Re: The Glorantha Digest V8 #84

From: Peter Larsen <>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 23:09:52 -0700

Alex Ferguson says:

>Peter Larsen:
>> Letters are pretty rare in the RW compared to
>> writing based on ideograms and syllabic characters;
>Rare in what sense? Number of different systems, or numbers of users?

        As far as I know, the Middle East and surrounding areas to the West are the only place in the RW that developed letters. Every other system (that I know of) did not simplify to the letter stage before contact with the European tradition. Now, I admit that I have made no very systematic study of this; I could be wrong. But I do think it's unlikely that nearly every Gloranthan culture uses letters.

>Also, it's misleading to categorise logographic and syllabic systems
>together, as they have entirely different 'issues' with them.
>Arguably, alphabetic and syllabic systems are more similar.Digesters
>seem to have a mania for suggesting logographic systems for this and
>that language, with skant regard to the practicalities. Not every
>language is Chinese (though a fair few of them are, it must be said),
>and not very language would work remotely as well as Chinese does
>with a logographic script (however well that is, which is debateable).

        I can buy almost all of this, but I still think it's unlikely that all the languages of Glorantha would have alphabets. I think we tend to think of alphabets, like we tend to imagine characters as literate, because that's what we are used to. Why shouldn't there be as great a variety of written laguages (and writing technologies) in Glorantha as in the RW?

>T'other way around: Dara Happan is alphabetic, and "Old Pelorian"
>is logographic.

        Clearly, I need to do more research.

David Dunham agrees with that sentiment (presumably):

>The sacred alphabet appears in Fortunate Succession; presumably it's
>Dara Happan.

        I know. I really don't like that alphabet; it has a Godlearnerish "everything descended from the runes" look to it. I still think the Dara Happa should have a complex sacred language that only the priests and scribes learn (plus something simpler for daily use -- the Egyptians had a system like this (well, over a few thousand years)).

Alex Ferguson replies to Jeff Richard:

>Ah, that old chestnut. [Ideographic runes, etc.] Application of the idea
>to the Orlanthi is
>a new wrinkle, though... It fits at least in making it a designedly
>bad fit, though, since as general-purpose writing system, runes would
>be lousy in the extreme.

        We agree here; I suspect the role of the runes is symbolic ("Who's that weird statue over there?" "It's got Orlanth's marks; it must be Orlanth....") I still think the most obvious source of a written Orlanthi language is the EWF; the first homegrown Orlanthi system that needed a writing system (Beyond the essentially symbolic runes). Is there any good argument against this?

>> The ideographic system gave way to a syllabic system of writing
>> (probably based on the sounds of the early runes).
>Rebus-writing systems assume you have a rich (and appropriate) enough
>set of words-sounds to start with. (Not much use in Heortling Charades:
>'sounds like "Orlanth"'.)

        The Heortlings have a particularly limited range of sounds in their language?

>> Finally, I think New Pelorian, as we now know it, might be developed out of
>> a Syllilan script with heavy Dara Happan and Carmanian influences. Maybe it
>> is even a deliberate attempt to recreate the magic of the Dorastan script.
>More likely it's self-consciously based on Pelandan, though I bet that
>use of glyphs is more an affectation, or a sacred rite, than a day to
>day practice, for which I think the Dara Happan alphabet seems likely.

        Well, shouldn't the differences between New Pelorian and Dara Happan reflect the exclusivity of the latter and the inclusivity of the former?

Peter Larsen

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