From Sateu to Amansard
A story of warding off evil, palatial trade and bored scribes
Anthologica Universe Atlas / Universes / Hzdhavaramheli / The languages / From Sateu to Amansard

This article deals with the birth and evolution of writing in the Hellesan archipelago and its spread throughout the Megadelanean world and Bredezhanya.

The Satic language or Sate is the name given to a protohistorical language spoken in the Hellesan archipelago millenia ago. Sate was very probably the language spoken by Dainas, the mythological hero that fought in the War of the Gagants and ruled the waves from Labrindi, in Caledia. It is precisely Caledia, this Hellesan island, where we found the oldest remnants of the Satic writing, a collection of pictograms that evolved into hieroglyphs with profilactic and apotropaic uses. Not yet a writen language, although properly adapted and simplified, these hieroglyphs were turned circa 480 bmr into a syllabographic writing, Sateu 1, an alphasyllabary supported by other logograms and ideograms that made possible the palatial socioeconomic world that was the Satic civilization.
    Sateu 2, evolution of Sateu 1, was used to write the late Satic language (sometimes referred to as Neosatic) as well as other languages developed or brought by foreign peoples in a series of invasions that put the definitive end to the Satic civilization and the Megadelanean Bronze Age world. Among these languages we find the tongue that gave birth to Archaic Peran, Festian, although the other Hellesanic tongues (Ostravian, Frigolian, Ambrusc and Sargonic) were merged with the new language some centuries later, during the Ancient and Middle Peran stages. Sateu 2 noticeably reduced the number of glyphs taken from Sateu 1, favoriting their use as pure letters, although a set of syllabograms was still used for some centuries to represent certain sounds. By the time of Ancient Peran Sateu 2 was abandoned, not without being converted into a full alphabet, the now known as amansard sardanyís "Sardanyese alphabet", since Sardens were the people who gave it its current shape to write their own language, Sarden.
    The Amansard alphabet, with less than 30 letters, was easy to use and memorize, and it quickly spread throughout the Megadelanean basin thanks to the impulse of Peran trade routes and colonization, first, and the civilizing efforts of the Sarden Empire, later. The style used in stone monuments, always carved, was named sentival. Nowadays the Amansard alphabet is used in different regional variants, including an impure abjad. The alphabet used to write Hellesan is the one derived from the sunchí writing, the style developed by scribes during the Misty Years.

Sateu 1


Caledian hieroglyphs are a set of undeciphered hieroglyphs found in Caledia and other Minean islands, mostly inscribed in ashlar and carved into precious stones. It is generally assumed that they were used to ward off evil and as masonry marks, but the complexity of the system and the fact that it was assisted by simple symbols that seem to be ideograms, forcibly points to a writing system to represent a language. There are various inventaries made by Ficarott (3531) and Lavalet (Caledian Inscriptions, 3577), the most recent and complete being that of Meiari (3601).
    By 480 bmr the hieroglyphs were simplified and converted into a syllabographic writing, a semisyllabary that combined symbols for five vowels and a combination of these with certain consonants. The semisyllabary was assisted by a set of logograms, representing concrete, tangible, things, and ideograms, representing abstract ideas.
    This is the system known by archaeologists and historians as 'Sateu 1'.

The syllabograms


Sate used a set of almost one hundred syllabograms of which 72 have a pretty well known value. Despite being conjectural these values are accepted by most scholars.
    In the tables below, the glyphs appear in four columns: glyph, romanization, original hieroglyph, and deduced phonetic value.

Main syllabograms


The basic set of Sateu 1 glyphs has 60 symbols to represent five vowels (romanized a, e, i, o, u) and a combination of these with certain consonants (romanized na, ne, ni, no, nu, ma, me, mi, mo, mu, ra, re, ri, ro, ru, sa, se, si, so, su, za, ze, zi, zo, zu, pa, pe, pi, po, pu, ta, te, ti, to, tu, da, de, di, do, du, ka, ke, ki, ko, ku, ja, je, ji, jo, ju, wa, we, wi, wo, wu).

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The r series probably represented two liquid consonants: [ɾ] and [l]. This is taken to reflect a loose differentiation between both consonants, or perhaps just glyph economy. It's also possible that there was a difference among dialects, with some having [ɾ] and others [l]. Being sonorants they are quite abundant, and appear in words that give these liquids in Peran, like Sate ru-nu rūnu "heart", from which Peran leunu derives, with the same meaning, the source of Hellesan lhò; as well as Sate ru-u-ma rūma "seven, 7", which gives romas in Peran, Hellesan rom.

It's possible that the d series doen't represent [t͜θ] in all cases, since some evolutions of words show a dy [dʲ] that gives place to z [z - d͜z] in Middle Peran. The exact phonetic value of this series is dubious.

Syllabograms of series j and w present a variety of uses that must be explained clearly:

In ja, je, jo, ju semivowel [j] is represented followed by the respective vowel when the syllabogram appears at the beginning of a word. In the former such cases are not very common, though, appearing in a few words that are thought to be loanwords. There are no words starting with ji; it's obvious that in such case the glyph is reduced to i.

The same happens with wa, we, wi, wo, these being more common than the j series, although wa and wi are much more common that the other two. There are no words starting with wu, since in such case it's reduced to just u.

In the middle of a word ja, je, jo, ju, wa, we, wi, wo represent the second vowel of a hiatus. In the case of the j series the preceding syllabogram will end in i (ka-pa-ri-ja Khaparia; ru-di-ju rudiur "dragon"), and for the w series the preceding syllabogram will end in u (ru-we rue).

ji and wu were used, respectively, to represent semivowels [j] and [w] in diphtongs (a-ji-ka-re aikare "water"). There are cases of wu in the middle of word that stand for [w] followed by a liquid consonant. For example, ra-wu-nu raurnur "beast, wild animal", from which a-ra-wu-na araulnas "lion".
    They were also used to represent palatalization and labialization of certain consonants. So, for example, ka-ji-a-ne-za begins with the palatalized velar plosive [kʲ] and therefore is romanized kyanezas, but in a-ji-ka-re the first two syllabograms stand for [aj]. On the other hand, in ku-wu-e-te-na the first three syllabograms stand for [kʷe], but this word is also attested as ke-wu-te-na, a shorter variant that shows Sate's tendency to represent palatalized and labialized consonants with the semivocalic element after the vowel that in fact precedes; in both cases the word is romanized kwetenas [ˈkʷetenas].

Additional syllabograms


Beyond the regular set of syllabograms we have a few more whose exact values and transliteration is dubious. They have in common  a later appearance (between 100 and 150 years after the emergence of Sateu 1) and the fact that are little common when compared with the basic symbols. They derive as well from the Caledian hieroglyphs, and experts conclude that they represent certain emphatic variants of the liquid, bilabial plosive and velar plosive series.

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It is believed that he, an uncommon symbol, represents a vowel preceded by a laringeal sound, probably [h]. This sound doesn't seem to have other glyphs in Sateu 1, and in Sateu 2 it's only attested in he. As a phoneme it disappears in Peran leaving vowels in its place, essentially [e:]. It is possible that in Sate this sound was considered not a true consonant but a variant of [e] or that vowel pronounced with a certain emphasis. It is worth noting that this syllabogram always appears in two positions: as the first syllable in a word and as the last one; in this case it is considered to be a plural or dual mark (jo-po-pa-he iopopai "breasts" → Peran oipapē → Hellesan ebè).

The explanation for ro2 when there's already another syllabogram with that value (ro [ɾo / lo - ʙo]) may be dialectal, since this symbol is very abundant in artifacts and tablets found in Tadarca, Midarca and some of the Tissedes and Martones islands. Another explanation, not necessarily excluding the previous one, is that it was used to exclusively represent [ʙo], a consonant + vowel combination that was more common than with the other vowels. It is attested in Peran as br [bɾ] and r–/rr [r] (ma-ro2 maro "wool" → Peran mabru, marru → Hellesan marre), as well as l [l] in a few cases (ro2-ne rone "sleep, dream" → Peran lone).

The abundance of [p͜ɸa] seems to be the justification for ba, which usually appears at the beginning of words that in Peran have as syllable ba [ba]. Something similar may occur with bi which, while not as common as ba, it has its reflex in Peran as bi [bi] or ui [wi]. There are a few cases of ba giving ua [wa] in Peran, which may be indicative of ba and bi representing, respectively, [p͜ɸa] and [p͜ɸi] with certain tendency towards labialization. Other scholars have suggested [β] or [ʋ].

tse and tsi probably represent sibilant variants of de [t͜θe] and di [t͜θi] with an emphatic pronounciation: [t͜sʰe] and [t͜sʰi]. Others don't see necessary such aspiration and defend [t͜se] and [t͜si]. In Hellesan these syllabograms are reflected in z and tz: Sate tse-ne-ta "athlete, competitor" → Per tsenetas → Hel zenet; Sate tsi-ti-ra "satyr goat" → Per atsiras "satyr" → Hel atzir.

Syllabogram ka2 seems to have represented [k͜x] in words giving ha [xa - ha] or [ga] in Peran. It's important to note that in the basic syllabographic sets, the k series have the phonetic value [k / k͜x], where the second allophone evolves into [g] in Peran (Sate ka-pa-ri-ja Khaparia → Per Gapalea → Hel Gabalea). Thus ka2 seems to have been adopted to represent a specific pronounciation of ka [k͜x], perhaps a more emphatic allophone. In any case, this aspiration/emphatic value and its evolution into Peran is not well-understood but it consistently affects only ka.

ku2 and gu represent the tensed [ky] and aspirated [k͜xy] variant of syllabogram ku with vowel [y], probable allophone of /u/ when preceded by a velar. gu appears, for example, in the Satic name of Annègimas, a-ta-na-a-gu-ma-sa, which became Atnēgimas in Middle Peran, showing the /y/ → /i/ change in the evolution from Sate to Middle Peran.

Logograms and ideograms


From the Caledian hieroglyphs the Satic syllabograms were derived, but also a collection of asylabic glyphs (logograms and ideograms) that Sateu 1 used as a support. These asylabic glyphs were used, in the context of the palatial economy, in lists of products and trade charts; they're also in several votive terracottas found at sacred places, like caves and shrines.
    Of these glyphs, logograms represent concrete, tangible, things. The shape and design of logograms is more realistic than that of syllabograms, although their strokes are fast and simple. They are divided into four thematic series: people, animals, raw materials and manufactured goods.

Logograms of people


They represent human persons and social status and roles.

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1st row person, woman, man, scribe.
2nd row princely priest, free farmer, serf farmer, slave.


Logograms of animals


They represent a series of animals: domestic, with the dog and the cat; farm and stabling animals that despite being part of the palatial economies rarely appear in trade tablets related to palatial temples but are found in many sacred contexts, perhaps related to sacrifices or animal cults. Another series is for wild animals, which we know they were worshiped as natural deities. The last series is for some fishes, although they never appear in trade tablets or any other known document but in a few seals.

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1st row dog, cat, bee, bull, ox/cow.
2nd row goose/duck, stallion horse, mare, goat, sheep.
3rd row rabbit/hare, pig, wild boar, eagle, whale/shark whale/basking shark.
4th row dolphin, dragon/sacred serpent, elasmotherium, dwarf elephant, capercaillie/rooster.
5th row griffin, fox, lion, wolf, owl/eagle-owl
6th row fish (tuna), fish (common sole), fish (red mullet), octopus, salamander
7th row turtle, auroch


There are many examples of logograms of any kind drawn or stamped in clay tablets as well as drawn in papyrus or waxy paper. The logograms shown here are quite simple; these are the versions drawn with a stylus or a calligraphic brush. The ones representing animals, though, are shown in more detail, the version appearing in seals carved in precious and semiprecious stones. In the example below the difference between a seal shape (left) and two hand drawn variants (right) can be seen to appreciate the difference in style.

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Logograms of raw materials


They represent natural resources and raw materials, basically solid and liquid foods, mining products and basic materials. There are a few notable exceptions:
    On the one hand, logogram bare tree needs to go with another logogram indicating the type of fruit it produces; for example bare tree + apple which stands for "apple tree", a product that was probably exchanged as a sapling. On the other hand opium poppy demonstrates the consideration for this plant, which it is thought it was used to extract morphine or a similar drug for medicinal use. Something similar happens with saffron, a reference to the flower, which could be used for food, as a spice, and to make ink for clothes. Saffron was counted among the very few Satic products with a high inherent value.
    Concerning all these products it is understood that they're fresh if the contrary is not indicated (look below, in 'Ideograms of quality'); another option is that they're traded as seeds. Some glyphs are specific for canned goods, like saltings and canned fruit. Logograms of animal heads may represent the meat of these animals traded with some degree of preservation.

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1st row bare tree, wheat, artichoke, opium poppy, chickpea.
2nd row quince, endive/chicory, asparagus, faba bean, fig.
3rd row herbs/spice, lentils, pomegranate, mustard, olives.
4th row barley, carrot, pear, pea, apple.
5th row leek, radish, saffron.


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1st row milk, honey, olive oil.
2nd row drinking wine, digest wine, vinegar.

1st row unfeathered birds ready for cooking, bovine, caprine, ovine, porcine.
2nd row flour, canned dates, canned fish, canned fruit.


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1st row silver, clay, bronze, copper, tin.
2nd row iron, gold, stone, leather, wood.
3rd row ivory, wool, pitch, furs, purple dye.


Logograms of manufactured goods


They represent some manufactured goods, basically metal, stone and animal products.

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1st row armour, metal bathtub, helmet, dagger, long sword.
2nd row short sword (falcata type), arrow, spear/javelin, assorted ceramics, stone vases.
3rd row cuirass, 2 wheel cart/chariot, 4 wheel cart/wagon, drug/soap packet, clothes.
4th row wheel, textiles/fabric.


Of Sateu 1's asylabic glyphs, ideograms represent abstract ideas. They're divided into five thematic series: numerals; fractions; weight, size & distance; time and quality.

Ideograms of numbers


They represent basic numbers from 1 to 9, plus 10, 100 and 1,000 which when combined with basic numbers form complex ones.

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Tens, hundreds and thousands are formed putting the desired number in the inner space of 10, 100 and 1,000 glyphs.

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Ideograms of fractions


They're used to represent vulgar fractions following the Satic practice of deriving divisors and multiples with the Fibonacci sequence (1 to 13). Additional fractions for 1/4, 2/3 and 3/4 were also common and widely used.

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Ideograms of weight, size and distance


They represent weights, sizes and distances used in trade and exchange of goods. The standard weight value is unknown, and represents the basis for weights measured with scales, with divisors and multiples expressed with numbers and fractions. Metals were measured with scales, while food and other products were measured with containers. This is the case of basket, used for grains, and frail, for small units like fruits, both used in relation to weight and capacity, where attached numbers indicated the amount of containers, not good units or weight using a numeric scale. Liquid measures were expressed with a series of glyphs representing jars and amphorae in a similar fashion.
    Some ideograms represent relative distances without numeric value but to indicate the origin of goods.

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1st row net weight, grain measure, small units measure.
2nd row local/made in the surronding area, from the country/national, foreign/imported.


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vase's exact or approximate capacity is unknown, but assumed to be less than 1 liter. The jar series has symbols for jar 1 (87'5 l), jar x2 (175 l), jar x3 (pithos type, 262'5 l), jar x5 (pithos type, 437'5 l), jar x8 (pithos type, 700 l), jar x13 (pithos type, 1,137'5 l), amphora 1 (unknown capacity), amphora 2 (unknown capacity).

Ideograms of time


They represent relative time, some with a specific value.

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month, in season, 15 days, 40 days.


Ideograms of quality


Used to represent concepts relative to the goods' quality, essentially "excellent, high quality", "vulgar, regular quality", "canned" (without specifying the method used) and "dry". There's no symbol for "fresh", so it is assumed that goods without any of the aforementioned glyphs are fresh or in a ideal state of conservation.

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high quality, regular quality, dry, canned, check mark/approved.


Sateu 2


Around 140 mr we find a new writing system in the Minean Sea, Sardega and Tavissa used to represent the diverse Satic tongues (the Neosatic languages) and the Hellesic tongues (Festian, Ostravian, Frigolian, Ambrusc and Sargonic) spoken in these lands. It was derived from Sateu 1 and, like this system, it was an alphasyllabary. In Sateu 2, though, the number of symbols was reduced considerably since only the plosives sounds [p b t d k g] had syllabographic series. The other sounds were represented by letters; this is the case of vowels (a, e, i, o, u), to which we assume the typical phonemes [a ɛ i ɔ u], always short; and the sonorants m, n, r, l, respectively [m n ɾ l]; as well as the sibilant s /s/. These are the letters and syllabograms common to all regional tongues. Finally, a series of syllabograms from Sateu 1 were also used in Sateu 2 to represent a few consonantal sounds that were not common to all the tongues or, as letters, had differing uses.

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Concerning the voiced and unvoiced plosives, main changes affected the existing series with the simplification of the old glyphs and the adoption of new ones. The p series simplified pe, pi and po, while pu got a new syllabogram because the old symbol was taken to represent letter ph/f, which represented one or two sounds in some tongues. The t series retained ta and tu, and modified the rest to make them easier to write. Series d and k simplified their respective syllabograms as well to ease writing.
    Two new series were created: series b and g, non-existent in Sateu 1. The b series derives from Sateu's 1 ma [ma], which was reused to represent ba [ba] in Sateu 2, with the other symbols in the series (be, bi, bo, bu) being variations of that glyph. The g series derives from syllabogram ka2, with this glyph being used for ga [ga], while ge, gi, go, gu got newly created symbols.

As said above, the glyphs for not common letters were also taken from Sateu 1. It concerns za, jo, gu, pu, xe and si. The first one, za, seems to have represented [z] or similar, probably [d͜z] since in the regions where the letter was not used the combination te+s was used instead (it's important to note that te will be the source for Amansard d). The convention is to romanize both uses as ds.
    jo was used to represent both [j] and [i:], the later written oi in Ancient Peran. The letter was abandoned soon, being reused shortly after for the evolution of [j] in certain positions, which gave Peran hi [ʝ]. This letter is the source of Amansard j.
    The letter derived from gu represented both [y] and [u͜i / y:] in tongues with this vowel. In the evolution towards Ancient Peran the sound was lost, assimilated to i /i/ or [wi:], although it was rescued to represent [y] in Sarden. The letter also survived the loss of [y] in Late Sarden, being used to represent a yod in the late evolutionary stage before the rise of Sardanyese languages which, together with other languages like Hellesan, use y to represent some palatal sounds. This letter is the source of Amansard y.
    pu was adapted for [ɸ] (romanized ph) or [f] (romanized f), depending on the regional tongue, although both were reduced to this last sound. This letter gave f in Amansard.
    xe was used to represent a labialized sound, probably [hʷ] or [kʷ]. Later, in Ancient Peran, words with this letter appear written with gu [gʷ]. This letter is the source of Amansard q.
    The phonetic value of si in Sateu 2 is dubious, since it was used in a few regional systems and we have very little attestations, but it is believed to have represented [k͜s] (romanized ks), or maybe an emphatic /s/ (romanized hs). The symbol is the origin of Amansard x.

Finally, it's important to note the evolution of he and ru, syllabograms fertile in letters. On the one hand he is the origin of both e and h in Sardanyese Amansard. This is explained by the phonetic value given to this syllabogram in Sateu 1, shown above: its nature favoured its use to represent [ɛ], written as a single vowel (romanized e) as well as [he / e:], written with the letter doubled (romanized he / ē). In the evolution to Ancient Peran e [ɛ] was retained while he / ē converged into [e:], this sound was represented with e with the native symbol for a macron, facilitating the use of the former letter to represent h [h] in the emerging Sardanyese alphabet.
    The case of ru is similar but less complex. This letter was used to represent /u/ (romanized u) when written single, and to represent [w / u:] (romanized w / ū) when written doubled. In the following centuries Sardens took the double symbol and simplified it with some minor modifications for [ʋ]. This symbol is the source for v in Sardanyese Amansard. The single symbol was kept for some time, but in order to differentiate it from the new letter it was cut in half, the right part being used for /u/; this is the source of Amansard u. A variant of ru was used in some regional tongues for [ʙ], a sound still existing in some languages written in Sateu 2. The words using this glyph appear in Ancient and Middle Peran written with rr [r] or br [bɾ], depending on their position within the word and the evolutive phonetic changes.

Towards a pure alphabet


Sateu 2 was used in many local variants throughout the Hellesan islands and beyond in the Late Sate and Archaic Peran stages until they were replaced by a true alphabet during the Ancient Peran stage. This Archaic Amansard was later taken by the Sardanesc peoples to write their own language, giving birth to the Sardanyese alphabet used today.

Depending on how the glyphs were used four regional writing systems can be deduced from epigraphic founts. These systems have different names and are labelled with a letter and a colour:

  1. Transversal (T / blue) The widest of all and the base for the Archaic and Sardanyese Amansard. Common to many regions, from Garamança to Azara thorugh the central Minean Sea, most of Amarodi, as well as Tavissa and Zares.
  2. Meridional (S / red) The variant that shows the particularities of Caledian and Astoradean tongues, with the use of te+s [d͜z], ta+s [t͜s] and he [he]. Such use of te made it possible to become [d] in the archaic and Sardanyese Amansard.
  3. Mistral (E / yellow) Used in Tadarca, Midarca, and the Tissedes and Martones islands for those dialects that used the ancient syllabogram pu for ph [ɸ] where the other dialects had f [f], as well as their own variant of the ancient glyph u for [ʙ] where the other dialects had lost the phoneme and wrote br [bɾ].
  4. Ambrusc (A / green) Variant of Transversal with certain convergence with Mistral due to its same use of pu for [ɸ] and of u for [ʙ]. Used mainly in Sardega and Aissa.


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Amansard sardanyís


Sardanyese Amansard (amansard sardanyís, in Hellesan), or the Sardanyese alphabet, is the last iteration of the long evolution of writing in the Hellesan archipelago. This alphabet was created by the Sardanescs, one of the sea invaders that put an end to the Bronze Age world and the Satic civilization. The alliance signed between the Sardanesc lords and the Hellesanic princes after the decline of Alauda, the last important city state of the Sates, established the basis for the Kingdom of the Perans and the Sarden Empire, which ruled the waves and many peoples and lands for the next centuries.
    Sardanescs took the Peran archaic alphabet, favouring the system used in western Gabalea, and c. the 14th century created the alphabet as we know it today. The sentival "formal" style, carved in stone monuments and metal plates, became the basis and model to follow, and from this a cursive style was derived.

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Chronology



Caledian hieroglyphs c. 2180 bmr — c. 200 mr
Sateu 1 c. 500 bmr — c. 100 mr
Sateu 2 c. 140 mr — c. 1200
Archaic Amansard c. 1200 — c. 1400
Sardanyese Amansard c. 1350 — present