Onmaqish Letters and Numerals OUTDATED VERSION
NOTE: THIS IS AN OUTDATED VERSION OF THE LANGUAGE. TO FIND THE UP-TO-DATE VERSION, SEE THE WIKI.
The OnKitabie culture is very focused on writing and language (their name meaning literally “taught by the book”) and as such the system by which they write is of vast importance to them. Not all are literate, but teaching letters and numbers is very important in upper class urban culture, and most city residents, especially within the borders of the Miktaban, will have at least a rudimentary understanding of writing.
The Onmaqish script is an alphabet, with each glyph representing a single phonetic sound, like in English. However, far less emphasis is placed on vowels, especially weaker (see the post on the language) ones like “i” and “e”, so writing of those is almost optional. Vowel marks as a whole have only been in use for about a hundred years, with readers simply relying on context and assumption beforehand. Even now, vowel markers aren’t considered letters themselves, but simply diacritics, which results in the script also resembling an abjad, rather than an alphabet, like Arabic.
Ignoring vowels, there are sixteen letters, corresponding for the most part with the consonant phonemes of the Onmaqish language (though “thiem” represents both the “ð” and “θ” sound, just like the “th” in English).
It is important to note that Onmaqish is read right to left, like Arabic or Japanese, rather than left to right, like English.
The alternate forms of ti, ingin, zif, shakhna, yam, fim, and ilik are the result of different writing styles evolving through the centuries, and while somewhat rare, you will see the occasional scribe prefer to use one over the other for one reason or another.
Beyond these letters, there are a handful of other symbols commonly used in writing, such as the vowel markers.
Going from right to left, ongin is a variation of ingin that has specific cultural meaning. This letter is only used in three contexts: when writing the word for teach “an”, for writing surnames, where it is always the first letter (as well as in the name “OnKitabie”), and finally for writing the name of God, which is Ongmil. It is usually, but variously, transliterated as “an”, “An”, “On”, and “Ong” depending on context. This is all derived from its use as the word “an.” Surnames mean “taught by ___”, such as Tajani’s surname, OnMaqibn, meaning Maqibn was Tajani’s teacher, and Tajani’s student would take the surname OnTajani.
mem is a word, the definite article of Idyllic-class nouns. The word would have originally been written as two mins written next to each other, which eventually morphed into the modern symbol for mem.
The last three are the vowel markers. kasa is the marker for the “a” sound, and is written raised compared to the surrounding letters. At the beginning of words it can extend down to the bottom of the line. fiema represents the “i” sound, and is written in line with the letters. Of the vowel markers, it is treated most like a letter. These two markers are pretty much always used in modern writing. The last and weakest is tish, which represents the “ɪ” sound, which is written lower relative to the other letters, and sometimes completely underneath. It is not always written, especially with more common words and words with other more powerful vowels. The “ə” is too weak of a vowel to have its own symbol, and is usually not written. In the rare cases where it is written, a tish is used.
Writing is usually done with a thin, ink-soaked brush or a wide-tipped reed pen dipped in ink, which is what gives the letters their swooping, thick lines. The hand is usually angled far down, to keep it from dragging over the writing while moving from right to left, and is meant to move is large, sweeping motions. Letters will often interlock together, especially those with prominent tails like ingin, akh, qam, yam, and ilik. Usually the scribe will write all the consonant glyphs and the fiema and then, once they’ve finished the word, go back over to add any necessary kasa and tish, since those lines are quickly and easily drawn between letters.
Here is a sample. Remember it’s read right to left. This reads “ib khanli yangtima shie mi miktab.” which translates to “I love to study at the library.” Notice the vowel markers; the kasa extend noticably above the line, the fiema are in line, and the tish descend. Also notice the lack of a tish in “yangtima” which would have been awkward to write between the ingin and the ti, and so was omitted.
Onmaqish numbers operate like Roman Numerals. There are seven symbols, as shown here:
Like other writing, they are written and read right to left, and like Roman Numerals, they operate in base ten and simply must be added up to determine the number they represent. Here is one through ten.
And then the higher symbols are used as necessary. The symbol for one, as shown above, is stacked to represent one through four, and then put above the next highest symbol to add to it. This means that these lines will always be present only at the end of any written number, since they only represent one through four. Here are a few larger numbers to demonstrate the pattern.
Congratulations! You can now read Onmaqish. Now you just have to learn all the words in order to figure out what it says.