I try to find any term that can specify a descriptive field of study that is interested in language notation. It should contain parts of written text (general text form - not only handwritten): characters, words, sentences… in opposite to phonetics that contains parts of spoken language: phones, consonants, vowels, syllables…

Is there any single term that can specify the first mentioned field of study?

It is not graphology, because my field of study is a general text (not only handwritten).

Maybe the closest term is lexicology, however, I am not sure whether it fits, because lexicology in my point of view does not care about sentences and characters itself.

It is also close to orthography, but language correctness is not a case of my study.

I have read about term text linguistics, but it seems to be reserved for larger structures.

I also do not care about semantics, etymology or any historical relations, just parts of the written text within my NLP app.

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    Characters? Sounds like Paleography to me. But if what you're looking for is the answer to questions such as "Why was pirate once spelt as pyrate" then that's within the territory of Philology, it's a very broad field but it does cover changes in spelling/orthography etc. Apr 10, 2020 at 10:21
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    Orthography? Once you get to analysing sentences though, that's just syntax/morphology.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 10, 2020 at 12:04
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    "It is also close to orthography, but language correctness is not case of my study." While people can discuss orthography prescriptively, it can also be studied descriptively. It doesn't have to be about "correctness".
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 10, 2020 at 12:11
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    At this point, it seems that the descriptive branch of orthography is closest to what I'm looking for. Thanks for your comments. I have edited my question to clarify the confusion. Apr 10, 2020 at 12:25
  • Isn't what you looking for mostly just syntax and morphology? Phonology and phonetics are strictly concerned with sounds so if there was an equivalent it would only concern individual letters, not words, phrases, or sentences.
    – Nardog
    Apr 10, 2020 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


If you're interested in the descriptive study of written forms of language, this is sometimes called graphemics. It's not a particularly common word, but it'll be quickly understood by most linguists (by connection to "grapheme", the basic unit of writing).

If you want to go a step further and deal with, say, how the shape of the letter "A" varies between fonts, you could call that graphetics (by analogy to "phonetics"). But, while this word would also be understood by most linguists, I don't think I've ever seen it used in the wild.

In general, though, the most straightforward term would be orthography (or descriptive orthography if necessary). Even though it contains the root ortho- "correct", it doesn't have to be prescriptivist; most linguists use the term just to talk about writing systems, whether or not they're prescribed.


I only know a German term for this: Textwissenschaft, and its is often combined in curricula with discourse analysis (Diskursanalyse in German). I don't know an English translation or equivalent for this term.

But Textwissenschaft rarely goes down to the character level (maybe, when a special spelling is chosen by the authors of a text to transport some message).

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