39 votes
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Is the Cyrillic letter 'Z' the same as the number 3

The two are unrelated. The letter З developed from the Greek letter zeta (Ζ), through an intermediate form with a tail (Ꙁ). This shape got simplified in handwriting until it became the modern form. ...
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39 votes
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Why was "zh" picked to represent /ʒ/, and where does it come from?

It's based on an analogy s : sh :: z : zh. Since ⟨z⟩ represents the voiced counterpart to ⟨s⟩, at least some English speakers find it fairly natural to use ⟨zh⟩ to represent the voiced counterpart to ⟨...
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30 votes

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

From the source: Full writing-systems appear to have been invented independently at least four times in human history: first in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) where cuneiform was used between 3400 ...
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27 votes
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Is there some relationship between the modern u and μ?

No, there is no relationship. The lowercase form μ is just a calligraphic development of the uppercase form. Here's an illustration with colored dots to indicate the corresponding parts: It's just a ...
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24 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Really lots of languages have experienced a change from Arabic writing (right to left) to either Latin or Cyrillic writing (left to right) during the 20th century. Notable examples are Turkish, Azeri, ...
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23 votes

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

Hebrew is one of those languages. The dagesh is placed inside the letter. For example: Bet without dagesh: ב Bet with dagesh: בּ‎ The shuruk vowel point (nikkud) is placed to the left of the letter (...
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22 votes

Writing systems that do not preserve spoken order

Hieroglyphic Egyptian has a feature called "honorific transposition", where certain nouns can be written at the beginning of a noun phrase (regardless of their actual syntactic position) if ...
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20 votes
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How to identify a foreign language from handwriting?

Problem 1. Identify the language I found this diagram (in Russian). It seems to be pretty simple, and it amazingly covers a vast majority of world's languages. I took my liberty to adjust it slightly....
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20 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Chinese is classically written top-to-bottom from right to left, e.g., 9 5 1 10 6 2 11 7 3 12 8 4 but it is becoming increasingly common to also see it written left-to-right from top to ...
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20 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Probably the oldest example — being one of the oldest known examples of writing to begin with — is Sumerian cuneiform writing. Like Chinese, Sumerian cuneiform was originally written in vertical ...
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19 votes

Is the Cyrillic letter 'Z' the same as the number 3

Draconis explained the origin, but I'll go into another aspect of your question: For practical purposes, yes, it is the same glyph. Native Cyrillic speakers will frequently write the same shape for ...
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18 votes
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How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

Semitic languages don't always preserve consonants perfectly. In fact, I don't think that there is any Semitic language without multiple classes of conjugation to account for irregularities. All ...
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17 votes

Writing systems that do not preserve spoken order

There is a whole class of languages that use Abugida writing system which shows this phenomenon on a regular basis. Most prominent examples are Hindi and Thai. Using Thai writing for examples below. ...
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16 votes

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

Yes, all of these cultures expect and use sorting pretty much just like alphabet-using cultures do. Japanese has a set of some 46 phonetic characters called kana. They're arranged by phonetics in a ...
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15 votes

Is it possible to have a word-based language completely without word inflection?

The problem is, things like "word-based" vs "character-based" as you put it (the standard words are alphabetic vs logographic) apply to writing systems, not languages. Languages, both historically and ...
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14 votes
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Why do languages with such different alphabets use the same common punctuation marks?

They were standardized at some point, in the 19th-20th centuries, but many languages still keep their own ancient punctuation, e.g. the Armenian period is :, the Armenian question mark is ՞ which is ...
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14 votes

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

Some examples: d̵ which does not render well here (using the separate diacritic), but exists in Ð and đ, as well as e.u. o̵ (again, rendering problem), that is o-bar, and do on. The latter is ...
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14 votes

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

I will answer from a different point of view. I will not care if it happened here at 3500 BC while at the other place at 1500 BC and consider it, as in your question, both as almost at the same time ...
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14 votes

Writing systems that do not preserve spoken order

German numbers. 42 is read as "Zweiundvierzig", literally "Two and Forty". This order swap only happens for numbers between 20-100.
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13 votes
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Please help me identify this language (image)

@prash is right, that is Malayalam, and the text is upside down, it reads "mādhavi", മാധവി, which is most likely a female name.
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13 votes
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Recognize this script?

Sorry for digging up this old question but we finally have an answer. I reposted this question to puzzling stackexhange thinking they would be better equipped to solve it. Surely enough, within ...
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13 votes

Is the Cyrillic letter 'Z' the same as the number 3

BTW, this similarity was confusing people in XX century, so they agreed to change the number 3 glyph to slightly differ from the letter. This difference is still maintined in the technical ...
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12 votes
Accepted

Was there an evolution of the Greek alphabet in the Middle East?

These are all normal Greek characters. C is a form of sigma: it's called lunate sigma, and is a variant that's sometimes used in printed texts these days too. Lunate sigma is a Hellenistic development ...
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12 votes
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Wraparound writing system?

Boustrophedon is a kind of bi-directional text, mostly seen in ancient manuscripts and other inscriptions. Every other line of writing is flipped or reversed, with reversed letters. Rather than going ...
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  • 8,501
12 votes
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The term "proto" in "proto-language"

By convention, the prefix proto- is only assigned to reconstructed languages predating the extant records of related languages. In rare cases it happens that older records show up and a proto-language ...
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12 votes

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

Comanche uses “U bar” <Ʉ, ʉ> in the official orthography for /ə/. Other languages that use this letter in their official orthographies include Kanakanabu (an Austronesian lanuage of Taiwan) and ...
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12 votes

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

In the Japanese hiragana syllabary, the softening mark (dakuten) on the symbol て (te) is technically inside the letter, giving で (de).
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11 votes

How are English spellings determined for words from eastern languages

General Remarks Different languages have different sound systems. So no romanization system can be perfectly faithful to the native language, and at the same time perfectly intuitive to speakers of ...
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11 votes

In what way is Japanese related to Sanskrit?

Due to the study of Buddhism and its scriptures in the source language (either Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit or Pali) Japanese scholars were aware of the structure of the Indic scripts finally coming from ...
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11 votes

Is it possible to have a word-based language completely without word inflection?

There is no such categorization of languages as "word-based" vs. "character-based". Not all Chinese speakers are literate. Standard Chinese has certainly been affected by the character-based writing ...
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