This is a list of writing systems (or scripts), classified according to some common distinguishing features. There are at least 3,866 languages that make use of an established writing system.
The usual name of the script is given first; the name of the language(s) in which the script is written follows (in brackets), particularly in the case where the language name differs from the script name. Other informative or qualifying annotations for the script may also be provided.
Ideographic scripts (in which graphemes are ideograms representing concepts or ideas, rather than a specific word in a language), and pictographic scripts (in which the graphemes are iconic pictures) are not thought to be able to express all that can be communicated by language, as argued by the linguists John DeFrancis and J. Marshall Unger. Essentially, they postulate that no full writing system can be completely pictographic or ideographic; it must be able to refer directly to a language in order to have the full expressive capacity of a language. Unger disputes claims made on behalf of Blissymbols in his 2004 book Ideogram.
Although a few pictographic or ideographic scripts exist today, there is no single way to read them, because there is no one-to-one correspondence between symbol and language. Hieroglyphs were commonly thought to be ideographic before they were translated, and to this day Chinese is often erroneously said to be ideographic. In some cases of ideographic scripts, only the author of a text can read it with any certainty, and it may be said that they are interpreted rather than read. Such scripts often work best as mnemonic aids for oral texts, or as outlines that will be fleshed out in speech.
There are also symbol systems used to represent things other than language, or to represent constructed languages. Some of these are
Note that no logographic script is composed solely of logograms. All contain graphemes that represent phonetic (sound-based) elements as well. These phonetic elements may be used on their own (to represent, for example, grammatical inflections or foreign words), or may serve as phonetic complements to a logogram (used to specify the sound of a logogram that might otherwise represent more than one word). In the case of Chinese, the phonetic element is built into the logogram itself; in Egyptian and Mayan, many glyphs are purely phonetic, whereas others function as either logograms or phonetic elements, depending on context. For this reason, many such scripts may be more properly referred to as logosyllabic or complex scripts; the terminology used is largely a product of custom in the field, and is to an extent arbitrary.
In most of these systems, some consonant-vowel combinations are written as syllables, but others are written as consonant plus vowel. In the case of Old Persian, all vowels were written regardless, so it was effectively a true alphabet despite its syllabic component. In Japanese a similar system plays a minor role in foreign borrowings; for example, [tu] is written [to]+[u], and [ti] as [te]+[i]. Paleohispanic semi-syllabaries behaved as a syllabary for the stop consonants and as an alphabet for the rest of consonants and vowels. The Tartessian or Southwestern script is typologically intermediate between a pure alphabet and the Paleohispanic full semi-syllabaries. Although the letter used to write a stop consonant was determined by the following vowel, as in a full semi-syllabary, the following vowel was also written, as in an alphabet. Some scholars treat Tartessian as a redundant semi-syllabary, others treat it as a redundant alphabet. Zhuyin is semi-syllabic in a different sense: it transcribes half syllables. That is, it has letters for syllable onsets and rimes (kan = "k-an") rather than for consonants and vowels (kan = "k-a-n").
Note that there need not be (and rarely is) a one-to-one correspondence between the graphemes of the script and the phonemes of a language. A phoneme may be represented only by some combination or string of graphemes, the same phoneme may be represented by more than one distinct grapheme, the same grapheme may stand for more than one phoneme, or some combination of all of the above.
Segmental scripts may be further divided according to the types of phonemes they typically record:
Linear alphabets are composed of lines on a surface, such as ink on paper.
These are other alphabets composed of something other than lines on a surface.
An abugida, or alphasyllabary, is a segmental script in which vowel sounds are denoted by diacritical marks or other systematic modification of the consonants. 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 alphasyllabary regardless of whether the vowels look like diacritics or full letters. The vast majority of alphasyllabaries are found from India to Southeast Asia and belong historically to the Brāhmī family. The term abugida is derived from the first characters of the abugida in Ge'ez: አ (A) ቡ (bu) ጊ (gi) ዳ (da) — (compare with alphabet). Unlike abjads, the diacritical marks and systemic modifications of the consonants are not optional.
In at least one abugida, not only the vowel but any syllable-final consonant is written with a diacritic. For example, representing [o] with an under-ring, and final [k] with an over-cross, [sok] would be written as s̥̽.
In a few abugidas, the vowels are basic, and the consonants secondary. If no consonant is written in Pahawh Hmong, it is understood to be /k/; consonants are written after the vowel they precede in speech. In Japanese Braille, the vowels but not the consonants have independent status, and it is the vowels which are modified when the consonant is y or w.
|Name of script||Type||Number of characters||Population actively using (in millions)||Languages associated with||Regions with predominant usage|
|Alphabet||23 (classical)||over 6120[note 2]||Latin and Romance languages (Italian, French, Franco-Provençal, Occitan, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Spanish, Rhaeto-Romance languages, Sardinian and Romanian), Germanic languages (English, Dutch, German, Nordic languages), Chinese (Mandarin Pinyin), Austronesian languages (Indonesian, Filipino, Malay, Polynesian languages), West and Southwest Slavic languages (including Polish), Baltic languages (Latvian and Lithuanian), Niger-Congo languages (including Swahili, Yoruba, and Zulu), Turkish, Somali, Albanian, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Maltese, Finnic (including Estonian and Finnish) and Sami languages, others||Worldwide|
|Logographic||>50,000||1340[note 3]||Mandarin, Yue, Wu, Gan, Min, Hakka, Xiang, Jin, Pinghua, Huizhou and other Chinese languages (Chinese characters), Japanese (Kanji), Korean (Hanja),[note 4] Vietnamese (Chu Nom), Zhuang (Sawndip), Okinawan (Okinawan), Mulam||China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia (Chinese Malaysians), Japan, South Korea, Indonesia (Chinese Indonesians), Hong Kong|
|Abugida||44||820+[note 5]||Angika, Awadhi, Bhili, Bhojpuri, Bodo, Chhattisgarhi, Dogri, Haryanvi, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Magahi, Maithili, Marathi, Mundari, Nepali, Newar, Pali, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, others||India (native in Hindi Belt, Goa, Maharashtra), Nepal|
|Abjad||28||660+||Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Malayan (Jawi), Acehnese (Jawi), Uyghur, Kazakh (in China), Kurdish, Azeri (in Iran), Javanese (Pegon), Sundanese (Pegon), others||Middle East and North Africa, Pakistan, China (Xinjiang), India (a few states), Brunei (co-official with Latin), Malaysia, Indonesia (religious uses only)|
|Abugida||28||300||Sanskrit, Bengali, Assamese, Kokborok, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi, Meitei Manipuri, Hajong, Chakma, Maithili (historical use), Angika (historical use), Sylheti and others.||Bangladesh, and India (West Bengal, Bihar, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands)|
|Alphabet||33||250||Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Belarusian, Kazakh, others||Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Mongolia, the Russian Far East|
|Syllabary||46||120[note 6]||Japanese, Okinawan, Ainu, Palauan, other Japonic languages||Japan|
|Abugida||53||80[note 7]||Javanese, Cirebonese, Madurese, Sundanese||Indonesia (Central Java, East Java, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Cirebon, Cirebon Regency, Indramayu Regency), Javanese diaspora|
|Alphabet, featural||24||78.7[note 8]||Korean, Cia-Cia, Jeju||North Korea, South Korea, and Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China, Indonesia (Baubau)|
|Abugida||60||74[note 9]||Telugu, Sanskrit, Gondi||Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry (India)|
|Abugida||30||70[note 10][note 11]||Tamil, Kanikkaran, Badaga, Irula, Paniya, Sanskrit, Saurashtra||Tamil Nadu (India), Puducherry (India), Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius|
|Abugida||47||48[note 12]||Gujarati, Kutchi, Avestan, Bhili, Bhilori, Gamit, Chowdhary, Kukna, Bhili, Varli, Vasavi||India,[note 13] Pakistan[note 14]|
|Abugida||51 (or 50 or 49)||45[note 15]||Kannada, Tulu, Kodava, Badaga, Beary, Sanketi, Konkani, Sanskrit||Karnataka (India)|
|Abugida||26||39[note 16]||Burmese, Pali, Sanskrit||Myanmar|
|Abugida||26||38[note 17]||Malayalam, Sanskrit, Paniya, Betta Kurumba, Ravula||Kerala, Puducherry (India)|
|Abugida||68||38[note 18]||Thai, Northern Thai, Southern Thai, Northern Khmer, and Isan, Kelantan-Pattani Malay, Pali, Sanskrit, others||Thailand|
|Abugida||44||38[note 19]||Sundanese, Bantenese, Baduy||West Java and Banten (Indonesia)|
|Zhuyin Fuhao (a.k.a. Bopomofo)
|Alphabet, Semisyllabary||37 (plus four tone marks)||23||A phonetic transcription system used in Taiwan for Mandarin Chinese, studied mainly by schoolchildren.||Taiwan|
|Abugida||35||22[note 20]||Sanskrit, Punjabi, Sant Bhasha, Sindhi||Punjab (India)|
|Abugida||64||21[note 21]||Odia, others||Odisha (India)|
|Abugida||30||18[note 22]||Ethiopian Semitic languages, Blin, Meʻen, Oromo, Anuak||Ethiopia, Eritrea|
|Abugida||58||14.4[note 23]||Sinhala, Vedda||Sri Lanka|
|Abjad||22||14[note 24]||Hebrew, Yiddish, other Jewish languages||Israel|
|Alphabet||24||13.4||Greek, others||Greece, Cyprus, Southern Albania; worldwide for mathematical and scientific purposes|
|Abugida||35||11.4[note 25]||Khmer, Pali, others||Cambodia|
|Abugida||20 (Toba Batak)||8.5||Batak languages||North Sumatra (Indonesia)|
|Abugida||23||7.6||Buginese, Makassar, Mandar||Indonesia (South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi)|
|Abugida||18 (basic)||6||Balinese and Sasak (modified)||Indonesia (Bali and Lombok, East Nusa Tenggara)|
|Abugida||30||5||Tibetan, Dzongkha, Ladakhi, Sikkimese, Balti, Tamang, Sherpa, Yolmo, Tshangla||Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Bhutan, and India (Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh)|
|Alphabet||33||4.5||Georgian and other Kartvelian languages||Georgia|
|Syllabary||1165||4||Nuosu Yi, other Yi languages||Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture of China|
|Abugida||26||2[note 26]||Lao, Isan, others Laos|
|Alphabet||26||2||Mongolian, Manchu (Manchu), Evenki (experimentally)||China (Inner Mongolia)|
|Abjad||33||1||Berber languages||North Africa|
|Abugida||35||0.72||Tai Nüa||Yunnan (China)|
|New Tai Lue
|Abugida||83||0.55||Tai Lü||Yunnan (China)|
|Abjad||22||0.4||Syriac, Aramaic, Neo-Aramaic, Suriyani Malayalam, nothers||West Asia|
|Abugida||14 (each of the 14 consonants has 6 modes depending on the vowel)||0.035||Inuktitut, other Inuit languages||Canada (North of Tree Line)|
These systems have not been deciphered. In some cases, such as Meroitic, the sound values of the glyphs are known, but the texts still cannot be read because the language is not understood. Several of these systems, such as Epi-Olmec and Indus, are claimed to have been deciphered, but these claims have not been confirmed by independent researchers. In many cases it is doubtful that they are actually writing. The Vinča symbols appear to be proto-writing, and quipu may have recorded only numerical information. There are doubts that Indus is writing, and the Phaistos Disc has so little content or context that its nature is undetermined.
A number of manuscripts exist which may be written in an invented writing system, a cipher of an existing writing system or may only be a hoax.
Asemic writing is generally meaningless, though it sometimes contains ideograms or pictograms.
Alphabets may exist in forms other than visible symbols on a surface. Some of these are:
An abjad (pronounced or ) is a type of writing system where each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel. So-called impure abjads do represent vowels, either with optional diacritics, a limited number of distinct vowel glyphs, or both. The name abjad is based on the old Arabic alphabet's first four letters—a, b, j, d—to replace the common terms "consonantary" or "consonantal alphabet" to refer to the family of scripts called West Semitic.Abkhaz alphabet
The Abkhaz alphabet is a Cyrillic alphabet of 62 letters used for the Abkhaz language.
Abkhaz did not become a written language until the 19th century. Up until then, Abkhazians, especially princes, had been using Greek (up to c. 9th century), Georgian (9–19th centuries), and partially Turkish (18th century) languages. The Abkhaz word for alphabet is анбан (anban), which was borrowed from Georgian ანბანი (anbani).
The first Abkhaz alphabet was created in 1862 by Dimitry Gulia and K. Machavariani. The script was developed by Peter von Uslar. It had 37 letters and was based on the Cyrillic script. In 1909, it was expanded to 55 letters by Aleksey Chochua to adjust to the extensive consonantal inventory of Abkhaz.
In 1926, during the korenizatsiya policy in the Soviet Union, the Cyrillic alphabet was replaced by a Latin alphabet devised by Nikolay Marr. It featured 76 letters and was called the "Abkhaz analytical alphabet". In 1928, this was replaced by another Latin alphabet. (See illustration at right.) From 1938 to 1954 the Abkhaz language was written in 3 Georgian alphabets: the Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli.
Since 1954, the Abkhaz language has been written in a new 62-letter Cyrillic alphabet (see chart below). Of these, 38 are graphically distinct; the rest are digraphs with ⟨ь⟩ and ⟨ә⟩ which indicate palatalization and labialization, respectively. In 1996, the most recent reform of the alphabet was implemented: while labialization had hitherto been marked with two additional letters, ә and у, since then only ә was retained in this function. Unusually, the Cyrillic plosive letters К П Т represent ejective consonants; the non-ejectives (pulmonic consonants) are derived from these by means of a descender at the bottom of the letter. In the case of the affricates, however, the plain letter are pulmonic, and the derived letters ejective.
The modern Abkhaz orthography gives preference to the letters Г П with descender (Ӷ Ԥ) instead of hook (Ҕ Ҧ). The characters Ԥ and ԥ are encoded in Unicode since version 5.2.Ahom script
The Ahom script is an abugida that is used to write the Ahom language, a nearly-extinct (but being revived) Tai language spoken by the Ahom people who ruled eastern part of Brahmaputra valley—about one-third of the length of Brahmaputra valley—in the Indian state of Assam between the 13th and the 18th centuries. It is also called Tai Ahom Script.Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters (basic written symbols or graphemes) that represent the phonemes (basic significant sounds) of any spoken language it is used to write. This is in contrast to other types of writing systems, such as syllabaries (in which each character represents a syllable) and logographic systems (in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic unit).
The first fully phonemic script, the Proto-Canaanite script, later known as the Phoenician alphabet, is considered to be the first alphabet, and is the ancestor of most modern alphabets, including Arabic, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and possibly Brahmic. Peter T. Daniels, however, distinguishes an abugida or alphasyllabary, a set of graphemes that represent consonantal base letters which diacritics modify to represent vowels (as in Devanagari and other South Asian scripts), an abjad, in which letters predominantly or exclusively represent consonants (as in the original Phoenician, Hebrew or Arabic), and an "alphabet", a set of graphemes that represent both vowels and consonants. In this narrow sense of the word the first "true" alphabet was the Greek alphabet, which was developed on the basis of the earlier Phoenician alphabet.
Of the dozens of alphabets in use today, the most popular is the Latin alphabet, which was derived from the Greek, and which many languages modify by adding letters formed using diacritical marks. While most alphabets have letters composed of lines (linear writing), there are also exceptions such as the alphabets used in Braille. The Khmer alphabet (for Cambodian) is the longest, with 74 letters.Alphabets are usually associated with a standard ordering of letters. This makes them useful for purposes of collation, specifically by allowing words to be sorted in alphabetical order. It also means that their letters can be used as an alternative method of "numbering" ordered items, in such contexts as numbered lists and number placements.Anga Lipi
Anga Lipi (অঙ্গ লিপি) is a historical writing system or script of the Anga area of India. It is believed to have been originated from Mithilakshara or the Tirhuta script used to write Maithili.Featural writing system
In a featural writing system, the shapes of the symbols (such as letters) are not arbitrary but encode phonological features of the phonemes that they represent. The term featural was introduced by Geoffrey Sampson to describe the Korean alphabet and Pitman shorthand.Joe Martin introduced the term featural notation to describe writing systems that include symbols to represent individual features rather than phonemes. He asserts that "alphabets have no symbols for anything smaller than a phoneme".A featural script represents finer detail than an alphabet. Here symbols do not represent whole phonemes, but rather the elements (features) that make up the phonemes, such as voicing or its place of articulation. Theoretically, each feature could be written with a separate letter; and abjads or abugidas, or indeed syllabaries, could be featural, but the only prominent system of this sort is the Korean alphabet, also known as hangul. In the Korean alphabet, the featural symbols are combined into alphabetic letters, and these letters are in turn joined into syllabic blocks, so that the system combines three levels of phonological representation.
Many scholars, e.g. John DeFrancis, reject this class or at least labeling the Korean alphabet as such. The Korean script is called by Daniels a "sophisticated grammatogeny". Others include stenographies and constructed scripts of hobbyists and fiction writers (such as Tengwar), many of which feature advanced graphic designs corresponding to phonologic properties. The basic unit of writing in these systems can map to anything from phonemes to words. It has been shown that even the Latin script has sub-character "features".Grammatology
The linguist Ignace Gelb coined the term "grammatology" in 1952 to refer to the scientific study of writing systems or scripts. Grammatology can examine the typology of scripts, the analysis of the structural properties of scripts, and the relationship between written and spoken language. In its broadest sense, some scholars also include the study of literacy in grammatology and, indeed, the impact of writing on philosophy, religion, science, administration and other aspects of the organization of society.
Historian Bruce Trigger associates grammatology with cultural evolution.Grapheme
In linguistics, a grapheme is the smallest unit of a writing system of any given language. An individual grapheme may or may not carry meaning by itself, and may or may not correspond to a single phoneme of the spoken language. Graphemes include alphabetic letters, typographic ligatures, Chinese characters, numerical digits, punctuation marks, and other individual symbols. A grapheme can also be construed as a graphical sign that independently represents a portion of linguistic material.The word grapheme, coined in analogy with phoneme, is derived from Ancient Greek γράφω (gráphō), meaning 'write', and the suffix -eme, by analogy with phoneme and other names of emic units. The study of graphemes is called graphemics.
The concept of graphemes is an abstract one and similar to the notion in computing of a character. By comparison, a specific shape that represents any particular grapheme in a specific typeface is called a glyph. For example, the grapheme corresponding to the abstract concept of "the Arabic numeral one" has two distinct glyphs (allographs) in the fonts Times New Roman and Helvetica.Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek ἰδέα idéa "idea" and γράφω gráphō "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Languages of Indonesia
More than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia. A major part of them belong to the Austronesian language family, while over 270 Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages are spoken in eastern Indonesia.. The official language is Indonesian (locally known as bahasa Indonesia), a standardized form of Malay, which serves as the lingua franca of the archipelago. The vocabulary of Indonesian borrows heavily from regional languages of Indonesia, such as Javanese, Sundanese and Minangkabau, as well as from Dutch, Sanskrit and Arabic.
The Indonesian language is primarily used in commerce, administration, education and the media. Most Indonesians speak other languages, such as Javanese, as their first language. Most books printed in Indonesia are written in the Indonesian language.Since Indonesia recognises only a single official language, other languages are not recognised either at the national level or the regional level, thus making Javanese the most widely spoken language without official status, with Sundanese the second in the list (excluding Chinese varieties).Letter (alphabet)
A letter is a segmental symbol of a phonemic writing system. The inventory of all letters forms the alphabet. Letters broadly correspond to phonemes in the spoken form of the language, although there is rarely a consistent, exact correspondence between letters and phonemes.The word letter, borrowed from Old French letre, entered Middle English around 1200 CE, eventually displacing the native English term bōcstaf (bookstaff). Letter is descended from the Latin littera, which may have descended from the Greek "διφθέρα" (writing tablet), via Etruscan.List of constructed scripts
This list of constructed scripts is in alphabetical order. ISO 15924 codes are provided where assigned. This list includes neither shorthand systems nor ciphers of existing scripts.List of symbols
This is a list of graphical signs, icons, and symbols.List of writing systems of the languages in Indonesia
Indonesia's languages have different writing systems.Lists of languages
This page lists published lists of languages.Logophonetic
A logophonetic writing system is one that uses chiefly logographic symbols, but includes symbols or elements representing sounds.Pictogram
A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon, is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance. A pictogram may also be used in subjects such as leisure, tourism, and geography.
Pictography is a form of writing which uses representational, pictorial drawings, similarly to cuneiform and, to some extent, hieroglyphic writing, which also uses drawings as phonetic letters or determinative rhymes. Some pictograms, such as Hazards pictograms, are elements of formal languages.
Pictograph has a rather different meaning in the field of prehistoric art, including recent art by traditional societies and then means art painted on rock surfaces, as opposed to petroglyphs; the latter are carved or incised. Such images may or may not be considered pictograms in the general sense.Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or (more frequently) moras which make up words.
A symbol in a syllabary, called a syllabogram, typically represents an (optional) consonant sound (simple onset) followed by a vowel sound (nucleus)—that is, a CV or V syllable—but other phonographic mappings such as CVC, CV- tone, and C (normally nasals at the end of syllables) are also found in syllabaries.Written language
A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will pick up spoken language or sign language by exposure even if they are not formally instructed.
A written language exists only as a complement to a specific spoken language, and no natural language is purely written.
Types of writing systems