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In the
linguistic Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistic
study of written languages, a syllabary is a set of
written symbols
written symbols
that represent the
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
s or (more frequently) moras which make up
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also co ...

word
s. A symbol in a syllabary, called a
syllabogramSyllabograms are sign A sign is an object, quality, event, or entity whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. A natural sign bears a causal relation to its object—for instance, thunder i ...
, typically represents an (optional)
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
sound (simple
onsetOnset may refer to: * Onset (audio), the beginning of a musical note or sound * Onset, Massachusetts, village in the United States **Onset Island (Massachusetts), a small island located at the western end of the Cape Cod Canal *Interonset interval, ...
) followed by a
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables * ...

vowel
sound (
nucleus ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
)—that is, a CV or V syllable—but other phonographic mappings, such as CVC, CV- tone, and C (normally nasals at the end of syllables), are also found in syllabaries.


Types

A
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, p ...
using a syllabary is ''complete'' when it covers all syllables in the corresponding spoken language without requiring complex orthographic / graphemic rules, like
implicit coda Implicit may refer to: Mathematics * Implicit function * Implicit function theorem * Implicit curve * Implicit surface * Implicit differential equation Other uses * Implicit assumption, in logic * Implicit-association test, in social psychology * ...
s ( ⇒ /C1VC2/)
silent vowel Silent may mean any of the following: People with the name * Silent George, George Stone (outfielder) (1876–1945), American Major League Baseball outfielder and batting champion * Brandon Silent (born 1973), South African former footballer * Ch ...
s ( ⇒ /C1V1C2/) or
echo vowel An echo vowel, also known as a synharmonic vowel, is a paragogic vowel that repeats the final vowel in a word in speech. For example, in Chumash language, Chumash, when a word ends with a glottal stop and comes at the end of an intonation unit, the ...
s ( ⇒ /C1V1C2/). This loosely corresponds to ''shallow'' orthographies in alphabetic writing systems. ''True'' syllabograms are those that encompass all parts of a syllable, i.e. initial onset, medial nucleus and final coda, but since onset and coda are optional in at least some languages, there are ''middle'' (nucleus), ''start'' (onset-nucleus), ''end'' (nucleus-coda) and ''full'' (onset-nucleus-coda) true syllabograms. Most syllabaries only feature one or two kinds of syllabograms and form other syllables by graphemic rules. Syllabograms, hence syllabaries, are ''pure'', ''analytic'' or ''arbitrary'' if they do not share graphic similarities that correspond to phonic similarities, e.g. the symbol for ''ka'' does not resemble in any predictable way the symbol for ''ki'', nor the symbol for ''a''. Otherwise they are ''synthetic'', if they vary by onset, rime, nucleus ''or'' coda, or ''systematic'', if they vary by all of them. Some scholars, e.g. Daniels, reserve the general term for analytic syllabaries and invent other terms (
abugida An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental Writing systems#Segmental writing system, writing system in which consonant-vowel sequences are writt ...
,
abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to th ...

abjad
) as necessary. Some systems provide
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
language conversion.


Languages using syllabaries

Languages that use syllabic writing include
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
,
Cherokee The Cherokee (; chr, ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᎢ, translit=Aniyvwiyaʔi, or chr, ᏣᎳᎩ, links=no, translit=Tsalagi) are one of the indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. Prior to the 18th century, they were concentr ...
, Vai, the
Yi languages
Yi languages
of eastern Asia, the English-based
creole language A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable that develops from the simplifying and mixing of different languages into a new one within a fairly brief period of time: often, a evolved into a full-fledged language. While the concept is sim ...
Ndyuka,
Xiangnan Tuhua Xiangnan Tuhua (), or simply Tuhua, is an unclassified Varieties of Chinese, Chinese variety of southeastern Hunan. It is spoken throughout most of Yongzhou prefecture (apart from Qiyang County in the northeast) and in the western half of Chenzhou ...
, and the ancient language
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
(
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
). In addition, the undecoded Cretan
Linear A Linear A is a writing system that was used by the (Cretans) from 1800 to 1450 BC to write the hypothesized . Linear A was the primary script used in palace and religious writings of the Minoan civilization. It was discovered by arch ...
is also believed by some to be a syllabic script, though this is not proven.
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
, the
cuneiform script Cuneiform is a - that was used to write several languages of the . The script was in active use from the early until the beginning of the . It is named for the characteristic wedge-shaped impressions (: ) which form its . Cuneiform was origi ...

cuneiform script
used for
Sumerian
Sumerian
,
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
and other languages, and the former
Maya script Maya script, also known as Maya glyphs, was the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, ...
are largely syllabic in nature, although based on
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
s. They are therefore sometimes referred to as ''logosyllabic''. The contemporary Japanese language uses two syllabaries together called
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...

kana
(in addition to the non-syllabic systems
kanji are a set of logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gest ...

kanji
and
romaji The romanization of Japanese is the use of Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a wo ...
), namely
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
and
katakana is a Japanese , one component of the along with , and in some cases the (known as ). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hi ...
, which were developed around 700. Because Japanese uses mainly CV (consonant + vowel) syllables, a syllabary is well suited to write the language. As in many syllabaries, vowel sequences and final consonants are written with separate glyphs, so that both ''atta'' and ''kaita'' are written with three kana: あった (''a-t-ta'') and かいた (''ka-i-ta''). It is therefore sometimes called a '' moraic'' writing system. Languages that use syllabaries today tend to have simple
phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). A ...
, with a predominance of monomoraic (CV) syllables. For example, the modern
Yi script The Yi script (Yi: ; ) is an umbrella term for two scripts used to write the ; Classical Yi (an ideogram script), and the later Yi Syllabary. The script is also historically known in Chinese as ''Cuan Wen'' () or ''Wei Shu'' () and various oth ...
is used to write languages that have no diphthongs or syllable codas; unusually among syllabaries, there is a separate glyph for every consonant-vowel-tone combination (CVT) in the language (apart from one tone which is indicated with a diacritic). Few syllabaries have glyphs for syllables that are not monomoraic, and those that once did have simplified over time to eliminate that complexity. For example, the Vai syllabary originally had separate glyphs for syllables ending in a coda ''(doŋ),'' a long vowel ''(soo),'' or a diphthong ''(bai),'' though not enough glyphs to distinguish all CV combinations (some distinctions were ignored). The modern script has been expanded to cover all moras, but at the same time reduced to exclude all other syllables. Bimoraic syllables are now written with two letters, as in Japanese: diphthongs are written with the help of V or ''h''V glyphs, and the nasal coda is written with the glyph for ''ŋ'', which can form a syllable of its own in Vai. In
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
, which was used to transcribe
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
, a language with complex syllables, complex consonant onsets were either written with two glyphs or simplified to one, while codas were generally ignored, e.g. ''ko-no-so'' for ''
Knōsos
Knōsos
'', ''pe-ma'' for ''sperma.'' The Cherokee syllabary generally uses dummy vowels for coda consonants, but also has a segmental grapheme for /s/, which can be used both as a coda and in an initial /sC/ consonant cluster.


Difference from abugidas

The languages of
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
, as well as the
Ethiopian Semitic languages Ethiopian Semitic (also Ethio-Semitic, Ethiosemitic, Ethiopic or AbyssinianIgor Mikhailovich DiakonoSemito-Hamitic Languages: An Essay in Classification - Google Books" Nauka, Central Department of Oriental Literature, (1965) pp 12) is a family o ...
, have a type of
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
called an ''
abugida An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental Writing systems#Segmental writing system, writing system in which consonant-vowel sequences are writt ...
'' or ''alphasyllabary''. In these scripts, unlike in pure syllabaries, syllables starting with the same consonant are generally expressed with
graphemes In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
based in a regular way on a common graphical elements. Usually each character representing a syllable consists of several elements which designate the individual sounds of that syllable. In the 19th century these systems were called ''syllabics'', a term which has survived in the name of Canadian Aboriginal syllabics (also an abugida). In a true syllabary there may be graphic similarity between characters that share a common consonant or vowel sound, but it is not systematic or at all regular. For example, the characters for 'ke', 'ka', and 'ko' in Japanese
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
have no similarity to indicate their common "k" sound (these being: け, か and こ). Compare this with
Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida, based on the ancient Brahmi script, ''Brāhmī'' sc ...

Devanagari
, an abugida, where the characters for 'ke', 'ka' and 'ko' are के, का and को respectively, with क indicating their common "k" sound.


Comparison to alphabets

English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, along with many other Indo-European languages like German and Russian, allows for complex syllable structures, making it cumbersome to write English words with a syllabary. A "pure" syllabary based on English would require a separate glyph for every possible syllable. Thus one would need separate symbols for "bag", "beg", "big", "bog", "bug", "bad", "bed", "bid", "bod", "bud", "bead", "bide", "bode", etc. Since English has well over 10,000 different possibilities for individual syllables, a syllabary would be poorly suited to represent the English language. However, such pure systems are rare. A workaround to this problem, common to several syllabaries around the world (including English loanwords in Japanese), is to write an echo vowel, as if the
syllable coda A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building bl ...
were a second syllable: ''ba-gu'' for "bag", etc.


See also

* List of syllabaries


References

{{List of writing systems , Syllabaries