Making Pictographs

I’ve already made a few posts involving my made-up language, Gheshvan: one involving the base-six number system (which might have gotten a bit ridiculous there at the end) and the other with the phonetic alphabet.  I might have mentioned in those posts that I planned to do a larger pictographic variant of the written language — not just the phonetic alphabet but a sort of Japanese conglomeration of phonemes and pictographs/ideographs.

I have a few to show today.

For those who don’t know much about Japanese writing, it’s split into three different systems: kanji, hirogana and katakana.  Kanji are large, complex symbols originally borrowed from Chinese, and are in the pictograph/ideograph realm — i.e. they are pictorial or abstract depictions of words and ideas, rather than attempts to sound them out.  Most of them also have a phoneme or syllable (or more than one syllable) related to them so that you could cobble together a couple kanji and derive several different spoken names from them…but that’s getting away from the point.  Kanji: big complex picture things.

Hirogana is the smaller, somewhat loopy syllabic writing system, which thankfully doesn’t require a kanji dictionary for even the Japanese to decipher.  Katakana is its more angular sister, usually used for loan-words from other languages.

The point of this is that I am now adding kanji-type symbols to my previously hirogana-type written language, and though I’m not going about it in the Japanese style, it is a simple way to explain it.


I only have a few images for this so far — I scribble the pictographs while I’m watching TV, which I don’t do very often, since when I’m at the computer I’m way too easily distracted by maps or the internet or whatever.  Nevertheless they should give a basic idea for what I’m doing.

First comes verbs and how they’re conjugated.

gheshvanconjugationThe visual conjugation for Gheshvan is actually simpler than the vocal conjugation — at least I think so, because the plural suffixes became a bit convoluted.  In that, the language is a little like Spanish, the other language I studied (in high school, while my Japanese studies were in college).  Of course, I’m pretty sure mine is more convoluted, but at least I don’t have irregular verbs!

Anyway.  Visual conjugation is pretty simple.  There’s the base verb at the top, the subject squiggle that goes beneath it, and the tense icon on the bottom right.  The subject squiggle indicates first, second or third person by the presence and number of horizontal lines through it, and shows plural by the presence or absence of the vertical line.  The tense icon is just one of those five.  This gives the full conjugated verb in one ideograph without trying to transliterate the whole thing with the Gheshvan alphabet.

Simple!  Right?!

Okay, have some verbs.

verbgrid1Each one of those would need to be scribed over the conjugation squiggle in order to be valid.  If it’s just the base ‘to [do this thing]’ verb, it still needs to go up on a little kinda table — a conjugation squiggle without the left-hand squiggle and with the horizontal line holding it up to indicate that yes, it is a verb.  That’s because many of the verbs use the same pictograph as their non-verb forms — like the verb ‘to hate’ and the concept ‘hate’.

Speaking of hate, it’s one of the concepts/feelings I also drew below:

feelinggrid1Obviously I’m not done with that sheet yet.  Hm, what else do I have…  Ah, some nouns and stuff.


Drawing these also helps me add vocabulary words to my language, since there are a lot of things I don’t think to put in until I either start translating a phrase into Gheshvan for the story or I go through a set of concepts like ’emotions’ or ‘animals’ and realize I missed a lot of things.

And in case you’re interested to see what my work-pages look like, have some scribbly mess!

gheshvanemotionsgheshvanbitsIn this last picture, the rather more complex ideographs in the upper left-hand corner are Japanese kanji — well, my attempt at drawing one kanji, aku, correctly.  I was watching Rurouni Kenshin at the time, what can I say.

So there you go: a first look at the language.  I have another picture with some prefix/suffix/add-on stuff, but it’s older and I’m not sure how well it will work with the rest, so leaving it out for now.  Don’t know when I’ll have examples of actual sentences and the like, but I’m working my way toward it.


About H. Anthe Davis

Worldbuilder. Self-published writer.
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