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7/08/2022 5:29 pm  #1


Logograms vs. Phonograms

Most cultures in Hyperborea use writing systems based on phonograms; each character represents a sound. Contrarily, the Ixians and subterranean Kimmerians of Krimmea use writing systems based on logograms; each character represents a word. How robust would these written languages be? Consider, for instance, the following player handout from Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes (spoilers if you haven’t played it):


“My most puissant master, contained in this small bundle you will find the three magical devices you require. Know that Xarthanos is a distracted man; I believe he is unaware of you, his so-called ‘engineer’. However, the winged simian has a nose for those who would betray his master, so beware the brute. Once you have commandeered the skyship, I beg of you, please take me with you to Scythium, where I will ever serve you as loyal apprentice. Praise be the Lord of Serpents!”


If I were the Ixian author trying to commit this florid message to papyrus using logograms, could I possibly convey the full nuance, or would it read more like a telegram? “Master. Contained in small bundle you find three magic items you require...” and so on.

Last edited by DMPrata (7/08/2022 5:30 pm)

 

7/08/2022 6:36 pm  #2


Re: Logograms vs. Phonograms

Interesting point! I supposed in this case the letter was translated into Common. Maybe the translator added the flourishes to the original telegraphic text you posit?


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

7/09/2022 12:09 pm  #3


Re: Logograms vs. Phonograms

What about names, too? What would be the logogram for “Xarthanos”? I’d never considered the limitations of the writing form before. It seems a shame given the supposed intellectual superiority of the Ixians. They’d need an effective way to sneer and condescend via pictures.

     Thread Starter
 

7/09/2022 2:11 pm  #4


Re: Logograms vs. Phonograms

Another good point! I'm not positive, but I know that ancient Egyptians had fairly elaborate-looking names that they somehow conveyed in hieroglyphics. I think the names often (probably usually) meant something that could be conveyed in ideograms, like "Man with Red Hair" or whatever. In other cases I believe they used the rebus principle (in other word, if English used pictograms, you might write the signs for "air" and "in" to represent the name "Erin").


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

7/09/2022 3:19 pm  #5


Re: Logograms vs. Phonograms

Ah, OK! The rebus principle does open up many more options. (I’d been thinking about American sign language, wherein English words without corresponding signs—like names—simply can be spelled out, but that technique only works when you have a phonographic alphabet to begin with.) Perhaps the name Xarthanos could be represented by the logograms for “donkey” and “immortal”. (Yes, he is literally an undying ass.)

Last edited by DMPrata (7/09/2022 3:20 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

7/11/2022 9:10 am  #6


Re: Logograms vs. Phonograms

My understanding is that a lot of pictogram representing abstract principles or actions were also puns on similar-sounding words. To give an example (again pretending English used pictograms), it's hard to draw an intelligible pictogram showing the action of dragging, so the symbol "dragon" might be used instead. "The man is dragging a sack" might be the symbols "man"+"dragon"+"sack", with the context indicating that the second symbol meant "draggin'" rather than "dragon". Or, as another example, you might use the symbol "him" to represent the difficult to picture word "hymn".

All that said, you are certainly correct that pictograms are less flexible and useful than an alphabet, or even a syllabary. I wonder if Jeff envisions the Ixian pictograms doubling as a syllabary, which was sometimes the case?
 


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

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