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Aldmeri Alphabets

Author: 
Lady Nerevar

 

All Merish languages share similar forms due to their common origin the Aldmeri. Back in the early days of lore scholarship, the nature of this alphabet was one of the biggest mysteries of the Elder Scrolls. Now, between Skyrim's fonts for Dwemer and Falmer, Oblivion's examples of the Ayleid language, and a newly released pre-Morrowind Dwemer alphabet, the translation of these alphabets has become commonplace. There are, of course, lingering secrets, and we hope that this page will perhaps help you in making your own discovery.

Dwemer (Runes) - This version of the alphabet is found throughout Hammerfell's Stros M'kai ruins and on documents in Morrowind. It was the first variant of the font to be designed, and features two glyphs not found in other alphabets (see below). Its J, P, X and Z runes are quite different than their alternatives in other alphabets.
Dwemer (Script) - A more calligraphic variant of Dwemeris, found on pipes and doors throughout Vvardenfell. Since only two examples exist, this is an incomplete alphabet. The letters that we do have are quite different than their runic counterparts. All are significantly looser, and the A, D, F, G, I, and N glyphs vary in shape.
Dwemer (Skyrim) - This is the Skyrim variant of the Dwemer script, available in True Type format in the game's files. Its letters are curvier than the traditional runes, but largely retain the same shape. The P and S glyphs are notable exceptions.

Ayleid - Very similar to Dwemer, though less angular. Like the Dwemer script, this alphabet is incomplete due to lack of references. The letter B is the biggest difference.

Falmer - Also found in Skyrim, this font is beautifully embellished with additional strokes, and its lines are very calligraphic, varying in weight and ending in serifs. However, once stripped down, the letters are largely identical to the Dwemer runes (this can be seen in the Simple variant). The letter H is perhaps the only differing glyph.

The Alphabet

In addition to the alphabet above, the Dwemer Runes font (found in both Hammerfell and Morrowind) makes use of two special glyphs: , which capitalizes the letter it precedes and hence marks the start of a sentence; and , which indicates that the following glyph is to be read as a number rather than a letter. Interestingly, there does not appear to be a number for zero, despite its presence in Dwemeri writings. These two symbols don't appear to be found in the other scripts.

Reading & Pronunciation

There are three styles of translation for the Dwemer, Ayleid, and Falmer languages. The first, most complex, and, in my opinion, most interesting assigns sounds to the glyphs, and uses them to form words in Dwemeri, just like real life letters do. The second, simpler version is to assign an English letter to each glyph, and use that to form words in Dwemeri, Ayleid, or Falmeri. The third version assigns English letters and uses them to directly write English words.

Our best example of the pronunciation of Dwemeri glyphs comes from the game Redguard, where Cyrus must speak a passage in Dwemeri to open a door. The passage, learned in the Book of Dwarven Lore, reads "Shahbth ih awerk. Stuh ndah bthahhrk. Awerd sheh ahhmzrteh." Contrary to previous theories, it does not have anything to do with the inscription on the door (more on that in the Translation section below). In Dwemeri, the phrase would read "". The pronunciation of the rest of the letters (found in the chart above) comes to us from a Redguard-era concept document, courtesy of Michael Kirkbride. Note that the letter for H is actually a different pronunciation of A.

The names of most Dwemer ruins can also be pronounced in this system. For example, the ruin Mzahnch in Morrowind can be spelled as MHN: . Other names, like Mzark (which can be spelled MR, ), have vowels added for easier pronunciation  The biggest hickup is the syllable Zel, which is found in many Skyrim ruins but is absent from this version of the alphabet, perhaps indicating a shift in pronunciation.

More examples exist for the direct glyph to letter to Aldmeri word translation. Most interesting is a "Rosetta Stone" which includes both Falmer and Dwemer inscription. The Dwemeris on this stone varies quite a bit from the pronunciations above, indicating, once again, a change in the language. It is also possible that there existed several forms of transcription or formal and informal versions of the language. Both the Falmeri, which is strikingly similar to Ayleid, and Dwemeri versions of the text will be described below.

 

Translation

Most examples of Dwemeri text are, sadly, just random letters. This may be in part due to the fact that no font for the language existed in the Morrowind and Redguard days, when most of the texts were made. Of the Falmer alphabet, most examples are simply Falmer glyphs standing in for English letters, and have not been preserved here.

This example of the Dwemer Script style, found on doors throughout Vvardenfell, is an homage to GT Noonan's father. It reads:

In loving memory,
Gary Noonan,
Sr.

The image depicts Dumac and features a tiny scarab.

Another example of the Script style, these pipes read "Wormgod." This was the online name of GT Noonan, a Morrowind developer.

Golem plans, found on both Vvardenfell and Stros M'kai. The two columns at the left read:

A  B
F  G
L  M
Q  R
V  W

The small text at the bottom, below the columns, reads:

ESTU
WXWZ

The three large letters at the bottom are "S U V," and the two small letters, one pair next to the golem's head, the other in the bottom left of the paper, are "B D"

These airship plans are found on both Vvardenfell and Stros M'kai. The text in the bubble, enlarged at right, says:

B G M R

The _ symbol at the top is used to denote a capital letter. The | next to the B does not seem to match up to any Dwemeri letter. This is the same sequence as in the right column in the golem plans (minus the W), and again below in the limeware pottery and Stros M'kai ruins. The sequence is also found on the robe of the Dwemer depiction of the Lord constellation.

These letters correspond to the constellations Ritual, Shadow, Lady, and Golem. They might function as ideographs rather than letters in some contexts.

This pattern, found on limeware pottery popular with Vvardenfell's elite, repeats the B G M R sequence. It is unclear whether this pottery is a Dwemer original or an artist's copy.

The left column is another example of the B G M R sequence, this time from a floor panel in Stros M'kai.

The same letters are repeated again out of order on the right side.

This is the carving from the door mentioned above. Contrary to what Cyrus reads, the letters actually say:

HI
NO
ST

This bit is actually an Easteregg. According to Michael Kirkbride, who made the area, the door was originally not accessible (hence, "no street"), and you had to take another way around. Later, they included the bookshop and the secret password, but left the texture as a joke to themselves.

Inscriptions found on a broken golem in Stros M'kai. They read:

1. U O T Y P K

2. L ? ? Y ?

3.U P Y T R

4. # P K H

5. # Y O U T

This is the Vvardenfell variant, a similar emblem is found in brass on Stros M'kai. The letters on it are "M M E"

An oscillating machine connected to the steam pipes which run through Stros M'kai. It reads:

M  N  O
R   E   T
W  X  Y

Architectural trim found in Stros M'Kai. They read:

G W # O P
S H _ V T B S Q R

The _ indicates the start of a new sentence.

This type of lexicon appears twice in Skyrim, once to store the "accumulated memories of centuries of Dwemer" in Avanchnzel, and again to record an Elder Scroll. Interestingly, it used the Dwemer Runes from Morrowind, rather than the Skyrim script.

Most of the text is too small to make out, even when enhanced. That which we can read appears to be random.

This lexicon also uses the runic script. The lefthand edge reads:

- H
UMH-
YKXF-
-XNC
-KORA
G_CQ-
FL IT
UEZF
-PZL
-S -

The top triangle:

EB
G--O
--PTE-
-E-HM --QTY
-- - V --- -
C---Y -GUK- ---

And the bottom triangle:

--KYVT-L----
-BNBXCEKHHFG
G_RBCEXA-
ADIF
-DB-

We also have two more extensive examples in the form of two Dwemer texts which we were able to get translated in Morrowind. Baladas Demnevanni gives us their contents, but the actual letters appear to be gibberish. In the transcriptions, the underscore (_) represents the glyph indicating a capital letter and start of a new sentence. The number sign (#) indicates the glyph that means the letters should be read as numbers, and any letters following # that have a numerical equivalent have it listed in superscript. You'll see that both these glyphs are not properly used.

Divine Metaphysics, is, according to Baladas Demnevanni, "an explanation of how the Dwemer tried to make a new god, Anumidium, using Kagrenac's tools and the sacred tones on Lorkhan's Heart."

VTEL ITSATDBNB CEK
PAG_LQNDF ADIF GLNQ
KORAB SG RBLEXAOP
EDTF TXKIHM N#QXY U
UGBL BUH B V RZFH B
VM CVMCW CGUKC UM
XFSODI KY VTDL ITS
Q_AXBYE_G# A1 FS WAV
HL WCGPYA XOAPD ZK
Z ERUZF GZ H BAW
XNC ATDBNB CEK HFGD
IV_LQOGSE G IMOQRN
BCREM PZLAD YFTKI#
F6#G7A1WI8 GBZIPWEHK C

ZM NGFTS C#YD4Y BA_L
HWI AN_RBI PQ_VWR
KR_#UPN VELNHR XZO
RV TWZYX NU RX#STB2
OS _ROAQ OQPFK EGY
LP HL_ROIWHC DYOF
BFR XWVAK UMHO _R
XFV Y T #OG7 HFX RH
U NGCA RW SHV VR B
R D_ KGN VL TAQN SG
QLI VHFMYZ_UDCKN H
_#OHE5Y O GFF_P YO
D XWCWTH SIQPN W#ND4
O N IQGAH FVC KWYB

 

Egg of Time, by Bthuand Mzahnch, is, ironically, "a refutation of the idea that linking to a divine source of power can be dangerous if interrupted."

Q_AXBYE_G# E FX NAV
IV_LQOFSE G IMOQRN
F#G7A1WH8 GBZIPWEHK C
EDTG TCKIHM N#QXZ U
UGBL BUH B V RZF H B
VM CVMCW CGUKC UM
HL WCGPYA XOAPD YK
XFSODI KY VTDC ITS
XNC ATDBNB CEK HFGD
KORAB SG RBCEXEOP
PAG_CQNDF ADIF GLNQ
VTDL ITSATDBNB CEK
S ERUZF GZ H BEW
BCREM PZLAD YFTKI#

YFTKI# XNC GZ T BEW
CEK GNLQATDBNB V
CVMCW RBCEXAOP VM B
KORAB SG ADIF TGFD
PZLAD ITSATDBNB BUH
XOAPD CEK Z ERUZF
VTDL VTDL PAG_CQNDF
ITS C BCREM WCGPYA
XFSOFI KY HL YK XY
UM CGUKC RZFH UGBL
EFTF H U TCKIHM N#Q
F#G7A1W B G IMOQRN E
GBZIPWGHK IV_LQOGSE
Q_AXBYE_G# FS WAV

We have only two examples of Ayleid script, one presumably from the 1st era, and another from the end of the 3rd.

A carved pillar in the middle of Cloud Top. Why the only extant Ayleid text is found in the middle of an Imperial fort, we'll probably never know. It reads:

Av latta magicka
av molag anyamis

This translates to "From light, magic; from fire, life." This is a reversal on the phrase as seen in Ayleid Inscriptions and their Translations. The second M in "anyammis" has been omitted.

This inscription was found in Anvil's Chapel of Dibella, written in the priest's blood. It says:

As oiobala Umarile, Ehlnada racuvar.

According to the Prophet, this translates to "by the eternal power of Umaril, the mortal gods shall be cast down." This same text is found on the trim of the Knights of the Nine box.

 

Although there are numerous examples of Falmer script, they all translate directly into English, and we have not listed them here (you can find them all in the Skyrim Books section of the library).

There is however one Falmer example that is signification: a "Rosetta Stone" like stele found in Calcelmo's tower in Markarth. It features both Dwemer and Falmer script, and presumably says the same in both. Due to the similarity between Ayleid and Falmeri, we are able to translate some parts.

The Dwemer text at the top reads:

Chun thuamer arkngd chend duathand, th ahvardn btham. Amz thuamer ahrkanch kemelmzulchond aka Mora, th thuangz ahrk, th duum melz thuabtharng, th kanthaln duabcharn mzin thuastur, btharumz thua mer zel. Abakch duumarkng tuathumz amakai, th abakch avatheled kagr tuamkingth mzan. Du chal fahl ngark, che du fahl bthun ur. Du chal fahl ngalft, che du bthun ur. Du abak chal thu abazun nchur duabthar, nchul duanchard. Th ur thuanchuth irknd, ur irkngth eftardn, thunch fahlz. Bthun abak dua mzual th nchuan duarkng, chun fahlbthar thuanchardch anum ralz, th eftar thuachendraldch kagren thua vanchningth.

The Falmer, at the bottom:

Ye sa sou meldi calne tarn va nou molagnenseli,ye trumbi nou bala. Ilpen av sou meldi nagaiale as guntumnia, spantelepe-laelia arani Morae, ye sou liebali racuvane, ye nu rautane sye, ye nu hautalle nou buroi gume sou gravuloi, sa metane sye garlis. Frey as gandra dwemera tarcellane sou agea, ye frey as emeratis Avatheledia carelle sou anyamissi bisia silya. Nu hecta sou arcten, rias nu nemalauta ge. Nu hecta sou epegandra, rias ne nemalauta ge. Nu frey sepa sye arcta varlor denai, cullei noue staneia.Ye ry sou alasil auta, ry loria shanta, abagaiavoy. Malautavoy fey nou darre ye alata nou malae, asma moraga sou anyamis av sercen pado, ye gethena sou wend narilia vey emeratu sou oia bisia.

The translation of the text was recently provided to us by Kurt Kuhlmann, its author. You can find a line by line translation here.

And so it was that your people were given passage to our steam gardens, and the protections of our power. (literally “protection of our mathematics”) Many of your people had perished under the roaring, snow-throated kings of Mora, and your wills were broken, and we heard you, and sent our machines against your enemies, to thereby take you under.Only by the grace of the Dwemer did your culture survive, and only by the fifteen-and-one tones did your new lives begin.We do not desire thanks, for we do not believe in it. We do not ask for gratitude, for we do not believe in it.We only request you partake of the symbol of our bond, the fruit of the stones around us. [lit. “we only ask you to accept”] (literally “the fruit of our stones”)And as your vision clouds, as the darkness sets in, fear not.Know only our mercy and the radiance of our affection, which unbinds your bones to the earth before, and sets your final path to the music of your new eternity.

 

Constellations

Certain Dwemer runes also symbolize constellations on the Orrery in Stros M'Kai. Although there does not appear to be a connection between each glyph and the constellation it represents, this subject merits further study. You can read more about Dwemeri constellation depictions here.

Glyph Translation Constellation
A, aah, 1 Thief
B, bth, 2 Ritual
D, nd, 4 Lover
E, eh, 5 Lord
F, ft, 6 Mage
G, ngth, 7 Shadow
H, ah, 8 Steed
I, ih, 9 Apprentice
K, rk Warrior
M, mz Lady
N, nch Tower
R, rd Golem

 

Special thanks to: Aquiantus and Nigedo, authors of the original Dwemer Runes article and webmasters of the Academy for Dwemer Studies. To Michael Kirkbride, for providing the original alphabet, and his stories about its use and creation. To Gary Noonan, for his translations. To Zaethron, for his creation of the Ayleid runes. To everyone who has over the years worked to figure out these tongues, created resources, theorized, dreamt and wondered. To all who remember magic.