If you grew up in the 20th century, or heck, even into the early 2000s, and you are a speaker of English, you might have gone through the ordeal of learning penmanship, and most particularly, the cursive script, at some point in either preschool, primary school, or elementary school depending on your education system. For … Continue reading Why did we learn cursive?
Previously, we covered the Osmanya alphabet created in the early 20th century meant to write and represent the Somali language. Its spread was unfortunately put to an end by the Italians, who suspected its proliferation to be part of a pro-independence movement. But this was not the only writing system to arise in that era, … Continue reading Writing in Africa — The Somalian Alphabets (Pt 2)
In the Horn of Africa, several languages are widely spoken. From Amharic and Tigrinya in Ethiopia to Afar in Djibouti, many languages of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family are spoken here. In Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti, Somali has official language status in the former two, and national language status in the latter. … Continue reading Writing in Africa — The Somalian Alphabets (Pt 1)
In a previous post, we have introduced one of the writing systems that is written vertically, but read horizontally. But what if I told you that there are more writing systems that sort of use similar writing directions? That is right, because today, we will dive into yet another one of these writing systems, that … Continue reading Yet another vertical writing system
When prowling through various orthographies, and their changes throughout modernity, I came across a particularly interesting case study on the use of the letter "eszett" (or scharfes es) in relation to the surrounding vowels, the letter s, and the digraph ss. These changes somehow disproportionately applied to Standard German, particularly those used in Germany and … Continue reading Swiss High German has one fewer letter than Standard High German. But why?
You only see this letter being used in German today, but not just any German, more rather, the German typically spoken in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, and parts of Belgium. You might see this on street signs, or basically everywhere. For learners, you might have first encountered it in the very first lesson of a beginner's … Continue reading The story of Eszett (ß)
Phone. Phase. Phoenix. These words start with a "ph", yet this digraph is pronounced with an "f". In some other languages, we see such a pattern as well. Take French, for example. The word for "the seal", le phoque, also has its "ph" pronounced as an "f". We also see such a pattern in Vietnamese, … Continue reading Why does “ph” make an “f” sound?
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7 400 islands, and home to dozens of languages, most of which belong to the Austronesian language family. While Tagalog, Filipino, Ilocano, and Cebuano stand out as some of the more spoken languages, or better known ones in the Philippines, there are many others with much fewer speakers, … Continue reading The writing system written in one direction, but read in another
This diacritic we will cover today will bother a lot of font developers who want to make a sans-serif font, basically a typeface that lacks any sort of protruding bits at the end of a stroke. These projecting features are called "serifs", and here, the one bothersome bit is called the cedilla, a diacritic mark … Continue reading The story of the cedilla
French is probably one of the more well-known languages with diacritics, although it does not get as elaborate as languages like Vietnamese today. This language has five different types of diacritics, also known as accents -- the accent aigu (é), accent grave (Eg. è), accent circonflexe (Eg. û), accent tréma (Eg. ë), and cédille (ç). … Continue reading Why does French have circumflex letters?
The Arabic abjad has its influences throughout many parts of the world. From the Urdu script for, well, Urdu, and Persian script for Farsi, to the Jawi script for Bahasa Melayu, there are many letters added to the 28 original letters of Arabic from these respective languages. However, these scripts will not be the focus … Continue reading The writing system that resembles Arabic, but is not
For a long time now, I have been wondering, how did people back then learn Mandarin Chinese characters? Today, we have the convenience of learning new characters by just looking at the hànyǔ pīnyīn, which is the official romanisation system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, and is also used in teaching Mandarin Chinese … Continue reading Learning Mandarin Chinese characters… with more Mandarin Chinese characters
I am pretty sure you know how the alphabet song goes, from any language that uses some form of the Latin alphabet. Something that always intrigues me is why the alphabet, the English one at least, is ordered this way, and not any other sequence. Was it because the ABC song only sounds appropriate when … Continue reading The mystery of our alphabetical order
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Neo-Nsibidi’s “kana”
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Modernising Nsibidi
Does mathematics transcend all languages? Mathematical equations seem to be able to communicate quantities, derivations, theorems and proofs across a large number of people, which may make it seem that mathematics is generally universally intelligible. The logic it contains is sort of homologous to what we see in language. The concepts of negation, comparison and … Continue reading Mathematics in language — Transcendental algebra
Using the Latin alphabet to write some languages brings a lot of challenges, since 26 letters may not always be enough to capture all the sounds in a language. Tones, nasal vowels, some consonants may be omitted, or have to adopt clunky digraphs like "gb", "ngg", and "ndl". This is true for many languages in … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Ńdébé
Igbo, a language spoken by at least 45 million people mainly in Nigeria, has tried adopting several writing systems throughout its linguistic history. From Nsibidi to Ndebe, Igbo has experimented, or is currently experimenting with these systems, but what we know is that Igbo is now predominantly written in the Latin alphabet. A couple of … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Nwagụ Aneke Script
Sierra Leone, like many places in West Africa, is diverse. It contains at least 15 spoken languages, plus English, but more commonly spoken as a form of creole known as Krio. While Krio is spoken by the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, in the southern region of the country, exists a regional lingua franca, spoken … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Mende Kikakui
In the 1880s, syllabic blocks of text recorded the languages of Ho-Chunk, Fox and several more languages. Derived from the Latin alphabet, this writing system strongly resembled Latin texts. But yet, no digitisation of this writing system was ever made, and what is revealed online is only an approximation, usually using a cursive Latin script. … Continue reading Writing in North America — Great Lakes Algonquian Syllabics (GLAS)
This writing system is unlike those discussed previously. It did not arise in the 19th century, under the legacy of Sequoyah on the writing systems of North America. In fact, its writing system arose after the language was officially declared extinct in 2005, following the passing of Lucille Roubedeaux, the last native speaker of the … Continue reading Writing in North America — Osage Script
In 1827, an English-Canadian missionary and linguist set foot onto Rice Lake, Ontario. By the turn of the 20th century, virtually all Cree speakers were literate in a new writing system. From the Nunavut Inuktitut languages in the north to Ojibwe and Cree in eastern Canada, this writing system certainly has made its mark, and … Continue reading Writing in North America — Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
Previously, we have covered the various writing systems in Africa, to much interest, as not many are aware about the scripts used in the continent. From Ge'ez to Nsibidi, we have discussed the features and successes of these writing systems. This series of posts have certainly shown that writing systems in Africa are not just … Continue reading Writing in North America
When people talk about featural writing systems, almost all the time, the Hangeul writing system pops up. Its simple 40 letters (19 consonant and 21 vowel sounds) organised into syllable blocks form what is now the simplest writing system so far. Promulgated by Sejong the Great in the mid 15th-century, Hangeul has since been ingrained … Continue reading Writing in Africa – A Korean-like Script?
Now that we're back to introducing writing systems of Africa, this one takes us to the southern region of the African continent, intended to represent kiSwahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba, and to a limited extent, Lingala. Invented in 1978, this script appears to be a robotic mess of lines, an alphabet which is organised into syllabic blocks. … Continue reading Writing in Africa – Mandombe
Solomana Kante, a Guinean writer and an inventor of a writing system, but most importantly, a man who was determined to change the beliefs that Africans were a cultureless people. The Manding languages lacked an indigenous writing system at that time. And so, after a night of deep meditation, Kante went on to create an … Continue reading Writing in Africa – I say N’ko (ߒߞߏ)
Our next writing system takes us to the West African country of Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which lie some 120,000 native speakers of this Mande language called Vai. A tonal language of 12 vowels (of which 5 are nasal) and 31 consonants, using a syllabary to represent the sounds of this language surely is … Continue reading Writing in Africa – The Vai Syllabary (ꕙꔤ)
In the late 1980s, two Guinean teenage brothers, Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry, devised a new alphabet to represent their Fulani language, spoken by about 24 million people in the Sahel Region in Western Africa. Using the first four letters of this new alphabet, they named it Adlam. Producing handwritten copies of books using the Adlam … Continue reading Writing in Africa – The Adlam Alphabet
Tucked away in the region of southeast Nigeria lies the birthplace of a writing system used to document the Igbo, Ekoid and Efik languages. This is the Nsibidi script, in which thousands of symbols are found across various items like pottery, wall designs and leaves. A mess of lines, dots, circles and arcs unreadable to … Continue reading Writing in Africa – the Nsibidi script
Africa, a continent of thousands of ethnic groups, the most among all continents. Alongside these ethnic groups lie the linguistic diversity, rivaled only by the language diversity of Papua New Guinea. Many of these languages are still vulnerable to endangerment and extinction, and many of these also lack a written form to document their language. … Continue reading Writing in Africa
Writing has existed for millennia, recording human history, heritage and knowledge over time. Many scripts have been invented, some stayed, some continued to be used, and some have yet to be deciphered. Now let's see some of the most fascinating scripts humans have come up with! 1. Ersu Shaba Ersu Shaba is a script used … Continue reading 5 of the Most Interesting Writing Systems