Developing Kallan Calligraphy

Developing Kallan Calligraphy

The often say that communication is important to civilization. Writing down communication is strongly linked to that. So when I started creating the Kallan civilisation, how they wrote was an important part of that.

For those that have read the first novel, you will know that the Kallans don’t have a single language that they use, though they do have a main language, a Língua Franca or universal language that allows them to communicate consistently with each other. This is not unusual in countries where more than one language is spoken. Eventually one language becomes the main method of communication. In another blog we’ll talk more about the variation and differences in the various languages and cultures within the Empire.

So when looking at the ideas and concepts behind the writing that the Kallan language would use, I first needed to have in mind what I wanted with regard to the language itself.

In the first novel we talk a little about oghams and runes. Oghams were an old form of writing used in Britain and Ireland among some of the old tribes. Runes were used by many of the Scandinavian and central European nations. Both, like many old forms of writing, are very angular. They don’t have many curves in the form of the letters. The reason for this was that they were often chiseled into stone monoliths and tablets. Such chiselling was easier if the writing was in straight lines.

Since the Kallans trace their start to before that time, it made sense to try and develop the writing around straight lines, ones that would be easy to carve. Later development of writing would make some of the angular lines cursive, but initially I wanted the letters to have a very different look to the modern Latin alphabet. One of the ways of doing that was to create the shape around squares, much as is seen in the shapes found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean writing forms. At the same time I didn’t simply want to mimic their style. I was looking for something that would be unique.

The solution came when I decided to tip the shape of the characters onto their ‘corner’, making the shape of a squared diamond or rhombus. This made the shape unique, but allowed for a lot of a variety in letter forms and shapes.

After this came the task of creating the letters. How many? How should I decide on the shapes.

My solution came when I decided to start constructing the letters based around their sounds. In English we form sounds based on the shape of the mouth, and then where the sound comes from within the mouth, if it’s forced or not. I wanted to push this concept into the shapes of the letters. By doing this it would allow me to theoretically form as many letters as I needed to cope with just about any sound within the boundary of human languages.

To start with I took the basic sounds in the English language and formed the letters around this concept. Notice a few of these letters:

The letters here are vowels. The letters ‘a’, ‘e’ and ‘i’ sound similar, and in these letters they are similar. The difference is based around where the sounds come from within the mouth and how the lips and mouth are shaped. The Kallan letters show that difference. Notice a similar situation with the following consonants:

The Letters a, e, and i in Kallan Lettering
The Letters a, e, and i in Kallan Lettering

The letters ‘f’, ‘b’ and ‘p’ are formed in similar ways, but using different parts of the mouth to create the sound as it comes through the teeth and lips. The Kallan letters again show that.

The Letters f, b, and p in Kallan Lettering
The Letters f, b, and p in Kallan Lettering

What this means is that a Kallan speaker would be able to know how a word is formed by looking at letters, even letters that are not very often spoken, but the shapes would help them to know how to say the word.

With this in place, the next step would be to create a more handwritten form, a cursive set of letters. This is achieved by simply writing the letters with a pen where the natural curve starts to appear.

So after working on this for a couple of days the letters worked well enough for me to be able to put together some of the more commonly used letters in names. This would allow me to move on to later working on creating some basic ideas behind what the language would be like.

Here are a couple of names (Ravika and Kalla) in the more formal lettering, and again in the cursive handwritten style.

The names Ravika and Kalla Kallan Lettering
The names Ravika and Kalla in Kallan Lettering
The names Ravika and Kalla in cursive Kallan Lettering
The names Ravika and Kalla in cursive Kallan Lettering

Overall I’m pleased with the outcome and would love to hear your feedback on what you think too.

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