Created By: Koveras on October 1, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 9, 2015
Troped

Artificial Script

When a work includes a fictional alphabet.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Found mainly in fantasy settings, this trope is about fictional scripts invented by the author. Sometimes, they are used as a fancy substitute for the letters in the work's original language, at other times, they come along with an entire Constructed Language/Fictionary.

An aspect of World Building. Super Trope to Cypher Language. Compare Wing Dinglish.


Examples

Anime and Manga

Film - Animated
  • A parallel alphabet exists in Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In fact, Milo Thatch deduces that no further evidence of Atlantis has ever been found because one glyph was mistaken for an "R", leading searchers to Ireland in vain. The glyph is rightly a "C", because Viking raiders routinely made port in Iceland, near the dormant fumarole which is the access point to Atlantis.note 

Film - Live-Action

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • The Klingons in Star Trek have their own language as well as a writing system.
  • Circular Gallifreyan is the writing of Time Lords in Doctor Who.
  • Babylon 5. The Minbari language is used a number of times throughout the show. In one case they have a small joke; Vir is sent to be ambassador on Minbar and shows up later wearing a ceremonial welcoming robe which says on the front in Minbari writing "Aloha."

Theme Parks

Video Games

Web Comics
  • For the various comics set in Overside, Evan Dahm created a number of different scripts and alphabets for the different societies. Some of them are just scribbles, but others are fully functional writing systems, such as Seen Script (from Rice Boy), Machine Script (mainly used in Order of Tales), and Sahta Script (from Vattu).
  • In Paranatural, several ghosts and spirits speak in a script that's actually a modified Latin alphabet. Each letter is a rough trace of the negative space in the corresponding Latin letter, then the whole sentence is rotated 90 degrees.

Western Animation
  • Futurama has an alien script which the writers threw in to amuse and bewilder their audience, but the script was solved fairly quickly. So the made up another whole alien script.


Will go under Language Tropes.
Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • October 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    See Con Lang.

    I'm also not sure Alphabet is the best word here. Script may be better, since it can be based on symbol for words (like the hieroglyphs) or for syllables (like Chinese).
  • October 1, 2013
    Koveras
    Well, "artificial script" is The Other Wiki's term for this, as well, I just wanted an alliteration there, but hey...
  • October 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    Maybe Strange Script if one wants an effect that one need not have a totally comprehensive script?
  • October 1, 2013
    JonnyB
    I'm uncomfortable with the word "script"; when talking about TV and film it brings up more of an image of the text of a play, broadcast, or movie.
  • October 1, 2013
    Frank75
  • October 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^^ Fair point, though I'm not sure how problematic it will be. Weird Writing?
  • October 1, 2013
    robinjohnson
    Does the script actually need to have been fully created, like Tolkien's? That is, would examples like this count:
  • October 1, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • A parallel alphabet exists in Disney's Atlantis The Lost Empire. In fact, Milo Thatch deduces that no further evidence of Atlantis has ever been found because one glyph was mistaken for an "R", leading searchers to Ireland in vain. The glyph is rightly a "C", because Viking raiders routinely made port in Iceland, near the dormant fumarole which is the access point to Atlantis.

    Just for reference: when one Latin letter is supplanted by another alien character, that's a Caesar cypher, named after Caesar's legions that used this system for encrypting their messages.
  • October 2, 2013
    Frank75
    Ireland - Iceland? Did they speak English?
  • October 2, 2013
    IuraCivium
    In the Con Lang community, we also call these "conscripts". I don't know if Con Script would be a workable trope name, though.
  • November 11, 2013
    Koveras
    So is this tropable on its own or should it be lumped with Con Lang?
  • November 11, 2013
    kjnoren
    Artifical scripts can be used to write English, and a Con Lang can be written using real scripts (like latin, or perhaps better Hangul).
  • November 11, 2013
    Koveras
    So you'd say it's a separate trope?
  • November 11, 2013
    kjnoren
    Yes.
  • November 11, 2013
    Karalora
    A note about the Atlantis example: the mistranslated character was part of a Norse runic inscription. In Old Norse as in English, "Ireland" and "Iceland" are one letter apart—Irland vs. Island. What's the trope for that? Conveniently Precise Translation or something along those lines?

    Theme Park example of the trope under discussion: The "Maraglyphs" in Disneyland's Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Might be a subverted example, since the characters are actually the letters of the Latin alphabet, highly stylized.
  • November 11, 2013
    Koveras
    @robinjohnson: I don't think that such incomplete examples are tropable, since any advanced fictional civilization very likely has its own script, and if it isn't fully spelled out by the author, then it becomes a trivial "educated people of Troperia write Troperian letters". I hope my reasoning is understandable.
  • November 11, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    so this is about the script vs Con Lang being about the language? they're aren't exactly separate in the first place though...
  • November 11, 2013
    Palhinuk
    Video Games
  • November 11, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ Well, yes, but as kjnoren pointed out, it's possible to have one without the other and vice versa, so while there is some overlap, they are still separate tropes.
  • November 11, 2013
    Tallens
  • November 12, 2013
    aurora369
    The Elder Scrolls universe has not only the draconic runes, but also the Daedric script, the Dwemer script and the Falmer script.
  • November 12, 2013
    rcmerod52
    Does the Strogg language in Quake 4 count?
  • November 12, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I don't know?
  • November 12, 2013
    Snicka
  • November 12, 2013
    Antigone3
    Not an alphabet, but in Riven you have to learn the base-25 D'ni numerals to solve some puzzles.
  • November 12, 2013
    ElectricNova
    The Al Bhed language in Final Fantasy X. counts. There is a lot of text and dialogue in the game using the language, and there are two ways to translate it. You can obtain primers that automatically translate one letter each, or if you're skilled enough you can translate it yourself, as it's essentially a rearranged alphabet.

    In Star Fox Adventures there is also a fictional Dinosaur language. The manual helps you understand it.
  • November 12, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Are there wiki pages for these alphabets?
  • November 12, 2013
    Tallens
    • Common is the, well, Common Tongue used by humans in the War Craft series, and it seems to use as writing everything from English writing to some kind of fictional script, to a form of runes, as seen here.

    • The Ancient Language in Fire Emblem Tellius, spoken mostly by the Heron tribe, which uses a highly stylized writing. It's actually English in a font that's so fancy as to be unrecognizable. Translations can be found here and here.
  • November 12, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ After reading about the Warcraft scripts, I somehow got the idea that those "scripts" are just a random collection of symbols to create atmosphere rather than a defined system. Am I wrong?
  • November 12, 2013
    Chernoskill
    The Predator race uses a script consisting of dashes at various angles.
  • November 12, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I assume that's from the Predator movies?
  • November 21, 2013
    Tallens
    So, are you looking for things that are actual functioning written languages, or just something that looks like one?
  • November 21, 2013
    Chernoskill
    @ Koveras: Yes, although it naturally appears in other media like Comic Books and Games as well.
  • November 21, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ The former.
  • November 21, 2013
    Tallens
    • Babylon Five: The Minbari language is used a number of times throughout the show. In one case they have a small joke; Vir is sent to be ambassador on Minbar and shows up later wearing a ceremonial welcoming robe which says on the front in Minbari writing "Aloha."

    Narn and Vorlon writing is also shown but I'm not sure if those are developed languages or not.
  • November 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • Commander Keen has an alien script but if you can translate it, the words are in English.
    • Western Animation/Futurama has an alien script which the writers threw in to amuse & bewilder their audience, but the script was solved fairly quickly. So the made up another whole alien script.
  • December 14, 2013
    Tallens
    Bump
  • December 14, 2013
    MetaFour
    Webcomics:
    • For the various comics set in Overside, Evan Dahm created a number of different scripts and alphabets for the different societies. Some of them are just scribbles, but others are fully functional writing systems, such as Seen Script (from Rice Boy), Machine Script (mainly used in Order Of Tales), and Sahta Script (from Vattu).
    • In Paranatural, several ghosts and spirits speak in a script that's actually a modified Latin alphabet. Each letter is a rough trace of the negative space in the corresponding Latin letter, then the whole sentence is rotated 90 degrees.
  • January 27, 2014
    Koveras
    I am not sure whether this one is going anywhere or I should just discard it...
  • January 27, 2014
    jlt314
    this is a common part of the Trapped In Another World setting, although most authors don't give detailed descriptions on the script. two examples would be Literature:
    • I. Dravin's "Xenos" series of novels features a written and spoken Common Language and a runic alphabet used in runic magic.
    • V. Zykov's "Way Home" series of novels features several distinctive human languages spoken across the world, two dead languages of two opposing races who fought themselves into extinction and a language used by dimension-travelling sentient dragons.
  • January 27, 2014
    StarSword
    Star Trek:
  • January 27, 2014
    NagatoUzumaki
    BIONICLE:
    • The Matoran have their own language, using circular symbols for letters and numbers.
  • January 29, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    Shouldn't this be just called Artificial Alphabet?
  • January 29, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ That was the original YKTTW working title, but then I let myself be convinced that Artificial Script, being an established term (also used by The Other Wiki) would make a better trope name.
  • January 29, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Also, to be pedantic, not all scripts are alphabets. There are syllabets and pictogram systems too.
  • January 29, 2014
    Arivne
    Artificial Alphabet would make it easier for readers to understand what the trope is about.
  • January 29, 2014
    Chabal2
    Twilight Princess averts this, as the Hylian letters are just the Roman alphabet with various twists that make them hard to read. In Kakariko one can find signs that are decipherable enough to read "hotel" and "bomb".
  • January 29, 2014
    Green5
    How about Our Scripts Are Different for the title?
  • January 29, 2014
    StarSword
    To expand on Nagato Uzumaki's example, the Matoran written language is a relex of English.

    TV:
    • Stargate SG 1: Several examples.
      • The Goa'uld use a couple of different alphabets depending on the episode, usually Egyptian hieroglyphics. The show's explanation is that, having posed as the Egyptian gods, the Goa'uld influenced their writing system. In "The Light", we see another version of Goa'uld script consisting of curved lines.
      • Asgard writing consists of Norse runes, again explained by the Asgard posing as the Norse gods.
      • A couple of different episodes ("The Torment of Tantalus" and "Paradise Lost") give us Furling writing. The Furlings themselves were left a Riddle For The Ages.
      • The main alphabet of the Ancients consists of blocky runes. Also in the episode "Lost City, Part 1", Jack has the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into his mind for the second time. He and Daniel then work out that the symbols on the rim of the stargate are actually the letters of another form of the alphabet. Their resemblance to constellations is apparently the biggest coincidence in the history of the universe.
  • August 2, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • A parallel alphabet was devised for Dreamworks' Rise Of The Guardians, much of which appears on North's globe. Many of these denote landmarks, but some are Easter Eggs.
  • August 3, 2014
    bejjinks
    I prefer Artificial Alphabet because Artificial Script made me think of examples like Robin Hood Men In Tights when the characters pulled out their artificial scripts in the middle of the movie. How about Artifical Grapheme?
  • August 3, 2014
    eowynjedi
    Star Trek also has Vulcan script, which can be seen in the background and part of costume design of Vulcan characters.

    Videogames:

    • Spira, the setting of Final Fantasy X and its sequel, has three alphabets which cipher directly into English.- The signs and sentences written in the script are intelligible if the player cares to translate.

    -At least in the localized version. I don't know how they do the cipher in the original Japanese.
  • December 26, 2014
    eroock
    This is Con Lang. Anybody care to move examples over?
  • February 9, 2015
    Koveras
    ^ No, it's not. Ultima series uses an artificial script to write English words and sentences.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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