Novus Scriptio [was: capitolisation]
|From:||Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, May 27, 2004, 10:52|
NB: I never mastered X-SAMPA so CB is used herein, but the majority of
examples are common to both systems. And before anyone asks, nope, I ain't
got a website.....yet ;-)
I've created a number of writing systems, none of which used capitalization,
but all of which used punctuation different from Latin/English.
The one I've spent most time on is Novus Scriptio, and I present this potted
history and description of the script over 16 centuries for your
It's a kind of universal alphabet set in a world where the Papacy moved to
Byzantium, the Celtic, Ethiopic, Coptic, Catholic, and Orthodox churches
merged, and India was christianized by the 11th C. Although Greek was the
ecclesiastical main lingua franca and Latin the second, the Greek and Latin
Alphabets were lacking when it came to writing all the languages of
For that, and many other, reasons the Church found it needed a universal
script in which any language could be written or it's sounds described with
enough accuracy so that anyone familiar with the script could deduce
the correct pronunciation of alien words. This also permitted foreign
priests to immediately be able to read lessons aloud to the congregation and
perform rites *without* learning the language, as long as they'd written
text to follow..
Other purposes of the script were to have a distinction between secular,
heathen, and pagan writings and Christian writings, and for a common script
to aid engenderment of a group identity between diverse ethnic members of
Christendom ( the later is a strategy historically adopted by many
religions, from the now forgotten but once major world religion of
Manichaeism, to Islam, to the failed attempt by Mormonism).
The script is read left to right, letters "hang" from a top-line as in many
Indian scripts and each letter has an initial/medial and final forms. All
letters fit the boundaries of an imaginary grid and are the same size (no
ascenders or descenders). Emphasis was provided by colour and sentence
initial, important, or Holy words were written in red ink.
Originally devised to be used without word spacing (which, along with same
size letters, makes text-justification easier in hand written documents - a
orthographic concern of Christian scribes ) the function of the two forms
was to show syllable and word boundaries.
Each letter has an inherent vowel (which follows in the initial/medial and
precedes for the final), but unlike Indian alphabets which also have
inherent vowels, the vowel is always unread unless *activated* by a
diacritic, whereby the letter becomes a syllabic - otherwise it only
represented the phoneme in isolation (this solved the problem of Indian
scripts of how to negate the inherent vowel for consonant clustering).
After looking at the languages encountered by the church at the time of the
script's commission the most commonly shared preconsonant vowel was short
/e~E/ or /I/ and the most common postconsonant vowel was /i/ . Thus for
example for /t/ the initial/medial syllabic form was /et ~ Et ~ It/ and the
final syllabic form was /ti/. For similar sounds like bilabial /F/, long s
/s:/, and dentals like /t[/ and /d[/ different vowels were chosen from the
standard /e/ /i/ set (The non-human languages the Elvish Nations (warm
blooded sauroniods) were included even although there were no Christian
Elves at that time, but the exercise stood in good stead when Cook made
first contact with the Rhraowlim (marsupial Feliniods) of Australaisia.
Originally this created a very large alphabet, and this proved
problematical. One solution to reduce the number of letterforms was to use
the same letter for both voiced and unvoiced forms (a suggestion from the
far north who's secular writing system, Runes, had this quality for some
graphemes). The Commission however foresaw reading confusion and devised
diacritics for voicing and voiced syllabic (the default being devoiced).
These diacritics were called the Vox and Nome and Duonome.
This had the effect not only of reducing the number of letters in the
alphabet but also of inducing the new idea that the fewer letters used to
represent a word the more elegant the script (and the economic
consideration that it would save parchment thus more of the Word could be
written on a given surface or quantity of parchment).
The problem to this concept was Vowels which not only had only one voicing
but had to be combined for diphthongs. This practice however was changed
during the merger between the Celtic and Universal Church when a Commission
of Revision devised the practice of "naming" the vowels after diphthongs (
just as English /a/ is known as /eI/ for example.) The Celts also introduced
one new diacritic to clarify comprehension, called the Logos, to
distinguish between a syllabic used as a part word and a syllabic used as a
whole word. There was no voiced form as context was considered clarification
The Celts won many concessions worthy of note; agreement on the tonsure, the
date of Easter, the calendar, trial marriage and divorce, female ownership
of land and title and inheritance, as well as female priests - although
these were confined to female orders such as those rivals of the Jesuits,
the Sisters of God's Sword.
AS far as Novus Scrpitio The other major reform introduced by the Celtic
Church was a common system of numeration to replace the plethora of systems
used, and also to have the convenience of Indian place-value numeration
without using "heathen" symbols.
The New system was Base 12, the angular numerals were based on Runes and
Ogham (one corner for each unit; thus one had one corner, two two corners,
three three corners, and so on). Cursive forms developed for writing numbers
within texts (more visually elegant!) and these became used as syllabics
within the system; This resulted in all languages using the same names for
A tradition developed that living things were only enumerated by cursive
numbers - the runic forms being restricted to things and abstract numbers.
The use of Runes was justified by the fact that many popular bibles had been
written in Runes, and Christian monumental texts written in Ogham, by
missionary Irish monks prior to unification and by writing the Holy Writ
with these scripts they'd been sanctified for universal Christian use.
An interesting sidebar to this system is its creation of many forms of
cryptography, inspired by from the borrowing of cryptographic Runes and
Ogham, the original phonetic value of the Runes/Ogham, number for letter
substitutions (taking into account that "new" numbers were easy to make -
any figure with the correct number of angles could represent a number.
Bacon's treatise on cryptography using these systems makes interesting
reading even today.
And the cursive numbers had religious symbolism too. For example; although
strictly speaking unnecessary, there was a symbol for 12 too, the devisor
wasn't all that fluent in Indian mathematics, felt that there ought to be a
symbol for 12 to represent unity and wholeness, and felt that repeating
the sign, say for example, three times communicated the idea of three dozen
much better than  + [NULL] did in place value notation. (the sign for 10
and 12 came to be used to precede number to indicate which base they were in
technical communications and papers too)
The cursive twelve symbol was 3 vertical line bisected by a horizontal line
sign for "u") - this became a symbol for the Father, Son, & Holy Ghost
united in one being and eventually replaced the cross and crucifix as the
major international symbol of Christianity.
| | |
The diacritics used for normal letters had special values when applied to
cursive numerals; the "Nome" diacritic (unvoiced syllabic) meant "place";
ie; 1st, 2nd, etc; the duonome (2nd name, or, voiced syllabic) represented
plurality numeration; ie; 2-fold, 3-fold, etc; and the logos diacritic
(which in form was an over-ring) became "month"; thus 1+Logos = January and
2+logos = February, and so on. This made month signs ideographic and
independent of language, and in consequence popular usage changed the name
of the diacritic from Logos to Luna.
The era of illuminated manuscripts introduced ligatures (the concern of the
scribes being to avoid splitting words between lines). Most of these were
one-ofs, but several proved usefull enough to be incorperated into the
script. for example the Latin "et" ligature with diacritics could be read
phonetically as /et/ /ed/ /i:t/ /i:d/ and with the Logos/Luna as an ideogram
for the "and" concept independent of language - although in common usage
this too became a syllabic. In English this meant that "hand" for example
could be spelt as H+[et]+luna.
Punctuation, when introduced, was originally an aid to narration rather than
reading, so symbols for breathing, long and short pauses, the sense of a
sentence (eg interrogative, imperative, exclamatory, etc) and volume were
The age of exploration, the discovery of the New World, and the opening of
the Orient, naturally led to missionaries being sent to these new lands
(although it was a brave Male missionary who'd risk Central and South
America as Male Europeans had no immunity to the native illness known in the
Old World as the Red Plague). It was many centuries later that it was
discovered that the virus could not survive in blood with even the smallest
trace of estrogen - an a remarkably similar compound occurred naturally in a
mainstaple of the jungle diet - the Giant Yam.
Central and Southern America were thus the sole territory of the Sisters of
God's Sword. Unsupported by armies they converted by bring the benefits of
western technology to the people; everything from mining, blacksmithing, and
gunsmithing to crop rotation, cattle, and horses. But the greatest of these
was the printing press, literacy, and Novus Scriptio.
The Christian nations of mesoamerica emerged; the great ones being; the
CACS (Confederated Aztec City-States), the UMP (United Mayan
Principalities) - whom farming techniques had revived to its former glory
and population - and TawantinsuyuIn ruled by their beloved Inca.
In consequence the missionaries found themselves forced to devise new
graphemes for phonemes that hadn't been heard by the devisors and reformers
of Novus Scriptio way back in Lindesfarne's day
The Church revived its last reform Committee, the Lindesfarne Commission to
oversee and approve additions and modifications to the official script.
As history unfolded the reforms of the gothic age, renaissance,
Protestantism, and printing all effected the script. Word division by
spacing developed, the "headless" form (= minus the Hang Line; which
thereafter was used for Proper Names), underlining replaced red ink, and
punctuation which aided reading; the equivalent of comas, colons, and full
stops. also as the script was used more and more for legal and banking
purposes in which justification was not an issue, marks for; lengthening
sounds, repeating letters, repeating syllables, possessives, contractions,
quotation, and plurals were introduced, although most of these were adapted
from, or simply re-used, narration marks and ligatures.
The script was in danger of diverging into several scripts, and the
Lindesfarne Commission labored mightily to prevent this happening; resulting
in the world's first ecumenical concession; the inclusion of Protestants on
the commission and relocation to Oxford. By the 1600s the majority of the
form and values of Novus Scriptio were firmly fixed.
However, the Age of Reason, and its aftermath of the rejection of religion
and increasing nationalism, the breaking up of the Byzantine Empire
(religion having been the glue that held this diverse collection of cultures
and people together was somewhat impotent when the Empire became secular)
almost heralded the death knell of Novice Scriptio.
Each country, nation, and ethnic group it seemed, tried to return to their
independent identity, and consolidate this with their own scripts; either
reviving ancient scripts or devising new ones. Reformers such as Desmoulins
in France, O'Nail in Ireland, Johnston in England, and Webster in North
America, created unique writing systems for their countries. This resulted
in most scripts, even for the same language, being mutually unintelligible.
Polyscripts were in greater demand than polyglots!
Unlike Novus Scriptio a person who could read, say British English, was
unable to read American English, Hibernian English, or even Scots English.
Thus languages mutually intolerable in spoken form were mutually
written form. The use of Novus Scriptio survived only in the Church and
diplomatic correspondence. The Oxford Commission was nearly disbanded.
This practice of independent scripts diminished during the industrial
revolution. Engineers wrote in Novus Scriptio so that their ideas would have
a wider audience and readership. Likewise Novus Scriptio became the script
of choice for science and technology. Understanding Novus Scriptio became a
mandatory condition of higher education in all but socialist countries which
could not tolerate its
religious association and the association they'd given it of being a tool of
the privileged classes, or countries in which the native system had a higher
prestige; such as China, Korea, Japan, Mayapam, and Mexical.
But when personal computers came upon the scene in the mid 20th Century, and
spread internationally, it was more logical, and economically sensible, to
use Novus Scriptio as the common system script (as all known languages and
dialects could be written in it), than to have script specific versions of
each computer model for every language, dialect, and script-region of the
Although over time since its creation in the 5th Century Novus Scriptio has
undergone many changes of orthography so that a 22nd Century Novus Scriptio
reader finds 5th Century Novus Scriptio unintelligible, one thing never
changed; the basic sound values of the unmodified graphemes or the habit of
spelling words as they are spoken by the writer. Thus even today, it is
possible to read an ancient Novus Scriptio Text and "hear" the voice and
accent of the writer.
Right then, that concludes the interlocked history and description of Novus
Scriptio. I hope you've found it entertaining, and perhaps even inspiring
Comments, sugestions and critisisms are invited.
Personally I'd love to hear about your scripts, and if they played as
important a part in your con-cultures as Novus Scriptio did in mine.