The vast majority of alphabetic writing systems are part of the Phoenician lineage (e.g. Latin, Cyrillic and friends) or Brahmic (Devanagari and friends). Is there an active alphabetic system outside these two families. I found it surprising if there are only two families, while other types of writing system seem to have a lot more families. Is there any explanation to this?

  • Very interesting question. Even though writing was invented independently a couple of times (certainly at least once in Old World and once in New World), alphabet seems to be invented only once, with the probable exception of Hangul.
    – cyco130
    Commented May 5, 2012 at 23:49

2 Answers 2


Yes. Korean Hangul.

This is the only one known to me.

(Incidentally, the Brahmic lineage is itself derived from the Phoenician.)

  • Isn't Hangul a syllabary?
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Oct 21, 2011 at 15:42
  • 9
    @LouisRhys No it's not. It's an alphabet with consonants and vowels. :) When written, words are "clearly" visually divided in syllables, but consonants and vowels "exist" alone. For example: ㅅ(s), ㅏ(a), ㄹ(r), ㅏ(a), ㅁ(m): 사람 saram = person. The word has 2 blocks, which are 2 syllables, SA + RAM, but you can see the difference with Japanese where SA さ is a single symbol.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 21, 2011 at 16:07
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    There is, however, a theory linking Hangul back into the Brahmic (hence, Phoenician) lineage.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Oct 21, 2011 at 23:04
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    @LouisRhys: I suspect there is speculation on this question in Bright & Daniels, The World's Writing Systems, but I haven't checked. It certainly appears that alphabets have been invented far less often than syllabaries: besides Phoenician and Hangul, the only other one I recall is Ugaritic. I certainly remember a suggestion (perhaps in Bright & Daniels) that the syllable is a more natural and salient element than a phone in decomposing speech phonetically.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 11:30
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    Also about Brahmi lineage wiki says: The current position among most scholars outside of South Asia is that Brahmi was likely derived from or influenced by a Semitic script model, with Aramaic being a leading candidate, but they are usually hesitant to consider the issue completely settled due to the lack of strong evidence. Commented May 30, 2016 at 20:19

While Hangul (Korean) is not totally based on the Phoenician alphabetic system it was inspired by the shapes in Tibetan(Phagspa) and other Brahmic scripts, see the origin of Hangul.

Also some modern day scripts are also not based strictly on the Phoenician alphabetic system. One example is the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics. Note that this too was inspired by Devanagari & Pitman.

Note: If you were to account for Syllabaries too (Not strictly Alphabetic) the Yi Script would be one too - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_script

  • Hangul was so inspired according to one person's theory. And the OP asked specifically about alphabetic writing systems, not syllabaries.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 0:42

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