MTG Wiki
For the creatures that use this language, see Phyrexia#Phyrexian life forms.
Alphabet Phyrexian

The Phyrexian alphabet.[1]

The Phyrexian language (Phyrexian: pyrsVUDz, IPA: [pyrxɬɒʔɣ]) is a complete written, and spoken language, constructed and developed for Scars of Mirrodin block. Knowledge of the language and its use has been passed since the old Phyrexian culture through glistening oil.[2]

It uses a novel alphabet, with primary glyphs attached to a central stem line that runs continuously to the end of a sentence, save for line breaks. Both the beginning and end of sentences are explicitly marked. It is written vertically and read from top to bottom.[3] These features lend it an appearance similar to a real-world scripts such as traditional Mongolian which is written vertically, and the early Irish Ogham due to the use of a stemline along the characters. Horizontally written variants exist, often when mixed with English text, notably on Phyrexian-language cards.

History[ | ]

Development[ | ]

An early version of the language appeared in the Nemesis promotional comic. When the language was developed, it was originally created using IPA alone, with glyphs later being added to match its sounds.[2] By the time of Scars of Mirrodin, the alphabet was completed.

Numbers were introduced later, with Phyrexian-language cards using Arabic numerals. Roman numerals were originally proposed as the basis for a Phyrexian numbering system, but were found to be too inefficient at representing precise numbers.[2] As the Phyrexian culture is machine-based, binary was also considered and rejected for the same reason. Higher powers of two were each considered in turn until a hexadecimal system was chosen as it allowed a square grid of numerals. This distinct system first appeared during the prerelease of Phyrexia: All Will Be One.[4][5]

Translation[ | ]

Sometime after the release of the original Phyrexian language judge promo for Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, high-resolution art for Dominaria's Phyrexian Scriptures was shared by its artist, an early example of Phyrexian script which renewed interest in translation.[6] The text in that artwork has been determined to be the flavor text of Dark Ritual (Urza's Saga) in Phyrexian. That translation effort also yielded a proposed syntax tree for the language[7], and a partial association of consonant sounds with Phyrexian characters.[8]

Transliteration[ | ]

An official Wizards of the Coast survey in mid-2021 asking players' thoughts on Phyrexian versions of cards featured a transliterated version of Wurmcoil Engine, which provides insight into the transliteration of Phyrexian letters to English.[9]

Sample Transcription Known English equivalent
WurmcoilPhyrexian [|?]YrmQoEc gn[G?]Enu

|QyruZEen Don[q?]trYt
|ErLt,bEcEty,QEL,ELpcbuQocdu |r,tust |tQet |ebEcEt,vord,douon |tQu,bettcuiEucd.
|sempcu,oi,enotQurcEnu,o |ebEcEty,tustkouL,Quru.

[W]urm[c]oil En[g]ine

[P]hyre[x]ian [C]onstru[c]t
[F]irst [a]bility
[T]his-is[ ]pl[ac]eholde r-text
That abilit[y]-word-doeon the-battlefield.
[E]xample-of-another[ ]line-o[f] ability-text[ ]goes-here.

The spoiler for Phyrexia: All Will Be One's Kaito, Dancing Shadow featured "All will be one" transliterated to Phyrexian text in its background.[10]

Sample Transcription Known English equivalent
KaitoONE ecc,vEcc,bu,onu All will be one

Clackeys sold an Official Phyrexian Keycap Set featuring Phyrexian characters along with the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals.[11] According to Wizards of the Coast in its FAQ, there is no equivalent Phyrexian character for the letter 'C'. The keyboard also features no character for =, +, [, {, ], }, \, or |. PhyrexianKeyboard

Phonology[ | ]

Consonants[ | ]

Place of Articulation
Manner ↓ Bi­labial Labio­dental Dental Alveolar Post­alveolar Retro­flex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n N $
Plosive p b t d h k C G D
Sliced (Aspirated) f H % _
Clanked (Ejective) P T B I
Sibilant fricative L & g J
Sibilant affricate A a
Non-sibilant fricative i l Z K s z S M Q
Approximant v w W
Trill r
Lateral fricative V R
Lateral approximant c

Phyrexians prefer consonant sounds over vowels.[12] They dislike nasal sounds, as the sounds imply some "organicness." The language incorporates several "metallic" consonants:[1]

  • Sliced consonants (f, H, %, and _): These are like [p], [t], [k], and [q] but aspirated, and the aspiration sounds like a knife being rubbed against a sharpener.
  • Clanked consonants (T, B, and I): These consonants are made like their plosive counterparts ([t], [k], and [q]) but followed with a sharp metallic clank.
    • P is also a clanked consonant like [p], but is accompanied by a metallic snapping sound like shirt snaps.
  • D is a glottal stop and is considered a consonant in Phyrexian. This can either be a metallic or an unaspirated plosive sound. When metallic, it is accompanied by the sound of a disharmonious bell. It is considered more refined to use the metallic version of this consonant.[12]
  • g is like the sh sound in sure, except as if the sound was made by rubbing two pieces of metal together similar to a blade being drawn from a metal sheath or the sound of scissors.[2]

Vowels[ | ]

Front Central Back
Close E y Y
Close-mid u O o
Mid F
Open e U

Phyrexian vowel sounds can be long or short, with long vowels written double.[1] Otherwise, vowels are rarely written next to each other outside of plural words.[2]

Writing System[ | ]

The Phyrexian script was designed to be written with one hand of three clawed fingers, a feature common in older Phyrexians.[2] Each glyph features a vertical stemline called the voice line, to be written with the middle digit; an intersecting glyph known as the primary radical, written with the left digit; and occasionally diacritics known as secondary radicals, written with the right digit.[13] Phyrexian sentences start with a perpendicular bar and end with an angular hook or barb. Words can be compounded with the character ,, with the resulting lexeme considered a single word.[2] Compounded or agglutinated words which omit the symbol convey an altered meaning, such as signifying ownership or responsibility.[13]

Phyrexian is a highly systematized script, with the primary and secondary radicals being associated with the manner of articulation and place of articulation respectively.[14] The vowel glyphs are similarly associated with their articulation, rather than being arbitrary. Each vowel is composed of three lines on one side of the staff, one line longer than the other two, sometimes with a "hook" on the long line. The height of the long line indicates a closeness to openness, the side of the staff indicates front or back vowels, and the presence of a hook indicates roundedness.

Although knowledge of the letters, numbers, and language are passed through glistening oil, the language has changed over time as well.[2] Phyrexian was originally designed to be written by a claw scratching at a hard surface such as metal or stone.[13] Followers of Jin-Gitaxias and Elesh Norn see scratched writing as rustic and unrefined, while followers of Urabrask view it as an art. Changes to spoken language are more common among red-aligned Phyrexians, who remove any systems of speech they find contrived.[2] The star-shaped secondary radicals seen in glyphs such as s were originally written by Old Phyrexians by turning their hands, creating a spiral shape described as similar to the '@' symbol. Newer Phyrexians with more fingers can more easily create the star shape by expanding their fingers.

Alphabet[ | ]

Symbol IPA Romanization Usage English approximation[15]
m m m[16][11] Yawgmoth, Mirrodin, Mephidross, Tamiyo mime
n n n[17][16][11] Vorinclex, Elesh Norn, Mirrodin, Jin-Gitaxias, Ajani, Nahiri, Nissa nun
N ŋ sing
$ ɴ
b b b[17][16][11] Urabrask aback
p p p[16][11] pip
d d d[16][11] Sheoldred, Mephidross, Mirrodin dad
t t t[16][11] Jin-Gitaxias, Tamiyo stop
k g g[16][11] Yawgmoth gaggle
h k k[11] Urabrask, K'rrik, Lukka, Vraska skip
G ɢ g Jin-Gitaxias Like [ɡ], but further back, in the throat.
C q q[11] Like [k], but further back, in the throat.
l v v[11] Vorinclex, Vraska valve
i f f[16][11] Mephidross fun
K ð this
Z θ th Yawgmoth thin
z ɣ Between [ɡ] and [h].
s x x[16][11] Vorinclex, Phyrexia, Jin-Gitaxias Between [k] and [h]
M ʁ Like [r], said back in the throat, but not trilled.
S χ c Vorinclex Like [x], but further back, in the throat.
Q h h[16][11] Nahiri high
& z z[11] zoo
L s s[16][11] Urabrask, Mephidross, Nissa, Vraska, Jace sass
g š (ʃ) sh Sheoldred, Elesh Norn Like shoe, but with metallic sounds
J ž (ʒ) vision
a dž (ʤ) j Jin-Gitaxias, Ajani, Jace gene
A č () beach
v w (ʋ) w[17][11] Between [v] and [w].
w j y or j[11] Yawgmoth, Tamiyo you
W ẅ (ɰ) Like [w], but with the lips flat.
r r r[16][11] Vorinclex, Urabrask, Elesh Norn, Sheoldred Mirrodin, Phyrexia, Mephidross, K'rrik, Vraska "Rolled R"
c l l[17][16][11] Vorinclex, Sheoldred, Elesh Norn, Lukka let
V ɬ By touching roof of mouth with tongue and giving a quick breath out.
R ɮ Like [l] and [ʒ], or [l] and [ð], said together.
f φ () ph Phyrexia Like [p], but sliced.
H ţ () Like [t], but sliced.
% ķ () Like [k], but sliced.
_ ǥ () Like [q], but sliced.
T ť () Like [t], but clanked.
B ǩ (kxʼ) k K'rrik Like [k], but clanked.
I ǧ () Like [q], but clanked.
P π () Like [p], but clanked.
D ‘ (ʔ) '[11] or none 'Urabrask, 'Elesh Norn, Yawgmo'th, Ji'n-Gitaxias, Tam'iyo', 'Ajani', Lukka', Nahiri', Nissa', Vraska' uh-oh, occasionally metallic
e a a[17][16][11] Urabrask, Tamiyo, Vraska For many English speakers, the first part of the ow sound in cow.
U ɒ aw or a Yawgmoth, Ajani American thought
u e e[17][16][11] or a Elesh Norn, Mephidross, Jace Similar to hey, before the y sets in.
F ə a Ajani, K'rrik, Nissa, Vraska above
E ɪ[13] i[17][16][11] Jin-Gitaxias, Mephidross, Nahiri, Nissa kit
EE i i Ajani, Nahiri free
o o o[17][16][11] Vorinclex, Elesh Norn, Yawgmoth, Mirrodin RP yawn
oo oʊ o Tamiyo low
O ø eo Sheoldred Like [e], but with the lips rounded like [o].
Y u or ʌ[13] u[16][11] Urabrask, Lukka boot or uh
y y i or u or y[16][11] Jin-Gitaxias, Phyrexia, Lukka Like [i], but with the lips rounded as for [u].
| ^ Line start
~ " Quotation mark
, SPACE Word separator (single line)
. .[11] Full stop/line end
|| ![13] Exclamatory line start
/ :[11] or - or — Colon, a hyphen, or a dash

Numerals[ | ]


Proposed Phyrexian numerals based on Phyrexia: All Will Be One prerelease.[18]

Although most Phyrexian text simply substitutes Arabic numerals in a Phyrexian font, one in fifteen Prerelease Packs for Phyrexia: All Will Be One featured special Phyrexianized spindown dice with Phyrexian numerals.[4][5] The numerals use a base-16 system and zero-based numbering.[13]

Grammar[ | ]

Syntax Tree

Proposed syntax tree synthesizing information from several posts.[7][19][20]

Tense and mood markers are compounded with the words that modify, and generally precede them, although they can follow the modified word in some dialects considered slang.[2]

Nouns within a sentence are organized hierarchically, in order of importance.[13] Where necessary, a noun subject marker can be applied to a verb to signify which noun is the subject. Some Phyrexians, most commonly red-aligned Phyrexians, use noun order to subtly indicate disrespect.[2]

Phyrexians don't use personal pronouns.[1] When referring to a group in the plural, where in English we'd use the pronoun "we," Phyrexians instead use a generic noun that describes the group they are referring to. The same is done if a singular pronoun is needed in a sentence for clarity.

Phyrexian uses a fourth-person point of view, in place of an obviative third person, to distinguish a non-salient referent. It is used for a subject removed from the discussion, separate from a third person point of view, "when you have run out of [points] of view for everyone else in the situation."[2] Its use is similar to that of the English indefinite personal pronoun "one."[13]

Relational Infixes[ | ]

PHYPhylly Infix

Chart used to determine relational infixes.[2]

All Phyrexian words contain a vowel in their second-to-last letter, indicated by a hyphen in the lexicon.[2] This letter changes based on the subject and object of the given sentence. In some cases, notably all second-person cases, the vowel is prefixed by a "u-", and undergoes vowel harmony.

Infixes are also used when indicating a possessive, for example the English case "your" would be considered second-person-to-second-person.[2]

Vocabulary[ | ]

Phyrexian words rarely begin with vowel sounds, and loanwords or names that begin with them generally have glottal stops prepended to them.[12] Phyrexian has many loanwords, and Phyrexians are particularly fond of borrowing titles, such as praetor.[12] When Phyrexianizing words, Phyrexians prefer to add harsher consonants.

Phyrexian rarely splits up a word, but often modifies a word with prefixes.[12] Prepositions are generally added as prefixes.

Gallery[ | ]

Trivia[ | ]

  • When a Phyrexian is compleated, they sometimes require augmentation to allow them to speak some of the "metallic" phonemes used in the language.[21]
  • There is no word in Phyrexian for "happiness."[22]
  • Phyrexian has a single word meaning both "evolution" and "pain."[23]
  • Phyrexian is a genderless language.[22]
  • Elesh Norn's favorite mood marker is the jussive.[2]
  • Jin-Gitaxias prefers to use complex, compounded words.[21][24]
  • Urabrask speaks with an accent and is known to use slang.[21][24][2]
  • Sheoldred prefers to use a sentence ending hook different from the standard . that was more commonly used in old Phyrexia.[2]
  • Less dexterous than the other praetors, Vorinclex writes star-shaped secondary radicals as spirals, similar to old Phyrexians.[2]
  • Mary Kathryn Amiotte-Beaulieu is the Head Phyrexian Linguist for Wizards of the Coast and has spoken the language in multiple videos.[24][25][21]
  • The Phyrexian language was inspired by roughly twelve other languages.[2]
  • Phyrexian lacks the verb "to be."[2]
  • According to Atraxa, Elesh Norn had the ability to scour individual words from the mind of New Phyrexia.[26]

References[ | ]

  1. a b c d Bella Guo, Mary Kathryn Amiotte, and Matt Danner (January 12, 2023). "A Breakthrough in Phyrexian Language and Communications". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Phyrexian Phylology in Phylly (Video). Magic: the Gathering. YouTube (February 17, 2023).
  3. Doug Beyer (November 24, 2010). "Continuum". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. a b Phyrexia: All Will Be One Prerelease Planning Guide. Wizards of the Coast (January 23, 2023).
  5. a b Mike Turian (January 17, 2023). "Collecting Phyrexia: All Will Be One". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Joseph Meehan. "For my first ever tweet I'll kick it off right...". Retrieved on 2018-03-14.
  7. a b citrus_inferno. "Evidence the new Phyrexian Scripture art translates to Dark Ritual Flavor Text". Retrieved on 2018-03-14.
  8. citrus_inferno, A partial parsing of the Phyrexian alphabet, /r/magicTCG
  9. MarakZaroya (June 12, 2021). "From a WOTC survey, don't know if it's been analyzed yet."
  10. Wizards of the Coast (December 24, 2022). "wizards_magic". Twitter.
  11. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad The Official Phyrexian Keycap Set. Clackeys (February 2023).
  12. a b c d e The Vorthos Cast (March 13, 2023). "240 - Phyrexian Language with Bella Guo". Soundcloud. Archived from the original on April 1, 2023.
  13. a b c d e f g h i Beadle & Grimm's (2023). "Tolarian Academy Department of Linguistics Research: Phyrexian Language Translation Guide", Wizards of the Coast.
  14. jankestmage (March 13, 2018). "New Phyrexian Language, comment 371". MTG Salvation.
  15. Help:IPA
  16. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s MarakZaroya (June 12, 2021). "From a WOTC survey, don't know if it's been analyzed yet."
  17. a b c d e f g h Wizards of the Coast (December 24, 2022). "wizards_magic". Twitter.
  18. Easilycrazyhat (February 3, 2023). "Phyrexian dice". Reddit.
  19. Citrus_Inferno (June 23, 2020). "Partial Translation of the Phyrexian Swamp Lore". Reddit.
  20. Citrus_Inferno (November 9, 2019). "A partial translation of Yawgmoth's Testament". Reddit.
  21. a b c d Let's Talk Phyrexian: All Will Be One! (Video). Good Morning Magic. YouTube (April 18, 2022).
  22. a b Lynn Abbey. (1998.) Planeswalker, Wizards of the Coast. ISBN-13: 0-7869-1182-4.
  23. Foul Presence
  24. a b c Building Worlds - Phyrexia: All Will Be One (Video). Magic: The Gathering. YouTube (January 12, 2023).
  25. How to Say "Hello" in Phyrexian! And Why Did We Change Yawgmoth's Testament?? (Video). Good Morning Magic. YouTube (August 23, 2021).
  26. K. Arsenault Rivera (March 17, 2023). "March of the Machine - Episode 4: Beneath Eyes Unblinking". Wizards of the Coast.

Eternal links[ | ]