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The Legend of Zelda
My Iconic Alphabet

Iconic Alphabet

My Iconic Alphabet
a b ch d e f g h i j k l m
n o p sh r s t u v w kh y z
Optional Letters
gh zh th dh ph bh rr ^ æ

While taking linguistics classes in college, particularly when studying phonetics, I began to theorize about a writing system in which the letters bore some kind of resemblance to their physiological makeup. That is, sounds that were very similar should be represented by characters that were very similar. Our Roman alphabet seemed a little arbitrary to me, and I thought an alphabet in which the shapes related to the sounds—an "iconic alphabet," for lack of a better term—would be very handy in this crazy world of ours.

I don't actually expect that anyone will ever adopt this alphabet; I just made it for fun. And maybe I'll stimulate someone else's brain and provide them with a few minutes of intellectual entertainment by sharing my ruminations on this concept. They might even learn something about linguistics in the process. (Note: I'm fully aware of my shameless use of the singular "they," but until the English-speaking world produces a practical epicene pronoun, I'm content to use the working substitute.)

Part 1: Standard / Lower Case

  1. Principal Considerations
  2. Rationale for Choices
  3. Standard Results
Part 2: Capital / Upper Case

Coming soon!

Comments and Feedback
I eagerly welcome comments and feedback ( The following are comments made by people who have read this article on my iconic alphabet.

I read with great interest your creation process for your alphabet. I totally share with you an interest in linguistics and writing systems. You might enjoy my own creation, designed for a fantasy book I'm working on, and shamelessly presented like a "real thing."   ;^) Tsominnakadu

–Joumana Medlej
  19 Sep 2002

Your alphabet looks really cool. At this point in time I don't have [a section] about modern invented scripts, but I'll keep yours in mind, so when I get around to it I'll put a link to it.

–Larry Lo
  12 Feb 2003

Your alphabet is very clever—Tolkien's Elvish runes were also intended to [be] related to the sounds, but you've carried that farther.

–Jeffrey Henning
  26 Mar 2003

I had a look at the site and think your alphabet looks interesting. You have certainly put a lot of thought into it. I have had a go at producing an alphabet along the same lines but never got very far.

–Simon Ager
  27 Mar 2003

Your alphabet is interesting. I've been working on a somewhat similar script for a while. It's in need of some revision (I need to study phonetics in more detail before I go any further with this), and at present is something of a compromise between an IPA-style universal phonetic alphabet and a phonemic script for my developing conlang, but you might find it interesting. I'm afraid I don't have any html at present, just some images, but they're fairly self-explanatory: consonants, vowels.

One thing I notice is that you don't have enough vowels to represent my dialect of English phonemically (neither does my script, but the vowels there are so far only intended to represent the phonemes of my conlang).

Have you ever studied the Korean Hangul alphabet? It has certain featural (what you call iconic, I think) aspects.

–Tim May
  28 Mar 2003
  Butsuri (no site yet)

The idea is interesting (and has already been tried several times, if I recall correctly). Your shapes are nicely reminiscent of the Latin alphabet, despite an a priori start. . . . [There follows here much good advice on how to improve my alphabet.]

In the end, you get an alphabet which may be very well done to write English, but is not readily modifyable to write any other language, and thus defeats your goal of universality. The idea of iconicity is good, but not followed to its logical conclusion. In short, you have let your native language get in the way of the sound analysis. It's quite common, especially since you're a beginner, but you need to be aware of that and first learn a bit more about phonetics before working again on this iconic alphabet.

I hope you won't take my comments as an attack. On the contrary, I mean them as a way for you to improve your iconic alphabet by correcting some of the mistakes that crept in. The idea in itself is nice, and the current aesthetics are not bad (they are quite readable for a European person; indeed, probably easier to read than Tengwar).

–Christophe Grandsire
  1 Apr 2003

Hmmm, interesting idea. Toyed with the idea of a phonetic alphabet myself, but with vowels as diacritics (like south/southeast asian/middle eastern languages). Actually, I was told that some Indian scripts do feature similar shapes for related sounds, though I haven't taken the time to really study that.

With regards to replacing the diacritics, perhaps a stroke joined to the letter (left/right slash depending on which side the ascender/descender is on). For instance, the shape of the letter for the 's' sound changes from a 'q' to the cyrillic 'ya' (reversed 'R' shape). I personally feel that's quite a natural progression. As people write faster, they may turn dots into ticks (like on the letter 'i'/'j' in English), which then causes others to interpret the letters as being written with a tick, or so I imagine.

On the whole, I'm impressed! Press on! [. . .]

Sorry, forgot to mention:

For the 'o'/'e' problem, you could remove the spike where the horizontal stroke joins the main vowel shape. Once again, a mental exercise in this has suggested that the 'o' might become kind of like a cursive English 'j' while the 'e' might become '6' shaped.

Have you tried writing the letters repeatedly, and somewhat quickly? (or at least traced them in the air or something like that) That might give you an idea of how this simple alphabet might *still* evolve.

Thanks for letting me eat a little of your time.

–Jonathan Lim
  2 Apr 2003
  NTU, Singapore