I'm not a linguist, but I borrowed a textbook from my university library and read the chapter on writing systems. The textbook is Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction by William O'Grady. In it, he states on page 554:

Further information about the relationship between language and writing systems comes from the study of the congenitally deaf. Because their hearing impairment undermines their access to the phonological units that alphabets represent, they often have significant difficulty learning to read orthographies of this type.

This got me thinking: are there any examples of logographic writing systems for the congenitally blind, and are there studies around them?


In short, no.

The various tactile writing systems developed for blind readers have all been alphabetic in nature.

Some, such as Braille and its historical competitor New York Point, use arbitrary symbols, while others, such as the still-in-use Moon type, are based on embossed Latin letters. Most are true alphabets, with symbols mapping directly to alphabetical letters (though with additional abbreviations), but a few function like abugidas, with syllabic glyphs made up of letters (and often a default vowel that is not written). Interestingly the latter include not just Bharati Braille, used to write the various Indian abugidas, but Japanese Braille, which is used to write the Japanese kana, but unlike them is not a true syllabary.

I suspect this is because there is a limit to the number of distinct shapes that can be easily and quickly decoded.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that Moon Type, whose characters bear strong resemblance to their print equivalent, has been found particularly suitable for people who lost their sight later in life (though due to the large size of the characters, it also has some advantages for people with a less keen sense of touch).

  • 2
    +1 for the point about Moon for people who have lost sight late in life. Since retinopathy and peripheral neuropathy are both common symptoms of diabetes, this is a combination which occurs relatively frequently. – Colin Fine Apr 5 '20 at 23:10

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