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My dream for this website is that it could be used as the main repository of information on Gallifreyan. I would love if it was the main website artists would use as references when they're starting out. For the moment there is only one guide from the many dialects of Gallifreyan that exist, which I would like to change but sadly I have very little time I can spare. If you're interested in helping me by collaborating with me on new guides to some more dialects (see footer) let me know!

How to write Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan, sometimes also called Circular Gallifreyan, short CG or SCG, is a writing system / alphabet invented by Loren Sherman back in 2011. Since then it has gained popularity and even made its way onto the Doctor Who show. I'll cover everything that Sherman covers in his guide and maybe even a bit more. Bear in mind that this is only a writing system. You can't speak Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan, you can only write it. So Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan is only a writing system and not a language.
"Gallifreyan" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
Fig. 69877: Gallifreyan written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

Introduction

Gallifreyan is a made up writing system used by the Time Lords of Gallifrey, from the BBC series Doctor Who. This writing system was created by Loren Sherman and is free for anyone to use. Thanks a lot Loren!
This guide deals with Circular Gallifreyan. To clarify, this is not a language - it's just a way to write words and sentences in languages like English that use the latin alphabet.

The Alphabet

The Consonants

Each word has its own word circle, that the consonants attach to. This circle is called the word circle. Fig. 2 shows the consonant stems and the additional modifiers.
One can refer to the stems by naming each stem by the first letter in the row. Thus, the uppermost stem is the b-stem, the second stem from the top the j-stem, and so on.

The left-most column shows all the consonant stems. The upper-most row shows the decoration. These two combined form a consonant.

Consonant table
Fig. 69878: The Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan consonants

Fig. 3 is an example of how to apply all of the consonant stems from Fig. 2 to a so-called word circle. Fig. 3 does not really correspond to and english word, but spells out bjtth.

Consonant stems applied to a word circle
Fig. 69879: All Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan consonant stems applied to a word circle

The Vowels

In Circular Gallifreyan you attach your vowels to the consonant which came before the vowel whenever possible. If the first letter of a word is a vowel, you can write the vowel without a consonant preceding it. Separating a vowel from its preceding consonant can also be done to improve visual appearance.

The curved black path represents a fragment of a word circle. Don't worry, we will take a look at these very soon. The grey circles are theth-stems, as seen in Fig. 2. The most important part are the violet elements. These are the vowels which are attached to their preceding consonant, here always th. This again, is not an English word; it spells out thathethithothu.

Vowels
Fig. 69880: All vowels attached to part of a word circle

In Fig. 3 you saw all of the consonant stems applied to a word circle. In this figure I have added the vowels so that you have an idea where to put the vowels on the preceding consonant. The violet objects are the vowels.

These words would spell out (left to right, top to bottom) bajatatha, bojototho, bijitithi, bujututhu and bojototho.

Vowels on consonant stems
Fig. 69881: All vowels attached to each of the consonant stems

The Words

To read a word in Gallifreyan, start with the letter that is the furthest at the bottom of the word circle, then read counterclockwise. Let’s write some example words.

Flip through the images elements to see how to build a word.

Doctor

  • D

    "D" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69882: D written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    To construct the first letter of our word (Doctor), we draw the b-stem, which is a big divot. Then we attach three dots. We choose that stem and decoration because that is where the d lies in the consonant table. The dots can be placed anywhere, and can be as large or small as you wish, as long as as it's clear that they belong to the b-stem.

  • O

    "O" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69883: O written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    Let's first write each letter by themselves and then attach them to the previous letters. We just add the letter o as it's used in Fig. 4.

  • Do

    "Do" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69884: Do written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    Fig. 5 shows us how to combine the b-stem, which was used to create d (Fig. 6), with the vowel o (Fig. 7), to form do. As long as it conforms with the rules of the vowel, we could put it anywhere. Use the placement to create a unique version of your design!

  • K

    "c" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69885: c written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    The c is tricky. As can see if you check the consonant table above, the c is greyed out, that's intentional. You are only supposed to use the c , and q that is also greyed out, in proper names. Instead use their phonetic equivalents s and k. We are trying to achieve the sound of a k so we will use the j-stem with two dots.

  • Dok

    "Doc" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69886: Doc written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    Since words are read counterclockwise, we add the c in counterclockwise direction from do.

  • T

    "T" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69887: T written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    Now we need a t, so we just use the t-stem without any decoration.

  • Dokt

    "Doct" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69888: Doct written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    And now attach the t in counterclockwise direction from the existing letters. I think you get the gist. Let me finish the word for you.

  • O

    "O" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69889: O written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

  • Dokto

    "Docto" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69890: Docto written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
  • R

    "R" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69891: R written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
  • Doktor

    "Doctor" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
    Fig. 69892: Doctor written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

    Who

    • Wh

      "Wh" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69893: Wh written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      You can write wh either as one letter, as seen in this image, or as two separate letters. The result is the exact same but you might want to choose one over the other for aesthetic reasons. The other way of doing this is illustrated in Fig. 18, Fig. 19 and Fig. 20.

    • W

      "W" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69894: W written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      To write wh as two separate letters, you would first use the letter w.

    • H

      "H" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69895: H written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      Then you'll need the letter h to complete wh.

    • Wh

      "wh2" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69896: wh2 written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      Now that we have both w and h we can combine them, as we learned before when writing doctor.

    • O

      "O" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69897: O written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      To complete who we're just missing the o, which is exactly the same as we used in doctor.

    • Who

      "Who" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69898: Who written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      In the end who can be composed in two ways. One way is to combine the o with the "single" consonant wh (Fig. 17) like this.

    • Who

      "Who" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69899: Who written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      We can also combine the o with the letters w and h written separately (Fig. 20).

      Double Letters

      Double letters, such as the oo in cool or the ll in all can be denoted by another circle of the same thickness. Soall andcool could be written like this:

      "All" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69900: All written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      "Cool" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69901: Cool written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      And and Ampersand

      Fig. 26 shows you how you would write the and. Once you start writing a bit of CG, you'll realize that it doesn't look that good. Since it's used quite often in the english language, the Gallifreyan community on Reddit had a discussion about the matter and decided to substitute and with a newly created character, the ampersand. Feel free to substitute and for &. The ampersand is just the letter e with a line across it, as seen in Fig. 27.

      "And" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69902: And written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      "&" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69903: & written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      The Sentences

      Words are good alright, but sentences are even better! Like words, they're read counterclockwise starting from the bottom. The letters T, WH,SH, R, V, W and S can be used to interconnect letters by interlocking them. This convention exists purely to improve visual appearance. It gives a sentence more coherence. The words in Fig. 28 say Bow ties are cool.

      "Bowties are cool" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69904: Bowties are cool written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      Next we'll add two circles around all of the words. The inner circle has multiple divots to fill the space that the letter circles don't cover. This helps eliminate dead space, is purely aesthetic and doesn't change the meaning at all. The outer circle is a little bit bigger than the inner one and has no divots, unless there is more than one sentence, but we'll get to that later.

      Now it’s time to extend the lines. For the meaning of any one letter, all that matters is that the right number of lines terminate at that letter. It doesn't matter to which other object these lines connect.
      One exception is that the lines from the letters i and ushould face in the approximately right direction. E.g. a line starting out from the letter i must roughly go inwards and a line starting out from the letter u must rougly go outwards. Lines can be used to create an even better appearance of harmony by interconnecting.

      "Bowties are cool" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69905: Bowties are cool written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      The Punctuation

      Gallifreyan punctuation
      Fig. 69906: The Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan punctuation

      In Fig. 29 there are two sentence circles. The inner sentence circle, with the divots, and the outer sentence circle which just wraps everything up. The punctuation of a sentence is always placed on the inner sentence circle. The ?, ! and ; can be situated on the inside or outside of the inner circle. All other punctuation marks should stay on the inner circle.
      The ' is a special case. The two lines that designate an ', must not start on the inner circle and end on the outer circle. Instead they must start or end in between the two letter/consonant stems, and start/end on the inner sentence circle. The following examples show good and bad practice.

      Good Practice

      "I've" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69907: I've written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      Bad Practice

      "Ive" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69908: Ive written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      Connected Sentences

      Sentences are connected by interlocking them with the use of the divots on the inner sentence circle. In this way the sentences form chains like shown in Fig. 33. These chains are generally read from left to right, but you might want to add your own touch and rearrange them differently. The order of the sentences should at least be guessable from context.
      "Without Fear. Without Hate." in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69909: Without Fear. Without Hate. written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      The Numbers

      Numbers can be written as concentric circles. The area between two adjacent circles is called a ring and represents a digit. The number of lines inside a ring specifies the value of that digit. Small circles inscribed into a ring denote the value of five. The numbers in Fig. 34 and Fig. 35 are 1048 and -13.37.

      Numbers are read from the outermost to the innermost ring. If one circle is thicker than the others, it specifies the decimal point. If there is no thickest circle, the number is not a decimal number. Negative numbers are recognisable by a line that is drawn across the innermost circle.

      "1048" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69910: 1048 written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      "-13.37" in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan
      Fig. 69911: -13.37 written in Sherman's Circular Gallifreyan

      The Final Test

      Gallifreyan sentences are read from outermost to innermost word. Translate this sentence to know if you're a real Gallifreyan pro!

      Final test of the Gallifreyan guide
      Fig. 69912: Final test

      FAQ

      I'm not sure I understand how to read/write Gallifreyan. Do you have some more designs where I can practice?
      I sure do. Just head on over to gallifreyan.info/designs/ and take a look at those. Don't look at the page and try to blindly click on an image. It will enlarge the image and hide the caption. Now you can try to read what it says and look at the caption once you think you have the right answer. If you are ready to start writing Gallifreyan, read one of the captions without looking at the design too much, make your own design and then check what I made to compare them.
      What editor an you recommend to start writing SCG?
      A popular and free choice is to write Circular Gallifreyan is Inkscape. However Inkscape is quite advanced and hard to get into. To get started I can recommend the free version of Gravit Designer. Because of how Gravit Designer is written you might have a hard time stretching your legs and getting more creative with your designs so it might be a good idea to start looking for something more suitable at that point.
      Personally I use Affinity Designerbecause it's only a one-time payment and it gives me all I need. Some people that don't feel comfortable switching also write Gallifreyan in Photoshop.
      Can I download this guide somehow?
      You can. I have a list of downloads that can help you to remember the letters and some additional files if you're not sure on the specifics.
      Can you translate something for me?
      I will for a fee. Contact me so we can get you a cool design!
      Is it possible to combine two consonants or vowels that aren't the same?
      Yes, but it's a little more complicated. To find out more about advanced techniques, check out the downloads section.
      How do I write the letter U if it's just one word?
      Either make the line which originates from the U circle back to the word circle, or make another circle around the word which would be the sentence circle for the line of the U to go.