I’m currently wading into the world of creating an animated series about talking animals in space and as time goes on I’ll be posting more about it. For this show I wanted to create an alien language to use for background signage and the like, both as a way to explore more of this universe but also as a way of creating a more lived-in universe for my space- crustaceans to live in. This fictional language is Arsea, and it looks like this:
Now I know the question on all of your minds: Is there some overly-complicated linguistic history to back up this neat little alphabet? Why yes there is, thanks for asking. It all begins with emojis…
The Earthen Letterglyphs
Currently language is in the process of being deconstructed, and we’re starting to use pictures, numbers, and standalone letters to represent ideas and to replace whole words. My first task was to go through and figure out which of these pictures/letters/numerals would be included as a glyph once we inevitably create a unified logographic language. I ended up with thirty different glyphs that I would end up working with for this, all listed below:
From there I had to do the best I could going through hundreds of years of letter-shaping, much like our own alphabets did, in the span of a few days. I did this through taking the glyphs and tracing over them (sometimes with my left hand), and re-tracing them, and simplifying the forms so I use less strokes, etc. Eventually I ended up with a simplified New Earth Alphabet. Some individual glyphs (my favorites) are below, the befores and after.
So I had a Nu-Earth Sonoglyphic language from which I could now expand as the Human Race was about to expand. At this point in the story-world I’m creating humanity let loose leagues of Arks carrying with them all sort of animals as well as phonograph machines that will teach these animals language (Fun Fact, these phonograph machines are where the name “Arsea” comes from). We now enter into a new age of this language, the age of the arks.
The Space Arks
The first step was a simple one: As shown above I took all of the sonoglyphs (pictures that equate to a sound, or a fancy way of saying letters)and I “digitzed” them by tracing over all lines with tiny black pixel-like squares. Once everything was digitized, I could set out creating certain words, phrases, etc, which I would then use for the next step of this alphanumeric rabbit hole. I ended up with about thirty-five words and phrases that I eventually used to created a new round of letters, a few of those are included below to see how the Nu-Earth Sonoglyphs work together.
Well, as luck/fate/chaos would have it the Human race destroyed themselves and all that was left of them were these giant floating space arks. These arks floated around for thousands of years in space as new stars and planets were born (time also got a bit wibbly-wobbly here, this is all backstory for the animated universe). Eventually these Arks crashed on to planets and let loose all of the creatures held inside, and when these creatures gained self-awareness they would see these giant ships and the wreckage from them and begin to craft their new language from these ruins.
So my next step was to mimic thousands of years of wear-and-tear and damage from entrance to the atmosphere and crashing onto planets. This was done with the aide of data-bending and massive photoshop manipulation. Unfortunately a lot of the documents I had from this step seem to have disappeared, but I do have what came next: breaking up all of these wrecked and pixellated images and beginning this whole process of of abstraction to logoglyphs to abstraction to sonoglyphs again.
Fonos: The Hieroglyphs of the Old Systems
So we’re back at step 1: Creating a hieroglyphic language to be then transposed into a sonoglyphic language. I used the broken up chunks of the old Ark glitches to create new symbols. Some of these symbols were near direct translations from the Ark to the Glyph, others used ideas from the Arks but rotated or combined them to create a new glyph, and still yet some glyphs are based around other Fonos glyphs. I ended up with about 100 of these heiroglyphs.
Aside from directly translating these fractured bits of broken imaginary broken screens and spaceships, I also wanted to try and simplify these glyphs a bit, or at least make them more organic feeling. So to get each of the cards above I again went through and traced and re-traced each sketch until the glyphs were broken down enough. Then I brought them back into the computer, which that process in itself then added new wrinkles to each drawing (often times the filters I used would fill in circles with smaller circles, or they’d cause smaller lines that were just wrinkles in the paper to appear). So to get the digital files that I’d then be working on, which I’ve included some of my favorites below, I would pick and choose which aspects of the new files I liked and which aspects needed to go and finished off with all of these:
The Final Frontier
Okay, we’re near the end. Once I had all 100 or so glyphs finished and digitally uploaded I split them all apart into different categories based on what their main features were. From there I combined the glyphs, simplified them, anything to see what sorts of forms or recurring shapes could be seen among all of them. I then took 44 of these combined glyphs (though some were direct translations) to match up with the 44 phonetic sounds. These 44 starters can be seen below:
As you can see, though my goal was simplification, it didn’t really work out. But that was no matter, because it was time for another round of tracing and re-tracing these pictures in an effort to compress hundreds of years of letter-mutating in the span of only a few weeks. On top of tracing and re-tracing I also wanted to be sure that (almost) every letter for this new language could be accomplished with only three strokes of a pen/pencil/claw, and so through eventually amongst all of this change I came to the final 44 letters of Arsea, shown in two plates below along with their phonetic alphabet words to let you know the sound they make.
And a few closer looks at some of my favorite letters:
So that’s it. Arsea is a direct phonetic cipher, so any word you want to write you just break apart into its sounds and pick out the correct letters for it. Was this an extremely complicated way to get at something extremely simple? Yes. Did I waste my time? That, I open up for your discussion.