave out a few abstract ones, but otherwise I'm done through J on paper and just have to make up image files now.
Last edited by 4pq1injbok on Sun Oct 25, 2009 02:51, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby eodrakken » Sat Oct 24, 2009 21:41

Radius wrote:It also will make it easier for later derived scripts to mess up the original elements a lot.


Yep, true. If there isn't a hard-and-fast rule about what way glyphs must face, there'd likely be some regional variation.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Sun Oct 25, 2009 14:31

Unless you've already gone to the work of splitting them into multiple images, it might be a lot less labor to keep them on one or two larger ones.

ALSO: I have finally reached my 200 and uploaded to a wiki article. (Which needs major cleanup, I'm sorry it's so inconvenient to browse right now. I'll work out something better, maybe I can figure out how to make a PDF...) Feel free to add verbal meanings to the existing definitions. I ended up doing a few with verbal second meanings too.

The Oryziform name is probably temporary, given that everyone else seems to prefer nativization wherever possible, although honestly I kinda like it in Latin. It's a lot less ugly than the Faralo, Adata, or Naidda ways to say "grain-shaped" and all of them lack a word for rice anyway.

I hope my representations of your number glyphs aren't too far off - I adjusted for size and color to make them consistent with mine, but if anything doesn't look right, please let me know what to fix.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby dunomapuka » Sun Oct 25, 2009 15:48

The name "orizyform" is cute. Have you been adding new NT words? I'm noticing "waterclock," "plow," "wool," "milk" at the end of the list.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Sun Oct 25, 2009 17:35

Not yet! But surely they would have had such things, and frankly I was running out of ideas for filling up the last dozen or so slots.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Sun Oct 25, 2009 22:51

I've put the first couple verbs in the wiki article. More as I get them png:ed up. I may as well call all the verbs on the green page at this point.

A few more recurrent elements:
- motion is indicated by a few short short parallel strokes behind something; if the moving thing's identity doesn't matter it's a small square (so "come" and "go" can still use the + for deictic center)
- ingesting and expelling via the mouth uses the top stroke of Legion's 025 (but not speech, I think).
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Corumayas » Mon Oct 26, 2009 02:17

This is getting fairly impressive-looking! But I'm not sure about some of what you wrote on the wiki-- what period are these glyphs meant to be from-- are they for Ndak Ta (as would appear from the way you're designing them to the NT lexicon), or for Ngauro (as the wiki text seems to kind of imply)? Because if it's the latter, I'd like to have more input.

Along those lines, a couple other things...

-Unless you're really attached to the idea, let's not have the glyph for 'people' become 'ancient' in Ndak Ta. I think the semantic development makes more sense the other way-- i.e., ngauro is a native NT word that originally meant 'old', and later became applied to the Ngauro as 'the old ones'. Also, I don't think ngauro is even a possible word in Ngauro; unless it had a final consonant that the Ndak dropped when they borrowed it, it would have to be ngaurau. (Moreover by Late Ngauro that would become ngauyau.)

-Also, I want to reiterate my concern about the writing method. For one thing, I'm worried that, in the humid climate of Kasca, unbaked clay might tend to be soft and slimy in the summers-- not a great medium for storing information. For another, I don't want the Ngauro to be too much like the Sumerians. If everyone else wants to stick with it, I'll go along, but I'd prefer etching on a hard surface-- e.g. fired pottery, bone, shell-- like in early China.


I do have a couple ideas for more glyphs: there should be a character for 'wheat' that looks different from 'barley' somehow; and we could distinguish male/female for domestic animals (cattle, dogs, goats, sheep). (Linear B makes both of those distinctions-- the latter in a simple, systematic way.)
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Re: Writing systems

Postby 4pq1injbok » Mon Oct 26, 2009 03:48

Corumayas wrote:This is getting fairly impressive-looking! But I'm not sure about some of what you wrote on the wiki-- what period are these glyphs meant to be from-- are they for Ndak Ta (as would appear from the way you're designing them to the NT lexicon), or for Ngauro (as the wiki text seems to kind of imply)? Because if it's the latter, I'd like to have more input.

These are meant to be the Ngauro stage. My understanding is that we're just working along the (green!) NT lexicon with the (plausible?) hope that the result won't be toooo incompatible with however Ngauro turns out: the Ndak will take up some of the Ngauro glyphs, presumably including most or all of the ones we're making now, and not others.

I'd certainly be glad of your input, for one. In particular where you think the glyphs so far are overfitted to the NT lexicon in design or semantic spread (like #119), and not just in selection.

----

Done the green verbs. I also tossed in "wheat" 296.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:02

Corumayas:

What I wrote should be taken as a penciled-in proposal that's completely changeable. :) These symbols don't have to be in-world glyphs, as indeed I'd originally not intended them to be, but since Tzirtzi seemed to think there'd be nothing wrong with it I fit them in with a small backstory, which you are welcome to edit or delete as you see fit. I didn't mean to step on your territory! They're taken from the NT lexicon mainly so we could have the flexibility to decide later that these characters are only "what the Ndak borrowed" if you wanted Ngauro to work out differently, which it looks like you might. They're not necessarily intended to be a close fit for NT or any other particular lexicon - that's why it's being done (so far) as an ideography, which aside from word order and polysemy does not encode language at all, just meaning.

But it would be very helpful to have a plan for fitting these, or characters based on these, to the Ngauro language as a logography. Or I could just wing it and "borrow" into NT without knowing much about Ngauro, which would lose some richness and realism, but has the advantage of being possible to do now - without having to wait for however long it takes to get enough of Ngauro online.


About the clay, I'm not really seeing why humidity would present much problem - unbaked clay may stay a little softer in a humid climate, but only a little. It shouldn't get slimy unless it actually gets wet, or is of very poor quality. Morning dew might accomplish this, but then again they can simply be careful not to leave their clay tablets outdoors overnight. And the tablets would only be left unbaked when the writing doesn't need to be permanent anyway - in Sumer they mostly baked whatever they wanted to keep around, and presumably so would the Ndak and Ngauro. There is also sun-baking, for intermediate needs. Clay is quite a flexible material in this regard, in addition to the advantages from its literal flexibility. It's also a lot less work than hard-surface etching, which is very impractical for lesser daily uses. Clay is why so many of the Sumerians could be literate - the bone-etching in China was far more limited in scope, and their use of writing did not expand much until they starting brushing/painting instead of etching.

But if you'd rather the Ngauro writing be of only limited use, or you'd prefer the language to remain poorly attestable, then they can certainly stick with bone carving and the Ndak can either innovate the clay or move directly to brushing. I'm open to either scenario.


4pq -- once again, awesome. I like.
It sure helps to not be the only one making characters, and improves the script to have multiple people's ideas incorporated. I was hoping more would join in, but I think what we've got is good. Prepositions, adverbs, and pronouns probably should wait until we decide exactly which language we're talking about - or maybe we could just leave these off entirely, at the early ideographic stage? These things tend to be much more language-dependent than basic nouns/verbs.

(For the record: authorship credit goes to Legion for glyphs 000 - 026, Radius for 027 - 200, and 4pq for 201-296.)
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Neon Fox » Tue Oct 27, 2009 15:30

Where is the "green page" from which one gets the words? I'd love to help with making some glyphs.

Edit: Never mind, found it. I'll look at doing some adjectives, since most of those don't seem to have been claimed yet.
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Re: Writing systems

Postby Radius » Tue Oct 27, 2009 17:19

I did most of the adjectives already, I'm afraid. I did leave a number of gaps which you are welcome to fill if you like.
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