Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Yukaghir girl writes a love letter / Semasiographic and Glottographic writing systems

A Yukaghir girl in love with a Yukaghir boy wrote him a letter. The Yukaghir are a North Eastern Siberian tribe who live by hunting and fishing. The letter is given below. This image constitutes the complete letter. Any guesses as to what it says?

A bit tough  to understand, isn' t it? The first I came across this letter, I couldn't understand any of it; in fact I only saw it as a drawing. But it is a letter indeed and what follows below is the explanation. I have highlighted the parts using various colours and then broken down the sequence of events into 9 frames only to explain the chain of thought. The actual letter is just the one colourless image shown above.

1. The writer of the letter, the Yukaghir girl, is the tree shape in Blue. We know she is a girl because she has plaited hair.

2.  The girl is in love with a Yukaghir boy, another tree shape, in Green. He is a boy as he doesn't have plaited hair. The letter is addressed to him.

3. The Yukaghir girl writes that she and the boy loved each other and this is depicted by the intermingling of their thoughts just above their tree point heads.

 4. The girl further writes that now the boy has left her for another girl, a Russian girl and started living with this Russian girl. The Russian girl is shown to the left of the boy in Red and they are shown together living under one roof (a step pyramid/tent-like structure over their heads). The Russian are ethnically, socially and culturally completely different from the Yukaghir and the writer shows this by drawing panniers on the Russian girl's skirts (which are absent from her own Yukaghir skirt). The Russian girl of course also has plaited hair as she too, is a girl.

5. The Yukaghir girl tells the  boy that the Russian girl has destroyed the relationship the Yukaghir boy and girl had earlier. This is depicted by the Russian girl's thoughts emanating from her head and cutting through the thoughts / love shared by the Yukaghir boy and girl earlier shown in figure 1.

 6. However the girl knows that all is not well between the Yukaghir boy and his Russian girl friend. This tension is depicted by crosses between the heads of the Yukaghir boy and Russian girl, highlighted in Red.

7. The girl also informs the boy that she is alone in her house and she is sad. Her sad state of mind is shown by the crosses drawn behind her own head. But she tells him that she still often thinks about him and wants to be with him. Her thoughts (shown emanating from her head in Blue) are still.... sort of....drifting towards him.

8. However there has been a development. She tells the boy that now another Yukaghir boy has started making advances towards her. These are shown by a rather persistent and focused squiggly emanating out of this new boy's head towards the girl.

9. The girl finally lets her ex lover know that if he wants to get back with her he should move immediately, before she gives into the advances made by the new Yukaghir boy and before her ex lover has children with the Russian girl. Two children are shown on the extreme left moving into the house of the Russian girl and the Yukaghir boy.

And so this is the interpreation of this love letter written by a grieving Yukaghir girl to her ex lover.

Amazing isn't it. Suddenly the letter seems so clear after the explanation. This letter is an example of a semasiographic system of writing. Semasiographic writing is when the writing/drawing represents the idea itself rather than any spoken words ie speech. The spoken words which are used everyday by the reader and the writer to communicate are not recorded in the written communication. The idea is recorded.

Actually we all deal with semasiographic writing everyday. Here are some examples:


Yup, these and many more semasiographic writings live all over our glottographic world. It is said that written mathematics is a very pure form of semasiographic writing.

Semasiographs are not the same as pictures. They are very much language based communication and are fluid in the sense that they can depict tenses and are very precise in interpretation to those who know how to read them, unlike pictures which are frozen and hence perhaps timeless and are also open to subjective interpretation. But most importantly any person using a semasiographic system will have to represent the same idea in the same way. handwriting differences notwithstanding. Whereas in a picture, there are many different ways to drawing the same idea, eg. a woman sitting next to a tree. This can be drawn in many different highly divergent ways. But the Yukaghir people must write the letter above in the same way. Here in lies the greatest difference between semasiographs and pictures.

This is an example of a picture. Perhaps a grieving lover draws this picture and sends to the one she grieves for. Or perhaps not. She may just be sleeping next to a tree. It is a painting.

However this is clear written semasiographic communication. It's a letter, not a pciture. Those familiar with the Yukaghir language know how to read this letter. Every Yukaghir who wants to represent the idea of this letter in writing will have to write the same letter. 

In both cases an idea is communicated. Both the painting and the semasiographic letter can be very precise if need be. But the two should not be confused.

Now the more prevalent writing system in today's world is not semasiographic but glottographic.This blog post is in English, which is an example of a glottographic system of writing. In a glottographic system the idea is not directly recorded in the communication. The spoken words which represent the idea are directly recorded. The idea to be communicated is not directly shown. Rather the written "speech" has to be read and then the idea becomes apparent. The Yukaghir people have actually now adopted the Cyrillic / Russian script for their languages after the Russification of North Eastern Siberia. Hence the Yukaghir languages have moved from a semasiographic system to a glottographic system of writing.

Obviously both semasiographic and glottographic systems have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Road signs, washing instructions, mathematics all if translated into glottographic writing would become extremely cumbersome and unwieldy. I think I would use neither exclusively if I had a choice. Both could be used in combination or different ones for different languages. That would be fun. And terribly confusing perhaps.In both the semasiographic system and the glottographic system, the writing, the language and the idea are being coded seamlessly and continuously but in different ways.

I came across this Yukaghir letter in a fantastic book on scripts called Writing Systems by Geoffery Sampson. It is a great book and I can re-read it many times. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in scripts and perhaps also in linguistics. Most of the ideas for this blog post have come to me directly from the 2nd chapter of this book. I think I love scripts even more than I love languages. I wished to write a much longer post but I am sure it too would have joined my list of long dead unfinished posts. Perhaps one day I will write on the symbiotic world of scripts and languages as well. God willing.

Know More:

Writing Systems by Geoffery Sampson
The Yukaghir
A study of writing by Ignace Gelb


  1. I read somewhere that in western culture, the understanding symbols decreased as literacy rates increased in the 19th & 20th centuries.

    1. I'm 30 years old female I tested genital herpes (HSV1-2) positive in 2002. I was having bad outbreaks. EXTREMELY PAINFUL. I have try different kinds of drugs and treatment by the medical doctors all to know was avail. Six months ago I was desperately online searching for a helpful remedies for genital herpes (HSV1-2) cure, which i come across some helpful remedies on how Dr Edidia have help so many people in curing genital herpes (HSV1-2) with the help of herbal treatment because I too believe there is someone somewhere in the world who can cure herpes completely. As of the past 2 months, however, I've been following his herpes protocol Via and it stopped all outbreaks completely! To my greatest surprise I was cured completely by following the protocol of his herbal medicine . Don't be discouraged by the medical doctors. There is a cure for HSV with the help of herbs and roots kindly contact him for more information Via or Whatsapp him on +2349074505296.

  2. Perhaps, the old symbols have been replaced by new ones such as road signs, wash care instructions, brand logos and the likes. And further perhaos semasiographic systems have neem replaced by more glottoral systems (ie literacy equals ability to read/write a glottoral script such as Roman).

    1. I think semasiographic representations are alive and well in computing, with its countless types of diagrams and icons and also in textual electronic communications where smileys and emojis are used. Maybe emojis are kind of watered down, but they still represent a concept pictographically.

  3. Very interesting! Since I work in the area of communications and use mainly words to communicate, I often forget that other systems exist too. And that they are enriching and meaningful. Thanks for this.

  4. Utter nonsense. John DeFrancis debunked your interpretation of this drawing back in 1989. This is not a letter at all. It was a prop in a parlor game played by Yukaghari girls: one girl would sketch a drawing and the others would take turns trying to guess the story behind it.

    Geoffrey Sampson helped to propagate this myth in his book on writing systems first published in 1985. Sampson published a retraction in 1994.

  5. The document typing service are many different typing and transcription services online that will look as though they are offering a very reasonable price for the services that they offer.


  6. Today has being the most happiest day of my life after 1 year of sadness and sorrow without being with the one i love, i tried all my possible best to make sure i make my lover happy but it never seems to work out well it was like am doing everything in vain but all thanks to Dr.Ogumen for coming to change all my worries and sadness to Joy. I knew the great man when i read some wonderful reviews about Him how he has helped a lots of people on there relationship problem i was reading a magazine which then i saw great testimonies as well which then i decided not to waste time. He told me not to worry that he assures me that within 3day everything would be sorted out i believed Dr.Ogumen so much because i believe he can't fail me and i sent him all my details. Truly Dr.Ogumen never failed me,my husband who left me for good a year come back to me. My husband and i have been living contentedly since this spell caster reunited us together with his love spells. Thank you so so so much Dr.Ogumen for your powerful spells. Expressions are not sufficient to say thank you, here is his email address(

  7. Jandu You talk about Semasiographic and Glottographic writing systems.You are point to the topic and well explained each points in a perfect way. I like the way you have written this article.professional script writing is very interesting topic. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. This is really good information thanks for the help. lesbian love quotes for her

  9. This is amazing, and really well explained. I think I'm going to get my kids to try out telling stories this way.

  10. This is a really nice blog, I liked it very much, Thanks for sharing it over here.
    I am really fond of reading these type of blogs and I will definitely read more here for more blogs so I may get more info regarding various topics.


  11. Dr.Afrid God will continue to bless you more abundantly, for the good works you are doing in peoples life, I will keep on testifying about your good work, I was healed from HERPES VIRUS through the help of Dr.Afrid. I saw a blog on how Dr.Afrid known as 'LORD SPIRITUAL' cured people with his herbal treatment, i did not believe but i just decided to give him a try, I contacted him and he prepare the herbs for me which i took, after taking it, he told me to go for check up, could you believe that i was confirm herpes negative after the test, and i went to a different hospital and it was also negative, i am so happy. If you have any problem or you are also infected with any disease like HIV/AIDS , HERPES , CANCER , ALS. He can also help u get your lover back to u again . etc kindly contact him now with his Email: or add him on whatsapp +1(412)405-1961.

  12. That'sthe motive selling you acceptable study prior to designing. It is additionally doable to put in writing much better placing on this. they changed me

  13. Nice A Blog & Artical
    Please VISIT MY Website biggest shopping Best website 50% off sale All Pakistan Contact NUmber +923000023915
    Top Saling Product Original Breast Cream
    EtsayDaraz Click hare visit Website
    Cash on Delivery all over Pakistan Online biggest shopping website visit My Website
    Hot Lin call girls online In Pakistan

  14. Best Online Shopping you experience an easy & hassle free online shopping in Pakistan
    Please VISIT MY Website biggest shopping website 50% off sale Contact NUmber +923000023915
    Top Saling Product Original Breast Product
    EtsayDaraz Click hare visit Website
    Cash on Delivery all over Pakistan Online biggest shopping website visit My Website
    Hot Lin call girls In Pakistan

  15. He is an American professional wrestler currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the NXT brand under the ring name Adam Cole
    Adam Cole Information

  16. His estimated net worth is around a whopping $7 billion, as of March 2021 according to our news reports.
    Stephen Mandel net Worth


    Asore Corp is a group of multinational Hacker's, an affiliate of Evil Corp. We make sure by all means necessary that our clients get the best of services on a🔐PAYMENT AFTER JOB IS DONE BASIS✅. Rather than send money and trust a criminal to fulfill your deal, you can make sure the job is done before WORKMANSHIP is paid for. You'll get excellent customer service.
    That's a 100% guarantee. Our Cyber security Technicians are on standby 24/7 to receive your job requests.

    ⚠️ BEWARE OF FRAUDSTARS looking to hoax.
    if you have been a VICTIM, contact : ✉️ for directives.
    Here, it's always a win for you.

    ➡️Binary Option funds recovery
    ➡️Social media hack
    ➡️Recovery of loan scam
    ➡️Credit repair (Equifax,Experian,Transunion)
    ➡️E mail hack
    ➡️College score upgrade
    ➡️Android & iPhone Hack
    ➡️Website design
    ➡️Website hack
    And lots more.

    DISCLAIMER: Asore Cyber Corp accepts no responsibility for any information,previously given to anybody by clients on as regarding the job. Asore Cyber Corp will not distribute contact information collected on any hacking job other than in the Asore corps Hacker's listings themselves, and will not sell contact information to third parties.


    Copyright ©️
    Asore Cyber Corp 2021.
    All rights reserved.

  18. All thanks to Dr KOKOBI for curing my herpes virus/hpv with his herbal medicine, i do not have much to say but with all my life i will forever be grateful to him and God Almighty for using Dr KOKOBI  to reach me when i thought it was all over, today i am happy with my life again after the medical doctor have confirmed my HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS / HPV of 5 is gone. I never in my life believed that HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS could be cured by herbal medicine. so i want to use this means to reach other persons who have this disease to know that all hope is not lost yet. contact him via or whatsapp +254746618873 and get your healing for any kind of disease. You can also call him via +2348114448587


  19. Nice post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info particularly the ultimate section 🙂 I take care of such information a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.
    merits and demerits of online classes

  20. Such a great blog i like it very much thanks for sharing with us.
    delay spray in Lahore
    delay spray in Pakistan

  21. It is a fresh medication containing Tadalafil 20mg and Dapoxetine 60mg in one tablet.
    Email :

    Tadalafil 20mg
    Dapoxetine 60mg
    Super Eroxib

  22. great post I like your content thanks for useful post
    love letters for her

  23. Very interesting and informative. I am from Pakistan and I am a linguistics student and this particular picture was present in our book's critical thinking part. I had no idea what its about. I am glade that I found this blog.

  24. I found answers to my questions – thank you for that! Sorafenib 200 Mg Tablet