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I would like to know what is the modern, formal, writing system with simplest (most minimal) letter symbols by these means:

  • Total number of letters comprised only or mostly from line segments (horizontal, vertical or both) and/or circles
  • Total number of letters comprised from the lowest number of polygon dots per letter (3 dots)

Because no writing system I know is made only or mostly from line segments and/or circles; there are usually always letters with three ≥ plygon dots also.

Note: Every font that isn't loyal mathematically to the formal font-pattern of the language (a recursive font would be an harsh example) isn't counted.


I personally recognize English, Arabic, Modern Hebrew, and Modern South Korean writing system (South Korean Hangul) as the most minimal writing systems I know by means of line segments and polygons.

South Korean Hangul, for example:

19 Consonants: ㄱㄲㄴㄷㄸㄹㅁㅂㅃㅅㅆㅇㅈㅉㅊㅋㅌㅍㅎ
10 Vowels: ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅔ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ
11 Vowel combinations: ㅐ ㅒ ㅕ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ

My problem

A strict determination requires vast comparative linguistics knowledge that I don't have.

My question

What is the modern general communication language writing system with simplest (most minimal) letter symbols?

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  • 5
    Does Morse code count? Braille?
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 20 '20 at 13:28
  • Braille yes --- about Morse code I don't know ; I edited the question to better explain my original meaning, please re-read at least the title.
    – user24141
    Jan 20 '20 at 13:41
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    Then Hangul is sort of a case on its own... (it's used in North Korea too, by the way, it's not just South Korean.) Unlike most writing systems in actual use by vast amounts of people, it was created artificially, with some phonetics concepts in mind and explicitly striving to be a simple system to learn. Subjectively, I consider it brilliant. It's also partly a featural alphabet, which is again rare in widely-used writing systems. If these comments sound like an answer to you, I guess I can reframe them as an answer; I'm not sure myself.
    – LjL
    Jan 20 '20 at 15:19
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    It's absolutely not clear, not from the answer and comments either, what you understand as simple.
    – vectory
    Jan 22 '20 at 19:31
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    @JohnDoea I don't think so, but it goes to show that defining simplicity is quite complicated. You might enjoy the irony. You give the circle "special status", so to say, but what it C? It's not a circle, yet it's not typically a sequences of straight lines. That's just one example, and just from one alphabet, but there are countless types of curves in scripts, sometimes with curved segments being much more prominent than straight ones.
    – LjL
    Jan 23 '20 at 1:12
8

Cree syllabics seems to the be simplest by any count. The letters ᐊ ᐸ ᑕ ᑲ ᒐ ᒪ ᓇ ᓴ ᔭ represent the consonants Ø p t k ch m n s y (this is the "a" form), and vowels are indicated by the orientation of the basic shape, so ᐸ ᐯ ᐱ ᐳ is respectively [pa pe pi po]. The rule for orientation is not entirely trivial: it involves flipping or rotation, so compare the series [ka ke ki ko] = ᑲ ᑫ ᑭ ᑯ .

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  • Hi, your answer let me think about Turkic and Nordic runes as well.
    – user24141
    Jan 20 '20 at 16:56
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    Well, for me, runes only seem to be simple, since there are few character (younger futhark at least), but each of them may represent much more than one sound, like ᚢ, which represents /u/, /o/, /y/ (and all their nasal counterparts) and /v///w/ Jan 21 '20 at 23:02
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+100

The cursive alphabet scripts, be it German, Russian or Arabic are dead simple to produce. The results are not always pretty, sometimes impossible to read.

Realisation is rarely considered in linguistics, and in that sense the Latin alphabet is just an abstract map of twentysix phonemes to one arbitrary symbol each. I mean, font variants may be arbitrary. That's where your question fails.

The German cursive system's majuscles with personal modifications are pretty minimal with only three basic forms: circle, downward stroke, and bow; each drawn out to various extent. Whereas hooks, dots and horizontal strokes are added features that are minimal in size. e and s are outstanding variations of the basic idea as they are the and respectively one of the most frequent letters. x and z diverge further from the basic idea, but they rarely stand out, as they are relatively rare, x much more so than z. I don't know what's up with k though. It really should be c with downward stroke. And ß, let's just ignore it.

Here's a minimal example.

.enter image description here

A similar one exists in Russian. All Arabic looks like that to me

4
  • Thanks! Realisation?
    – user24141
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:09
  • I voted to close this question as too broad. As it stands, I should have chosen opinion based, because it depends on what font you like.
    – vectory
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:21
  • I don't understand what you meant by realisation --- I think I quite "mathematically" described what I mean --- formal letter systems (every font that isn't loyal mathematically isn't counted).
    – user24141
    Jan 22 '20 at 20:23
  • "(transitive, linguistics) To turn an abstract linguistic object into actual language, especially said of a phoneme's conversion into speech sound" [wiki/realization]
    – vectory
    Jan 22 '20 at 21:09

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