Here are some examples of
pαnawάhpskewi (penobscot) and other wabanaki double curve designs. This was our traditional writing style/art form before colonization. Each symbol tells a story and has its own meaning which is also different depending on the context its used in.

The myth that "native americans didnt have a written language" is a false one, our tribe isnt an outlier in this case in the least, this was our written language it just wasnt colonized, europeanized and alphabetized like the settlers were used to.

For example, this pattern, which i got tattooed in remembrance of my cousin who died last year due to drugs, he was a teacher, a healer, a person who spoke of history, one who offered medicine, one who participated in ceremony. these are all different things i just listed, but they are all instances where this symbol could be used he was all of these, which is why I have this. The word underneath is his penobscot name to show he was this.

The language itself is not represented by these symbols, its much more so the other way around. The symbols dont function as a way to structually define certain things so much as they function as tools to show concepts, and feelings that our language is able to express. These arent characters in our language, they are much more so like a representative symbol that signifies a multitude of meanings depending on the instance they are used in, we have thousands of traditional double curve patterns like this that all hold their own significance and convey a range of things.

@Bashabez5 It's beautiful too. Is there a significance to one of the characters having a clear symmetry break when the rest all seem pretty bilaterally symmetrical?

@eldang there is, each differentiation holds its own subtle change in meaning and significance, whether that be based on time, season, person, etc.

@Bashabez5 do you have any fav resources on penobscot language learning? i am only passingly familiar with what UMO has on their website but remember it mostly being audio recordings.. and not sure if there are better places to learn about writing

@mood ive been using songs and stories as a way to learn it contextually. There are only a few tribal members left who speak penobscot fluently and it is currently the most endangered and at risk of going extinct out of all the wabanakik languages. there is a resource that is helpful that is a penobscot-english dictionary, but its very limiting in that indigenous langauge does not have sentence structure, as about 95% of world languages do. So just learning the translated words isnt enough, often the pronunciation the structure and even the way a word is communicated shifts and changes like the ebb and flow of a river

@Bashabez5 so they're more like Chinese characters than Phonetic alphabets?

@zardoz maybe in a way, but all of these symbols represent sentences, and and symbolic of things, but it can mean entirely different things depending on the context its used in, also these are by no means all of the double curve patterns, there are THOUSANDS

@Bashabez5 yeah Chinese is largely the same way. I don't think characters represent complete sentences(don't know of any other writing system that does that) but they definitely change meaning depending on context and can have lots of symbolism encoded in shape.

@Bashabez5 oh -- I should specify I'm talking about traditional Chinese, particularly stuff like the Tao Te Ching which is just about my only exposure to how Chinese characters are formed and how the writing system works. Apparently modern simplified Chinese uses characters to represent individual syllables.

I wonder if this writing system would have evolved along similar lines if it became a major world language.

@zardoz @Bashabez5 Am currently learning Mandarin Chinese and just wanted to say that it's more complicated than that. All Chinese characters are one syllable long, but I think it is incorrect to say that they represent syllables. Each Chinese character instead has a meaning and is only one syllable long. This means that there is a very large reuse of syllables by characters that can have very different meanings. Chinese characters can be full or partial words, but all mean something.

@Bashabez5 @zardoz That's definitely very different from other languages I've heard of, which usually either encode basic sounds (via alphabet or syllabary) and/or meanings of individual words or parts of words in a single symbol. I wonder if it works by breaking up the symbol itself into smaller subsymbols, like Mandarin often does. Just from what you've shown here, it seems like there may be a different principle at work, though. Perhaps number and positioning of elements is more relevant?

@Bashabez5 God having a writing system like this sounds amazing, it's so visual! There's something pleasing on a drop-down level to run across a script that's alien to the reader, but especially when it has elements which don't follow common Western notions of scripts.

Linguists can say what they like about correlation and causation between language and thought, but I know just from my time learning Lushootseed that it really does change frames of reference. This is so cool to see, thank you!

@Bashabez5 I find the use of symmetry and more or less subtle asymmetries a very interesting feature of this language. I can see how these symbols could potentially encode a large amount of information given their complexity.

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