All dates given herein are as reckoned in the calendar of Fáorn Ruádh.
The Estéldir syllabary is used to write both the Estéldir language of Ethelid and the related one of Egramith in the west. Since the conquest of Ethelid by non-Estéldir-speaking people, this writing system is more commonly used in the western kingdoms than in the east, where it has largely disappeared.
In this document we trace the development of the Estéldir syllabary from a simple consonantal script to its modern syllabic form, a full-fledged writing system, capable of showing all the phonemic distinctions of the languages it is used to write. This syllabary is often carved in bone, wood, or stone, and is commonly drawn with paint for less permanent applications.
The origins of the Estéldir script are unknown, the earliest instances of it being found in a relatively developed form. At the beginning, only consonants were represented, and not even the full set of those used in the Estéldir language.
A handful of examples of this script exist, dating back to the mid second century, mainly from the kingdom of Carcora. As you can see from the set above, several of the symbols represent two different Estéldir sounds, making this a relatively poor representation of the language. Many words would be written the same way with this script, a few examples given here:
den "valley" tem "take"
ámer "listen" mora "mountain"
Another deficiency of the script was soon noted, that it had no way of indicating syllables that consisted solely of vowels. This was soon remedied.
A new letter was introduced, one indicating a syllable with no consonant at all, sometime before the late third century. Early examples show the vowel-only syllable marked by leaving a space, but soon a vertical line was used for the same purpose. The set of consonants used in earlier times was further expanded to include distinct symbols for all of the consonants of the Estéldir language.
The new consonantal signs were derived from previous ones when they were realized to be sounds needing their own symbols. Combined with the vowel-only sign, the writing system was now able to represent words much more accurately.
méleg "clay" thrúa "stone"
solo "next" sola "moon"
ámer "listen" emere "good"
But as you can see, vowels were still not distinguished from one another in any way, a problem that would not be fixed for several centuries.
By the sixth century, a system had been developed to indicate vowels. Small points were added, written over the consonantal signs (or the null sign in the case of a vowel-only syllable).
Vowel pointing made it possible to distinguish nearly all words, as now both consonants and vowels were being written.
veren "arrival" súyar "bear" sola "moon"
The idea of a symbol representing a single consonant was strong, yet some words (such as veren above) would have more symbols than syllables. Syllable-final consonants came to be written below the syllable they ended.
thedor "five" lun "bear" echenda "eye"
In the early sixth century, a mark was invented to show stress. At first its use was sporadic, but it soon became commonplace. Words distinguished only by stress placement were nearly always marked for stress. The pattern of stressing the last vowel before the last consonant was soon noted, and this was considered "regular", not requiring a mark of any kind.
The mark indicating stress is called the taga seulan, the "radiant mark". It is placed under the stressed syllable.
amá "mouth" ama "foot" cáula "flesh" caula "lightning"
Also during the sixth century, the convention of separating words was started, spreading very quickly. From the mid-sixth century onwards, words have been separated by a small, mid-level dot.
Egralos ran les toran necor tir.
You can't catch sunlight with a net.
© 2005 Joseph Fatula, all rights reserved.