A rough guide to the Orthona language

  1. What is Orthona for?
  2. Symbols
  3. Layout
  4. Person
  5. Adjectives
  6. Negation
  7. Comparisons
  8. Dependent clauses
  9. Verbs
  10. Nominalization
  11. Sense verbs
  12. Conditionals
  13. Pair proverbs
  14. Constellation Form
  15. Text Editor
  16. Language Reference
  17. Software Infrastructure
  18. Contact

What is Orthona for?

Orthona is a constructed language. It has three goals:

  1. To be written in a way to take advantage of two dimensional layouts.
  2. To be capable of expressing broad generalities - to express the gist of proverbs, for instance.
  3. To be easy to input on a mobile phone/touch screen.


Because of goal 3, Orthona has a writing symbol with a fixed number of 35 symbols:

If a new symbol is added, an old symbol will be removed (there are a number of weak candidates that need pruning atm).


Orthona text is laid out on a grid, like so:

There are four identifiers:

The left two are used for people/animate objects, the right two for inanimate things. (Because of principle 2, there's no need for proper nouns. I might add in more because sometimes I run out of animate object pronouns, and have to designate a third person as a "living inanimate thing"...)

How symbols are connected determines their relationship.


The symbol is used to indicate first or second person, depending on whether it's connected above or below. So in this example means "I am , and you are ."


All symbols have a primary meaning. is "virtue/vice" (normally more in the sense of virtue) for instance, but what it actually means depends on how it's connected up.

If the "virtue" symbol appears above

it means " is good/happy", while if it appears under

It means " is unimportant". All symbols used as adjectives in this sense have separate upper and lower forms, with different shades of meaning.

Also, sometimes, diagonal connections can convey particular adjective-flavour meanings. For instance, using the time symbol :

means " is young/new".


If you want to say that someone is bad/not good/unhappy, you strike through the line:


Often, if three symbols appear in a vertical row it a comparison is implied. For the case of "virtue", because it has two different meanings in comparisons, you may have to indicate the direction - by default you read from the bottom up, so:

means that " is happier/better than ". However, if you it's connected in such a way that you read it from the top down, such as the second part of

then you read the right part as " is more important than ".

Other examples would be , which denotes knowledge if above, and belief if below, or , which denotes power if above, and truth if below.

If a comparison is free-floating, and you want to indicate directionality, you can use a stray horizontal line to indicate reading direction :

Says " is more important than "

Dependent clauses

If you want to say " has . is good.", you have several options. You can place them side-by-side, unconnected:

You can compress them into a single statement:

Or you can attach it as a dependent clause:
This can help break up complicated statements into more manageable pieces.

Generally speaking, repeated symbols, linked with an ascending diagonal, indicate a dependent clause. The connections are read from left to right.


Verb patterns are mostly given by 3-part diagonals (ascending or descending - sometimes, but not always there are differences in meanings for both directions). If does something good for , you write

If you want to just say " has done something good/is doing something good"", you can leave out :


If you want to describe the qualities of a verb, you can just add an adjective to it.

means that is experiencing or causing pleasure, and

means that is doing something good, and the action is a source of pleasure.

Sometimes you'll have to break out subordinate clauses to describe things. If you want to say you did something good for someone, and that good action was novel/new - both parts are expressed by descending diagonal relations, so you do this:

Actually, even saying "You did a good deed which is new" is super confusing to put in a single diagonal line (it is ambiguous and might be read as "you did a good deed for time"), so you might want to break it out

Sense verbs

Sight, smell, touch, hear, taste are the sensory verbs.

means that sees .

Sense verbs also allow a four-part construction. If you want to show somebody something to eat/taste/&c., you can write

Which means " showed to ".

This can lead to some ambiguous situations

The above could be read as both "Time showed me ", or "I saw in the past" ( connected under something indicates the past tense). In this case, the former interpretation would probably get priority. If you wanted to say the latter, you would use a dependent clause


The way the language deals with conditionals, is it can express things "to be X is to be Y" with an ascending diagonal.

can be read as "To be young is to be good"

This converges pretty well with the subordinate use, and makes sense when negated.

Says "Someone being young doesn't mean they're good"

I used to use to indicate cause/implication with a special syntax, but I haven't used it in a long time, favouring the above notation.

Pair proverbs

While I said an upwards reading direction is generally preferred for comparisons, there's no preferred reading direction for solitary vertical pairs, which allows for you to easily say two different things at once depending on whether you read up or down, perfect for proverb-style expressions. So, is "life", and represents infinity, if connected under something, while is "pain", and when used above something means "is in pain, or causes pain".

So means both "Life is pain", and "Pain is infinite".

For another example is "change", and represents capability/ability if above, so express the rather cynical pair of "Virtue is futile" and "Change is unimportant".

means "Friendship is desirable" and "Desire is selfish".

means "Everything is a question" and "There is one answer".

Constellation Form

If you take the sentence , which means "I have a good thing", and you remove the connecting lines, you lose information:

If you were to try to reconstruct original sentence from this you wouldn't be able to tell what should be connected to what, and also all information about negation would be lost.

However, if I give you

Assuming all lines are positive, there is only one way to fill in all the lines (because lines have to be either horizontal, vertical, or some 45 degree angle):

I haven't used this form since I added negation to the language, so I don't know how I'd express it in this form. Probably with a dot. I figured this might be a nice form for some ceremonial uses, or situations where drawing lines was bothersome (maybe a city layout, for instance, where you want important buildings to fit into a pattern).

Text Editor

The online editor. It's not documented well - controls are -

There are keyboard shortcuts - here's a probably incomplete list:

Language Reference

See Orthodocs

Software Infrastructure

There are a bunch of different pieces of software that combined together to make this - several different renderers, text editors, data formats, documentation generators - there's an outline described on the github repository for the conlang project here.

The nicest way by far to enter text is with the iOS app (currently under review), which is basically the same as the web editor, just, it works much better.


Any questions or thoughts? Just ask/chat on the forums, or mail me directly at analytic@gmail.com.