Talk:Defective script

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Examples of non-defective scripts[edit]

Would it be possible to include examples of scripts which are not defective as a contrast? I'm pretty sure korean is one such script, but I'm not sure about this. Can anyone confirm and/or give other examples? Arturus 07:11, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

I think Finnish is a good example, and likely Japanese hiragana/katakana. 惑乱 分からん 10:41, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
The current Korean orthography is defective, because the glottal stop glyph, ㆆ, was dropped arond 1460. So /i/ ("two") and /ʔi/ ("tooth") are both written 이.
Japanese kana are defective, because they don't mark pitch accents. So /kámi/ ("god") and /kamí/ ("paper") are both written かみ. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:06, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Since there are so few orthographies that are "non-defective", being defective must be the norm. Instead of an article about the normal type of scripts and/or orthographies (defective), this article should be replaced by an article about the very few non-defective scripts. I am being ironic, of course, but I am serious in complaining that this article has been fatally flawed from the beginning. I call for deleting it. Pete unseth (talk) 12:06, 2 September 2014 (UTC)


Is Cherokee a defective script? -- 16:40, 16 August 2007 (UTC)


Shouldn't English be the #1 here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:21, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Nope, I'd say French. --nlitement [talk] 13:51, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Hmmm... I don't know I think English is worse than French.--Paaerduag (talk) 11:18, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Neither English nor French (nor Irish, which before the spelling reforms was in some ways worse than English) are defective scripts. They're simply highly irregular (well, not so much French). English even indicates stress by doubling consonants, though it's not completely reliable. Arabic, on the other hand, doesn't indicate medial short vowels or geminate consonants at all. There's nothing to even be irregular. kwami (talk) 12:00, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Isn't English defective in some ways though? For example there is no reliable way to distinguish /θ/ and /ð/, both written 'th', and there is no single way to write /ʒ/. AlexanderKaras (talk) 05:59, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Excuse me, speaking as an Englishman, may I say that English is in no way defective (excepting the U/S aberration:-)! The pronunciation of "th" words is also subject to regional variation, but I can't think of a single example where this (or indeed the more frequently observed lack of a written schwa) results in ambiguity of meaning, which is surely the point?Memethuzla (talk) 13:23, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I believe there's only one example of a minimal pair involving /θ/ and /ð/: thigh and thy (/θai/ and /ðai/). However, the point remains that the English alphabet has no way of indicating whether an interdental fricative is voiced or unvoiced in all positions. In this small respect, at least, it is defective. garik (talk) 19:08, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Similar problem with some of the vowels. English is just so irregular that you forget there is no unambiguous way to write some phonemes. — kwami (talk) 10:11, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

NOT defective scripts, but defective orthographies[edit]

I fear that this article is missing a key point: no script is inherently defective, but its application to a particular language may be defective. That is, an orthography may be defective, but not a script.

As an example, the orthography of English using Roman script is defective. But the orthography of Finnish, using the same script, is not defective. I fear that this key point has been overlooked. And once people see this distinction, they should realize that the article (at least in its present form) is defective.

I think this article could be deleted without any great loss.Pete unseth (talk) 19:40, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Not quite true. Feel free to tidy up the article. But if a script lacks vowels, or tone, or aspiration, or some other phonemic feature of the language it is transcribing, then it is the script itself that is defective. Or at least that is how the literature reads. (I suppose you could argue that the script could be fundamentally reformed, but that might be considered more than a change in orthography. Eg, Chao has used Sinograms syllabically, but that doesn't make Chinese a syllabary.) kwami (talk) 06:47, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Maybe the problem is a misunderstanding of terms. A "script" is a set of symbols, it is autonomous from any specific language. (For example, "Arabic script" has been used to write over a dozen different languages, including Hebrew.) An "orthography" is the set of conventions that define how to use a particular script to write a specific language. I guess you could say that the old Sabean script is defective since it had no vowel symbols.
Roman script did not have any special symbol for aspiration, so when the orthography was devised to use Roman script to write Zulu, they used an "h" symbol, written on the baseline. If they had not done that, the Roman script would have still been a good script, but it would have been a poor orthography.
Kwami just said that "a script lacks vowels, or tone, or aspiration, or some other phonemic feature of the language it is transcribing, then it is the script itself that is defective." If you consider the Zulu example I just cited, you will see that the script was not changed, but the orthography was creative and covered the problem. A script may be lacking symbols needed for a specific language, so instead of speaking of a script as "defective" generally, it would be less inaccurate to speak of a script as being defective for a specific language. I still think this article could be deleted.Pete unseth (talk) 13:39, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I think our dispute is a semantic one, over the meaning of the word "script". You are considering the family of the Roman alphabet to be a single script, but I think that's problematic. The difference between different languages is not just one of orthography: different languages have different glyphs (say, English, Italian, and Swedish), as well as different forms of the same glyphs (say, cursive English and French, where a form will be interpreted as different letters), and IMO (and it would seem by your definition) that can make them different scripts—not that there's a clear dividing line in most cases. Otherwise, Hindi and Bengali are just different orthographies of a single Indic script. Also, there are many scripts which are only used for a single language; if they do not represent all the phonemes of that language, then they are defective: there is no practical distinction between script and orthography. Greek is an example: 12 vowels written with 9 letters and digraphs. We would need exact definitions of 'orthography' vs. 'script' to decide whether this article should be called 'defective script' or 'defective orthography'. Now that I'm looking into this, I'm finding that both are commonly used: That early Arabic and Hebrew were defective scripts in some of the lit, defective orthographies in others. kwami (talk) 19:24, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
We clearly disagree over a fundamental issue: scripts vs. orthographies. A script is defective in relation to a certain language, so that the infamous problems of spelling the many vowels of English are not a problem when spelling Spanish. Same script, but when applied to a different language, it is a different orthography.
But discussion pages are for discussion of article content, not for this sort of discussion. The scholarly literature on scripts and orthographies does not recognize a category of "defective scripts", as opposed to adequate scripts. I renew my call for consideration of deleting this page. What does this page contribute to knowledge? Is the topic noteworthy? I think not. Pete unseth (talk) 13:27, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
If discussion pages are not for this kind of discussion, then why are you discussing it here?
Sampson in Writing Systems, as one example, talks of defective/incomplete scripts. That wording is quite common. The point of this article is to illustrate what the concept is, since the words "defective script" taken literally suggest a script that is inadequate, which is not (necessarily) the case. That's what the point of it is: When the Arabic script is described as "defective", that doesn't mean that it is inadequate for writing Arabic. As for orthographies, your point is well taken, but I'm finding it difficult making the distinction. Phoenician is a classic example of a defective script; when the Greeks adapted it to their language (assuming for the sake of argument that they had been more complete about it and had got all the vowels down), was that only a change of orthography? Would you say therefore that they are not distinct scripts? Where do you draw the line? Is Czech a distinct script, or just a Latin orthography with a few diacritics?
Daniels & Bright use the word 'script' differently than you are. For them, a collection of characters is a 'signary' (general term for alphabet, syllabary, etc.), and a 'script', AKA a 'writing system', is "a signary together with an associated orthography". So a "defective script" would include a defective orthography.
In any case, you're not arguing to change this article from 'defective script' to 'defective orthography', but rather to delete it altogether, so the orthography issue would seem to be beside the point. — kwami (talk) 05:46, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

I agree with Pete Unseth - a script is not defective. This is nonsense. Tircul language (talk) 06:14, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

A script can very well be defective per se, regardless of the orthography used. A clear example of this, given in the article, is the Greek alphabet which has only 5 vowel-representing glyphs while the language it was created for, Ancient Greek, had 12 vowels. Whichever orthography you devise for it will be limited by the fact that there are simply only 5 letters available in the script to represent vowels. If you try to circumvent this limitation by adding new glyphs, you're actually creating a new script derived from the original (e.g. the many Latin-derived alphabets that are in existence). The original script will still be defective. This shows that it can be the actual script, and not merely the applied orthography, that is defective. - TaalVerbeteraar (talk) 14:09, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Many people fail to see the difference between a script and an orthography. The Greek script, with only five vowel symbols, is a fine script. It's five vowel symbols would work great for Spanish. (Nothing wrong with the script itself.) But, when it is used in an orthography for a specific language, then it can be classified as defective. It would also be defective to use it for one of the languages that has fewer than five vowels. But, again, that is a matter of orthography, not of a script. Following the logic of some, isn't EVERY script defective in some way. Pete unseth (talk) 21:43, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Surely, if a script fails to deliver on its original purpose (in the case of the Greek alphabet: representing the sounds of Ancient Greek), it qualifies as defective. Going along with the argument that it isn't defective because it can still be used for other purposes (such as representing the Spanish language) means saying that nothing in this world is defective. A clock failing to display the correct time isn't defective, because it works just fine as a wall ornament. A refrigerator that heats instead of cools isn't defective, because it works just fine as a food heater. If something is unfit for its original purpose, it is defective by definition. - TaalVerbeteraar (talk) 10:51, 20 July 2012 (UTC)


Is the Estonian orthography defective? -- (talk) 16:17, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

I am glad to see you ask your question about an "orthography". It underlines my point that this article about "defective scripts" is misguided. What most are writing about is defective "orthographies". Pete unseth (talk) 16:06, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. Very mislead article. Tircul language (talk) 06:14, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

'The Greek alphabet has been defective for its entire history'[edit]

I'm not an expert, but I do have an interest in languages and to my knowledge, modern standard Greek script/orthography is not defective. There is no ambiguity in pronouncing a word, given its spelling; even all stresses are explicitly marked. In the past, it certainly was defective, and there are multiple representations for single phonemes, but the historical aspects (such as pitch accent, aspiration and the vowel length and quality) have collapsed into a 5-vowel, stress accent system. Even palatalisation is not phonemic; you'll just sound 'foreign' as I understand it.

I've therefore modified the quoted sentence. If someone can suggest an ambiguous written word in modern standard Greek, I'll happily concede the point.

Wee Jimmy (talk) 17:47, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

You're right, AFAIK it's now simply irregular. — kwami (talk) 01:41, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Original research[edit]

Per the discussion at Wikipedia:No_original_research/Noticeboard#Defective_script, please consider improving the article to address an editor's concerns. TheFeds 03:26, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

This article represents some eager original research, but that is not adequate for Wikipedia. Those who believe this page should be retained should show that the topic is worthy of an article by showing how others have studied and published about it. Pete unseth (talk) 21:08, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
User:Kwamikagami just went out of his way adding references. I think that pretty much ends the discussion about the article being unreferenced / original research. - TaalVerbeteraar (talk) 11:45, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Did you look at the actual references? Just putting some stickers doesn't show that anyone with understanding of scripts and orthographies would call a script defective. A starting point would be to talk about phonemic orthographies or whatever. Write what is expected from an orthography and then analyze what it does. Scripts are just tools - a tool has functionality and it is never defective. Otherwise a hammer could be classified as defective because you cannot use it to display clock time. Tircul language (talk) 06:20, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
According to the Wikipedia article on Geoffrey Sampson, he is "cited twice as an authority on writing systems in Encyclopædia Britannica." To me, that means he qualifies as "anyone with understanding of scripts and orthographies" and he uses the term "defective script". - TaalVerbeteraar (talk) 14:14, 19 July 2012 (UTC)