There are currently nine different ways to write these languages, using either the Roman alphabet (qaliujaaqpait) or the Inkutitut syllabary (ᖃᓂᐅᔮᖅᐸᐃᑦ / qaniujaaqpait).
On 10th September 2019 the ITK decided to adopt a standardised way of writing all the Inuit languages and dialects of Canada using the Roman alphabet known as the Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait writing system. It includes ways to write the sounds found in all these languages, even though some are only used in a few of the languages. More information.
I’m not entirely sure how all the consonants are pronunced – the illustrations of the orthography don’t include pronuciation.
The intention with the new orthography is to provide an alternative, auxiliary writing system that can be used as well as, or instead of, the existing systems. The new writing system will make it easier to produce learning resources and other written material. It is also hoped that more speakers of Inuit languages will write in them, rather than using English.
According to various news stories, such as this one on the BBC news, the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious medieval manuscript, has been deciphered by an academic from Bristol.
The Voynich Manuscript is named after Wilfrid M. Voynich, a Polish antiquarian book dealer who acquired it in 1912. It is a lavishly illustrated manuscript codex of 234 pages, written in an unknown script. It is housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in the USA. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon dated to the early 15th century (1404-1438).
Here is an example of the script used:
Many attempts have been made to decipher the text but none have succeeded so far. One theory is that is was written sometime during the 13th century by a Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon (1214-1294). Some think the manuscript is gibberish, and was probably a practical joke played on Rudolph II.
According to the latest decipherer, Dr Gerard Cheshire of the University of Bristal, Voynich is a therapeutic reference book written in a lost language called Proto-Romance. He believes that the manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, the great-aunt to Catherine of Aragon.
Proto-Romance, a previously unknown language, was commonplace in the Mediterranean during the medieval period, but was not used in written documents as Latin was the main written language, according to Dr Cheshire.
Apparently when you try to decipher any parts of the text using Dr Cheshire’s method, it comes out a incomprehensible nonsense, and only parts of it can be understood with reference to many different Romance languages, and a lot of fudging and wishful thinking. So the manuscript remains undiciphered.
A Czech friend sent me a link to an interesting article (in Czech) about a mysterious inscription found on a rock in the village of Plougastel-Daoulas in Brittany in the northwest of France. Verisons of the article in English and French are also available.
The writing is in the Latin alphabet, but the language is unknown – people have suggested that it’s an old form of Breton or Basque.
Parts of the inscription are “ROC AR B … DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL… R I” and “OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR … FROIK … AL”, and there are two dates 1786 and 1787.
It looks most like a form of Breton to me, although the word VIRIONES looks more Gaulish.
A reward of €2,000 is being offered to anybody who can deciper this. If you take part, you have until November 2019 to submit your decipherment. The most plausible entry will receive the prize. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the competition, find out more and to receive photos of the inscription.
My trip to the British Library in London on Wednesday went well. Although I’ve been past the place many times, I haven’t been in before, so it was interesting to explore.
The first thing I saw was the Making Your Mark exhibition, which official opens today. I went to a press view for journalists, bloggers on Wednesday morning, although decided not to go to the big opening bash last night.
The exhibition is divided into several sections covering the history of writing, the development of writing tools and styles, the use of writing, and the future of writing. Highlights for me include ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Mayan and Chinese inscriptions, texts and other artifacts, and books and manuscripts from Europe, Japanese, Thailand and other places with beautiful writing and illustrations.
Here are the photos I took:
You have to pay to see this exhibition, but there are a number of other free exhibitions on at the moment and others coming soon. I explored the Treasures of the British Library exhibition, which was excellent. It includes beautiful and rare books from around the world; musical scores by famous composers, such as Beethoven and Chopin; letters, notebooks and other scribblings by famous authors, including Jane Austin, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë; maps, illustrations and ancient religious texts.
One thing I noticed is that most of the composers, writers and scientists whose writings are on display, had very messy handwriting. The only exceptions I noticed were the Brontë sisters. Could there be a connection between almost illegible scribbles and genius?
This afternoon I’m off to London, and tomorrow morning I’m going to the opening of an exhibition about at the British Library entitled “Writing: Making Your Mark“.
They describe it as “the extraordinary story behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements: through more than 100 objects spanning 5,000 years and seven continents.”
It includes such things as notebooks from Mozart, Alexander Fleming and James Joyce, as well examples of writing, calligraphy, writing tools and typewriters from around world.
There’s a press view and guided tour of the exhibition tomorrow morning, which I’m going to, and a big opening event on Thursday evening. The exhibtion opens to public on Friday, and runs until the end of August 2019.
I haven’t been to the British Library before, so it’ll be interesting to see it, and the exhibition sounds fascinating, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Today I heard about a very unusual and rare Cyrillic letter – the Multiocular O (Мультиокулярная О in Russian): ꙮ
According to Wikipedia, this letter is “a rare exotic glyph variant of the Cyrillic letter O. This glyph variant can be found in certain manuscripts in the phrase «серафими многоꙮчитїи» (many-eyed seraphim)”. It appears in a copy of the Psalms from about 1429.
This is an example of what it looks like in a sentence:
On an episode of Word of Mouth I listened today, they discuss the associations we have with different fonts.
Studies have found that different fonts can effect the way food tastes to you. For example, the same chocolate can taste sweeter, or less sweet, just because it’s labelled with different fonts.
Which of the above would you prefer?
And no, I’m not planning to bring out an Omniglot chocolate bar, in case you’re wondering.
If Greek yoghurt, hummus or other Greek foods are labelled with a Greek-looking font, you may believe that they come from Greece and are more authentic than such products labelled with a different style of font.
Which of these is most Greek?
Some fonts are seen as more masculine, while others are seen as more feminine.
Would you say these shop signs are masculine, feminine or neither?
What are your favourite fonts?
Are there fonts your really don’t like and/or don’t use?
Last night I saw the film Black Panther, and quite enjoyed it, especially the linguistic elements.
The film is based in the fictional African country Wakanda. The characters speak mainly in English, but sometimes slip into Xhosa, which is nice to hear.
The titles and credits at the beginning and end of the film first appear in a mysterious script, which also appears on various signs and decorative elements in the film. Today I found a font for this script, which seems to be called Wakandan, and put together a page about it. Here’s an example:
The text then changes into a version of the Latin alphabet which looks a bit like the mystery script. It is in fact a typeface known as BEYNO, which was designed by Swiss designer and illustrator Fabian Korn. Here’s an example: