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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Thorass' Missing Dental Fricative Character

The most common alphabet in the Forgotten Realms once had a letter for "th"; now it doesn't, what happened to it? Alae, and well met! This is the Forgotten Realms Lyceum where we study all things Toril and Faerûn.

First Edition scripts, including the missing "th"

English uses an alphabet that manages to represent all the sounds of the language, while not having a letter for each sound. For example, English uses the digraph "th" to make the voiceless fricative (θ, as in thorn), voiced fricative (ð, as in father), and sometimes --"foll[ies] without warrant"-- just "t" (though actually sometimes for etymological reasons, such as the name Thomas). During the Old English period, English had a separate letter to represent where we now use the diprah "th". There were actually two, and they both could represent either the voiced or voiceless dental fricative; they were eth and thorn, written as ð and þ (both are still used in Icelandic).

In the Forgotten Realms, Thorass is a langauge, a langauge family, and an alphabet. The language, Thorass, was also known as Old/Auld Common, and is the pidgin common tongue's direct ancestor. It was a mix of Alzhedo and the ancient tongue of Jhaamdath. The language family therefore included Thorass, Common, as-well as Chondathan. 

Fifth Edition

The Thorass script is analogous to the Latin/English, as there are only twenty six letters like the modern English alphabet. While in Faerûn, Thorass was the common script for most human tongues, including Turmic, Chessentan, Illuskan, Durpari, etc. The script itself was derived from the Untheric runic syllabary, which we do not have any examples of.

"Hwæt, we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum,

þeod-cyninga þrym gefrunon,

hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon." (Beowulf lines 1-3)

Third Edition
In reality there are twenty six letters now in the current Fifth Edition Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. In the First Edition campaign setting "Grey Box", there were in fact twenty seven. These twenty seven are also present in the Second Edition box sets. It is when we get to Third Edition that the letter representing "th" was dropped. There are other things, mostly forgotten with time, since back in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon days only a handful of languages were written, and most were just spoken languages.

A piece I made for fun, which utilizes the old "th" character,
 transliterate as you wil

Espruar (the elven script) and Thorass were also changed drastically in Third Edition, and with the returning to roots of Fifth Edition, Thorass and Espruar went back to their AD&D versions minus, the "th" letter for Thorass. Sadly this will likely not return, as it is harder for English speakers to recognize and understand. Welladay, as a student of language, I appreciate the original work put into making a script that was not a complete copy of the English. Vlandranna, someday we will get the missing character back.


You can track my current progress here.

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