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Monoscripts

Contents

Monoscript Definition and goals for this Page

Philosophical Inspiration for this Page

Philosophical Considerations of Script Design

Social Requirements of Script Design

Social Problems of Script Design

Technological Goals of Script Design

Technological Restraints of Script Design

Sample Scripts (in alphabetic order)

We would very much like to add here any additional monoscripts that we can find that follow the rule
"of one character per phoneme
and one phoneme per character",
no matter in what language they be written.

Please tell us of where we may find downloadable representations of such fonts. Email to:

language@webpal.org



Monoscript Definiton and goals for this page

This page deals with the subject of what we define as Monoscripts. Monoscripts are tactile or visual representations of language in which

each phoneme is represented by a single symbol
and each symbol represents a single phoneme.
This page is very much a work in progress.
Critiques, additions, and so forth - for the following sections -
will be very much appreciated.
Email to:
language@webpal.org



Philosophical Inspiration for this Page

The inspiration for the founder of the World Language Process came from the Baha'i Teachings on Universal Language. The term 'universal language' or 'auxiliary universal language' is most often linked in the Baha'i Writings with the word 'script'. Indeed the word 'script' appears over thirty times in the raw quotes. A typical sampling would be:

    [94] "We foresee that eventually, the world cannot but adopt a single, universally agreed-upon auxiliary language and script to be taught in schools worldwide, as a supplement to the language or languages of each country."

    (Bahá'í International Community,
    1995 Oct,
    Turning Point For All Nations)

    [87] "A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature,"

    (Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era,
    Page 280)

    [9] "The selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use: one of two signs of the maturity of the human race,"

    (Notes:
    The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
    Page 163)

    [6] "The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. These things are obligatory and essential. It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.... That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth."

    (Lawh-i-Maqsud (Tablet of Maqsud)
    in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh,
    Pages 166-167)

    [8] "O members of parliaments throughout the world! Select ye a single language for the use of all on earth, and adopt ye likewise a common script."

    (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
    Page 88)
The significant concept being considered here in these, and similar quotes that could be presented, is the emphasis upon a script in addition to, and in distinction from, the language. It is for this reason that this page with its links is devoted to the concept of scripts. Whatever motivations others may have for seeking to design a universally acceptable script - the above quotes are the inspiration for this writer.



Philosophical Considerations of Script Design
    [26] A friend enquired concerning Bahá'u'lláh's prophecy in the Words of Paradise, that a universal language would be formed, and desired to know if Esperanto would be the language chosen. "The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost," he answered, "but no one person can construct a Universal Language. It must be made by a Council representing all countries, and must contain words from different languages. It will be governed by the simplest rules, and there will be no exceptions; neither will there be gender, nor extra and silent letters. Everything indicated will have but one name. In Arabic there are hundreds of names for the camel! In the schools of each nation the mother tongue will be taught, as well as the revised Universal Language."
    ('Abdu'l-Bahá in London,
    Page 94)
From my philosophical paradigm I therefore subscribe to the following points:
    1. It must be made by a Council representing all countries

    2. must contain words from different languages

    3. It will be governed by the simplest rules

    4. no exceptions

    5. no gender

    6. no extra letters

    7. no silent letters

    8. one name for everything

Some of these points apply to the language and others to the script. They are both admittedly intimately intertwined. First, however, I will present my thinking on each of these points:
    1. It must be made by a Council representing all countries

      First, I should mention, that there is leeway in interpreting the guidance of all these points, because the quoted source is what we call pilgrims' notes and does not have the weight of scripture or religious law. Nevertheless, the points themselves make common sense.

      Secondly, the authoritative declarations mentioned in an earlier section, stated that the language could "either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages".

      Thirdly, since in this case we are examining the 'invented' option, the operative statement was "no one person can construct a Universal Language".

      Fourthly, we may therefore take the meaning of being "made by a Council" as that of being "selected, chosen, adopted" by a duly representative Council (a recognized and accepted world governing body - by whatever mechanism it may come into existence) that is "representing all countries". For it to be "representing all countries" does NOT mean either that ALL countries have a seat upon it, or that all will be in agreement with its decision. Fifthly, while the authority will rest with such a 'Council' to 'authorize' the language, the actual mechanics of the language and script selection may be made by an authorized committee itself selected in a method approved by the 'Council'.

        A committee appointed by national bodies of learning shall select a suitable language to be used as a medium of international communication. All must acquire it. This is one of the great factors in the unification of man.
        (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 182)

        A committee appointed by national bodies shall select a suitable language to be used as a means of international communication. Every one will need but two languages, his national tongue and the universal language. All will acquire the international language.
        ('Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, Page 27)

    Sixthly, and I only mention this, because while otherwise should seem obvious, there are still those who have suggested that the phrase "invented or chosen" contains an "exclusive" rather than an "inclusive" 'or' and therefore prevents the modification of an existing language. This argument would then hold that a language like English, if selected, would have to be taken 'in toto' and that none of its faults could be remedied, and that only an 'invented' language, if that option were selected, could meet all the criteria, because no natural language does. One would think that it would seem patently obvious that the process of "inventing" can follow any path that a committee might choose and that there is nothing saying that they must begin to make the language out of 'whole cloth'. One might think that is patently obvious - but obviously it isn't.

    Seventhly, in light of all the foregoing, the status at the moment is one of studying and examining solutions, criteria, options, merits and shortcomings of all proposals that meet the criteria. In this way we hope to become aware of creative ideas so that we may prepare meaningful proposals and critiques when the appropriate time and opportunity comes.

2. must contain words from different languages

    On this point too, there have been some interesting interpretations and speculations. Some feel that this indicates that the language needs to be a hodge-podge of all other languages. That some how it should be 'representative' of all the languages and cultures on the earth. That each of the hundreds of different languages (whether living or dead is usually glossed over) should have words included. Some would base the representation upon the populations speaking that language, in which case some of the Chinese dialects might play a prominent role, but at least a half-dozen Swahili words, and so forth, would get included.

    I look upon the requirement as having two intents. First, because there is a wide spectrum of cultural requirements, there need to be words that satisfy the requirements of every culture. For example, in some Whorfian sense there needs to be terms that explain familial and other relationships that are present in one culture, but absent in another. A Middle Eastern Arabic culture may have need of more words for dealing with camels, than say an Inuit culture, and the latter may have more specific requirements in dealing with snow than does the former. Consequently, beyond some basic root vocabulary, a wide variety of terms from other languages need to be accommodated.

    Secondly, what I see indicated here, is that this is a statement of attitude regarding the cross-cultural terms for various concepts. It is the opposite attitude of what has been a pattern in the adherents and proponents of a number of languages who opposed taking in foreign words. Most everyone has heard the examples of alternative expressions that have been proposed in languages as diverse as French, Latin (by the Catholic Church), Japanese and elsewhere to avoid American expressions such as beefsteak, motorcycles, and fax machines.

3. It will be governed by the simplest rules

    There are many linguists who are repulsed by the idea of a language with simple rules of grammar and syntax. Many languages have very elaborate systems where noun and verb endings must be in agreement and that there are very circuitous methods of expressing concepts or what is really meant.

    Whatever benefit there may be, in such subtleties in expressing abstract or mystical ideas, often garnered by having been immersed in a particular culture, what is being proposed here is a universal auxiliary language that in its simplicity can be mastered cross-culturally throughout the world.

4. no exceptions

    For a natural, idiomatic and dynamic language like English, such a restraint makes the language into what native speakers would consider to be a pidgin. However, this oddness of sound has partly just do to with what one is used to, and it may also be indicative of the requirement for more specific, though simple, rules.
5. no gender

    We are speaking here for nouns in general. El paper and la pen obviously create an unnecessary linguistic burden for the learners. However, it may well be that we need a more gender-neutral language than what English has been in the past. Trends in this direction have become apparent in the last two decades. Chairperson instead of chairman or chairwoman, mail carrier or postal worker instead of postman, police officer instead of policeman, fire fighter instead of fireman, and so forth.

6. no extra letters

    This and the next rule apply directly to the subject of scripts. If we are to say that scripts simply define how the letters are shaped or formed and that the nature and number of the letters is already determined by the alphabet, then this just again shows the close relationship between the language and its script.
7. no silent letters

    All that has been stated for the previous rule, can then be asserted again for this one. In summary what we are truly saying is that there must be one and only one letter for each sound. That is really our only requirement for a script, although these two requirements regarding 'letters' do seem to exclude some 'pictographic' / 'conceptual' form of writing such as found in Chinese ideograms.

8. one name for everything

    This is a somewhat curious requirement. We are all familiar with synonyms such as 'sofa', 'divan', 'couch', 'chesterfield', but to the connoisseur of furniture there may be a difference. The Inuit may have a variety of words, and see a variety of distinctions, in what others might just call 'snow'. However, what we are talking about here is a basic vocabulary for a universal auxiliary language. A language to be used in diplomatic, commercial, and cultural exchange. The purpose here is to remove ambiguities and cross-cultural conflicts so that in a contractual situation one party does not use a term meaning one thing and the other substitute a different word supposedly having the same meaning. The point is - that thing, concept, idea, should have one specific name.

    On the other hand, the opposite is not at all the case, that a word will have a single meaning. Many words have a great variety of different meanings. Their meaning is determined by their context. A 'head' on a ship is quite different from the 'head' of a company, or a 'head' of water, or 'head' of sheep, or many other possible meanings of the word. In the English language, or at least in the Oxford English Dictionary lexicon, there are said to be about 750,000 words. This depends, however, upon how one defines what is a word, because by other definitions there could be millions. Is sheep as a singular and sheep as a plural the same word? What about dog and dogs, or man and men? Computers distinguish between capitalized and uncapitalized words. Are words to be identified by their spelling or their usage? Are Tom is the 'head' of the committee and Tom will 'head' the committee the same word? And most of all, as in the previous example about the different meanings of 'head', is head in that case one word - or many different words, and if we are to say that a word is its meaning, then there may be as many different meanings for any word as there are people, or even some multiple of that because it is quite possible that many people will assign different meanings to a word that others see as having only one meaning.

    The point of this rule, therefore, was not the abstract and mystical ability to assign different meanings to words, but that everything expressed in the universal auxiliary language should have one and only one word that denotes that thing, object, idea or concept. On the other hand, any word may denote many things, objects, ideas or concepts. It may seem that this too could lead to confusion - but the latter distinctions are based upon context.

    One final observation, as to this rule as stated, is that once again, if it were not possible to modify an existing language, no existing language would be a candidate because it would not now meet this requirement. The very suggestion about existing languages being candidates could then be seen as somewhat akin to the Baha'i view on polygamy, which is permitted if one can treat their wives equally, but since it is impossible for anything to be exactly equal it is in fact therefore not permitted.

In summary then, what we have expressed here is a philosophical attitude towards language and script design that is universal in its intent - meaning that it should have both universal utility and acceptance (the role of the Global Councils and Committees), that it is not culturally neutral, nor culturally biased, but is rather cross-culturally supportive (the requirement for the acceptance of words / ideas from all languages), that is supportive of social maturity in regards to the sexes (its gender neutrality), that is scientifically constructed (the requirement for consistency and simplicity in its rules), and that is socially structured in its meanings such that it will facilitate comprehension and unity and will avoid misunderstandings and contention.

This particular set of philosophical requirements, as stated, has its roots in the Baha'i philosophy, but if there are any parts of it that someone finds contentious then the present writer would be appreciative if they would explain their reasons. On the other hand, if there are any readers who feel that the criteria needs to be extended or supplemented in some manner - then the present writer would also like to hear of that.



Social Requirements of Script Design

The two primary social requirements for any script design are:

    1. Acceptability
    2. Utility
If a script is not accepted, then it makes no difference how great its utility might theoretical be - because it will not be used.

If a script is accepted, that is to say implemented, through some social mechanism, but has low utility, then that will result in great social and economic costs. This is particularly true if the duration of the implementation is very long term, or perhaps ended only by some further social revolution in the far distant future.

In the following sections we will discuss those social factors that may cause a script to not be accepted AND those technological factors that may increase of decrease its utility.



Social Problems of Script Design

First and foremost, that which may cause resistance to the acceptance of a particular script, are issues of cultural heritage.

Is it a foregone conclusion that a phonemic script (like ANJeL) rather than an ideographic script (like Chinese) is required? I think that it is, but influential social / cultural powers in some Global Council may disagree. Nevertheless, the trend in cultures that have ideographic systems has been towards developing phonetic systems of representation because of ease of typesetting, data storage and especially retrieval [which is very important to scientific / information based societies]. Still, ideographic systems also have their advantages in that they are cross-dialect communicative and that they are perhaps more suitable to the communication of some types of abstract concepts.

Assuming, that that the phonemic script path is selected, there remains still a variety of other language / social concerns arising out of the nature of the language to be represented. Once more we must ask whether it is a foregone conclusion that the chosen or designed language will not be a 'click' language as used by some African tribes, or a 'tonal' language as used by the Chinese? The requirements for character / script representations in those, or other 'exotic' languages would surely be different than the requirements of an Indo-Germanic rooted language.

This now brings us to a second category of social concerns regarding script / character selection. There are many other social issues, such as compatibility with deaf and native signing, Braille or other representation [such as pressure scanners] for the blind; signaling; efficiency of use and display; representation by the less physically adept [children, handicapped, and aged]; recognition by those with limited visual capability [physiologically in young children and the failing sight of the elderly] and probably still many other such social issues that special interest groups will identify.

Last, but certainly not least, will be the social concern with the economic cost of implementation. Questions as to upon whom these costs will fall, and questions of equity as to who should bear them along with questions as to how they may create additional social barriers among those groups that are already disenfranchised. While the latter themselves may be un-influential in protesting, those elements that may claim to speak upon their behalf - could be quite disruptive to any process of seeking unanimity and effecting implementation.



Technological Goals of Script Design

Freed of concerns about social restraints, engineers and technicians may well try to establish criteria for some 'utopian' script. These might well include:

    a. Distinguishability of each character from other characters
    b. Recognizability of the character (say at a distance)
    c. Relationship of letters to one another for cursive writing
    d. Fewness of strokes per letter
    e. Economy of horizontal space in representation of the letter
    f. Economy of vertical space
      (perhaps elimination of ascenders and descenders)
    g. Compatibility to various font representation (bolding, etc.)
    h. Ergonomics of recognition (eye scanning and so forth)
    i. Ergonomics of writing (less removal of pen from paper)
    j. Aesthetics as to appearance
In some respects, this last point, although it may be hotly contested by calligraphers, possibly justly deserves last place. As has often been stated- beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is often just a matter of what one is culturally accustomed to in food, music and scripts as well. There exist in the world, great varieties of script representations [a few of which are on our webpal pages] but which in the world's great variety sometimes consist of those which have only vertical, horizontal, or right angle lines, with or without combinations of circles and other strokes. While to the western eye many of those kinds of scripts seem very unusual it is probably just a matter of what one is used to.



Technological Restraints of Script Design

Scientists, engineers, inventors and designers do not usually start with a clear slate. They are bound in many ways by the technologies and conventions of the past. The degree to which society and circumstances will allow them to throw over that which has gone before will determine to a large degree how creative, and utilitarian, the new system can be in light of the state of technological art.

Function creates form. Not just function in terms of the desired goal and purpose but also function in terms of the technology available. While social revolution may to a degree sweep away attachment to the past, the old social concepts still remain the standard for judgment of the new. Moreover, the old technology remains as that which must be built upon.

New scripts and new fonts may appear, but they will still appear on the old devices of Cathode Ray Tubes, Photographic Film, and Cellulose Material. Their generation will also be largely by electron guns, photo-light sources, and rollers spreading ink. While script designers may be aware of cutting edge technologies in plasma, laser, and ink jets, accompanied by fiber optics for transmission and thin films for display, they will be largely unable to dictate which technologies will be used and will have to ascertain that the scripts that they select are compatible with those technologies currently in use.

Any major script change will render obsolete large bodies of typesetting and font display equipment. Hardware such as typewriters will often be so inflexible that they cannot be modified to function with any script that involves radical changes from the system for which the hardware was originally designed. Even more flexible film based equipment can be challenged by new requirements of spacing and alignment. Still, supposing that these challenges are not overly arduous, the mere manufacture and distribution of new script and font masters for photo-imaging machines, and new character generators for electronic and matrix based machines, will create very substantial costs and cause a barrier to their rapid use and acceptance.

Awareness of the technological constraints, imposed by the machinery of reproduction, is but the one set of technological criteria facing the designer. The other set of technological criteria is that imposed by the goals envisioned for the script. As in all engineering design issues there are usually opposing goals for which there needs to be found a balance. These are sometimes difficult to identify and it is the engineering skill and insight that can recognize the conflicts and the wisdom to find the balance that distinguishes the creative and admirable designer and design from the pedestrian. Here I can offer only a few token examples of that of which I speak.

    1. Thin lines and details that would be
      significant and attractive
      in a billboard size
    may be indistinguishable in minute print.

    2. Ornate strokes that may be seen as aesthetic

      by those appreciative of calligraphy
    may be difficult or awkward to reproduce
    by the less skilled.

    3. The use of color to distinguish components

      while expediting readability where used
    may not be available in monotone situations.

    4. Variety of distinguishable form such as we presently see

      in bolding, italicizing, underlining, caps, etc.
    may be difficult to reproduce within all circumstances.

    5. Variation in stroke density, while perhaps again both

      communicative and aesthetic
    may be difficult in some circumstances to reproduce -
      such as in dot matrix and other situations.

    The challenge to find a script that will be universally representable in:
      handwriting or icing strokes on a birthday cake
      pixels on a CRT captioning line
      segments (think of your digital clock)
      large photo-imaging such as on billboards
      minute engraving on the inside of a ring
      marching bands in stadium formations
      skywriting
    and all the other variety of medium that we presently see - will undoubtedly be substantial.

There is an interaction between scripts and fonts. What distinguishes one letter from another letter, and makes it recognizable and identifiable although seen in different fonts, is the purview and domain of the script designer. The further aesthetic embellishment, and perhaps increased usefulness, of that script, while still retaining its distinguishing features, is the purview and domain of the font designer. Our purpose here is to raise the call for script design, and while the script designer should have concern for the needs of font designers, we can leave the field of opportunities for font design to future generations.



Bett50

This is a monoscript because the intention is that letters associated with a period would actually have a dot above the letter.



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