Break Down of Kryptonian Writing in the Man of Steel

Friday, May 31, 2013  |  Comments: 53

So yesterday, Warner Brothers / DC released this little promotional piece for the Man of Steel movie, a Kryptonian name generator.

http://glyphcreator.manofsteel.com/

At first blush, it seemed to me to be your typical schlack—I mean, how many of these types of things have we seen over the years? Answer a few questions, put in your first name, and get your "Kryptonian name". It seemed to be just another cranked out piece of marketing that used a cipher / font-substitution just like DC has done since 2000 with the symbols that my alphabet is based off of.

But... I noticed something different right off the bat. The pronunciation for the for your returned result is using IPA, turned 'r' and all! That is definitely *not* typical for this sort of thing, and, to me, points to at least some involvement by a linguist or at least someone who knows a little more about what they're doing.

Then, as I played around with it, I noticed something even more interesting. There is definitely more under the hood here than there seems to be on first blush. While most of the time you will get a 1-to-1 font substitution, it appears as though there are some names that it recognizes for a "more precise translation" (for lack of better description).

For example, if you put in 'Weslie' (not a spelling it should have), you get back a one-to-one character string: "w.ɛ.s.l.ɪ.ɛ" (which isn't even very pronounceable). If, however, you put in 'Wesley', the common spelling, you get back only 3 symbols: "wɛ.s.lɪ".

Initially, one can also see that consonants have a large "hook" above them. In the example above, the '' is the same symbol as the 'w' but turned 180° and missing the hook. After more playing around, I can say that, long story short, this writing system is a bit clever (and very pretty).

How does it work?

NOTE: all of this information is what I could glean from the above website. This information is likely to be incomplete.

To start off, there is a base character for a vowel. This character is rotated, flipped, or combined with a left or right small "hook" above the letter to indicate which vowel is represented.

The consonants also have a base set of characters. A consonant by itself always has a large hook above it. Thankfully, this is definitely not a substitution font as there are no characters like "x" which can (and should) be portrayed with "ks" or the like.

The consonant symbols can, it seems, be syllabic. While a large hook above always indicates a consonant sound only, take that away and you now have a consonant+vowel syllable. The orientation and the use of the smaller hooks indicate which vowel gets attached. It seems that just removing the consonant marker is not enough, though, as I couldn't get a syllable with the ɑ͡o vowel (diphthong). I marked this potentially invalid combination with a question mark in the example below.

I would like to make a special note that, oddly, this orthography is all extremely similar to work I started on in 2008 on a proto-Vath script (Vath being an island nation on early Krypton). However, I had nothing to do with its creation.

I'll be sure to blog on any other information as I find it. Enjoy!

UPDATE:

I was able to confirm that an unturned, unflipped consonant with no hooks above does indeed indicate the ɑo vowel/diphthong.

For those interested, this writing system is not an alphabet, it's an abugida.

Another interesting note from the Deep Space Radio Wave Project website (Man of Steel viral marketing) is the phrase translated as "You are not alone." From this we can see some examples of Kryptonian words, and what appears to be SOV word order. I look forward to seeing if there will be any spoken Kryptonian in the movie.

UPDATE 2:

I noticed that Steve over at Superman Homepage found another letter that I hadn't: [ŋ]. I've updated the consonant image with the new letter.

UPDATE 3:

Finally all the base symbols are accounted for! The last one (bottom right) is the IPA [x] which sounds like the ch in "Bach" or "loch".

UPDATE 4:

I slight correction: the new symbol is actually a voiced glottal fricative and not a voiceless velar fricative. A voiced "h" if you will.

UPDATE 5:

I have updated the site with info from various other forms of Kryptonian. For a complete chart of the Man of Steel Kryptonian writing (and any future information), visit the Man of Steel Kryptonian Writing page.

Comments (53)

  1. David:
    May 24, 2013 at 02:19 PM

    FINALLY glyphcreator.manofsteel.com gets it right!! You are just jealous.

    Reply

  2. Man of Steel:
    May 24, 2013 at 02:31 PM

    I think it looks great, though the kryptonian alphabaet in the movie looks nothing like the the alphabet in the comics. I like both, and I like the glyphs in the movie, very alien looking, kinda like the cybertronian glyphs in the Transformers movies, which are so far my favorite. Very alien and realistic. Man of Steel glyphs are just as cool too. Very nice :D

    Reply

  3. David:
    May 24, 2013 at 02:37 PM

    I am with you Man of Steel they got it right!! :D Beautiful and easy to understand. kryptonian.info just sounds bitter and old.

    Reply

  4. Dwight Williams:
    May 24, 2013 at 03:04 PM

    They got it differently. Not necessarily either right or wrong. Personal opinion: Krypton's likely had as many writing systems in its own history as Earth's had up to now. This is one more to add to the list.

    As for imputing motives to our host for his comments, you might be a tad early to do so.

    (The idea of Vath having more than one written language in its history appeals to me.)

    Reply

  5. Dark Sentinel:
    May 24, 2013 at 03:19 PM

    Nice!! I see we were on similar lines of thought. I'm on the SuperHeroHype! boards, and I've been trying to reverse translate the DSRW "You alone are not." text since it was first released. I hadn't taken into account the direction of the small notches in the brackets as indicating specific vowel sounds for their corresponding consonants, but I did catch on to the vowel glyph rotation. I associated the rotation/flipping of the consonants with their vocalic counterpart, assuming the "a" sound would be the most common, and thus came up with the translation

    "Mati s'den garon nexo"

    But with your new analysis, I think the correct form is actually

    "Mutæ soden guren nekæ"

    I might be wrong, but lets see!! Great job though, friend!

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 29, 2013 at 09:25 AM

      I hadn't seen the "You are not alone" text. Thanks for the heads up.

      I got: /mutɛ sɑ͡odɛn guɹɛn nɪkɛ/. However, I'm not sure what the little flourish above the last word is doing, if anything.

      Also from the example we can see a few more things: the little upturn on the top line that marks the beginning of the sentence, the flourish that marks a word break, and the smaller flourish that marks the end of a sentence. We can also see that the word order is SOV ("You not alone are").

      Reply

      1. Dark Sentinel:
        Jun 05, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Nice job! I'm no longer at SuperHeroHype under this name, so unfortunately I won't be able to reply to you there, but all the same thanks for clearing up the pronunciation.

        Reply

      2. Nicolás:
        Jul 02, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        It would seem it is actually [mutɛ sa͡odɪn guɹæn nika] or [nikɑ]. According to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDnmNHKli_A

        Reply

  6. David:
    May 24, 2013 at 03:23 PM

    Differently true Dwight :) but in my personal opinion: kryptonian.info started on the wrong foot. glyphcreator.manofsteel.com just feels right and looks AWESOME!

    Reply

  7. David Stewart:
    May 25, 2013 at 02:32 AM

    David - you are a peculiar little person aren't you? kryptonian.info has not said the least little thing above that any reasonable person could possibly interpret as sour grapes or jealousy. Where are you getting that from?
    You seem an unpleasant and unhappy sort of fellow, but there is no need to go about trying to rile people up.

    Reply

  8. Renée:
    May 28, 2013 at 01:35 PM

    My name gives issues for some programs...so I tried many versions to see what would happen. My name is Renée (pronounced "Reh-nay").

    Renée gave back "R.E.N.K.AE.E" this is typical. The accent in my name confuses many programs. Usually, I'll get back Renée or something like that.

    Renee without the accented E gave back "R.E.N.I." which led me to believe that the alphabet was phonetic and the I was sounded like a long E. So, the program is reading my double E as a long E instead of the long A sound.

    So, I put in Rena and got back "R.E.N.A.".

    René without the final E gave back "R.E.N.K.A.". The accent really throws off the program.

    Rene without the accent and the final E gave back "R.E.N.E."

    Renae gave back "R.E.N.A.E.".

    So, the program is unable to properly translate my name, phonetically. I think Rena is the most correct, yes? That is the one I decided to go with for my glyph. :)

    So, anyhoo, just sharing mine. There was a little chart, posted last week, of the alphabet, but it doesn't take into account the flourishes above the characters. I don't know if the chart was fanmade, but I would imagine it was. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=378276298943457&set=a.348890138548740.1073741833.348688125235608&type=1&theater

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 29, 2013 at 08:56 AM

      The weird thing is that there are no high tense front vowels in this writing system ... so no [i] and no [e] only [ɪ] and [ɛ]. The closest thing to your name phonetically, then, would probably be [ɹɛnɛ] (two characters). I doubt you could get it to output that, though, since it wouldn't have it in its translation index.

      Reply

      1. Jesse:
        Jun 28, 2013 at 03:02 PM

        Darren, I modified the abugida a bit to display your version of Kryptonian, and was wondering if I could send you a copy to display on here. It has all the vowels, and allows prenasalized consonants (as well as long consonants, but that is neither here nor there).

        Reply

        1. Darren Doyle:
          Jun 28, 2013 at 05:42 PM

          That's actually a really cool idea! I emailed you a response...

          Reply

  9. Dusty Haynes:
    May 28, 2013 at 02:08 PM

    I love this. The new Kryptonian is so much more elegant and beautiful than the one from the comics/Smallville and, it seems, more dynamic.

    Reply

  10. Elen:
    May 28, 2013 at 02:48 PM

    David (with no last name), you are not making any sense. Perhaps English is not your first language and you are improperly translating what you are reading?

    If you read the post again (perhaps find someone with excellent language translation skills to help you), you'll see that this website is simply explaining the results they got from the glyph creator. You'll also notice that they praise the new Kryptonian characters as "very pretty" and "clever". These are very positive statements...quite the opposite from your strange accusation that they are "jealous" and "bitter". Not only are these words the opposite of the tone of the blog post, but they are also irrelevant words for this context.

    Jealousy is the "resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself." This word is not relevant in this arena. We are not dealing with any persons or groups that are attempting to achieve anything or have any sort of advantage over the other.

    Bitter, in the context I assume you are implying, is defined as "characterized by intense antagonism or hostility". Again, this word is not relevant in this situation. This word implies that one party is attacking another party, which certainly isn't the case here. At least, no one was attacking anyone until you started attacking this website. Alternatively, if you meant they are bitter in taste, then that is just weird. Did you lick or nibble on the person who wrote this post? I should certainly hope not.

    In addition, kryptonian.info can't get anything "wrong" when they are not truly presenting anything new. They are simply positing that the data returned by the glyph creator seems to be similar to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). They state in the blog post that this information could be incomplete and that it is merely a theory they have developed from a set of observations of patterns in the glyph creator.

    Since you seem to have implied that you like the new Kryptonian characters, it more likely that we all are in agreement that this is an attractive and complex language that was created with some care. Therefore, your attacks are against "friends" instead of "foes". A mistake I'm sure you'll be quick to remedy once you have a full understanding of the text in the blog post listed above.

    Reply

  11. LeVar Anthony:
    May 28, 2013 at 05:05 PM

    In a Man of Steel poster there are Kryptonian Glyphs. It is somewhat hard to make out but I am wondering if someone can translate it? Here is the poster, the Glyph is at the bottom right hand corner above the QR code. http://www.manofsteel.com/downloads/1sheet/1sheet_poster.jpg

    Reply

  12. Derek B.:
    May 28, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    @Renee: I'd go with "reney" if I were you; that would be the most phonetically accurate. Unfortunately the glyph creator isn't smart enough to render that properly (I tried), so you'd have to do a little improvised Photoshopping to get it right.

    @LeVar: Enormous as the provided image is, it's still too pixelated to make out some of the finer details. (Luckily my glasses double as a magnifying lens. :P ) Here's the best transliteration I could manage based on Darren's breakdown: "veya mu taen ju suv lak." Bear in mind the A's could be U's, and vice versa; it really is hard to tell.

    Reply

  13. David G.:
    May 29, 2013 at 08:15 AM

    Great job, congratulations!
    I would like to have the font for word.
    The going to do?

    Reply

  14. Gabry:
    May 29, 2013 at 09:55 AM

    Is someone able to translate the phrase contained in the Original Sound Track DeLuxe edition logo? http://www.supermanhomepage.com/images/man-of-steel-movie6/130427-SoundtrackDeluxe.jpg

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 29, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Looks like the first line is ʤæn nun nɛdɛv (the last character is pretty hard to read). The second line looks like tɛks guɹ. Unfortunately, without some type of lexicon/dictionary we can't translate... only transliterate.

      Reply

  15. David G.:
    May 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    In the viral website "You Are Not Alone" (http://dsrwproject.com/) are translated one by one every word. And does not match your alphabet.

    As separate words and use punctuation marks?

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 29, 2013 at 02:02 PM

      I'm not sure what you are trying to get at here. If you are trying to make those words spell something in English, then, no it won't work because they aren't spelling English words. They are spelling Kryptonian words.

      Reply

      1. David G.:
        May 29, 2013 at 08:44 PM

        There are many differences between the translation of your website and that of http://dsrwproject.com/.
        For example in the word "You" On their website is translated in a way, and http://dsrwproject.com/ another.
        Example : http://img109.imageshack.us/img109/6693/dibujopzf.jpg
        Thanks

        Reply

        1. Darren Doyle:
          May 30, 2013 at 02:31 AM

          Again... it looks like you are trying to spell English words here. These aren't English words. The Kryptonian word for "you"—according to dsrwproject—is "mutɛ." This is NOT just a font substitution or a clever way of representing English. This is its own language apart from anything else.

          If I showed you a sentence in Japanese—あなたが一人ではありません。—and then told you that it translates to "You are not alone," I hope you wouldn't expect a Japanese speaker to be saying "you are not alone." No, they would be speaking Japanese, the phrase above transliterates into the Roman alphabet as "anata ga ichi ride wa arimasen." If I tried to find out which of those Japanese characters spelled out "y-o-u" that would be pretty ridiculous.

          Reply

          1. David G.:
            May 30, 2013 at 07:54 AM

            I understand.
            Thanks for replying, and a great job.

            Reply

          2. Hal:
            Jun 05, 2013 at 12:40 AM

            It's "anata wa hitori de wa arimasen". Not "ichiri". Cf. futari for 2 persons. Another reading is ichinin, but not in this case.

            Reply

            1. Darren Doyle:
              Jun 05, 2013 at 08:53 AM

              Thanks! My Japanese has gotten really rusty. I just relied on Google translate—I don't think it hurt the point I was making, though.

              Reply

  16. Grandío:
    May 31, 2013 at 04:18 PM

    Saludos desde España!
    Gran trabajo, felicidades por la web.
    Tienen previsto publicar la fuente del nuevo kryptoniano?

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 31, 2013 at 05:49 PM

      Hola! ¡Gracias!
      No sé si lo harán o no, pero estoy seguro que espero que lo hagan. Me encantaría verlo tanto como cualquiera.

      Reply

  17. Dwight Williams:
    May 31, 2013 at 08:22 PM

    Was intrigued enough to track this down thanks to the consonantal chart:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alveolar_approximant

    The "upside-down r"?

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      May 31, 2013 at 11:36 PM

      Yep! The turned-r is the IPA (international phonetic alphabet) letter representing the R that most native English-speakers have. A regular, right-side-up r is trilled—that would be the R that a Spanish-speaker has in a word like "perro."

      Reply

  18. Rob September:
    Jun 05, 2013 at 09:54 PM

    Hey, LOVE the work you've done here.
    However, I don't see how it gels with what we've seen so far on the site.
    For instance, at this link, "You are not alone" is written (per your translation) as "Mate Guraen Niki"

    http://www.moviefleece.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Kryptonian-Message.png

    Reply

  19. Rob September:
    Jun 05, 2013 at 09:58 PM

    Nevermind! Sorry, I should have read all the comments before posting.

    Reply

    1. Dark Sentinel:
      Jun 06, 2013 at 03:40 AM

      Correction, no comma on http://www.manofsteel.com/nokia . The link as I posted above will lead to a 404, this is the appropriate link.

      Reply

  20. Ronny:
    Jun 06, 2013 at 09:10 AM

    I noticed there are some new symbols on the manofsteel.com website I can't figure out could use your help email me and ill give you what info I have figured out and lets crack this before it is released

    Reply

  21. outlet:
    Jun 09, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different web
    address and thought I might as well check things out.
    I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to looking over your web page again.

    Reply

  22. outlet:
    Jun 10, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other
    blogs? I have a blog based upon on the same topics you discuss and would
    really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my subscribers would value your work.

    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send
    me an email.

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      Jun 17, 2013 at 06:56 PM

      Sounds fun! I emailed you...

      Reply

      1. LeVar Anthony:
        Jul 06, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Hello, I don't know if you have seen this yet, but a Youtube video and Article have popped up basically interviewing the Language Creator of Man Of Steel. Not sure if you will learn anything more from them, but hey, worth a shot.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDnmNHKli_A&feature=youtu.be

        http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/07/05/ubcs-christine-schreyer-speaks-the-language-of-supermans-krypton/

        Reply

        1. Darren Doyle:
          Jul 06, 2013 at 06:29 PM

          I posted the video to the news feed a couple of days ago.

          Reply

  23. Gloriosus:
    Jun 22, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Hello, Derek,

    I am very impressed by the work you done, and thought I'd pass on what little I could to add to it. In the companion to the movie, Man Of Steel - Inside the Legendary World of Krypton, they mention that it was Christine Schreyer, linguistic anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Also, on Page 74 of this volume they included four statements written in Kryptonian with translation (tho' not transliteration) provided. I mention this, because I noted in the script that there was an additional "squiggle" in the line above the "letter" that you hadn't captured in your examples, suggesting to me that there might be at least one other vowel sound. I hope this helps.

    Reply

  24. Gloriosus:
    Jun 22, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    (wince) I meant, "Hello, Darren,"

    My apologies for messing up your name.

    Reply

  25. Ben:
    Jun 29, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Awesome stuff!

    Reply

    1. Anon-El:
      Jul 13, 2013 at 06:02 AM

      *CORRECTION: Also, the javascript (.js) files downloaded from http://glyphcreator.manofsteel.com/ site to the "Temporary Internet Files" folder contain the key to TRANSLATING Kryptonian to English and vice versa...

      Reply

      1. Darren Doyle:
        Jul 14, 2013 at 10:35 PM

        I think you had it right the first time. The names are transliterated to the Kryptonian writing system. Further, I didn't find any .js files that would help anything as the transliteration happens on the server through an AJAX call. The best it could possibly give us is the IPA for the base set of symbols, which I already have completed.

        Reply

    1. Roman:
      Jul 09, 2013 at 01:07 AM

      on the glyph creator the house of tor is spelled t-(reversed letter c)-(upside down r) i think theres one missing the sideways c

      Reply

  26. Paul:
    Jul 10, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    Was this new language based off of Japanese?

    Reply

    1. Darren Doyle:
      Jul 14, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      You would have to ask Dr. Schreyer (the creator) how much of what languages influenced her work. The word order is the same as Japanese, but that's about the limit of our current knowledge.

      Reply

  27. Maxima:
    Jul 19, 2013 at 04:19 PM

    I just did mine and it told me I was in the house of Ur. We know El means "hope", do we know what Ur means?

    Reply

  28. make Crafts:
    Aug 31, 2013 at 02:41 PM

    Its not my first time to pay a visit this website, i am visiting this web page
    dailly and take good facts from here all the time.

    Reply


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