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 Post subject: D'ni alphabet questions
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:17 pm 
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So, I've been reading the Myst novels again, and every time the D'ni alphabet is mentioned, it's described a lot like a pictograph language (e.g. Chinese), as opposed to the phonetic language depicted here and that I've been trying to learn. The books describe taking a painstaking amount of time to learn "characters" and "symbols" for each word, and the Rehevkor is described like a giant, impressive tome--something like a kanji dictionary as opposed to a mere grammatical primer. (after all, Ti'ana was fluent in D'ni by the time Aitrus handed her the Rehevkor to study; so she already knew her grammar completely. If it was just a phonetic alphabet she had left to learn, it would not have been such a difficult thing requiring some secret and elusive book--Aitrus could have schooled her himself in the alphabet in the span of a week!)

Was D'ni originally meant to be a pictogram-based written language, and then got retconned into a phonetic alphabet for simplicity's sake? Or maybe what we know of as the phonetic alphabet of D'ni is more akin to the hiragana of Japanese, with something else (analogous to Japanese kanji) for nouns, adjectives, and/or verbs? Or maybe the ancient D'ni that the linking books are written in use an old pictogram-alphabet that was dropped in favor of phonetics in "modern" D'ni?

Has this been discussed before?

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:17 pm 
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Not sure if this is the answer you’re looking for, but the written language of the D’ni was different from the language they used when writing descriptive books. From what I’ve gathered here and there, the language used in The Art was much more complicated and involved symbols and such as you mention. The Rehevkor was related to The Art’s language, not the common written D’ni language.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:51 pm 
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Nicho is correct here - normal every-day D'ni would have been written in the familiar alphabet, while Writings related to the Art would be in whatever was used to write the Gahrohevtee, which seems to be a logographic script of some sort. Chances are, we'll never know what it looks like exactly.

When referring to the books, you have to take everything with a pinch of salt, due to the Wingrovisms. So, it's likely that Anna could in fact read D'ni, despite the book's claim that she couldn't before Aitrus taught her.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 1:17 am 
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Yes, David Wingrove seems to have been under the impression that D'ni was written in logograms. I don't know if this was an early rejected idea, confusion with the garohevtee, or what, but it does make ambiguous the nature of things like the Rehevkor and the Terahnee script that are only described in the novels.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 1:34 am 
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haha, I've never heard the term "Wingrovisms" before. I'm guessing this means that while the books are D'ni canon, they're not 100% accurate as such.

Considering that I've studied Japanese extensively, I keep thinking about this in terms of an analogy to that language. It would be akin to if Japanese was written exclusively in hiragana in the modern day, but the linking books were written in a kind of proto-Japanese that was still actually ancient Chinese, from which Japanese descended. It would definitely make the Art much more difficult to learn right off the bat, since not only do you have to learn specific kinds of rules as to what is written, you also have to spend considerable time learning the language itself. Where the Rehevkor falls into this, I wouldn't be exactly sure. It would have to be a primer on the more ancient form of the language used for linking books for its top-secret-to-outsiders status to really make any sense.

The language of Narayan, featured in Exile, was a logogram language, with some pretty elaborate and interesting circular symbols representing each word. I remember that originally Narayan was going to be a dialect of D'ni, but that wasn't ever made clear if it was one way or another.

I'm trying to remember if any symbols like that exist anywhere else in the Myst universe other than in the novels, but I can't really. There are some seals and things but they don't seem like logograms to me. I'll have to pay closer attention as I play through the games again.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 3:13 am 
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Everything is canon. You just have to remember that no two pieces of canon are 100% consistent with each other. :/

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:25 am 
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Adding some more wild guesses :mrgreen: there’s an old hypothesis that numbers and letters are derived from a common ancestor. The early D’ni writing system could have been ideographic; then at some point the numbers took one direction while every-day writing took another, somewhat like the hyeratic system developed from egyptian hyeroglyphs.

Another possibility is that D’ni ‘hanzi’ look more or less like mandalas, with or without the hanzi proper, as in the korean system; the D’ni script we know would then be limited by font technology (think ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ vs 한글), as Unicode wasn’t really around when Cyan made Dnifont.

I don’t remember anything about D’ni and Narayani being related. As for symbols, there are the colored eyes in Riven, but they only appeared there as far as I know.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:19 am 
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The possible common origin of D'ni numbers and letters reminds me of Roman numerals - they are normal Latin letters (IVXLCDM) connected using lines at the top and the bottom, similar to how D'ni numbers are (possibly) abstracted letters placed inside squares.

I can't quite imagine D'ni letters having a pictographical origin though. The way they are written seems more oriented towards being fluidly hand-writable with as few individual strokes as possible, especially with almost all letters having a line at the bottom. This makes me think of German Sütterlin handwriting - extremely hard to read for people used to printed Latin letters, but easy to write without having to ever lift the pen. D'ni letters aren't quite that extreme in their writability, but still seem to be more based on that than being visually similar to real-world objects

It is of course possible that D'ni letters are an abstracted form of the gahrohevtee that was "optimized" for handwriting. I think that's what korovev wanted to demonstrate in his previous post with the "condensed" and "separated" Korean glyphs - assuming that a gahrohev is a pictographical glyph, it could be separated into a few basic strokes/shapes, which then became "modern" D'ni letters. This makes the letter-number similarity seem unlikely, but the numbers could have even developed from the already simplified D'ni letters.

Coming to think of it, the squares around the numbers could have a practical origin as well. Basic calculations like addition and subtraction are easy to do by hand on grid paper, so perhaps it just became a convention to put number-letters in squares in all cases, even outside calculations.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 1:48 am 
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korovev wrote:
Adding some more wild guesses :mrgreen: there’s an old hypothesis that numbers and letters are derived from a common ancestor.

This is no mere hypothesis; it has been confirmed by RAWA himself. (Be sure to read the fine print ;) )

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:15 pm 
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dgelessus wrote:
The possible common origin of D'ni numbers and letters reminds me of Roman numerals - they are normal Latin letters (IVXLCDM) connected using lines at the top and the bottom, similar to how D'ni numbers are (possibly) abstracted letters placed inside squares.

Actually, Roman numerals seem to have originated in a fairly widespread tally system. It was only later that the resemblance to the Roman alphabet was noticed, and the entire symbol set adapted.

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