Conlang Writing Systems: Narahji

Fountain pens and conlang papers out on a table.
A Quattro pad with detached sheets. I really like the feel of this paper and how it behaves with the fountain pen inks I use. The grid design is perfect for working on my Narahji handwriting.

Over the past few months, I’ve been doodling sentences in Narahji while working on one of my writing projects. While I am definitely writing Ossia in English, occasionally I have to stop and think, “How would this actually be said in Narahji or the other conlang it’s actually spoken in?”

So I started playing with my Narahji script!

Before I get started with some fun stuff: The script is called Narahji, but it is used for most Ịgzarhjenya languages — the word Ịgzarhjenya refers to an ethnic, cultural, and linguistic group in my worldbuilding. The languages are actually quite different from one another. All of the below sentences say, Why does le feel this way (right now)? Will you (singular) ask?:

  • Důða nain purosayakpen? Hasasukdor? (Nasji)
  • Ðaveu naun burịlaben rị? Sakhozebralkhịg ćị? (Khessi)
  • Diphya nain burosælabe? Saözaịrraæ̈? (Narahji)

The script was developed in an area that would eventually become Narahji-speaking, though.

Some of the sentences I played with were based on passages from what I was writing at the time. Toma (Axopatomsa — Toma is a nickname) is the main character of the work I’m finishing up.

An example of text; note the caption.
The Narahji script says:

I am writing about Toma. Tomabhle matssa.
We are not understanding the truth. Ku otmi omohjuzyusbeneu.

Other sentences were more tangential to the work — Saämatsra, for example, is a god in the Ịgzarhjenya pantheon who is similar to what one would get if one were to combine Khronos and Apollon and add a bunch of stuff related to cosmology — the god of pulsars, the Beacon in the Eternal Night, Le Who Climbs the Ladder, Le Who Bears the Raiment of Infinity, the Devourer of All, the Hunter of Hours, the Lord of Time, and the Dancer. Saämatsra, when depicted in human form, is typically wearing the kinds of complicated robes that would test an artist or sculptor’s skill to make lifelike, with an androgynous face and very long braided hair, like ladder rope. I like Saämatsra a lot.

An example of text; note the caption.
Narahji text in both the Romanized and Narahji versions.

It reads:
Saämatsra will unbind ler hair.
Ku anä moru rịëlaịrrabägno Saämatsra.


An example of text; note the caption.
I blu ku bapheyatyasös dozozamịrra. Climb the ladder home. (Lit. Climb the ladder towards the interior of your ancestors’ house.)

Saämatsra is not the only god who presides over dance in this Ịgzarhjenya cultural worldbuilding. Dance is the office of Sayimga (also Zaimga or Zainga), one of the Divine Twins. The way I wrote the Narahji conlang script involved composing a myth about dancers and a writing system crisis in which the digital encoding used by the Ịgzarhjenya was targeted by a virus in a very clever way during a time when other people wanted to invade.

Sayimga has a sibling, Anumga (also Anmga or Anka), who presides over syllabaries, often extended to other types of non-alphabetical writing systems, among a variety of other things — diplomacy, geometry, sailing, climbing, domestic policy, familial duty, friendship, and philosophy. Sayimga presides over alphabets, sacred dance, diplomacy, mathematics, and the sky.

The story of the Narahji alphabet is the story of moving from one symbolic mode to another — the House of Anumga to the House of Sayimga, brought together in their temple.

The script works this way, too. In times of paper shortages, the vowels were written so that they could “squeeze” into the consonants and save space; they oscillate between Sayimga and Anumga’s spaces.

All conlang scripts I’ve made are some variant of right-to-left (RTL). Tveshi is RTL and bottom to top, and Narahji is just RTL. From a practical perspective, I’m left-handed and much prefer writing that way — I wrote in mirror-reverse until my preschool corrected me, I loathe most pencils, and I use fast-drying fountain pen ink.

For a long time, I struggled with creating a good script. A few years ago, after building the myth about the script itself, I did a quick prayer to Hermes and Seshat one evening. (I’m a polytheist; I pray a lot about writing.) It took me under 2 hours to finalize a workable version of the conscript after legit a decade of angst.

Seshat, an Egyptian goddess, is the Mistress of the House of Books and the one who keeps the red and black ink — and so, playfully, I translated I am writing in the house of ink into Narahji.

An example of text; note the caption.
The image above shows the Narahji script form of the text, which literally means, “I am writing in the place of [type] ink.”

The Narahji is, “I bexa ku tịvamu matssabe.”

Incidentally, #amwriting hashtag would be #matssabe — the pronouns are in the verbs, so “I am writing now” is all in that one verb.

The rendering of matsit + -ssa to make “I write” is a bit aesthetic in the Romanization. The “ts” is its own sound and has its own character, and the s is doubled. But then that would be matsssit Romanized. That looks like a typo, so I didn’t do it.

In the story of Narahji script, seven dancers solved the script problem. They danced in the temple, and scribes made new characters based on their movements. This did not ultimately stop the invaders, but it did help the Ịgzarhjenya retain most of their territory when the opposing forces invaded.

I’ve always loved script-like doodling. When my dad was remodeling our house (when I was a kid), when the staircase wall was still bare, I wrote all over it with fake script symbols based on all scripts I’d been exposed to. Conlanging gives me an excuse to standardize and have a lot more fun with it.

Here’s a bit more fun.

An example of text; note the caption.
Manhjerrzaịrru ëin lexai nen tädonas knipssa. You taught me, and I am mastering it.

“Tädonas knipit” means, “to flow via gain” — a fun phrase.
An example of text; note the caption.
Dokbuhja yozaịts omtehj xai ku goti åtsu æ i tsenuad åtsu mohjuzyu omtehj. You need to know where you come from to know who you are and where you will be.

Lit. You need to know the place you come out of and need to understand your identity and your destination.
An example of text; note the caption.
Ku kolnisxus lofnælaịrru ku dåmso. The scream cut through spacetime (lit. “timeweave”).

The reason there are two pieces of paper in this image is that I screwed up writing this out so much that I had to move to a new sheet.