Writing system

A writing system is any conventional method of visually representing verbal communication. While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form of information storage and transfer.[1] The processes of encoding and decoding writing systems involve shared understanding between writers and readers of the meaning behind the sets of characters that make up a script. Writing is usually recorded onto a durable medium, such as paper or electronic storage, although non-durable methods may also be used, such as writing on a computer display, on a blackboard, in sand, or by skywriting.

The general attributes of writing systems can be placed into broad categories such as alphabets, syllabaries, or logographies. Any particular system can have attributes of more than one category. In the alphabetic category, there is a standard set of letters (basic written symbols or graphemes) of consonants and vowels that encode based on the general principle that the letters (or letter pair/groups) represent speech sounds. In a syllabary, each symbol correlates to a syllable or mora. In a logography, each character represents a word, morpheme, or other semantic units. Other categories include abjads, which differ from alphabets in that vowels are not indicated, and abugidas or alphasyllabaries, with each character representing a consonant–vowel pairing. Alphabets typically use a set of 20-to-35 symbols to fully express a language[citation needed], whereas syllabaries can have 80-to-100[citation needed], and logographies can have several hundreds of symbols.[citation needed]

Most systems will typically have an ordering of its symbol elements so that groups of them can be coded into larger clusters like words or acronyms (generally lexemes), giving rise to many more possibilities (permutations) in meanings than the symbols can convey by themselves. Systems will also enable the stringing together of these smaller groupings (sometimes referred to by the generic term 'character strings') in order to enable a full expression of the language. The reading step can be accomplished purely in the mind as an internal process, or expressed orally. A special set of symbols known as punctuation is used to aid in structure and organization of many writing systems and can be used to help capture nuances and variations in the message's meaning that are communicated verbally by cues in timing, tone, accent, inflection or intonation. A writing system will also typically have a method for formatting recorded messages that follows the spoken version's rules like its grammar and syntax so that the reader will have the meaning of the intended message accurately preserved.

Writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, which used pictograms, ideograms and other mnemonic symbols. Proto-writing lacked the ability to capture and express a full range of thoughts and ideas. The invention of writing systems, which dates back to the beginning of the Bronze Age in the late Neolithic Era of the late 4th millennium BC, enabled the accurate durable recording of human history in a manner that was not prone to the same types of error to which oral history is vulnerable. Soon after, writing provided a reliable form of long distance communication. With the advent of publishing, it provided the medium for an early form of mass communication.

The creation of a new alphabetic writing system for a language with an existing logographic writing system is called alphabetization, as when the People's Republic of China studied the prospect of alphabetizing the Chinese languages with Latin script, Cyrillic script, Arabic script, and even numbers,[2] although the most common instance of it, converting to Latin script, is usually called romanization.

General properties

Chinese characters (漢字) are morpho-syllabic. Each one represents a syllable with a distinct meaning, but some characters may have multiple meanings or pronunciations

Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that a writing system is always associated with at least one spoken language. In contrast, visual representations such as drawings, paintings, and non-verbal items on maps, such as contour lines, are not language-related. Some symbols on information signs, such as the symbols for male and female, are also not language related, but can grow to become part of language if they are often used in conjunction with other language elements. Some other symbols, such as numerals and the ampersand, are not directly linked to any specific language, but are often used in writing and thus must be considered part of writing systems.

Every human community possesses language, which many regard as an innate and defining condition of humanity. However, the development of writing systems, and the process by which they have supplanted traditional oral systems of communication, have been sporadic, uneven and slow. Once established, writing systems generally change more slowly than their spoken counterparts. Thus they often preserve features and expressions which are no longer current in the spoken language. One of the great benefits of writing systems is that they can preserve a permanent record of information expressed in a language.

All writing systems require:

  • at least one set of defined base elements or symbols, individually termed signs and collectively called a script;[3]
  • at least one set of rules and conventions (orthography) understood and shared by a community, which assigns meaning to the base elements (graphemes), their ordering and relations to one another;
  • at least one language (generally spoken) whose constructions are represented and can be recalled by the interpretation of these elements and rules;
  • some physical means of distinctly representing the symbols by application to a permanent or semi-permanent medium, so they may be interpreted (usually visually, but tactile systems have also been devised).
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Skryfstelsel
Alemannisch: Schrift
العربية: نظام كتابة
Aymar aru: Qillqa
Bân-lâm-gú: Bûn-jī hē-thóng
башҡортса: Яҙма (Әлифба)
беларуская: Пісьменства
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Пісьменства
भोजपुरी: लिखाई
български: Писменост
Boarisch: Schrift
bosanski: Pismo (jezik)
brezhoneg: Doare-skrivañ
Чӑвашла: Çырулăх
čeština: Písmo
dansk: Skrift
Deutsch: Schrift
Diné bizaad: Saad bee álʼíní
Ελληνικά: Σύστημα γραφής
Esperanto: Skribsistemo
Frysk: Skrift
ГӀалгӀай: Йоазув
한국어: 문자
հայերեն: Գիր
हिन्दी: लिपि
hrvatski: Pismo
Bahasa Indonesia: Aksara
íslenska: Skrifletur
עברית: כתב
Basa Jawa: Aksara
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಲಿಪಿ
къарачай-малкъар: Джазма
ქართული: დამწერლობა
қазақша: Жазу
Kiswahili: Maandishi
latviešu: Rakstība
Lëtzebuergesch: Schrëft
lietuvių: Rašto sistema
Limburgs: Sjrifsysteem
Lingua Franca Nova: Sistemes de scrive
Livvinkarjala: Kirjutussistiemu
मैथिली: लिपि
македонски: Писмо
മലയാളം: ലിപി
मराठी: लिपी
მარგალური: ჭარალუა
مازِرونی: خط
Bahasa Melayu: Sistem tulisan
Nederlands: Schrift
नेपाली: लिपि
नेपाल भाषा: लिपि
日本語: 文字
Nordfriisk: Skraft
norsk nynorsk: Skriftsystem
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yozuv
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਲਿਪੀ
پنجابی: لپی
polski: System pisma
português: Sistema de escrita
Runa Simi: Qillqa
русский: Письменность
संस्कृतम्: लिपयः
shqip: Shkrimi
Simple English: Writing system
slovenčina: Písmo (jazykoveda)
slovenščina: Pisava
српски / srpski: Писмо
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Pismo (znakovi)
Basa Sunda: Aksara
svenska: Skrift
татарча/tatarça: Язу системасы
ತುಳು: ಲಿಪಿ
Türkçe: Yazı sistemi
українська: Писемність
Vahcuengh: Cihsaw
Tiếng Việt: Hệ chữ viết
文言: 文字
吴语: 文字
ייִדיש: שריפט
粵語: 文字
中文: 文字