Script evolution

The hobby of conscripting is related to that of conlanging (it is often regarded as a component of conlanging). A conscript is the writing system — such as an alphabet — used by the inhabitants of a fictional reality. The inscription on the ring in The Lord of the Rings was written in a conscript.

It’s not something I’ve ever gotten into. However, one aspect of conscripting that I have played with a bit is that of simulating the way that scripts evolve over hundreds of years. In the real world, it is well known that different scripts are related to each other, as the shapes of letters were gradually modified by generations of writers. I recommend this website for the animated illustrations of the process, including the evolution of the Latin alphabet (you may need to do a forced refresh (Ctrl-F5) in order to see it more than once).

So let’s play a game in which we take an existing script, and speculate on how it might have evolved in an alternative reality.

Note: Make sure you pay attention to whether each script is written from left to right, or from right to left. The very same alphabet may be written in different directions on different websites, so it is easy to get confused if you don’t pay attention.

  • Here’s my fictional descendent of the Hebrew script, written from right to left just like the actual Hebrew script.

Tav → hebrew-evolve.gif ← Aleph

  • Now let’s take the ancient Phoenician script, a common ancestor of many existing scripts including the Hebrew, the Greek, and our own. I’ve opted to draw the fictional descendent from left to right, although the Phoenician script itself was written from right to left.

Aleph → phoenician-evolve.gif ← Taw

  • The Proto-Canaanite script is the ancestor of the Phoenician, and hence even older. I’ve opted to draw my fictional descendent from left to right. A version of the Proto-Canaanite script is shown in the top row of this animation, but note that it is right to left, so you’ll need to reverse the order when comparing to my evolved form below.

    Two glyphs below do not correspond to any known Proto-Canaanite letters, because the real world history of Teth and Samek are unclear. My version includes glyphs for these letters (in 9th and 15th place, respectively) which I basically made up to fill the gaps.

Alp → canaanite-evolve.gif ← Taw

Perhaps you would like to take one of my imaginary scripts and publish an illustration of what it might evolve into in turn. If you do, please let me know – it would make a great multiplayer activity.

One Response to “Script evolution”

  1. Brittanie Says:

    I remember this on the ZBB! Love the new additions!

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