Some languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Khmer use writing systems that don't use spaces.

What are other such languages? Is there a list of these languages?

  • 7
    I don't know of any such list (though leaving extra space between words is a fairly modern invention; classical Greek and Latin didn't do it). The place to start looking, however, is in Daniels and Bright, The World's Writing Systems.
    – jlawler
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 19:21
  • 3
    Classical Latin writers used to place a dot between words when carving out an inscription in stone, this and the use of all capitals was a characteristic of the "monumental style". That dot separator could be considered a kind of "space". When writing in papyrus, spaces or separators of any kind were almost never used...
    – Joe Pineda
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 14:56
  • 4
    @JoePineda: It would be more technically accurate to say that the modern space is a kind of word separator. Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 13:17
  • In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the phonetic & semantic characters are distinct characters and the semantic characters also serve to separate words. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 8:36
  • This Wikipedia category page has a fairly long list of writing systems that have no word boundaries. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 7:00

4 Answers 4


Corrections and additions to your list

  • Korean does use spaces.

  • Lao and Burmese (Myanmar) don't use spaces.

  • Vietnamese uses spaces between syllables instead of between words (except some few recent loanwords).

  • Tibetan and Dzongkha use other marks to separate syllables rather than words and don't use spaces in the way that English or other languages use them.

  • Tai Lü - when written in the New Tai Lue script can be found written both without spaces between words and with spaces between syllabes.

Most minority languages written in the major Southeast Asian scripts (Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai) probably don't use spaces either, but I don't have details.

Minority Southeast Asian languages using their own native scripts (Tai Lue etc) might not use spaces, but I don't have details.

Other observations

I believe scripts that had different final forms of letters, such as Greek and Hebrew used them to provide hints about word boundaries since spaces between words were not always consistently used in ancient times.

  • At least for modern Torah scrolls, as used in synagogues, Hebrew does have spaces separating words, albeit not as wide/notorious as in Latin script. There might be some photos of scrolls from the Qumran caves and the Cairo synagogues to check how it was done in ancient times...
    – Joe Pineda
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 15:02
  • I know modern Hebrew uses spaces too. I just remember reading about final forms having this function somewhere in the past, possibly in one of the forums languagehat or qalam. Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 13:14
  • 3
    Ancient Greek did not leave spaces between the words. Byzantine and modern Greek do distinguish between final ς and non-final σ, but this was only after spaces between the words were introduced.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 21:18
  • 2
    Aramaic script does leave spaces between words already in the Achaemenid period (unlike most other languages in the ancient Near East). Hebrew script is a continuation of Aramaic script. Here too the distinction between final and non-final letter shapes postdates the use of blank spaces between the words.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 21:22
  • 1
    @fdb: Really? That's interesting to know! Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 14:22

In the Old Ethiopic language Ge'ez a double dot (:) was used to separate words. The Modern Amkharic language of Ethiopia also uses the double dot, although spaces are now used increasingly.

The Nastaʿlīq form of Arabic calligraphy uses vertical arrangement to separate words. The beginning of each word is written higher than the end of the preceding word, so that a line of text takes on a sawtooth appearance. Nastaliq spread from Persia and today is used for Persian, Uyghur, Pashto, and Urdu.


You should clarify the question a bit to make sure you mean 'writing systems', not languages. Spoken language doesn't use spaces (or pauses) in the same way or same place as written language.

But more generally, space in writing is a recent invention to aid in ease of reading. The writing systems of Ancient Greek and Latin did not use spaces. Neither did those of Mesopotamian languages or Ancient Egyptian.

  • Well, you can clearly see here the use of space in a mesopotamian inscription ;-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cuneiform_script.jpg Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 16:45
  • 2
    Good point, I should have said, 'consistent use of spaces'. There had certainly been use of spaces earlier. But very often relying just as much on aesthetics as ease of reading. It's been a long time since my Assyrian lessons. Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 19:36
  • 1
    @DominikLukes: It is possible that the same script could be used by two languages, using spaces as word separator in one language, but not in the other. So rather than "languages" or "writing systems" it would be best to ask about "orthographies". The closest I can think of is the Latin script which uses space as word separator in English and many other languages but as syllable separator in Vietnamese. I have even heard of an alternative Vietnamese orthography that uses spaces the English way instead - somebody used to contribute it to Wiktionary years ago but it got rejected. Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 13:20
  • @hippietrail there were so many Vietnamese reforming suggestions before but none of them became reality. This is one of them and it also contains another way to write words in the old times Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 12:00
  • even in Japanese it's not "consistent" either because books for beginners or children often write spaces between words Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 12:06

Vedic Sanskrit often has no spaces between the letters within a same sentence, with the exception of some signs, and modern Sanskrit has no spaces between the same parts of its compound.

Old Russian and Old Greek also used to avoid spaces between the words within a same phrase.

  • Is it not more of a property of the devanagari way of writing than sanskrit itself? I.e. this would be applicable to all languages using devanagari.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 10:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.