Glyph of the word 'a'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter a
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable a in the Kamakawi syllabary

A apae ipe ielou!
“That whale is shooting water out of its blowhole!”

Notes: Today starts a new series: The Kamakawi syllabary. I’m going to introduce each of the syllabic glyphs so that they can be referred to more easily in the future. I’ve also added a new category: Kavaka i Oala. That’s the Kamakawi term for their syllabary.

Unfortunately, these sentences are going to be a little strange (at least the first few). In the sentence above, the word apae is spelled with the syllabic glyph a, even though you can’t see it here… You’ll just have to take my word on it.

Okay, back to the point of this. The five vocalic glyphs (a, e, i, o and u) don’t have words associated with them (the glyphs don’t, remember; obviously the word a bears quite a functional load). There are very old glyphs associated with the sounds, though. They derive from the position of the lips when one is making the sound in question—and, thanks to the magic of computers, I can show you precisely what I mean.

Here’s a picture of me saying the vowel a:

Me saying ahhh.

Now here’s that same picture with an overlay of the iku for the syllable a (drawn freehand so you can see where it came from):

Me saying ahhh with the iku for 'a' drawn over it.

The end points of the “x” that constitutes syllabic a touch the corners of the “box” formed by the lips when pronouncing a. And that’s where the iku for a comes from.

There might have been other forms for this iku, such as a circle or a box, of course. In the history of the writing system, though, rounded edges were a late addition, and full circles don’t occur at all (note, for example, how the sun in eili is a box, not a circle). And while it’s true that the iku might have been a square, that glyph was already taken for the (older) number system, and that particular glyph had a much more obvious association with a syllabic glyph. Thus, a is the way it is.

Oh, one more thing. I created a language awhile back called Zhyler, and I have this kind of fake conhistory in the back of my head for how Zhyler speakers and Kamakawi speakers are related. See, the Zhyler speakers broke away from the Gweydr speakers on the mainland and decided to cast their fate to the sea. They ended up on a large (though sparse) island that was to the northeast of the cluster of small islands that comprise the Kamakawi nation. I’d say they’re a day or two’s row away. The Zhyler started to create a new empire, and made free use of the Kamakawi as a “resource”, giving the people themselves little regard. And, of course, this required learning their language, and giving it a “proper” writing system as opposed to a “picture” writing system.

This all, of course, is a fake fake history. There are no details up about it anywhere (except here), and I don’t have any of my own. But anyway, working with this fake fake history, I wrote up how the Zhyler would spell Kamakawi here (it’s an adapted version of the Zhyler alphabetic writing system which can be found here). In Kamakawi when referring to this system (and the particular letters), there are Kamakawi words for them. All the letter names are just simple (C)V syllables (which ones they are is arbitrary [e.g. the name for the alphabetic letter “t” is te, as opposed to ta, ti, to, or tu), and so, for example, the name for the Zhyler alphabetic a is the iku you see above.

Okay, this is long enough. Now to click “Schedule”…

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4 Responses to “A”

  1. Ka kavaka Sylvia Sotomayor ti:

    Ah yes, the advantages to having multiple languages – they can borrow from each other!

  2. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    Indeed. I had to borrow stuff in the current relay, and was lucky to be able to do so (after all, what small Pacific Island-style islands have deer on them?).

  3. Ka kavaka Amanda ti:

    Deer? Hahah :) I’ve heard of in my own ring: magical horse, mythical animal that can be ridden, and dragon (my own interpretation of the second one :)

  4. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    I’m really curious what the original text was. All I heard at the beginning was that the text was short and simple. How could it have diverged so greatly?!

    (Though I should note I made a slight mistake in mine!)

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