A WRITING SYSTEM is any conventional method of visually representing
verbal communication . While both writing and speech are useful in
conveying messages , writing differs in also being a reliable form of
information storage and transfer . The processes of encoding and
decoding writing systems involve shared understanding between writers
and readers of the meaning behind the sets of characters that make up
The general attributes of writing systems can be placed into broad categories such as alphabets , syllabaries , or logographies . Any particular system can have attributes of more than one category. In the alphabetic category, there is a standard set of letters (basic written symbols or graphemes ) of consonants and vowels that encode based on the general principle that the letters (or letter pair/groups) represent speech sounds . In a syllabary, each symbol correlates to a syllable or mora . In a logography, each character represents a word, morpheme , or other semantic units. Other categories include abjads , which differ from alphabets in that vowels are not indicated, and abugidas or alphasyllabaries, with each character representing a consonant–vowel pairing. Alphabets typically use a set of 20-to-35 symbols to fully express a language, whereas syllabaries can have 80-to-100, and logographies can have several hundreds of symbols.
Most systems will typically have an ordering of its symbol elements so that groups of them can be coded into larger clusters like words or acronyms (generally lexemes ), giving rise to many more possibilities (permutations ) in meanings than the symbols can convey by themselves. Systems will also enable the stringing together of these smaller groupings (sometimes referred to by the generic term 'character strings') in order to enable a full expression of the language. The reading step can be accomplished purely in the mind as an internal process, or expressed orally . A special set of symbols known as punctuation is used to aid in structure and organization of many writing systems and can be used to help capture nuances and variations in the message's meaning that are communicated verbally by cues in timing , tone , accent , inflection or intonation . A writing system will also typically have a method for formatting recorded messages that follows the spoken version's rules like its grammar and syntax so that the reader will have the meaning of the intended message accurately preserved.
The creation of a new alphabetic writing system for a language with
an existing logographic writing system is called alphabetization, as
People’s Republic of China studied the prospect of
alphabetizing the Chinese languages with
Latin script , Cyrillic
Arabic script , and even numbers, although the most common
instance of it, converting to
* 1 General properties
* 2 Basic terminology
* 2.1 Text, writing, reading and orthography
Grapheme and phoneme
* 2.3 Glyph, sign and character
* 2.4 Complete and partial writing systems
* 3 History
* 4 Functional classification
* 4.1 Logographic systems * 4.2 Syllabic systems: syllabary * 4.3 Segmental systems: Alphabets * 4.4 Featural systems * 4.5 Ambiguous systems
* 5 Graphic classification * 6 Directionality * 7 On computers * 8 See also
* 9 References
* 9.1 Citations * 9.2 Sources
* 10 External links
Chinese characters (漢字) are morpho-syllabic. Each one represents a syllable with a distinct meaning, but some characters may have multiple meanings or pronunciations
Every human community possesses language, which many regard as an innate and defining condition of humanity. However, the development of writing systems, and the process by which they have supplanted traditional oral systems of communication, have been sporadic, uneven and slow. Once established, writing systems generally change more slowly than their spoken counterparts. Thus they often preserve features and expressions which are no longer current in the spoken language. One of the great benefits of writing systems is that they can preserve a permanent record of information expressed in a language.
All writing systems require:
* at least one set of defined base elements or symbols , individually termed _signs_ and collectively called a _script_; * at least one set of rules and conventions (orthography ) understood and shared by a community, which assigns meaning to the base elements (graphemes ), their ordering and relations to one another; * at least one language (generally spoken ) whose constructions are represented and can be recalled by the interpretation of these elements and rules; * some physical means of distinctly representing the symbols by application to a permanent or semi-permanent medium , so they may be interpreted (usually visually, but tactile systems have also been devised).
_ A Specimen_ of typefaces and styles, by William Caslon , letter founder; from the 1728 _Cyclopaedia _
In the examination of individual scripts, the study of writing systems has developed along partially independent lines. Thus, the terminology employed differs somewhat from field to field.
TEXT, WRITING, READING AND ORTHOGRAPHY
The generic term _text_ refers to an instance of written or spoken material with the latter been transcribed in some way. The act of composing and recording a text may be referred to as _writing _, and the act of viewing and interpreting the text as _reading _. _ Orthography _ refers to the method and rules of observed writing structure (literal meaning, "correct writing"), and particularly for alphabetic systems, includes the concept of _spelling _.
GRAPHEME AND PHONEME
Main articles: grapheme and phoneme
A _grapheme _ is a specific base unit of a writing system. Graphemes
are the _minimally significant_ elements which taken together comprise
the set of "building blocks" out of which texts made up of one or more
writing systems may be constructed, along with rules of correspondence
and use. The concept is similar to that of the phoneme used in the
study of spoken languages. For example, in the
An individual grapheme may be represented in a wide variety of ways, where each variation is visually distinct in some regard, but all are interpreted as representing the "same" grapheme. These individual variations are known as _allographs _ of a grapheme (compare with the term allophone used in linguistic study). For example, the minuscule letter _a_ has different allographs when written as a cursive , block , or typed letter. The choice of a particular allograph may be influenced by the medium used, the writing instrument , the stylistic choice of the writer, the preceding and following graphemes in the text, the time available for writing, the intended audience, and the largely unconscious features of an individual's handwriting .
GLYPH, SIGN AND CHARACTER
The terms _glyph _, _sign _ and _character_ are sometimes used to
refer to a grapheme. Common usage varies from discipline to
discipline; compare cuneiform sign , Maya glyph ,
Chinese character .
The glyphs of most writing systems are made up of lines (or strokes)
and are therefore called linear , but there are glyphs in non-linear
writing systems made up of other types of marks, such as
COMPLETE AND PARTIAL WRITING SYSTEMS
WRITING SYSTEMS, LANGUAGES AND CONCEPTUAL SYSTEMS
To represent a conceptual system , we use one or more languages, e.g., mathematics is a conceptual system and we may use first-order logic and a natural language together in representation.
The invention of the first writing systems is roughly contemporary
with the beginning of the
A similar debate exists for the Chinese script , which developed around 1200 BC. Chinese script are probably an independent invention, because there is no evidence of contact between China and the literate civilizations of the Near East, and because of the distinct differences between the Mesopotamian and Chinese approaches to logography and phonetic representation.
A hieroglyphic writing system used by pre-colonial Mi\'kmaq , that was observed by missionaries from the 17th to 19th centuries, is thought to have developed independently. Although, there is some debate over whether or not this was a fully formed system or just a series of mnemonic pictographs.
It is thought that the first consonantal alphabetic writing appeared before 2000 BC, as a representation of language developed by Semitic tribes in the Sinai-peninsula (see History of the alphabet ). Most other alphabets in the world today either descended from this one innovation, many via the Phoenician alphabet , or were directly inspired by its design.
The first true alphabet is the Greek script which consistently
represents vowels since 800 BC. The
For lists of writing systems by type, see List of writing systems . This textbook for Puyi shows the English alphabet . Although the English letters run from left to right, the Chinese explanations run from top to bottom then right to left, as traditionally written
Several approaches have been taken to classify writing systems, the most common and basic one is a broad division into three categories: _logographic_, _syllabic_, and _alphabetic_ (or _segmental_); however, all three may be found in any given writing system in varying proportions, often making it difficult to categorise a system uniquely. The term _complex system_ is sometimes used to describe those where the admixture makes classification problematic. Modern linguists regard such approaches, including Diringer's
* pictographic script * ideographic script * analytic transitional script * phonetic script * alphabetic script
as too simplistic, often considering the categories to be incomparable. Hill split _writing_ into three major categories of linguistic analysis, one of which covers discourses and is not usually considered writing proper:
* _discourse system_
* _iconic discourse system_, e.g. Amerindian * _conventional discourse system_, e.g. Quipu
* _morphemic writing system_, e.g. Egyptian , Sumerian , Maya , Chinese
* _phonemic writing system_
* _partial phonemic writing system_, e.g. Egyptian , Hebrew , Arabic
* _mono-phonemic writing system_
* _phonemic writing system_, e.g.
Sampson draws a distinction between _semasiography _ and _glottography_
* semasiography, relating visible marks to meaning directly without reference to any specific spoken language
* glottography, using visible marks to represent forms of a spoken language
* logography, representing a spoken language by assigning distinctive visible marks to linguistic elements of André Martinet’s ‘first articulation’ (Martinet 1949), i.e. morphemes or words * phonography, achieving the same goal by assigning marks to elements of the ‘second articulation’, e.g. phonemes, syllables
DeFrancis, criticizing Sampson's introduction of _semasiographic writing_ and _featural alphabets_ stresses the phonographic quality of writing proper
* _rebus _
* _syllabic systems_
* _pure syllabic_, e.g. Linear B, Yi, Kana, Cherokee * _morpho-syllabic_, e.g. Sumerian, Chinese, Mayan
* _morpho-consonantal_, e.g. Egyptian * _pure consonantal_, e.g. Phoenician
* _pure phonemic_, e.g. Greek * _morpho-phonemic_, e.g. English
Faber categorizes phonographic writing by two levels, linearity and coding:
* _logographic_, e.g. Chinese , Ancient Egyptian
* _syllabically linear_
* _segmentally linear_
Classification by Daniels TYPE EACH SYMBOL REPRESENTS EXAMPLE
Logographic morpheme Chinese characters
Syllabic syllable or mora Japanese _kana _
phoneme (consonant or vowel)
Featural phonetic feature Korean _hangul _
A _logogram_ is a single written character which represents a complete grammatical word. Most Chinese characters are classified as logograms.
As each character represents a single word (or, more precisely, a morpheme ), many logograms are required to write all the words of language. The vast array of logograms and the memorization of what they mean are major disadvantages of logographic systems over alphabetic systems. However, since the meaning is inherent to the symbol, the same logographic system can theoretically be used to represent different languages. In practice, the ability to communicate across languages only works for the closely related varieties of Chinese , as differences in syntax reduce the crosslinguistic portability of a given logographic system. Japanese uses Chinese logograms extensively in its writing systems, with most of the symbols carrying the same or similar meanings. However, the grammatical differences between Japanese and Chinese are significant enough that a long Chinese text is not readily understandable to a Japanese reader without any knowledge of basic Chinese grammar , though short and concise phrases such as those on signs and newspaper headlines are much easier to comprehend.
While most languages do not use wholly logographic writing systems,
many languages use some logograms. A good example of modern western
logograms are the
Hindu-Arabic numerals : everyone who uses those
symbols understands what _1_ means whether he or she calls it _one_,
_eins_, _uno_, _yi_, _ichi_, _ehad_, _ena_, or _jedan_. Other western
logograms include the ampersand _">
_Another type of writing system with systematic syllabic linear symbols, the abugidas , is discussed below as well._
As logographic writing systems use a single symbol for an entire word, a _syllabary_ is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables , which make up words . A symbol in a syllabary typically represents a consonant sound followed by a vowel sound, or just a vowel alone.
In a "true syllabary", there is no systematic graphic similarity between phonetically related characters (though some do have graphic similarity for the vowels). That is, the characters for /ke/, /ka/ and /ko/ have no similarity to indicate their common "k" sound (voiceless velar plosive). More recent creations such as the Cree syllabary embody a system of varying signs, which can best be seen when arranging the syllabogram set in an onset –coda or onset–rime table.
Syllabaries are best suited to languages with relatively simple syllable structure, such as Japanese. The English language , on the other hand, allows complex syllable structures, with a relatively large inventory of vowels and complex consonant clusters , making it cumbersome to write English words with a syllabary. To write English using a syllabary, every possible syllable in English would have to have a separate symbol, and whereas the number of possible syllables in Japanese is around 100, in English there are approximately 15,000 to 16,000.
However, syllabaries with much larger inventories do exist. The Yi script , for example, contains 756 different symbols (or 1,164, if symbols with a particular tone diacritic are counted as separate syllables, as in Unicode ). The Chinese script , when used to write Middle Chinese and the modern varieties of Chinese , also represents syllables, and includes separate glyphs for nearly all of the many thousands of syllables in Middle Chinese ; however, because it primarily represents morphemes and includes different characters to represent homophonous morphemes with different meanings, it is normally considered a logographic script rather than a syllabary.
Other languages that use true syllabaries include Mycenaean Greek ( Linear B ) and Indigenous languages of the Americas such as Cherokee . Several languages of the Ancient Near East used forms of cuneiform , which is a syllabary with some non-syllabic elements.
SEGMENTAL SYSTEMS: ALPHABETS
An _alphabet_ is a small set of _letters_ (basic written symbols), each of which roughly represents or represented historically a phoneme of a spoken language . The word _alphabet_ is derived from alpha and beta , the first two symbols of the Greek alphabet .
The first type of alphabet that was developed was the abjad . An abjad is an alphabetic writing system where there is one symbol per consonant. Abjads differ from other alphabets in that they have characters only for consonantal sounds. Vowels are not usually marked in abjads.
All known abjads (except maybe
Some abjads, like Arabic and Hebrew, have markings for vowels as well. However, they use them only in special contexts, such as for teaching. Many scripts derived from abjads have been extended with vowel symbols to become full alphabets. Of these, the most famous example is the derivation of the Greek alphabet from the Phoenician abjad. This has mostly happened when the script was adapted to a non-Semitic language.
The term _abjad_ takes its name from the old order of the Arabic
alphabet 's consonants 'alif, bā', jīm, dāl, though the word may
have earlier roots in Phoenician or
An abugida is an alphabetic writing system whose basic signs denote consonants with an inherent vowel and where consistent modifications of the basic sign indicate other following vowels than the inherent one.
Thus, in an abugida there may or may not be a sign for "k" with no vowel, but also one for "ka" (if "a" is the inherent vowel), and "ke" is written by modifying the "ka" sign in a way that is consistent with how one would modify "la" to get "le". In many abugidas the modification is the addition of a vowel sign, but other possibilities are imaginable (and used), such as rotation of the basic sign, addition of diacritical marks and so on.
The contrast with "true syllabaries " is that the latter have one distinct symbol per possible syllable, and the signs for each syllable have no systematic graphic similarity. The graphic similarity of most abugidas comes from the fact that they are derived from abjads, and the consonants make up the symbols with the inherent vowel and the new vowel symbols are markings added on to the base symbol.
In the Ge\'ez script , for which the linguistic term _abugida_ was
named, the vowel modifications do not always appear systematic,
although they originally were more so. Canadian Aboriginal syllabics
can be considered abugidas, although they are rarely thought of in
those terms. The largest single group of abugidas is the Brahmic
family of scripts, however, which includes nearly all the scripts used
Main article: Featural writing system
A _featural_ script represents finer detail than an alphabet. Here symbols do not represent whole phonemes, but rather the elements (features) that make up the phonemes, such as voicing or its place of articulation . Theoretically, each feature could be written with a separate letter; and abjads or abugidas, or indeed syllabaries, could be featural, but the only prominent system of this sort is Korean hangul . In hangul, the featural symbols are combined into alphabetic letters, and these letters are in turn joined into syllabic blocks, so that the system combines three levels of phonological representation.
Many scholars, e.g. John DeFrancis , reject this class or at least labeling hangul as such. The Korean script is a conscious script creation by literate experts, which Daniels calls a "sophisticated grammatogeny ". These include stenographies and constructed scripts of hobbyists and fiction writers (such as Tengwar ), many of which feature advanced graphic designs corresponding to phonologic properties. The basic unit of writing in these systems can map to anything from phonemes to words. It has been shown that even the Latin script has sub-character "features".
Most writing systems are not purely one type. The English writing system, for example, includes numerals and other logograms such as #, $, and white-space:nowrap;">. As mentioned above, all logographic systems have phonetic components as well, whether along the lines of a syllabary, such as Chinese ("logo-syllabic"), or an abjad, as in Egyptian ("logo-consonantal").
Some scripts, however, are truly ambiguous. The semi-syllabaries of
ancient Spain were syllabic for plosives such as _p_, _t_, _k_, but
alphabetic for other consonants. In some versions, vowels were written
redundantly after syllabic letters, conforming to an alphabetic
Old Persian cuneiform
The zhuyin phonetic glossing script for Chinese divides syllables in two or three, but into onset , medial , and rime rather than consonant and vowel. Pahawh Hmong is similar, but can be considered to divide syllables into either onset-rime or consonant-vowel (all consonant clusters and diphthongs are written with single letters); as the latter, it is equivalent to an abugida but with the roles of consonant and vowel reversed. Other scripts are intermediate between the categories of alphabet, abjad and abugida, so there may be disagreement on how they should be classified.
Perhaps the primary graphic distinction made in classifications is
that of _linearity_.
Linear writing systems are those in which the
characters are composed of lines, such as the
Braille is a non-linear adaptation of the
There are also transient non-linear adaptations of the Latin alphabet, including Morse code , the manual alphabets of various sign languages , and semaphore, in which flags or bars are positioned at prescribed angles. However, if "writing" is defined as a potentially permanent means of recording information, then these systems do not qualify as writing at all, since the symbols disappear as soon as they are used. (Instead, these transient systems serve as signals .)
Scripts are also graphically characterized by the direction in which they are written. Egyptian hieroglyphs were written either left to right or right to left, with the animal and human glyphs turned to face the beginning of the line. The early alphabet could be written in multiple directions: horizontally (side to side), or vertically (up or down). Prior to standardization, alphabetical writing was done both left-to-right (LTR or sinistrodextrally) and right-to-left (RTL or dextrosinistrally). It was most commonly written boustrophedonically : starting in one (horizontal) direction, then turning at the end of the line and reversing direction.
Greek alphabet and its successors settled on a left-to-right
pattern, from the top to the bottom of the page. Other scripts, such
as Arabic and Hebrew , came to be written right-to-left. Scripts that
Chinese characters have traditionally been written
vertically (top-to-bottom), from the right to the left of the page,
but nowadays are frequently written left-to-right, top-to-bottom, due
to Western influence, a growing need to accommodate terms in the Latin
script , and technical limitations in popular electronic document
Chinese characters sometimes, as in signage, especially when
signifying something old or traditional, may also be written from
right to left. The
Old Uyghur alphabet and its descendants are unique
in being written top-to-bottom, left-to-right; this direction
originated from an ancestral Semitic direction by rotating the page
90° counter-clockwise to conform to the appearance of vertical
Chinese writing. Several scripts used in the Philippines and Indonesia
, such as Hanunó\'o , are traditionally written with lines moving
away from the writer, from bottom to top, but are read horizontally
left to right. While
The direction of writing in of the
Semitic languages passed
evolutions throughout the years. Different findings show that in some
past periods ivrit was written from time to time from left to right
and sometimes also one line left next line right and over again. This
decision of writing from right to left is related in the physical way
of writing the letters: in the ancient times, the writtens were done
on stone, thing that needed work with tools. since most people are
right handed, it was more comfortable to "work" from right to left.
when the writing developed into use of color on paper, which does not
need phyisical power, the european systems that were developing also
in that times, preferred to write from left to right and so to avoid
"smearing" of the color and that in writing from left to right there
is no hiding of the written sentence to the writer. That's the reason
why most of the later script systems (Greek and it's derivatives-
In computers and telecommunication systems, writing systems are
generally not codified as such, but graphemes and other grapheme-like
units that are required for text processing are represented by
"characters " that typically manifest in encoded form. There are many
character encoding standards and related technologies , such as
ISO/IEC 8859-1 (a character repertoire and encoding scheme oriented
A keyboard is the device most commonly used for writing via computer.
Each key is associated with a standard code which the keyboard sends
to the computer when it is pressed. By using a combination of
alphabetic keys with modifier keys such as Ctrl , Alt , Shift and
AltGr , various character codes are generated and sent to the
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* ^ "Definitions of writing systems". _Omniglot: The Online