From: Alex Ferguson <>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 01:03:28 +0100 (BST)

Peter Larsen:
> As far as I know, the Middle East and surrounding areas to the West
> are the only place in the RW that developed letters.

Then again, much the same is true of 'civilisation'. ;-) (If you mean, develop independently.) That's also quite a hatful of different systems (though how much they influenced each other I can't, personally, give you the straight dope on.)

> But I do think it's unlikely that nearly
> every Gloranthan culture uses letters.

It's not unreasonable to imagine that as couple of cultures (the Dara Happans and the Malkioni) "invented" alphabets, and between tham have corrupted much of Genertela with the idea... Off the top of my head, I might concur that in the rest of Glorantha they're less common than syllables and logograms.

We know that Pelanda had (and to some extent doubtless still has) a script based on glyphs (probably logographic). Greg seems to imply that kralori is either logographic or syllabic, and I'd suspect the other eastern scripts were at least _vaguely_ related, at least to the point of being non-alphabetic. The Doraddi I don't know about, but I'd be amazed if they had an alphabetic script. Anyone else spring to mind that's conspicuously literate, independent from all of the above?

> 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.

I'm happy enough to imagine many cultures with no script at all, and other with highly limited ones. (For example, Praxian knot-writing is far less "written Praxian", and more of a simple language in its own right, IMO.)

> Why shouldn't there be as great a variety of
> written laguages (and writing technologies) in Glorantha as in the RW?

There should. What concerns me is the apparent zeal in some quarters to have logographic scripts left, right and centre, with little analysis of the applicability and difficulties. In particular, any culture with sophisticated literacy, and a language that doesn't "look logographic", I'm immediately suspicious of.

> 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?

If that counts as 'homegrown'... Jeff's other suggestion, that _real_ written Heortling uses the Malkioni alphabet also works. (My personal bias would _prefer_ it to be the EWF, so I immediately distrust it.)

> >> 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?

No, exactly the reverse. But there's no evidence the "early runes" have suitable names for such a system. (Like that they're typically monosyllabic, and that they 'cover' a reasonable fraction of the language, between them.) How many syllables do you imagine there are in Heortling? A bit more than Japanese's, what, 46 or thereabouts? (OK, not precisely syllabic, but close enough.)

> >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?

Well, glyphs aren't exclusive as such. The problems with them as a writing system are real, but in a sense a "sub-literate" knowledge of a few common (or important) glyphs is more useful that a comparably small knowledge of an alphabet. Beyond a certain level of complexity, though, logographic systems will fry your brain every time. (Chinese is about the best possible language for a logographic script, has retained a logographic script this long for a variety of odd historical reasons all of its own, but is still creaking audibly under its own weight, due to the sophistication of the languistic development it has to 'carry'.)

I think this one makes reasonable sense, myself, though I'd have not been upset to see it otherwise, either. But I suspect it's largely a fait accompli, given the amount Greg's written on it, if only in "spiral bound nonsense".

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