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Making a logography, so intimidating

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It has been suggested to me that since I am starting with the proto-lang as far as making my conlang is concerned, that likewise, when I get to the writing system, I should start with the most complicated to learn of them all, the logography. It is so intimidating to me though. I mean, at minimum, you would still have hundreds of characters, all of which look unique. At maximum you would have tens of thousands of characters like in Chinese. Speaking of which, I think making a logography that is completely unique from any existing logography from ancient civilizations is hard. On the one hand, you have those logographies which are made from just strokes and don't look like anything in particular except for maybe a few characters for person, moon, tree, etc. such as Chinese.

Then you have the slightly more detailed looking logographies that actually look like objects and/or concepts, like the logography of ancient Egypt.

Egyptian is a bit more complicated because, a symbol can either mean a specific word or words, or it can be phonetic, in which case this is the rough correspondence between Egyptian and the Latin Alphabet.

So you could say that Egyptian is the earliest existence of an alphabet because it can be phonetic. Anyway, then you have the very detailed looking logographies of languages like Ancient Mayan.


And again with Mayan, a symbol can represent a specific word or it can represent a sound. In fact, in a sense, Mayan has 2 scripts, a true logographic script, and a completely phonetic script. Here is an example.

As you can see, on the left is the logographic way to represent the word, and on the right is the completely phonetic way of writing down that same exact word. And unlike Egyptian, which gives you little to no clue as to whether the symbol is logographic or phonetic, you can decipher instantly whether a Mayan glyph is logographic or phonetic, because the phonetic script looks completely different from the logographic script.

Anyway, you see the problem I run into trying to make a logography of my own? No matter how detailed I get with the symbols, or how realistic the symbols look, there is always an existing logography, modern or ancient, from languages in human history that matches that detail and realism level. If I go the stroke route, my logography is going to look like a slightly different version of the Chinese script. If I go the more realistic and slightly more detailed route, my logography is going to look similar in concept to that of the Egyptians. If I go both very detailed and very realistic, my logography is going to look similar to the Mayan script. Not to mention that I would need at minimum a few hundred characters just to be able to write normal speech in my logography, each of which looks unique from any other character in the script.

It is so intimidating to make a logography. How can I get past this and actually start writing my logography? How would I get across words that aren't easy to represent with a single symbol such as the word in my conlang representing baby or the word representing pregnancy? Sure, modifying the person symbol just a little bit would get across the word for baby fine. But the word for pregnancy or pregnant? That doesn't seem so easy to get across, even with modifications to an existing character in the script.

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  • 3 months later...

I believe that, for languages like Chinese, the most commonly used characters number far lower. To read a newspaper, you could get by with 2000. Think like a caveman. Make your first set of characters very crude and simple, as though you are just coming up with the concept of writing. Then you can start stylizing it iteratively.

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  • 1 year later...

I think Alphaliterate's idea is a good one. It's also possible that you could do what many of these other logographies have done, and start with the fancier, more detailed images, and then slowly progress down to the more simplified versions of each character.

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