estrangela

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Estrangela is a real alphabet which is as exotic to most eyes as Tengwar. However, it has a more middle-eastern flavor rather than a fantasy flavor. I was motivated to pick Estrangela because I wanted to make the Emerald Tablet look right, and it is alleged to have been first written in Syriac, the language Estrangela is used to write. I'll post the tablet as a sample text when I've got it looking right, but that will be a while as I cannot get an estrangela font. If anyone happens to want to make one, some sample Syriac text and the two Syriac alphabets, estrangela and nestorian, are at [1] - or, if you point me to a free font editor, I'll do it.

(Strictly speaking (though the online doco is a little confused) there seem to be three variants: Estrangela, the original Syriac, used now only in titles; Nestorian, Eastern Syriac; and Serta --- descended from Estrangela, and western Syriac.)

Estrangela is a syriac script, written right to left like the related Arabic script. It has no vowels, but has traditionally used the mirror-images of the greek vowels. B/C it has no F, for my lojban Estrangela orthography I use the Arabic letter. Here are the correspondences.

[2]

  • F - Syriac has no F, so I used the arabic letter. Arabic and Syriac scripts are related.
    • Could you use Syriac teth? Pretty please? If anyone actually uses this, mixing Arabic and Estrangela will be a typographic nightmare. Done. The sounds aren't the same, but it's good enough.
  • J - The phonetic values are not the same, but it's closer than any other Syriac letter.
  • O - Lowercase omega looks like heth (x), but omicron is indistinguishable from waw (v). I went with the lesser of two evils.
  • ' - This is actually a glottal stop, but I had used the H sound already and there wasn't a /T/
    • But you've uses heth, not he. Right? Okay, I've replaced it with he. I had forgotten that one, I've only used syriac a few times.
  • If anyone knows of a free font editor that lets me save my work, I'll make a lojban estrangela font.

- la .kreig.daniyl.

Btw, the sample text on the website above is in Nestorian (which I personal think looks cooler --- because of course it's closer to Arabic). Since they encode the same language, an Estrangela proposal is almost a Nestorian proposal (modulo getting the vowel diacritics down.) -- nitcion

I don't know the vowels for Nestorian, which is why I've used Estrangela. I like the Nestorian consonants better also. - .kreig.daniyl.

http://www.assyrianlanguage.com is an online course on Assyrian = Syriac, which uses Nestorian. The vowels are detailed there. Nestorian vowels are handled basically like Arabic ones --- with diacritics.

A question to both you and Adam ((Hebrew Orthography): what about final and initial variants of consonants? Does your transliteration of Lojban use them? Why/why not?

Syriac, as defined on [3] does not include them. This is where I learned the alphabet, so I don't know the final and initial forms. If you would care to educate me...

Like Arabic and Hebrew, Syriac letters vary depending on whether they are at the start, middle, or end of a word. The site posted above illustrates this copiously for Nestorian.

This is true for Arabic and Syriac (Estrangelo, Chaldaic, Malabar-Syriac Syriac-Peshito), but not for Hebrew: unlike those, Hebrew has no "ligatures", hence just has final-variants for a few characters which are kaph, mem, nun, pe (fe) and sade. It has no variants for initial, middle and isolate characters. That's one reason for Hebrew - if at all! - being a suitable script for Lojban. Maybe the Mandaic script, in use for Aramaic, is comparable to Hebrew (and also uses aleph, yud and vav to designate all vowels!). Don't think that vowels are the main problem with Syriac scripts (one could use the vocalizing system created by Jakob from Edessa - with dots above or below the consonant - as well as that of Theophilus from Edessa - with Greek vowels put beside the consonants' *written* in columns and, turned crosswise, *read* from right to left). The problem is the four variants of each Syriac character! -- aulun

  • But, aulun, (since you actually know this stuff :-) --- it is true that Estrangela proper (as opposed to its offspring Serta) doesn't have positional variants, right? Or am I misreading things? The dot-system (which Nestorian uses) is what begat Hebrew vowel-pointing and Arabic vowel diacritics, right? -- nitcion
    • It does, though those variants don't look very differently. Yet, the problem being that they all will have to be used in order to make the script look right and pleasing - like e.g. the Arabic scripts. It is not a solution just to use the isolate types. (In Hebrew, even *not* using the couple of finals existing would be an aesthetic offense to the reader's eyes - the more with Arabic or Syriac scripts requiring the characters being tied together.) Maybe that Unicode Syriac "created" a merged font, didn't look at it, but I doubt whether that's the right way :( -.aulun.
      • Like I said below, the hoops Unicode has to jump through for Syriac are prodigious.

Indeed, implementing the positional variants for Syriac has proven a nightmare for Unicode. [On closer inspection, though, it looks like Estrangela did not have this kind of variation. '''Wrong: see above'''] Nevertheless Unicode Syriac merges all three script variants into a single set of character codes; see [4], section 8.3, for lots of details.