Talk:List of writing systems

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Classification of writing systems[edit]

Maybe someone could explain the characteristics of the different writing systems (what do Logographic, Syllabaries etc. actually stand for). Kokiri 13:36, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The first sentence of the article says See writing system for a description of the different kinds of writing systems. -- pne 10:07, 17 May 2004 (UTC)

Canadian syllabics[edit]

Are Canadian syllabics (e.g. Cree, Ojibwe, Inuktitut) really syllabaries? As far as I know, syllables beginning with the same consonant use the same shape and rotate and/or reflect it and/or add dots to signify the vowel sound, which means that they should probably be classified as abugidas. -- pne 09:59, 24 May 2004 (UTC)

I know you believe that, Philip, but I think it is contentious. The rotation is not applied regularly between all the series, and then there is the series of 'finals' which in fact are sometimes used as initials (in consonant clusters). The script is called a syllabary, and has always been. I think "reassigning" it to abugida is just overly clever.
No, it's just being accurate. Canadian syllabics is a "true" abugida in the sense that Ethiopic is, where the consonants are significantly and sometimes irregularly modified by their vowels. As for the finals and clusters, those are alphabetic, and clearly segmental, so it's even further from a syllabary.
As for the terminology, in the 19th century, the Arabs, Hebrews, Hindus, and Siamese all wrote in "syllabics" (everything we'd call an abugida or abjad today). Part of the reason was that, as everyone knew at the time, the Greeks made all the great advances of civilization, including the alphabet, and the less civilized Asiatics (like the Canadian Indians) made due with inferior "syllabic" writing. The term became entrenched with the Canadian Aboriginal script, almost as if it were in a kind of cultural backwater for the last half century. But "syllabics" (as a noun) is not equivalent to "a syllabary" in the modern use of the term. It only means that not every consonant and vowel is written out in a linear fashion. kwami 11:49, 2005 July 14 (UTC)

Hangul - featural?[edit]

I don't think that the "featural" category belongs for Hangul either.Evertype 17:56, 2004 May 25 (UTC)
Hangul is featural in its conception, but alphabetic in how it's learned. However, Ethiopic is an abugida in its conception, but a syllabary in how it's learned. I think it's worth drawing attention to Hangul as something special. Perhaps "Featural alphabet"? kwami 11:49, 2005 July 14 (UTC)

Mayan - logographic vs syllabic[edit]

Someone had moved Mayan from logographic to syllabic. I put it back. It's clearly logographic. All logographic systems are actually "logosyllabic": Sumerian, Chinese, Mayan, they all used glyphs for their sound values, and the most common of the glyphs were syllabic (or at least used as monosyllables). 90% of Chinese characters are "logosyllabic" (that is, composed of a determiner combined with syllabic phonetic element). Egyptian was somewhat different, due to the basic abjad-like nature of the script; it's perhaps best described as logo-consonantal. That should be explained in the articles on logographies, but Mayan was not exceptional, except of course in as far as all these scripts are ideosyncratic. Mayan feels a lot like Japanese, or Egyptian, in its application. kwami 12:09, 2005 July 14 (UTC)

Kwami, 'twas I who had moved Mayan from logographic to syllabary; in the absence of a mid-way logosyllabic designation, I felt that its syllabic features were important enough to be featured. Also, the very concept that Mayan was primarily logographic or even ideographic in nature actually held back the script's decipherment; it was only when Knorosov and others demonstrated the essential syllabic componentry that major breakthroughs were made. Many Mayanist sources habitually (tho' casually, perhaps) refer to it as a Maya syllabary, although one could argue that they are merely confining themselves to the subset of syllabic glyphs. Nonetheless the number (but not necessarily the frequency) of logographic glyphs does outweigh that of syllabic ones, and I agree with you that the logogram article should be expanded to emphasise more proper designation as logosyllabic. I have now expanded on the logographic definition in this listing here to hopefully clarify these points. --cjllw | TALK 08:52, 2005 July 19 (UTC)

Old Persian cuneiform[edit]

One of the scripts that is arguable is Old Persian cuneiform. It was syllabic in its conception, and you'd get that impression from seeing a chart of it, but it's alphabetic in its application. Since all vowels are written explicitly, I've entered it as an alphabet. kwami 12:09, 2005 July 14 (UTC)

Braille, Kanji, Chinese[edit]

"Braille" is not a single script. Japanese Braille represents kana, and so is syllabic. Korean Braille, by the way, is not a featural script, though it does distinguish initial from final consonants. kwami 12:09, 2005 July 14 (UTC)

Kanji is not logosyllabic. Many kanji have multisyllabic readings (especially kun-yomi, although there are two-syllable on-yomi like "shutsu"). And how logographic are hieroglyphics? I was under the impression that most symbols were strictly sound-based, with only some logographic glyphs. Gwalla | Talk 01:12, 16 July 2005 (UTC)
There are historical traces of logosyllabicity in Japanese kanji, though they are neither completely logographic (since they do not have a one-to-one correspondance with either a word or a morpheme), nor are they ideographic. So they break the mold in both the logo and the syllabic arenas. I don't think we have a good term for what they are, but "logographic" in a broad usage of the word is hopefully not too misleading.
However, Chinese characters as conceived for Chinese are logosyllabic: the vast majority of characters consist of both a radical (equivalent to hieroglyphic determiners) and a phonetic element, and the phonetic element is syllabic. When phonetic characters were created for a disyllabic word, two phonetics (A+B) were chosen, and the radical (x) was applied to both (x[A+B] => xA+xB), so that neither (xA, xB) had any meaning on its own.

Egyptian hieroglyphs[edit]

The vast majority of hieroglyphs are logographic. There are thousands of glyphs (5000 by some counts, some limited to a single temple), but only a few hundred phonetic elements - and many of these were logograms used for their phonetic values, rather than dedicated phonetic glyphs. Of course, you'll see the same phonograms used over and over, but that's because there were relatively few to choose from. Egyptian was written with three main elements: logograms, ideograms ("determiners"), and phonograms. Of the three, the logogram was the most important, and the others optional to varying degrees. Egyptian was not written phonetically except for loan words and foreign names, which had no logograms (rather like Chinese today, or katakana). kwami 02:00, 2005 July 16 (UTC)

Um, no. No and no. Determinatives are not logographs. -- Evertype· 22:51, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

Scripts used in Georgia[edit]

So in Georgia we use "Georgian and Cyrillic" scripts, and in Armenia they use "Armenian and Latin"

That is a bullshit. Thats why people dont trust wikipedia. Keep up like this. --GeoRugby (talk) 09:30, 5 February 2017 (UTC)

Redundancies, Inconsistencies - how to resolve?[edit]

The Abugida list here, that one in Abugida, and Category:Abugida writing systems will tend to be different. Is there a Bot taking care of such issues? Should the category system hold the only list? I tend to prefer the category solution. Pjacobi 21:17, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)

It is also a bit odd to have "Meroitic (an abugida)" with the undeciphered and "Old Italic alphabet" with linear nonfeatural alphabets, Etruscan being as unknown to us as is Meroitic. Wikipeditor 10:58, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

We know Meroitic is an abugida. We just don't know Meroitic very well. We know the Etruscan alphabet perfectly well too. But we don't know the Etruscan language. -- Evertype· 00:43, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

Possible merge[edit]

I have proposed at List of alphabets that that page be merged into this one. Please discuss here. - dcljr (talk) 01:12, 18 July 2005 (UTC) [changed over there to here on Oct 25th -- sorry, didn't realize the mergeto template directs discussion to the target page]

I don't like the idea of a merge because that would be a VERY large article. Cameron Nedland

Discussion copied from Talk:List of alphabets:

Given the nuances of what constitutes a "true" alphabet (versus other things like syllabaries), I propose that this list be merged and redirected to the more general List of writing systems. - dcljr (talk) 01:09, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

I'm inclined to agree that there would be benefits in merging this listing into list of writing systems. The former is a subset of the latter, and having the same list maintained in two separate places will lead to inconsistency of treatment and synchronisation. Personally I also find it more useful to have all the differing scripts documented on the same page, tho' as the list becomes more extensive this could lead to its own difficulties.
The alternative would be to replace the current alphabetic writing systems on the overall list with just a link to this list of alphabets, and thus avoid duplication and inconsistency. However, since in certain cases classification into a single type may be problematic, removing these to another page would mean that one could not easily check on whether an entry had already been recorded, or mis-classified. However, I'd be open to other suggestions. --cjllw | TALK 04:57, 2005 July 19 (UTC)
I thought that such a merge would be a good thing just for the same reason. So, I support.--Imz 17:23, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

well,I didn't agree such proposal,because some writing systems like Chinese do not fall into the catogery of alphabets.Ksyrie 23:17, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

I have a mixed opinion. "Writing system" is a broader concept that "alphabet". On the other hand, if the "list of alphabets" were trimmed — like getting rid of all the "English alphabet", "French alphabet", "Ruritanian alphabet" nonsense, and just listing the "Latin alphabet" — , then a merger might be feasible. FilipeS 15:56, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
Almost all items on List of alphabets were already categorized (correctly) on List of writing systems, so I took the "other" writing systems and merged them in. The merger is now complete; cleanup is requested. theProject 17:53, 11 December 2006 (UTC)


I've included brief descriptions in each section because most people won't know what all these things are and it's ridiculous to make the reader check 5 other pages just to understand this one. - dcljr (talk) 01:38, 18 July 2005 (UTC)


I think we might want to discuss Thaana. It gets to the heart of what the difference is supposed to be between an alphabet and an abugida: like devanagari, it has letters for consonants, and diacritics for vowels. However, a letter does not presume the vowel a: All vowels are marked explicitly. However, the absence of a vowel is also marked explicitly, just as in Devanagari. So we might be able to argue that it is an abugida or an alphabet with equal justification. As far as whether a letter in of itself represents a consonant or a syllable, the question would seem unanswerable, because isolated letters do not occur. Both possibilities are explicitly indicated by a diacritic.

So, is is an abugida, or an alphabet? kwami 21:37, 2005 July 18 (UTC)

all alphabets?[edit]

It looks almost all the writing systems on this page link to pages titled "something alphabet". Most of the writing systems aren't alphabets! I think they should all be renamed to "something (script)" or "something (writing system)" or something like that. --Yodakii 15:59, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

The word 'alphabet' is used for two rather different things: 1. a segmental script, which would include every major writing system on Earth today except Chinese and Japanese, and 2. a segmental script that indicates consonants and vowels equally, which is much more restricted. (Tone, of course, is not considered.)
The problem is that the word 'alphabet' has a rather racially loaded history: "Everyone" knows the alphabet is one of humanity's greatest inventions; the Greeks invented the alphabet; ergo, Europeans/the inheritors of Greek civilization are mentally superior/more civilized than the rest of the world. Other segmental scripts were called 'syllabics' (sometimes 'alphasyllabics' or 'defective scripts'). Part of this attitude was specifically anti-Semitic, but it was also used to justify European colonialism in Asia, as silly as that sounds today. As a reaction to this, people started insisting that the word 'alphabet' (which after all was the name for the Semitic abjad) be used for abjads and abugidas as well, and therefore it is extremely common to speak of the 'Arabic alphabet', 'Hindi alphabet', etc. The use in English of the words abjad and abugida for specific types of script, and the simultaneous restriction of alphabet back to Greek-type scripts, has only been around for about ten years now. While this is useful for a linguistic analysis of scripts, it hasn't filtered down into non-academic usage.
I think it might be appropriate to use the word 'script' instead of 'alphabet'. However, 'alphabet' is the more common usage, and I imagine that a lot of people might insist on keeping it. kwami 19:04, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

In school, I was taught the Phoenicians had invented the alphabet. That's what the Greeks believed, too. Now, I come to Wikipedia, and see that the "experts" call the Phoenician alphabet an abugida. Perhaps they're the racists. FilipeS 15:57, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

The list for Cyrillic[edit]

I've made the list for Cyrillic longer and more descriptive. Would you mind removing the list of individual Slavic languages to make it shorter? Suggested change:

a number of Slavic languages (Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian language, etc.) and...


a number of Slavic languages and...

--Imz 17:16, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

I like it how it is because it allows more movement between articles quite easily.

map with colours named[edit]

Alphabets:  Gray: Latin ,  Dark blue: Cyrillic ,  Cyan: Both Latin and Cyrillic ,  Blue: Greek ,  Black: Georgian and Armenian ,
Abjads:  Arabic: Green ,  Arabic and Latin: Light green ,  Hebrew and Arabic: Medium green 
Abugidas:  Indic: Yellow ,  Thaana: Orange ,  Ethiopic: Brown ,  Ethiopic and Arabic: Olive ,
Logographic:  Logographic: Red ,  Logographic plus syllabary: Dark pink ,  Syllabary: Pink ,

If one would like the colour nmaes included in the legend, feel free to replace by the version below. I personally don't thnik they are necessary. --Donar Reiskoffer 11:31, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

By the way, why Korean is called syllabary? It is clearly alphabet.--Dojarca (talk) 18:31, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

It's clearer when expanded, but you're right, the small version is wrong. kwami (talk) 00:50, 19 January 2008 (UTC)


Hebrew alphabet called aleph-bet an Hebrew, why it is designated with the Arabic word "abjad" in the image?--Dojarca (talk) 15:42, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

Because the Arabic term is used in English. Hebrew is functionally equivalent to Arabic. kwami (talk) 18:06, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

Inherent vowel but full vowel letters?[edit]

Generally, however, if a single letter is understood to have an inherent unwritten vowel, and only vowels other than this are written, then the system is classified as an abugida regardless of whether the vowels look like diacritics or full letters.

Are there any actual writing systems with a nonzero vowel graphically represented by zero sign and/or zero vowel graphically represented by nonzero sign, but where the vowels with nonzero graphic representation are all full letters, i.e. are signs that appear in linear sequence the same way as the consonants and mixed with the consonants?

--JWB (talk) 10:01, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Old Persian Cuneiform. Phagspa. Pahawh Hmong (though that's a little odd, in that CV is written VC (it's actually onset & rime, not C & V). Zhuyin (with the "buzzing" vowels in zi, si, ri, etc). That's all I can think of off the top of my head.
I think that statement is probably false. I hope I didn't write it! (it feels suspiciously familiar...) Well, it's true for phagspa, while OPC, zhuyin, and and pahawh are semi-syllabic and thus don't qualify as abugidas because they're not fully segmental. kwami (talk) 11:03, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
Actually, phagspa is questionable. True, the vowels are all written in-line and in temporal order. But they still have distinct initial forms, suggesting they aren't quite full letters after a consonant. (The are also joined to the consonant, but so all all segments in a syllable.) kwami (talk) 11:18, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Is there really any functional differences?[edit]

I'm asking is there any functional difference between north and south Indic except the fact that North Indic is squarer and Devanagari written with a line strike through. | ខែមារាតសប្បាយ | Talk 21:35, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

South Korea still uses Hanja.

 The map is not showing that in South Korea, many publications still use hanja(Chinese characters) mixed in with hangul. Only North Korea uses just hangul,they got rid of the hanja. The map needs to get changed.  —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:13, 11 January 2009 (UTC) 

List of scripts by number of users[edit]

I don't think this article exists, but if anyone has the sources to get it started, I'd be happy to work on it. (talk) 02:06, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

Greek and Italic alphabets[edit]

Really italic alphabets were a lot, since before Roman conquest in Italy lived many peoples: Ligurians, Rhetians, Venetians, Celtic, Etruscans, Picenians, Umbrians, Samnites, Oscans, Faliscans, Daunians, Japigians, Messapians, Brutii, Sicanians, Siculi and so on, and every people had its own alphabet. They similar, but not identical.
The same way each Greek city had its own alphabet. The standardized Greek alphabet is the Athenian alphabet adopted in Hellenistic age. And Athenian alphabet was borrowed by Miletus, increased with the two "spirits" from Taranto. Lele giannoni (talk) 20:44, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

Further Reading Section needed[edit]

A section of Further (notable) books on the subject is required to assist users. --Inayity (talk) 10:37, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

why the Indus script was logo-syllabic and why a lost corpus of texts existed in the Indus: simple proof addressed to mainstream researchers[edit]


Please find my two papers below and circulate amongst the skeptics, particularly!

To state the obvious, the Indus script was a logo-syllabic script and a lost corpus did exist.

Published in the ICFAI journal of history and culture, January 2011

Published in International journal of philosophy and journal sciences , November 2012

I am also introducing logo-syllabic thesis B in this paper

The paper is very self-explanatory! does anybody still beg to differ?

Sujay Rao Mandavilli (talk) 23:06, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

Yes: peer review. — kwami (talk) 23:10, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

origin of Brahmi: new paper[edit]

i am pleased to announce the publication of my fifth research paper in a peer-reviewed journal

this deals with the origin of Brahmi . this is a logical and self-explanatory paper and is written using a multi-disciplinary approach. it is written in such a way that anybody can cross-verify the conclusions.

sujay rao mandavilli (talk) 11:18, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Table of rare writing systems[edit]

In the table there appears to be a copy-paste-error under Khmer. Also, Tibetan could be added. In both cases, I do not know enough to make correct entries, so I am posting it here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:21, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

WritingSystemsoftheWorld4.png updated to v6[edit]

I noticed that WritingSystemsoftheWorld4.png has been updated/corrected to WritingSystemsoftheWorld6.png. So I was going to change that, until I noticed that v4 has 11 different versions (language etc.) of it (scroll down to "Other versions" at previous link). The information that those are available is likely to disappear, so I have left the current (but incorrect) v4 in place. If you have any good ideas, then proceed, but in any case, there is some "documentation" in this post. -- Katana (talk) 18:32, 6 November 2013 (UTC)

Cyrillic and Georgia[edit]

Georgia does not have a Cyrillic-based language as an official. That is true, but so do the almost unrecognized breakaway republics, which are in fact independent (South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Also, note the color Moldova uses: Moldova's only official language is Romanian, but breakaway unrecognized, but independent and existent Transnistria has Cyrillic languages.

It would probably be fair to have two pictures: one on official languages and one on really used (Serbian is officially Cyrillic, but in fact also uses Latin). But for now, why is then Kosovo shown independent? It is not a UN member either and a UN member claims that territory.--R8R (talk) 10:10, 5 August 2014 (UTC)


Currently the names of the scripts are only given in their native script in the List of scripts by adoption section. It would be informative to give the same information for other scripts. It wouldn't look very good to do this for only a few examples. We could do it comprehensively throughout the article, I suppose. I'm not sure what the best approach is. Does anyone have any thoughts as to where the best place for this to be might be? Waitak (talk) 14:40, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Arabic script usage by population[edit]

this article lists that Arabic script is used by 380 million but it's wrong. Arabic script is used solely in Arab countries, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Some countries have also languages which uses Arabic script like India, China and Malaysia. If we count only those countries population where Arabic script is solely used then it will exceed this wrong 380 million. remember all lancuages in these countries written in Arabic script Arab countries (356 Million)+Pakistan(196 Million)+Iran(78 Million)+Afghanistan(31 Million) it becomes 661 Million. and so far we are not including those languages in India, China and Malaysia written in Arabic script. Please correct that list. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:36, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

Odia script (name) to be added on a map[edit]

Please look at the second map of this article — that's the map "Writing systems of the world today." There is an example of text written in Odia script (old name Oriya) here, but the English name for this writing system is missing. It would be useful to add the inscription "Odia script" on the map.

Inuktitut > Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics[edit]

Inuktitut entry in the table in question

The table at List of writing systems#List of writing systems by adoption lists "Inuktitut"; this is sort of like listing Cyrillic but calling it "Russian" and ignoring the fact that it is used for other languages, too. The writing system in question was originally developed for Ojibwe, though it is rarely used for that now, but it remains in vigorous use in Cree (and is used in portions of the Cree Wikipedia), particularly Plains Cree, and this is not Inuktitut, nor is it entirely "north of the tree line". It has also been used for other Algonquian and Athabascan languages of Canada, though whether any of them currently use it I'm not sure. --Haruo (talk) 16:02, 20 November 2015 (UTC)

This correction should also add to the population figure, though not enough to affect the order of the list. --Haruo (talk) 16:04, 20 November 2015 (UTC)

Yiddish script is NOT an abjad[edit]

As far as I learned, plain Yiddish script is NOT an abjad, but a true alphabet: all vowel sounds are represented by full letters and occational diacritics may not be omitted. This said, it certainly has numerous Hebrew loanwords, which usually (but not always) adjust to Hebrew orthography. Since I am not a speaker of Yiddish, I dare not change the article page, but it should probably be revised. --Heinrich Puschmann (talk) 13:44, 7 September 2016 (UTC)

@Heinrich Puschmann: Well yes, but you should be very careful with your terminology. I usually follow Unicode practice: The Yiddish writing system uses the Hebrew script as an alphabet, except in the case of Hebrew (and to a lesser degree Aramaic) loanwords which retain their original orthography of the Holy Scriptures where the Hebrew script is used as an abjad. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 08:03, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

Map needs to be updated[edit]

I realized the old map had light green for Arabic/Latin and Medium green for Hebrew. However, the new map lacks the light green colour, so a small corner of southern Sudan and Brunei (Arabic and Jawi/Malay, respectively) is incorrectly listed as "Hebrew". Can someone correct this? (talk) 01:20, 23 December 2016 (UTC)