The Finnish Morphosemantic Script Project

Glyphs for Grammatical and Derivational Morphemes in the FMSSLexical glyphs for the FMSSA few years back, I started on a neography project for a script in Finnish. It was going to be morphemic in character—each glyph in the script would represent one Finnish morpheme. On the left and right you can see the results.

Finnish is an interesting language to try to turn into a logographic script. If compared with Chinese and Japanese, the two languages best known for using logographic scripts today, it resembles Japanese more. But, I suspect, because Japanese kanji and kana are borrowings from Chinese, there is also a distance created by the historical circumstances. In Japanese, only lexical words are written using kanji, and grammatical morphemes are written using phonemical scripts, the kana syllabaries. But what if it hadn’t been Japanese that borrowed the script from Chinese, but Chinese that borrowed it from Japanese? Well, we actually know the answer: Sumerian was a synthetic language with a logographic script, and it also developed a lot of phonetic elements. So the answer is: “well, not so different”.

But I am not constrained by reality, after all: I am a fantasist. There is no need to heed to dreary reality so closely. That is why the Finnish Morphosemantic Script was different from the Japanese system in that each glyph would represent a morpheme—including grammatical ones. I also avoided the use of phonetic elements.

I was able to create a large number of glyphs, and then I petered out. After starting with a list of the most frequent Finnish words, and branching out into almost all Finnish grammatical and derivational morphemes I could find and compile into a list, I must have felt that the script was “complete”, that the only thing left would be to create the unimportant bulk: all the thousands of glyphs that would represent less frequent lexemes and morphemes. Anyhow, I never finished it.

In retrospect, there’s a few things that I am now unsatisfied with. The first is, that most of the bound morpheme glyphs (black image) were completely abstract a priori creations. That is, when I created those glyphs, I just drew a random picture (mostly—some of them show clear signs of historical construction), without any consideration for how that kind of glyph would actually develop in a script like this.

Now that I’ve relaunched the whole project, I’ve decided to rectify this, and create every single glyph using some sort of historical development method. After an abortive attempt at using rebus for the first glyph, the root OL- ‘to be’, I’ve also decided to consciously avoid rebus at these early stages. Every glyph will be created based on some pictographic or semantic base. So instead of the OL- glyph being two simul-rebus glyphs combined (OLKI and OLKA, ‘straw’ and ‘shoulder-(blade)’), I went with a pictogram of a person pointing at two things simultaneously.

I will attempt to post on this blog information about this project every now and then. The original impetus to even register a new blog was an idea to create a Glyph-a-Day project: I would post one glyph per day, with its constructed history and development history. I may still go with the idea.

And to end this post, a progress report: the FMSS project has as of now about 67 glyphs, including variations and glyphs combined of other glyphs. Last glyph to be complete: “eläin”, ‘animal’. Technically, there shouldn’t be an independent glyph for ELÄIN in the project, because the word is derived from the root ELÄ-, “to live” (so it means “living thing”), but I thought the concept was too “strong” and the etymology oblique enough (though I will not always resort to this excuse) that it deserved a glyph of its own. Next glyph on the list: LIHA, ‘meat’.

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