The Galarian Alphabet of Galar
By nick15 [November 16, 2019 - 18:35]
[Last Updated: December 4, 2019 - 00:34]  

:GG :GA :G9 :GA :G4 :GI :GA :GN :G_ :GA :GL :GF :GA :GB :GE :GT
In the latest Pokemon games, Pokemon Sword and Shield ("SwSh"), we were introduced to what could be called the Galarian Alphabet or Galar Language. It is a unique series of characters which is intended to represent the language used by the people in the Galar Region, and can be found everywhere in the region: on various signs, storefronts, clothing, products, advertisement, random boxes... you name it, it's on it. But what's unique about it is that it is unlike any other language script seen in prior Pokemon series or even in real life, although it clearly has plenty of similarities with existing characters from existing languages.

Now I'm a HUUUUUGE language nerd. Not so much in the actual speaking of them (tho not for lack of trying!) as much as in the actual development of new languages (ie conlangs, or constructed languages). Like, I've been making made up languages since high school, and there's one I've been working on one since even before PA! existed. So seeing that the Galar Region had its own alphabet like this was a great cross-over between my loves in life.

Ever since its release, I've already uncovered a lot about it, and I feel like there's a lot MORE left to be uncovered. Here's what I've sorted out so far:

 


 

Let's get the basics out of the way:

I'm sure a lot of you are visiting this website for the first time and just want some straight forward answers about it. So here they are.

  • Putting it simply, the Galarian Alphabet is what I would call "consistent gibberish".
  • On one hand, the characters don't align to any one sound: in one word, :GD could mean "D" in one word, but it could also mean "G" in another. This is a regular occurrence across the ENTIRE game and EVERY word.
  • On the other hand... that's the thing: there IS some level of consistency with how the alphabet is used; it IS possible to determine that a certain word is SUPPOSED to mean something.
    • For example, :GG :GV :G+ :GE :G_ :G4 :GR :GE :GV :GX is clearly "GAME FREAK", while :GG :GA :G9 :GA :G4 :G_ :GB :GE :GW :GC :GV :GE is obviously "GALAR LEAGUE".
  • This is why I call it "consistent gibberish": even if the letters don't match up—such as how :G4 is used for both "F" and "R" and :GV is used for both "A" and "U"—we can still recognize that there is some level of consistency used, even if it's used only on a per-word basis. It's not used absolutely at random.
    • However, it is unclear WHAT that potential consistency might be, such as if the artists were given free reign and thus a certain artist preferred to use one set of connections while another artist preferred another, or if this decision was made by those higher up.
  • One thing is definitely clear: when a word clearly represents something, that "something" always matches up one-to-one with either English or rōmaji, or at least some Latin script. For example:
    • English words — :GG :GA :G9 :GA :G4 :G_ :GB :GE :GW :GC :GV :GE = "GALAR LEAGUE", or
    • Rōmaji forms of Japanese words — :G9 :G4 :GQ :GQ :GA :G7 = "YARROW", not "MILO", the Turffield Gym Leader
  • Another reason why I don't believe letters are used PURELY at random is the fact that some letters are clearly intended to be "lower case" letters, versus the other "UPPER CASE" letters. (More on that below.)

The fact that the letters don't seem to match up to any single sound or value has made many people give up on it. But I think they're just quitters! there's more to the Galar language than other people give it credit for.

Other facts which I've uncovered so far include:

  • The Galar Alphabet has 39 unique characters. As mentioned above, these characters also seem to represent both "UPPER CASE" and "lower case" letters. The 39 Galarian letters are:
    • UPPER CASE:G+ :G3 :G4 :G7 :G8 :G9 :GA :GB :GC :GD :GE :GG :GJ :GK :GL :GM :GQ :GR :GS :GT :GV :GW :GX :GY
    • lower case:G! :G^ :G0 :G1 :G2 :G5 :G6 :GF :GH :GI :GN :GO :GP :GU :GZ
  • The letters themselves seem to be based on existing characters from various languages and scripts. After close analysis, the four scripts that seem to be represented the most are:
    1. Greek; or its descendants, like Cyrillic or Coptic
    2. Runic languages, like Futhark or Anglo-Saxon
    3. Japanese, mostly Katakana, sometimes Hiragana
    4. Korean hangul
    • Other characters are neither of these, and thus can come from Old English, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Georgian, etc. I plan on working on a guide which details the most likely inspiration for each character.
  • The shape of the characters are used consistently; some exceptions exist, however, but those are errors made by the artists or programmers more than unique elements of the language.
    • This covers if, say, a graphic element with Galarian letters on it was placed in reverse, or if a single character was drawn upside-down. I've also spotted a case where two "lower case" characters were placed one over the other to form a new characters, but I'm sure how intentional that was.
    • One exception to this is with the letter :G0 , which I thought was a mis-drawn :GO . However, as I went through the game I started seeing more and more words with :G0 in it... they were few and far between, but they DID exist. So I decided to count :G0 as its own character versus a variant or poorly drawn :GO .
  • Furthermore, the shape of the characters themselves don't affect their apparent meaning.
    • For example, a post on 4chan/vp/ claimed that the character :GX has a different meaning because one :GX is thicker than another :GX which means it's an "M" versus "S".
    • Sorry Anon, but the only thing those different shapes represent is that it's a different font or typeface used to type in Galarian (which is pretty dang neat IMHO).
  • Normal numbers (ie Arabic numerals) exist in Galar, so Route signs still use numbers 0 to 9.

That's literally the bullet-points versions of the Galar language and its alphabet. However, there's still plenty to know! Check through my site archives to read some posts where I share some random thoughts about the script.

There is also a Galarian Word List page where I've written down every Galarian word I could find; in fact, I still haven't reached the 4th Gym yet because I've been spending all my time with finding words! Anyways, the Galarian Word List also further discusses the idea that some words are intended to be specific words, such as how:

  • 1 :G^ :GO :GH = "1 car"
  • 2+ :G^ :GO :GH :GZ = "2+ cars"

The Word List will slowly determining if any particular word is pure "gibberish" or if it actually does have an intended meaning.

...

That's it for now! Thanks for checking out my site and I hope you'll stick around for more!

(Below this, you can read some of my older thoughts and ideas about the Galarian Alphabet, but I plan on removing it later, or replacing it with a more details breakdown of the above bullet points.)

 


 

GALARIAN ALPHABET VALUES:

Right now I'm still working out trying to get screenshots and other pieces of evidence to share with you guys... but for now here are two examples of the script, which in turn will explain my three hypothesis for the Galar alphabet.


Now the first piece of text was clearly intended to spell "Game Freak". However, it's super obvious to me that the first word in the green picture is supposed to be "GALAR LEAGUE".

Note, inconsistent use of characters, like how the "G" of "GALAR" isn't the same as the "G" in "LEAGUE", can easily be handwaved because this is common in other languages; "C" can make both a "K" and "S" sound in English (Cola vs Cents), and G itself has two sounds (GIF vs GIF). So it's possible that Galarian itself has similar sounds for different characters.

The problem with accepting one or the other is that...

  • if we accept "GAME FREAK", that might mean the second picture spells something like "G***F *E**AE"
  • if we accept "GALAR LEAGUE", that might mean the first picture spells out "GU*E R*EU*"

Now it's possible that one is absolutely correct and thus the other really does intend to spell the other word. But even with in both cases in mind, they lead me to my three hypothesis:

  • HYPOTHESIS 1: The Galar alphabet is a simple cipher, where one symbol represents one specific letter of an existing language... and that language is perhaps English or Japanese. That is to say, words, once deciphered, spell out existing English or Japanese words.
  • HYPOTHESIS 2: The Galar alphabet is a simple cipher, where one symbol represents one specific letter of an existing language... and that language is a completely made up language (the "Galarian language"), thus with its own consistent rules. That is to say, words, once deciphered, spell out words in a unique "Galar language", like "HABY" = "fire" or "ERT" = "gym".
  • HYPOTHESIS 3: The Galar alphabet is complete gibberish and there is no consistent use of its letters to spell anything.

Examples of #1 is that I've spotted words which COULD be "GYM", "INN", "DAN" (as in, "Yell-dan", Japanese for "Team"), the aforementioned "GALAR LEAGUE", obviously "GAME FREAK", etc.

Examples of #3 is the idea that the characters in "GAME FREAK" don't spell "GALAR LEAGUE", and/or vice versa. Likewise, I've seen other examples where the characters used in "GAME FREAK" don't apply to words which might be actual words, producing gibberish instead.

I don't have any examples of #2, but the fact that I consider #3 a possibility might just be that I didn't do enough research and/or made mistakes and thus didn't realize it was just spelling words in a unique "Galar language".

Unfortunately, my research on this is still fresh. Afterall, I've only had the game for two days now, and I also deliberately avoided materials relating to it such that I wouldn't be spoiled, and thus I'm certainly behind other people's work. For example, there's a Galar alphabet character tester website, complete with what appears to be the full alphabet. Take a look here.


 

GALARIAN ALPHABET INSPIRATION:

On the other hand, one other fun part about sorting out the Galarian alphabet is seeing which languages and scripts any particular Galarian character comes from. Some of them are obvious, others less so, but I definitely would like to sort out what their inspirations were and share them with you.

Until I get some pictures up, I can at least share a few observations; the following are easily recognized, albeit in various rotations or are flipped:

  • There are obviously Latin characters in it, such as Y M V X
  • The Old English character eth can be seen, albeit backwards: Ð
  • Some appear to be Greek, such as: Ξ Σ Ψ
  • Cyrillic is used, particularly: Г Ч Ф Я Л
  • Japanese katakana characters include: ラ ム ル
  • As do Korean hangul characters like: ㅅ ㅔ ㅈ ㅋ
  • And finally it looks like these Hebrew characters were worked in: פ א ק

Of course it's worth noting that these scripts share some characters between them, one of the most obvious one being characters like L which are drawn by simply drawing a right angle.

Eventually I plan on making a handy little picture guide covering all the different inspirations for these characters, so keep an eye out for it here!


OK, that's all I have for right now. I'll share more of my research as soon as I work more stuff out.

Now personally I think it's going to be a mix of both Hypothesis #1 and #3, tho mostly the latter. A lot of the text just doesn't seem to link up at all, or is consistent only within itself... I'll share what I mean later... and thus I feel like Game Freak simply just threw random characters together. Not to mention the controversy that Game Freak seems to have lied about all the work they put into it and/or refused to put into it, so it seems like an odd allocation of resources to have someone work out making up a new language and alphabet, or at least a cipher for an existing one, when just randomly generating "text" would be sufficient.

Hmmm...


2 Responses

  1. Grayson says:

    There's also the "now loading" text when you start up the game that doesn't seem to fit almost any other examples from in game.

    • nick15 says:

      Oh really? I didn't notice that... I'll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the FYI!

      One thing I want to do is get a proper word list together, but then separate them based on different attributes, like town signs, random text on posters, and even in-game text like "Game Freak" and "Now Loading".

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