Tag Archives: Tahano Hikamu

Some Blackletter-ish Doodling

I have been looking quite a bit at blackletter writing1 recently and I just randomly doodled around using Ayeri’s script, Tahano Hikamu, as a basis, today:

A blackletter-inspired adaptation of Tahano Hikamu
A blackletter-inspired adaptation of Tahano Hikamu

The letter 〈ba〉 is slightly difficult because it’s looking left whereas most of the other consonant characters are looking right. The difference between the placeholder consonant and 〈ra〉 is also very minimal, but that it is in the regular form (first rows) as well, plus similarity with 〈ta〉. I’m not perfectly happy with that 〈ha〉 either.

  1. Things aren’t perfectly angular yet in this period, i.e. the first quarter of the 13th century.

You’ve Got Mail

A while ago, David J. Peterson – prolific creator of languages for Hollywood – asked me about maybe providing him with a sample of my fictional language’s script for his new book, The Art of Language Invention. Since I’ve known David from fictional-language venues on the internet for a while and admire his relentless spreading the word that languages are fascinating things to explore (and also to build), I was happy and flattered about his request and sent something. And look what arrived in the mail today! In his book, David found some very kind words on Ayeri (among others):

To date, the best languages ever created were not created for television series or movies, but were created just for the joy of it – languages like […] Carsten Becker’s Ayeri […] — Peterson 15

Goes down like oil, as we say in German … (Heads up conlangers: any idioms in your languages that express feeling flattered?) And on Ayeri’s script, Tahano Hikamu, he writes:

I was aiming to create something that could sit alongside some of the other outstanding conscripts that had been created by conlangers, like Carsten Becker’s Tahano Hikamu […] — Peterson 249

Athdavrazar, David, thanks a ton!

  • Peterson, David J. The Art of Langauge Invention. From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building. New York: Penguin Books, 2015. Print.

Tagāti Book G, Graphite and TeXLive 2014

I updated my operating system to Ubuntu 15.04 ‘Vivid’ the other day and ran into trouble when I tried using my Tahano Hikamu font, Tagāti Book G. The issue was that XeLaTeX would ignore Graphite as the text rendering engine for this font in spite of my explicitly declaring it:

]{Tagati Book G}

The result was that none of the diacritics were aligned correctly, since the font is not configured for OpenType to handle them:

Demonstration of the bug in fontspec-xetex.sty 2.4a
a: Rendering as expected; b: Graphite ignored

After some research, it turned out that the bug is with the file fontspec-xetex.sty.1 Ubuntu 15.04 still ships with TeXLive 2014, which includes version 2.4a of it as a part of the fontspec package. In this version, there is a typo in the definition for Graphite which apparently makes it inaccessible through the Renderer option. You can read up on it in the bug report on GitHub.

Changing fontspec-xetex.sty according to the bug report and saving it under my home directory’s TeX tree at ~/texmf/tex/latex/fontspec/ to not overwrite the original file solved the issue for me. Another way to solve the issue for the time being is to include a snippet of code in your TeX file’s preamble that basically redefines the respective function.

The issue is already fixed in the latest version of the fontspec package, also in the version that’s available from CTAN, so I hope there will be an update to the fontspec package in the official Ubuntu repositories as well sometime.

  1. On my system, the path to the file is /usr/share/texlive/texmf-dist/tex/latex/fontspec/fontspec-xetex.sty, use kpsewhere fontspec-xetex.sty to find it, otherwise.

Pangram (revisited)

This is in continuation of an earlier post I wrote on trying to construct a pangram in Ayeri. I just played around with my dictionary a bit again tonight and came up with the following sentence:


‘So they shouted that the restaurant’s pig was quickly swallowed.’

This doesn’t make too much sense, but it’s grammatical (vaga ‘pig’ might better trigger neuter agreement on the verb, but whatever – let’s assume this is a boar), uses all consonant characters available in the Ayeri alphabet as well as the virama diacritic (‘gondaya’) only once, and no other diacritics are involved. Also, I didn’t have to make up new words specifically tailored to use up remaining consonants like last time: I admit, I had to make up daga ‘turtle’ in my previous article on pangrams for this purpose.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Ayeri!

Birthday cake (Photo: Will Clayton (spool32)/flickr.com
Happy Birthday! – Bahisley vesang mino! (Photo: Will Clayton (spool32)/flickr.com, CC-BY)

One day in December 2003, in the week just after the 1st Advent,1 the idea for a new conlang was born. An idea that turned out to stick with me for already 10 years now. You guess it: it’s Ayeri’s 10th birthday. Yay!

At that time, my 17 years old self was still fairly new to this whole making-up languages business, read things about linguistics here and there, and wasn’t shy to ask questions about terminology (and, looking at old mails, a little impertinently teenager-like so – sorry!), for example on CONLANG-L and the Zompist Bulletin Board. One thing seemed to catch my interest especially: syntactic alignments other than the NOM/ACC of the few languages I was familiar with, that is, German, English, and French. Apparently this curiosity was big enough for me to grow bored with my second conlang, Daléian (declared “quite complete” after maybe half a year of work or so), and to start something new from scratch in order to put newly acquired knowledge to test. I had read about “trigger languages” on CONLANG-L and wanted to try my hands on making my own. I can’t remember how long it took me to come up with a first draft of an Ayeri grammar, however, I do remember having been told that a good language can’t be made in a summer. Of course, I still didn’t really know what I was doing then, even though I thought I had understood things and authoritatively declared “this is how it works” in my first grammar draft when things sometimes really don’t work that way. But at least an interest had been whetted. Even now, after 10 summers and with more experience, I still come across aspects of my language that can use some work, clarification or correction, as the ‘blog’ page you can find on my website since March 2011 proves over and over again.

Just for fun, slight embarrassment and nostalgia, I went through some old backups contemporary with the very early days of Ayeri. Here is a sentence from the oldest existing document related to it, titled “Draft of & Ideas for my 3rd Conlang” – the file’s last-changed date is December 14, 2003, though I remember having started work on Ayeri in early December. I added glossing for convenience and according to what I could reconstruct from the notes. This uses vocabulary and grammatical markers just made up on the spot and for illustrative purposes; little of it actually managed to make it over into actual work on Ayeri:


‘He reads a book on the bed.’

According to the grammar draft of September 5, 2004, this would have already changed to:


‘He reads a book on the bed.’

Pinam ‘bed’ was only (re-)introduced on October 24, 2008. In the current state of Ayeri, I would translate the sentence as follows:


‘He reads a book on a/the bed.’

You can see, quite a bit of morphology got lost already early on, especially the overt part-of-speech marking (!) and animacy marking on nouns. Also, prepositions were just incorporated into a noun complex as suffixes apparently. Gender was originally only divided into animate and inanimate, but I changed that sometime because speaking European languages, it felt awkward to me not to be able to explicitly distinguish “he”, “she” and “it”. A feature that also got lost is the assignment of thematic vowels in personal pronouns to 3rd-person referents: originally, every 3rd-person referent newly introduced into discourse would be assigned one of /a e i o u/ to disambiguate, and there was even a morpheme to mark that the speaker wanted to dissolve the association. Constituent order was theoretically variable at first, but I preferred SVO/AVP because of familiarity with that. Later on, however, I settled on VSO/VAP. Also, I had no idea about “trigger morphology” for the longest time – I’m not saying that I know all about it now, just that I have a slightly better understanding … Orthography changed as well over the years, so 〈c〉 in the early examples encodes the /k/ sound, not /tʃ/ as it would today; diphthongs are spelled as 〈Vi〉 instead of modern 〈Vy〉. What was definitely beneficial for the development of Ayeri was the ever increasing amount of linguistics materials available online and my entering university (to study literature) in 2009, where I learnt how to do research and where I have a huge library available. Now I only wish I had the time to read all the interesting things I’ve downloaded and occasionally photocopied over the years.

One of the things people regularly compliment me on is my conlang’s script – note, however, that Tahano Hikamu was not the first one I came up with for Ayeri. Apparently, I had already been fascinated with the look of Javanese/Balinese writing early on; this file is dated February 9, 2004:

First Design for an Ayeri script.
First designs for an Ayeri script.

However, since the letter shapes in this looked so confusingly alike that I could never memorize them, I came up with this about a year later:

First draft of Tahano Hikamu.
First draft of Tahano Hikamu.

What is titled “Another Experimental Script” here is what would later turn into Tahano Hikamu, Ayeri’s ‘native’ script. According to the notes in my conlang ring binder, the script looked much the same as today about a year from then, but things have only been mostly stable since about 2008.

So what’s on for the next 10 years? For one, I’m still kind of embarrassed that I haven’t managed to provide a full-fledged reference grammar in all those years – what you can currently download from my website has been left unfinished for about 3 years now, since working on that grammar always becomes tedious again after newly found enthusiasm typically ebbs after a few weeks. Also, I have long meant to figure out either a proto language for Ayeri, or maybe daughter languages or dialects. However, I don’t really have any schedule or agenda, so I’ll continue to tinker on whichever aspect of Ayeri seems right at the time.

  1. That is the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

Tahano Hikamu and Handwriting?

My conlang’s ‘native’ writing system as it is presented here is more or less how I imagine it could look like if you adapted the characters for modern printing, so the character shapes are rather elaborate. What I’ve long wondered is how things might look like in day-to-day handwriting. That is, how could some things be simplified if you just want to jot down some notes? After all, you don’t want to sit and take ages to meticulously draw a word – at least in our modern world you wouldn’t want to. Hence – peeking at some documentation of the Ahom script in Hosken/Morey (5, 7) for inspiration – I came up with this chart, which most notably shows simplified versions of the consonant characters ⟨ta⟩, ⟨ba⟩, ⟨ga⟩, ⟨na⟩, ⟨la⟩ as well as some simplifications in the ⟨length⟩ and ⟨i⟩ diacritics:

Besides, since this posting is already on the topic of Tahano Hikamu, I tried mapping the vowels of English to Tahano Hikamu in a halfway consistent manner a while ago, just for fun, and with a winking eye to all the various attempts at reforming English spelling that come up every now and then. There may be some inaccuracies in this list due to the fact that I’m not a native speaker of English. There’s also not much caring about etymology, I just adapted the spellings according to the respective pronunciation I learned.

  • Hosken, Martin and Stephen Morey. “Revised Proposal to add the Ahom Script in the SMP of the UCS.” DKUUG Standardizing. 2012. Dansk Unix User Group, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 7 Aug. 2013. ‹http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC2/WG2/docs/n4321.pdf

Tagāti Book G Font is up for Download

Finally! After a couple of weeks of drawing characters (albeit in a rather lazy way) in February and March, and programming font features for the past couple of weeks, I decided to upload my Tahano Hikamu font to Github: https://github.com/carbeck/tagatibookg.

There’s still some things to improve, but for the most part, the font works now. Please be aware that this font uses Graphite and that not so many applications support that. Also, note that in order to use Graphite in Firefox 11+, you will need to activate it first.

The Github repository contains all files used in the making of the font so you can easily clone/download it. But if you really just want the font, you probably want to just

Download the ZIP archive

For some extra fun, here’s basically how I made it: See the video on Youtube

  • I had the ZIP file in my Dropbox ‘Public’ folder, however, Dropbox dropped support for the Public folder a while ago, so the link was broken. I fixed it now.

Some Work in Progress

I’ve been reworking my font of Tahano Hikamu since February now and also drew a hinyan version (“Tahano Hikamu Java”) completely from scratch. When I felt like toying around with these things again a couple of weeks ago, I started making the files functional with Graphite – that is, I added ways to handle diacritics and I’m currently working on getting dynamic diacritic replacement and character reordering right – this is so much easier and far less brain-twisting with pen and paper!

The whole thing is still messy and highly preliminary, which is why I won’t release any font files for download just now (please be patient). However, I’m kind of pleased with how this experiment comes along, so I wanted to share the link to my current testing page here as well and not just on Twitter.

There’s no version schedule, so it’s done when it’s done. Hopefully that won’t take too very long in spite of a pending term paper and other more important work. I’m looking forward to it, though, and so can you. 🙂