Types of Writing Systems
Imagine you’re a speaker of a language with no writing system. For whatever reason, you decide to make up a writing system for you language. You probably saw people from other cultures use writing and thought hey, I’ll bet my people could do that too! , so you may very well simply adapt their system to your own language, and granted that has happened a lot in history, but say for whatever reason their writing system won’t work for your language, or maybe you’re just unable to study their system in depth. How does one go about creating.
A new writing system I know this sounds kind of silly and contrived, after all languages aren’t invented, they evolve slowly over time. To this I respond, yes, spoken languages do, but a lot of modern writings systems were actually invented by individual people at some point in history. Anyway, most of us today, if tasked with creating an alternative writings system for English, would probably do something pretty similar we’d make up a symbol for every sound in English, both consonants and vowels, and in order to write down a piece of speech we would just make a big line of those symbols in the order they.
Appear in the speech. This type of writing system, where you have a one to one correspondence between sounds and symbols, is called in alphabet and when you say it like that it seems like the only natural way to write down a language. That’s why I find it fascinating that the vast majority of writings systems in the world ARE’NT alphabets. In fact, if your writing system isn’t originally from Europe, you almost certainly use something besides an alphabet. Not only that, but I think each of these other kinds of writing systems can be seen as a.
Unique way of looking at and interpreting language. Take the arabic writing system for instance. You see, we may call it the arabic alphabet, but the truth is that the arabic writing system isn’t technically an alphabet, but an abjad. In a real alphabet consonants and vowels are written in exactly the same way, but not all writing systems are this egalitarian when it comes to writing vowels. In abjads, for instance, you ONLY write the consonants, and the vowels are just completely omitted. For languages that use abjads, you don’t tend to think of vowels as real sounds exactly,.
But just sort of this weird filler that goes between the real sounds the consonants. Not all languages can do things this way, in English it would be impossible to tell what anyone was talking about because we have like 20 different vowel sounds and a lot of words have no difference between each other except for their vowels. In Arabic, though, it works great, because for one thing, Arabic barely has any words like that where they’re the same except for the vowels, but for another thing Arabic has some interesting grammatical.
Features. In Arabic, a lot of the time the vowels in words will change depending on the context. Arabic verbs are alway made up of a particular set of three or four consonants, but the vowels in between change depending on tense, person, number and all kinds of things. Writing the vowels would mean you’d have to write it differently in all kinds of different contexts even thought the meaning of the word was still the same. The Hebrew alphabe, er, I mean the Hebrew Abjad, works the same way for the same reason writing.
The vowels for these languages would’t just be unnecessary, it would be stupid and cumbersome. This is kind of a tangent, but I find it interesting that even though Arabic and Hebrew are linguistically related and very similar grammatically, the two abjads they use look like exact opposites. Arabic is all curvy and squiggly and ever letter is connected to every other letter, while Hebrew is made almost entirely of straight lines and right angles, like it’s written with a series of stamps. Anyway, there are all kinds of examples where.
Because of a language’s grammar, it just makes more sense to use a particular type of writing system. Another great example for this is Japanese. Here’s a phonetic transliteration of a Japanese phrase. Notice anything Consonant, vowel, consonant, vowel, consonant, vowel, consonant, vowel, consonant, vowel, the Japanese language is composed almost entirely of syllables with exactly one consonant and one vowel. Only rarely does it ever break from this pattern, so there are only really around fifty possible syllables in the Japanese language. It only makes sense, then, that Japanese primarily uses a kind of writings system called a syllabary,.
Where you have one symbol for every syllable. When using this writings system it’s kind of like you’re thinking of each syllable as a particular sound. Once again, it would be absolute hell if you tried to write English like this because English would require hundreds at least, maybe thousands of symbols for every possible syllable. For that matter, the same would be true for almost any language besides Japanese, so it’s not surprising that Japanese is one of the only languages that uses this kind of system. But it’s not always the case that a language is fated to use a particular writing system.
Based on it’s grammar. Most of the languages of the Indian subcontinent are pretty similar to European languages grammatically, probably because they’re distantly related, but despite that none of them use alphabets. Instead, they pretty much universally use abugidas. These are writing systems that have a symbol for every consonant and don’t use individual symbols for the vowels, but the consonant symbols are modified in some way based on what vowel comes after them. I’ll use the Devanagari system as an example sense it’s the most common abugida. You’ve probably seen it before, it’s that writing system that always.
Has a continuous horizontal line at the top that’s everywhere in India. Anyway, this is the independent form of the letter that makes a P p sound, but if an a sound comes after it it looks like this, if a ee sound comes after it it looks like this, if a oo sound comes after it it looks like this, and so on. Every letter works like this, so you’d think that this would be just as bad as a syllabary, but actually the forms of letters for a particular vowel tend to be modified in the same way, so really you only have to.
Memorize a particular symbol for every consonant and every vowel, it’s just that the symbols for the vowels are basically secondary addons to the symbols for consonants. So if abjad’s represent the mode of thought where consonants are the only REAL sounds and vowels are just a weird filler, then abugida’s represent the mode of thought where vowels aren’t sounds in their own right but rather a characteristic of the consonant that comes before them. And yet, this mode of thought isn’t necessitated by the grammar of the languages it’s used.
For. Hindi could easily be written in the latin alphabet and, quite frequently, is, and English could theoretically translate pretty well into an abugida. So really, the only reason that the languages of India tend to use abugidas is because of arbitrary historical convention. The only major kind of writing system I haven’t mentioned would probably be the kind used by Chinese the logography, which makes sense for Chinese. You see, Chinese is a tonal language, which basically means you have to sing it. There are words in Chinese that have the same consonants and vowels in the same order but.
Mean completely different things depending on the tone in which you say it. Chinese has four main tones, and every single word in Chinese has one of these tones. This feature doesn’t particularly lend its self to being written down easily. The Chinese writing system takes care of this by giving up completely on having the sounds in the words correspond to the writing and it just has a separate symbol for every single word. This works particularly well for Chinese sense it’s what’s called an analytic language, meaning it tends to.
Indicate things by stringing together a lot of small words rather than using a few big ones, like in, for instance, German. Because of this Chinese has a relatively small number of words, and therefor a small number of characters. You’d think this system would take forever to learn, and it kind of does, but it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds for a couple reasons. For one thing, a lot of symbols are graphical representations of what they represent, and for another thing a lot of symbols are made up of smaller symbols related to the meaning.
Of the big symbol. For instance, this character means east, and it’s made up of two smaller symbols the symbol for sun and the symbol for trees, so the whole symbol is kind of like the sun rising over some trees. Besides, we already kind of have to learn a separate symbol for every word in English it’s called spelling, and given that English spelling rules are so weird and inconsistent we might as well be learning a different symbol for every word. I know I had to study and practice spelling for years and years after I learned.
The alphabet before my writing became anywhere close to legible. Heck, I still struggle with it. Most of the writing systems of the world use one of the kinds systems I’ve mentioned above, but you need to keep in mind that it’s never. this. simple. You’re probably familiar with how even though alphabets USUALLY have a one to one correspondence between letters and sounds, often you’ll have single sounds represented by more than one letter, or situations where certain unique combinations of letters make weird combinations of sounds, or sometimes the letters are just silent. Similarly, other.
Ways of writing can get pretty complicated. Remember how I said Arabic doesn’t have any symbols for vowels Well, that’s MOSTLY true, but they actually have a few symbols that, although they don’t exactly represent vowels, they serve to modify the vowel consonant that comes before it. Also, Chinese may normally have a symbol for every word, but it’s worth noting that almost all Chinese words are monosyllabic, so it could just as easily be described as a syllabary. Figuring out which is which isn’t helped by the fact that the few Chinese words.
That are multisyllabic are sometimes written with one symbol and sometimes there’s one symbol for each syllable, so really Chinese is cross between a logography and a syllabary. Perhaps the best example of me over simplifying things in this tutorial is the fact that Japanese actually uses three different writings systems which it uses depending on the word and the context. For native or naturalized Japanese words it uses Hiragana, for foreign loan words and some other things it uses katakana, and sometimes it just uses a system of adopted Chinese characters it calls Kanji. And then, of course, you have writing systems that are.