Friday, 31 October 2014

APPENDIX: The Mazemaker Writing System

By an astonishing coincidence, the Mazemaker spoken language is identical in all respects to modern English. The maze-like glyphs are a fully readable phonetic transcription of the spoken words.

To construct a glyph, begin with a five-by-five grid:

Each segment in this grid is a binary switch, being either filled with a wall or left blank. The writing is phonetic, and each sound to be transcribed is assigned a combination of five filled and blank segments. These form two lists: verticals, consisting only of consonants; and horizontals, consisting mostly of vowels but with some consonants.

Writing alternates between rows (from left to right) and columns (from top to bottom). To write, for example, the word ‘Mazemaker’, the scribe would begin, as always, with the top horizontal. Checking the list of horizontals, she would see that there is a matching symbol for the ‘M’, and would write that.

The next space for the scribe to write in is the leftmost vertical, but the ‘a’ sound is not in the list of verticals and so cannot be written there. A ‘null’ symbol is written in its place.

The next space is the second horizontal, and among the list of horizontals is the symbol for ‘a’ as in ‘say’. This is written down.

The second vertical gets filled with the symbol for ‘s/z’.

The first ‘e’ in the word ‘Mazemaker’ is silent and not transcribed. The third horizontal is instead filled with the symbol for ‘m’.

Again, this leaves our scribe unable to fill the next vertical, so a null is written.

The fourth horizontal can be filled with the symbol for ‘a’ as in ‘say’ as before, but with one
important difference. Writing ‘a’ here would close off a part of the grid, making that part of the maze inaccessible. Wherever filling in a segment would seal off a part of the maze, a dot should be written instead. 

The fourth vertical is filled with the symbol for ‘k’, with the first two segments replaced by dots to prevent those squares from being closed off.

The fifth horizontal is filled with ‘e’ as in ‘her’, with a dot added so as not to close off the middle square.

The fifth vertical is filled with the symbol for ‘r’, with the first two of its filled segments replaced with dots.

The word ‘Mazemaker’ has now been fully transcribed. The remaining horizontal and vertical are filled, sequentially, with null signs – five filled segments each. The same rule of substituting dots when a segment would otherwise seal off an area applies. Completing the grid gives the finished glyph.

Reading is a simple reversal of the process, remembering to treat any dots simply as filled-in segments.

For writing entire sentences, there is a degree of flexibility allowing the scribe to adjust for aesthetics and economy. The second ‘e’ in ‘Mazemaker’, though written fully in the example above, could easily have been dropped if space was at a premium. Polysyllabic words like ‘Mazemaker’ are usually given entire glyphs to themselves, with null-signs filling any unused spaces; splitting a long word between glyphs is avoided wherever possible. Two or even three shorter words can be made to share a glyph, with null-signs acting as spacers, or not, to taste.

Any apparent errors in the comic were inserted deliberately by the author to test you.