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The Charyan Chancery Script

Beforehand I want to apologize for the rather lame format I present the Denden Chancery script in - but I think this gif will work on every graphical browser under the sun. There are both a TrueType font and a PostScript font available, the last incarnation in a long line of Charyan script fonts, that started with a Lettrix bitmap font...

the chancery script

The chancery script as devised by Yumavat Quom. A text written on an altar scroll

In publications that predominantly use the Latin script, the connecting bar all glyphs have is placed on top, and the direction of writing is from left to right. However, in all original chancery documents, the direction is from top top bottom and from right to left, as can be seen in the following illustration:

A text written on an altar scroll in the Chancery script

Although literacy is highly valued by the Charyan people, and they have been literate for more than three thousand years, they have never produced a single script wholly of their own invention. The earliest scripts were simple rebus-like hieroglyphics, originally invented on the southern continent by a people called Qursir. When the Qursir developed their hieroglyphics into a more demotic form, a syllabary, the Charyans followed suit. This script was widely used for Archaic temple texts during the first Northern empire, but it fell into disuse after the great famine.

The mercantile classes developed their own script from the example of the Alsrpani, a sea-faring nation from the western archipelago. This script developed after the exodus into an angular alphabetic script which was still used for bookkeeping during the reign of emperor Rordal.

After the conquest of Matrai, around the year 1000, Charya began to become deeply influenced by the Matraian culture, which was perceived as superior. Not only the institution of the divine emperor, the shamanistic rituals that went with it, but also the Matraian script was taken over.

An undecyphered
     fragment of ancient Matraian.

An undecyphered fragment of ancient Matraian.

This, however, was a very complicated script, that consisted of a set of basic signs, to which were added accents indicating the vowels. Besides, there were a number of graphemes that indicated a whole word. Nevertheless, at first, the Charyan literati tried to take over the Matraian script unaltered. An example is shown on the right.

This however, turned out to be quite impractical, and there have been numerous attempts at bending the Matraian script to the Charyan languages, especially to the classical language. during the reign of Yinadan, around 1100, a new variety of the Matraian script was presented to the Emperor by a scholar Yumavat Quom. The emperor looked benevolently on Yumavat's invention and decreed that all imperial administration must henceforth be conducted in this script.

An old-Charyan poem in 
     the Matraian script.

An old-Charyan poem in the Matraian script.

Within a few decades, almost all writing was done in the new chancery script, only bookkeeping and some religious writings were still written using their traditional scripts.

The script is here presented in the traditional Charyan order. There are eleven families of letters, with five members to each family. There are ten number signs, from one to ten. There is no zero. The vowel signs that are placed to the right of the line have been derived from the numerals.

Consonantal signs can have an implicit shwa. Vowels can either be written in full, using the signs from the second, third and fourth row, or as accents, using signs derived from the numerals.

The exact phonetical value of each sign varies with the language for which the script is used, and with the origin of the text if the language is wide-spead, like Denden or Den'Wenray. Accordingly, the transcription varies wildly, too.

The first four rows are termed moon signs, respectively quarter, half, three quarter and full moon. The fifth row is termed signs of the weaver's workshop. The sixth and seventh row are the house signs, divided into the five forts and the five palaces. The eight row is the row of the magpie signes, the ninth row the row of the linebreaking signs. The tenth row represents the further five signs of the weaver's workshop, while the eleventh row is the row of the Andal signs.

From a cursory examination it appears the the number signs have a basic form for the numbers one to five, while the numbers six to ten are formed by connected forms of the numbers one to five.


text and illustrations © 1999 Boudewijn Rempt