The modern Vulcan script is the most common in everyday life. While most educated members of society can easily read traditional calligraphy and it is also quite prevalent, they rarely think of it as purely utilitarian. Making a conscious decision to use it can even reinforce a subtle (or even not-so-subtle) interpersonal barrier. For example, If after a casual disagreement one were to send an informational, yet unapologetic message to the other party formatted in the traditional script, the receiving party may be more likely to harbor a grudge. Not every aspect of the vulcan way of life is logical.
The letters of the modern script evolved over many centuries from the ancient logogram system which is commonly referred to as Tik-Nahp-Zukitaun (“each thought script”) or simply Tik-Nahp (“each thought”). The language for which Tik-Nahp was originally conceived was very different from Modern Golic Vulcan. Each symbol was logographic and speakers of different languages used the common written forms to communicate with each other in very much the same way that the Classical Chinese of Terra can function. Different clans in different geographic areas reading it might pronounce it very differently. Here is a sample of a model paragraph (“Stonn killed the le-matya”) in both Tik-Nahp on the left vs. the modern script—Iyi-Gotavlu-Kitaun—on the right. Notice the isolation of characters in the original system vs. the way they are linked and flow on the right in the modern script Golic Vulcan language.
Everything about these two languages and systems is different, EXCEPT for the fact that the individual letters used on the right were forged out of a recycling of the glyphs of the characters on the left. There were thousands of glyphs in use in the pre-Surakian age. For Modern Golic Vulcan 46 phonetic letters are in common use. These are supplemented by several other marks for compound words, indicating proper names, general punctuation, numeral, etc.
To re-imagine the nature of the way the modern script works, let’s compare how a Vulcan word might be written in Terran Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Here we see oT’Khasi (The Honorable Planet Vulcan) rendered in the sounds available from ancient Egyptian. A cartouche is used in reference to the fact that Vulcan writing would mark this with an an ahm-glat to signify a proper name—even of a planet. Notice that while the Egyptian symbols are originally pictographic (and quite literal—from a bird to a feather), they can also represent individual sounds.
In most cases the characters of Tik-Nahp are visually more abstract than those of Egyptian. From this abstraction perspective, the correlation is closer to Chinese.
But the function more closely mimics what is happening with Egyptian. A specific phonological feature of the word is taken so that the logographic symbol becomes a simple letter. Only the sound remains important. Instead of “Z” is for “zebra” it becomes “Zebra” is for “z” or rather “DZHarel” is for “dzh”.
The vowels in the modern script are a not full characters, but rather distinctive parts extracted from full characters. Punctuation and other subtle reforms have also evolved over time to suit the needs of the modern language.
The Old with the New
There are a few of the ancient characters which appear commonly in modern life. Those who have attained Kolinar in particular often identify themselves overtly with the ancient word for the discipline. Here on the left we see the opening lines of the Akteibuhl-Van-Kar t’Kolinar (The Kolinar Attainment Ceremony) rendered in Tik-Nahp. To the right the individual character for ‘Kolinar’ and below a stylized version of the character embroidered on the robe of one of the devout.
It is also common to see the glyphs for morning (asal), afternoon (aru), and evening (khru) used to clarify the times of day with numbers.
In Common Use
This text shows the inventory of every sound in Modern Golic Vulcan rendered in the standard practice paragraph. The text flows from left to right top to bottom. Again, note how unlike the ancient Tik-Nahp in which the individual characters stand apart, in the modern script one letter flows into the next. It is commonly accepted that this is the influence of the traditional calligraphy playing out in the pragmatics of the standard Vulcan alphabet.
In the following table every letter is called out individually along with common punctuation and the numerals. The labels in orange designate the words from which each letter originated. The capitalized letter of each label clarifies which sound value is assigned to each Vulcan alphabetic letter.
It is noteworthy that the consonants of el’ru-kitaun (handwriting) are originally modeled on these forms as opposed to the formal traditional calligraphy. Over time the shapes have simplified in most cases.
In certain instances however, the modern handwriting letter is significantly different from the concordant glyph in the standard script. Various factors influence these differences including several cases in which the handwriting letter is based on a different ancient character than the the one that was adopted and formalized for the standard script. Because Vulcans don’t really value everyday handwriting, the illogic of the differences typically does not concern them.
As the most practical Vulcan writing system in use today, this is the one that would be relied upon most commonly for mundane tasks like non-verbal data interactions with technology, etc. It is generally unnecessary to do much ‘typing’ in a world in which devices typically understand speech better than other sentient beings, but even in the age of Spock, sometimes it’s better to just quietly work away.