Alphabets and Writing Systems





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a guide  to the world's writing systems

The Roman alphabet

Currently all Bergonian languages employ the Roman alphabet.

Before the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the atrei had in use numerous alphabets, although the single alphabet in common use throughout pre-columbian Bergonia was one called Imonana.  However, when the Plagues killed off 80-90% of the atrei and disrupted native Bergonian culture, the surviving atrei became vulnerably susceptible to any forceful new influence, and many European elements as a result became embedded in subsequent Bergonian culture.

European conquistadors, missionaries, traders and settlers each aggressively attacked atrei culture in their own way.  The Catholic Church, particularly the religious orders, saturated Bergonia with missionaries, and by 1650 as many as a third of the surviving atrei had converted at least superficially to Catholicism.  The Church and the far less numerous Protestant missionaries translated the Bible into the atrei languages, using the Roman alphabet in most editions.  By 1650 France, Britain and Spain had completely subjugated and divided Bergonia, and installed colonial governments.  As a result of the European intrusions, the Roman alphabet came into wide usage, even for Minidun, Nacateca and the other atrei languages. 

In the first days of the Bergonian Republic, the national government and the military followed colonial practices for rendering the atrei languages, which was exclusively in the Roman Alphabet. 

All traders, bankers and business used either French or English or the native languages written with the Roman alphabet.  Atrei poets and novelists preferred Imonana.  In the first decades of the atrei cultural resurgence, primarily from 1750 to 1850, the use of Imonana rapidly increased.  During the 1800s many newspapers, journals and posters were printed in Imonana.  The preference for Imonana was often a protest against European influences.  However, with the increasing industrialization of the country after 1860, Roman clearly came to dominate the financial, commercial, governmental and military spheres, as well as the new urban culture.  

Establishment of public schools seemed to resolve the issue decisively in favor of Roman.  Since Europeans and Christians fairly dominated both school administration and the teaching colleges that produced the teachers, the public schools taught students to read and write the atei languages in standard Roman rendering, although they did expose the young students to Imonana.  This policy was justified by the belief that the use of one alphabet by all the nation's languages would increase mutual intelligibility and make learning second languages easier. 

In 1889 the National Academy of Languages endorsed the Unified Dictionary of Roman Spelling for all the atrei languages.  This created a final arbiter for a single standard of national communication.  

Since 1910 virtually all publications and all public documents have been printed in Roman.  All transactions are recorded using Roman, and all signs in public are lettered in Roman.  But most everyone knows Imonana, and the Imonana letters are still used often in art, design, special ornamental scripting, and by schoolkids passing notes in class.  

Rendering of Bergonian languages in the Roman Alphabet: 

A - as in ball, 

AI - as in bite,  

B - b,  

C as in cat,  

D - duh,  

DH as in then, 

E as in bet,  

EI as in bait, 

F - f,  

G as in gaggle of geese,

H - ho ho ho!  

I as in either bit or beat

J as in jet or giant. 

K as in Scottish loch.

L - l, 

M - m, 

N - n, 

O - as in bought, 

P - p, 

R - as in English, 

S - s, 

SH as in ash, 

T - t, 

TH as in thin, 

U as in boot, 

V - v, 

Z - z, 

ZH as in measure, 


This sound system is similar to the Romantic languages, though with many more diphthongs.


Systems of writing before Columbus

Throughout history the people of Bergonia have developed many, many writing systems.  In 1955 the prestigious National Academy of Linguistics and Symbology surveyed all Bergonian history and inventoried 879 alphabets and syllabilaries.  Many religious orders developed their own alphabets.  Secret societies also devised their own alphabets.  The dreaded Sutretonica, greatest secret society of all, used three alphabets of its own.

Early Nacateca Syllabaries

A syllabary is a system of writing in which the characters, rather than representing individual sounds, represent full syllables.  Hence, they employ many more symbols than alphabets, but are much more concise.  Japanese Katakana is considered a true syllabary, while a great number of South and Southeast Asian languages use syllabic alphabets. that use letters for consonants and diacritical marks to connote vowels.  Korean has been called a syllabary or syllabic alphabet, but it is really an alphabet of 14 consonants and 10 vowels used together to form syllable blocks.

The first system of writing appeared among the Kuan people of eastern Bergonia.  With a history of development that paralleled Egyptian hieroglyphics, it began a system of ideograms.  In its maturity, the characters had evolved into a standardized block style, consisting of long lines, short lines, circles, squares, triangles and crescents combined to form ideogramic symbols. 

The Kuans and later the Ceiolaians carved the symbols into wood blocks, which they bound together with twine or a long bolt.  They used the blocks to impress the symbols either into clay or with ink onto paper.

Syllabaries evolved among the Lasa cities of the Cuanta River Valley in the west of Bergonia.  The neighboring Ancita people of the western Ifuno plateau adopted these syllabaries.  By the time the prophet Ierecina emerged to unify all the Ancita tribes and establish the Shufrantei religion, one single syllabary had come into common use.  Ierecina's empire, known as the Subanei Empire, used this system, which went by the name Anctolona.

Aretoned, a hybrid system

The First Ceiolaian Empire used a system of writing called Aretoned (pronounced “ar-eh-toh’-ned”) which combined Kuan ideograms with phonetically based letters.  It mingled letters representing single sounds, letters representing syllables, and ideograms, sometimes even within a single word.  A single word might actually be written with a letter, a syllable symbol and an ideogramic symbol, all combined.  In a sense, while it was a pioneer effort at alphabetizing writing, the ideograms functioned as shorthand and notational symbols—in order to conserve writing space, ink or paint, and copying effort.  In an official dictionary published by one of the emperors to systematize recordkeeping by the empire’s prolific bureaucracy, 415 symbols were specifically sanctioned.


In the Shufrantei period, genuine alphabets evolved from the Nacateca syllabary.  In fact, the Shufrantei people came in time to employ numerous alphabets.  Priests used various alphabets within the privacy of their monasteries.  Traders, trading houses, banks, secret societies and clan lodges all made use of private writing systems, mostly alphabets.   Private alphabets had the effect of excluding others. 

The Imonana Alphabet

By the time of the Prophet Krathnami-- circa 1000 A.D.-- a single alphabet had come to dominate nearly all Bergonia, popularized by traders who wanted an improved medium for promissory notes, contracts, and other commercial documents.  This alphabet had adapted to all the dialects of Minidun, Nacateca and Pasan.  The alphabet went by the Minidun name Imonana.  By Tan times one could travel a city in any part of Bergonia and see the same Imonana letters in common use, as signs, as labels and on posters. 

With only minor variations, it has come down to us in modern times, though it has largely been replaced by the Roman alphabet in almost all general use.  But virtually everyone knows the Imonana letters.  People—even people of European descent—use Imonana in graphics, logos, art and design, and for decorative expression.

An ancillary system of ideograms developed to serve Imonana, a formal system of abbreviations for whole words, very much how European languages use the same handful of symbols (e.g. &, %, @,<,+) as occasional ideograms.  Yet these Bergonian ideographs, composed with the same lines & style, may serve in text as substitutes for the spelled-out words.  The ideograms in many cases have utility as sign graphics, something the cosmopolitan Bergonians worked to develop and improve over the centuries.   There were 125 commonly accepted such symbols.  These, as much as the Imonana letters, are still used for graphic purposes.  Hear are a few: