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Questions tagged [writing-systems]

A writing system is a system to record spoken language visible on a permanent medium.

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Why do many Arabic letters look exactly like other letters except for dots, yet have no similarity in sound?

Why do many Arabic letters look exactly like other letters except for dots, yet have no similarity in sound? Examples:
BlueWhale's user avatar
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21 votes
9 answers
6k views

Languages which changed their writing direction

I am interested in account of languages that had undergone a change in the writing direction somewhere in the history. We might say, for example, that Greek was used to be written also (not sure if ...
d_e's user avatar
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19 votes
4 answers
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Is the Cyrillic letter 'Z' the same as the number 3

Why do the Cyrillic 'Z'(З) and the number '3' seem to be the same glyph? Is there a difference that I'm just not seeing? They look identical to me
jastako's user avatar
  • 377
19 votes
5 answers
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Why were vowels secondary citizens in many of the worlds sound-based writing systems?

Not considering logographic systems like Chinese, and outside Cuneiform (not sure if that is a logo system or something else), it appears at first glance that many of the world's writing systems ...
Lance's user avatar
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19 votes
3 answers
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Why was "zh" picked to represent /ʒ/, and where does it come from?

As a native French speakers I used to be puzzled by Zh being used for /ʒ/. At first because I didn't understand the need for it, since in French j is /ʒ/, and dj is /dʒ/. Then I understood why English ...
Teleporting Goat's user avatar
18 votes
4 answers
6k views

Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, and spoken language is believed to have been around for 50,000 to 150,000 years. Writing is a relatively new phenomenon. According to this source, ...
J Li's user avatar
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18 votes
2 answers
557 views

When did other slavic nations adopt the Latin-inspired look of printed Cyrillic pioneered in Russia?

Russian Emperor Peter I famously reformed the Cyrillic script in Russia, where, among other changes, he redesigned the letterforms to more closely resemble the look of the modern Latin script. Here ...
Arnold's user avatar
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17 votes
11 answers
3k views

Writing systems that do not preserve spoken order

Are there writing systems where there are cases of written form of words not preserving the order of speech, i.e. text(A) precedes text(B) in the written form, but speech(B) precedes speech(A)? Only ...
Ryan Li's user avatar
  • 271
16 votes
6 answers
2k views

Should orthographies represent phonemes or phones?

I am currently working with Salvadoran Nawat, an endangered language that has never had a standardized orthography due to being primarily oral. As part of the revitalization process, we need to ...
Sigfredo Olmedo's user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
3k views

If the Arabic script is suited to Arabic grammar, how do speakers of non-Semitic languages cope with it?

The Arabic script is an Abjad writing system or consonantal alphabet. Most letters stand for a consonant, and short vowels are usually not indicated (but can exceptionally be indicated with diacritic ...
robert's user avatar
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14 votes
2 answers
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Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

Cuneiform's glyphs are well-known for the odd way they were made; stamping. I wonder though, given that it remained in used for thousands of years, was this the only way it was ever utilized? Was ...
user avatar
13 votes
10 answers
3k views

Are there any diacritics not on the top or bottom of a letter?

I don't know of any besides the horn on Ơ and Ư and the middle tilde on ᵯ and some other consonants I'm interested in particular in a diacritic precomposed with both "I" and "U"
kwaalaateimaa's user avatar
12 votes
4 answers
14k views

Is there a long list of languages whose writing systems don't use spaces?

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?
alvas's user avatar
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12 votes
8 answers
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Do multi-dimensional writing systems exist?

I am not sure whether linguistics board is the right place to ask this question, but since I couldn't find any better place here is the question: Most (all?) of the writing systems are using the ...
Diagon's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
1k views

How are English spellings determined for words from eastern languages

How are English spellings determined for words from languages with logographic writing systems. Since these don't have an alphabetic script the words in the original language don't have a "spelling." ...
Tom's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Is use of sorting expected and used in East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean)?

For an English speaker with 26 characters, the concept of sorting is ubiquitous. If I see a list, I inherently expect it to be sorted by one of the columns, and of course clicking a column to sort is ...
Oliver Williams's user avatar
11 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why is Hangul (Korean script) not considered an Abugida

An abugida is a script where consonant and vowels form a unit of some form, and are typical in South Asia. Now, the Korean script isn't related to those languages, of course. But the Korean script is ...
hgiesel's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
3k views

Are there practical reasons why languages developed left to right or right to left writing sytems

Some writing systems go right to left, such as Arabic: Others left to right, for example modern romance languages: Languages like Japanese traditionally used vertical writing systems where the ...
Araucaria - him's user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
1k views

Is there a collective term for the Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek alphabets?

I was just wondering if such a term exists, since they are very similar to each other, and all of them derive from the Greek alphabet, so I thought perhaps there might be a collective term for the ...
Quintus Caesius - RM's user avatar
10 votes
3 answers
2k views

How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

I'm not too familiar with the details of Semitic languages, but as far as I can tell it seems the tri-consonantal roots of words are relatively important. If the consonants change over time, did they ...
NoWayHaze's user avatar
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2 answers
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Why do languages with such different alphabets use the same common punctuation marks?

From my experience, many languages with absolutely different alphabets colloquially use the same common punctuation marks, such as: the question mark (?), for inquiring/interrogatives exclamation ...
galois's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
1k views

Is Stephen Bax' partial decoding of the Voynich Manuscript plausible?

Having browsed Stephen Bax' paper "A proposed partial decoding of the Voynich script" (available here), as a scientist in the natural sciences (physics, mathematics), I find his proposed decoding of ...
Nemis L.'s user avatar
  • 201
10 votes
1 answer
7k views

Difference between ideogram and logogram?

I'm having a bit of trouble differentiating these, and I'm wondering if it's because these are generally fuzzy concepts and nobody cares much, if I haven't read into it enough, if my innate ...
Brayton's user avatar
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9 votes
6 answers
2k views

Are there writing systems with more than upper case and lower case?

The English alphabet has two "cases", UPPER CASE and lower case. Japanese hiragana has one case. Are there any writing systems, with, say, 3, 4 or more cases?
Jane Nguyen's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
505 views

The Cyrillic script among the Slavic people

Today the Cyrillic script is used by the East Slavs, such as the Russians and the Bulgarians, but the West Slavs (e.g. the Czechs, the Poles) and some South Slavs (e.g. the Croats, the Slovenes) use ...
lmc's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
3k views

In what way is Japanese related to Sanskrit?

The Wikipedia says that Japanese katakana vowels “The gojūon inherits its vowel and consonant order from Sanskrit practice. “. Could expert explains this in easy language?
Ying Xiong's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why does “&” look nothing like e and t

“&” (ampersand) was from a ligature of e and t. but it looks nothing like e and t put together. Why?
Keon N's user avatar
  • 131
8 votes
2 answers
394 views

Why are the scripts of Crete known as "Linear"?

Two famous, apparently related scripts now known as Linear A (which encoded an as-yet undeciphered language) and Linear B (used to write Greek) were discovered on the island of Crete. Why are these ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
286 views

Are there literate speech communities for Sign Languages?

I am aware of some systems of sign writing (e.g. Sutton SignWriting). They are used in dictionaries, teaching materials, or scientific documentation. But did some Sign Language speech communities ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
7 votes
4 answers
2k views

Can the Chinese script be used to record non-Chinese languages?

I know of at least 3 countries in the Sinosphere that have historically used the Chinese script (or scripts derived from it) - Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. So how did it work? Did they use it to read ...
sashoalm's user avatar
  • 510
7 votes
3 answers
937 views

Why is Devanagari currently used for Sanskrit?

Sanskrit was originally an oral language. It began to be written in the Brahmi script and then over time, most of the Brahmi-derived scripts, Gupta, Siddham, Nagari, Devanagari, Purvi Nagari etc. were ...
Ishan Kashyap Hazarika's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Which alphabetic writing system first had spaces between words?

Just recently, I believed that spaces between words were first invented with the Carolingian minuscule, invented by the English scholar Alcuin of York. As I just discovered, spacing wasn't first ever ...
arara's user avatar
  • 189
7 votes
2 answers
514 views

Musical notation in languages with right-to-left writing

How does musical notation in languages that use right-to-left writing direction (such as Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Urdu, Yiddish) look like? Is it right-to-left too? If not (i.e. if they use the same ...
Milchar's user avatar
  • 317
7 votes
1 answer
420 views

Which writing systems have the highest/lowest stroke-to-sound ratios?

Preemptive note: This question is about sound-based writing systems, excluding logographic systems like Chinese. Transitional systems like Egyptian hieroglyphs, Maya script or Man’yōgana are also ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
6 votes
5 answers
1k views

Do any other languages have an equivalent to the hiragana and katakana alphabets?

Hiragana and katakana contain the same sounds (morae I think), but are typically used in different words. In particular, most European loan words use katakana (a few don't), and a large proportion of ...
Golden Cuy's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
3k views

Are Tajik and Persian mutually intelligible?

I know that the Persian language family has three branches: Persian, Dari and Tajik-Persian. Is the Persian of Iran mutually intelligible with Tajik? And how does the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet differ ...
aso nozomi's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
555 views

How does one learn the meaning of a new symbol in Chinese?

We've all been there. Say you're reading an article about something, and you come across a new word you've never seen before; how do you find out what it means or what it sounds like? In most non-...
Electric Coffee's user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
391 views

Why does capitalization exist?

For background, I'm a systems developer, not a linguist. There's a tendency to dismiss any grammar rules in my line of work namely because of how "strict" (read: dumb, simple) the computers and ...
Dragas's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
307 views

Are the characters in some writing systems more or less visually distinctive than in others?

I'm curious about how writing systems like Burmese or Thai - the characters of which look to my untrained eye far more similar than Latin or Japanese characters - are distinguished by native readers, ...
Lou's user avatar
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5 votes
4 answers
2k views

Is there some relationship between the modern u and μ?

I study Mathematics and Statistics and one of the most common symbols we tend to write is μ which obviously is the lower case 'Mu'. It is one of the easiest symbols to learn when first encountered ...
Malcolm's user avatar
  • 169
5 votes
2 answers
6k views

How to identify a foreign language from handwriting?

As asking language-ID-questions on this site seems off-topic I'd like to know whether there is a resource on the internet which can help me. I found a the curious snippet attached to a balloon which ...
Patrick B.'s user avatar
5 votes
4 answers
826 views

Recognize this script? [closed]

I've wondered about this script since I saw it years ago. I imagine it's an English cipher. Can anyone tell me?
Jellicle's user avatar
  • 193
5 votes
3 answers
2k views

Is a vowel only writing system possible?

An abjad is a writing system in which only consonants are normally written, is the opposite possible? I've recently discovered that English actually has far more vowel-sounds than we have vowel ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
3k views

If the letter V occurs in a few native words, why isn't it included in the Irish Alphabet?

So, I read about the Irish alphabet once, and there was a phrase saying that "V" occurs in a few native words like "vácarnach" which means to quack in English. Shouldn't the letter ...
Akshat Goswami's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
459 views

What IPA Symbols Are Equivalent to Each of These Middle High German Diacritics?

I recently came across this article on the inclusion of certain superscript combining characters for use with representing Middle High German in Unicode. From what I understand, scribes and early ...
Avana Vana's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
692 views

How unpredictable must vowels be for a writing system to classify as an abjad?

I've been pondering a conlang with a rather unusual orthography. I'm only stating this because no natural language has this sort of writing system. Essentially, its a system that only writes ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
407 views

What is the origin of ⟨c⟩ for /ts/?

In several languages' romanizations or orthographies, the letter C is used to represent the /ts/ sound. Where does this come from? Wikipedia notes that ⟨c⟩ is used for Cyrillic ⟨ц⟩ in the ...
nearsighted's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
362 views

How do I know if a cuneiform character is a logogram or determinative?

When I'm looking at a Hittite text, occasionally I'll come across a glyph that has no phonetic meaning. This generally means one of two things: either it's a logogram, or it's a determinative. Either ...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes
3 answers
773 views

Where does the letter <j> come from to some Cyrillic alphabets?

Most South-West languages of Slavic language family, like Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin, include the Latin letter in their alphabets, which has not been a part of Cyrillic writing system they're ...
user avatar
4 votes
3 answers
366 views

Is capitalization a recurring feature across writing systems?

Is it a common feature for a writing system to include a capitalized variant of itself? What is the purpose of capitalization in itself? Is it ever truly necessary for comprehension?
apat's user avatar
  • 137