Writing systems

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Language units large and small

Marked forms of words - Inflection, Derivation, Declension, Conjugation · Diminutive, Augmentative

Groups and categories and properties of words - Syntactic and lexical categories · Grammatical cases · Correlatives · Expletives · Adjuncts

Words and meaning - Morphology · Lexicology · Semiotics · Onomasiology · Figures of speech, expressions, phraseology, etc. · Word similarity · Ambiguity · Modality ·

Segment function, interaction, reference - Clitics · Apposition· Parataxis, Hypotaxis· Attributive· Binding · Coordinations · Word and concept reference

Sentence structure and style - Agreement · Ellipsis· Hedging

Phonology - Articulation · Formants· Prosody · Sound change · Intonation, stress, focus · Diphones · Intervocalic · Glottal stop · Vowel_diagrams · Elision · Ablaut_and_umlaut · Phonics

Speech processing · Praat notes · Praat plugins and toolkit notes · Praat scripting notes

Analyses, models, software - Minimal pairs · Concordances · Linguistics software · Some_relatively_basic_text_processing · Word embeddings · Semantic similarity

Unsorted - Contextualism · · Text summarization · Accent, Dialect, Language · Pidgin, Creole · Natural language typology · Writing_systems · Typography, orthography · Digraphs, ligatures, dipthongs · More linguistic terms and descriptions · Phonetic scripts

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Writing system typology of sorts

(See also Morpheme, Syllable, Lexeme, Grapheme, Phoneme, Character, Glyph)

It should be noted that few real-world writing systems are purely any of the below; all ave main tendencies but expceptions and properties from the other mentioned categories as well.

Logographic (and ideographic) systems

Logographic systems have graphemes/glyphs directly referencing morphemes, lexemes, or concepts.

This in contrast with alphabets, syllabaries, abugidas, and abjads (see below), which in some way represent sounds that must first combine to become recognizable as things that express ideas (preferably words in one's vocabulary).

One way to look at it is that (...assuming it it a spoken language...) logographic systems encode concepts and sounds, rather than concepts via sounds.

The graphemes/glyphs in a logographic system are called logograms, or logographs.

Note that in in reality, most logographic languages typically involve (relatively separated) phonetical systems

Examples: Chinese Hanzi, and the closely related Japanese's Kanji, Korean Hanja, Vietnamese hán tự, and such.

Ideographic is a more specific concept than logographic: Where logographic tend to do so via morpheme/lexeme/radical/concept combinations, ideographic systems use characters to represent ideas directly.

For example, most pictograms like those generally used in signs, and most in computer icons, are ideographic.

In practice,

ideographic characters may be rudimentary pictures of what they represent, but at the same time, that doesn't work for a mass of complex or abstract concepts
there are very few ideographically written natural languages, and none are large(verify).
larger systems in this area are logographic overall, with some ideographic elements.

It seems to speak to the imagination, though, and a number of a number of constructed languages are ideographic.

You may think of Egyptian hieroglyphs, but they are mostly a logogram-alphabet mix(verify).

While some Chinese characters are logographic and a few even ideographic in origin, most are essentially free morphemes. More often than not, Chinese characters seem idiomatic - their meaning evolved and has to be learned specifically, and is not longer tracable to an ideographic origin (though there are hints in many characters).

Degrees of alphabet

An alphabet, in the wider sense of the word, is a system of symbols that match roughly to sounds. This includes the western sense of an alphabet as well as abjads and abugidas.


In a stricter sense, an alphabet is a system in which a fixed set of letters (glyphs) refers to both vowels and consonants.

While letters tend to have simple phonetic origin, alphabetic languages often do not have have a trivial symbol-to-sound mapping. Alphabetic languages have relatively complex morphological systems.

Current alphabets are often Latin-derived, or Cyrillic.


Abjads, also consonantaries or consonantal alphabets, are alphabets with only consonant characters.

Many abjads have, or at some time had, ways to mark vowels to some degree.

They have a simple mapping between character and sound.

Examples include Hebrew and Arabic writing.


Abugidas, also alphasyllaberies (and sometimes syllabics, and not to be confused with syllabaries), are systems with consonants and vowels, but where vowels have secondary status. For example, consonants may imply vowel sounds, vowels may be marked by diacritics, or such.

They have a simple mapping between character and sound.

Examples of abugidas include Hindi.


A syllabary is a writing system based on indivisible syllables (sometimes approximations of such).

That is, characters represent sounds that are themselves indivisible in that language.

Note this definition does put explicit distance between it and an abugida. The largest difference is is that in abugidas, characters that sound the same are also based on the same symbol.

Examples of syllaberies include Japanese's hiragana and katakana (kana).

Terms used


"Writes sounds".


See also