Classifying ambiguous writing systems

If you're new to these arts, this is the place to ask "stupid" questions and get directions!
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Thu 10 Nov 2016, 16:27

While doing research I noticed that how writing systems are classified is somewhat contentious in some areas.

The vast majority of my sources were able to agree on the classifications of:
  • Consonantal alphabet or consonatary (e.g. Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew)
  • Alphabet or vococonsonantary (e.g. Greek, Latin, Cyrillic)
  • Semanto-phonetic or logographic (e.g. Chinese, Egyptian, Mayan, Sumerian)
  • Syllabary or syllabic alphabet (e.g. Cherokee, Kana, Yi)
Some writing systems don't neatly fit into these categories. These are variously classified as alphasyllabaries, abugidas, or semisyllabaries by some sources or as alphabets and syllabaries by other sources. For example, W. Bright and P.T. Daniels disagree about the classification of Pahawh Hmong, Pollard script, and 'Phags-pa, but Heidi Swank classifies all three as alphasyllabaries.

So I've come to the conclusion that there are five broad classifications of writing systems: consonantary, alphabet, syllabary, alphasyllabary and semanto-phonetic, as well as defectives and mixes thereof. Alphabets and alphasyllabaries may or may not have inherent vowels, but this isn't part of their basic classification. Syllabaries consist of syllabograms that include the syllable nucleus but vary in how they accommodate different types of syllables, such as special orthographic rules or phonograms for initial or final consonants. Alphasyllabaries are similar to syllabaries but have devised a variety of ways to display individual phonemes such as diacritics, rotations, and syllable blocks.

This results in some previously ambiguous writing systems being reclassified as follows:
  • Alphabet: Meroitic
  • Alphasyllabary: Hangul, Aboriginal Syllabics
  • Syllabary: Bamum, Old Persian cuneiform, Zhuyin fuhao, Khom script
  • Mixed: Paleohispanic scripts
Relevant Sources (abridged):
  • Swank, Heidi (2008). It all hinges on the vowels: Reconsidering the alphasyllabary classification. Written Language & Literacy, 11(1), 73-89. doi:10.1075/wll.11.1.06swa
  • Pae, Hye K. (2011). Is Korean a syllabic alphabet or an alphabetic syllabary. Writing Systems Research, 3(2), 103-115. doi:10.1093/wsr/wsr002
  • Retrieved from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cuneiform-script
  • Valério, Miguel (2008): “Origin and Development of the Paleohispanic scripts: The Orthography and Phonology of the Southwestern Alphabet". Revista Portuguesa de Arqueologia 11-2, pp. 107–138.
This sort of analysis is important to myself because of my interest in conscripts. Any critique you wish to offer?
Edit: Peter T. Daniel's devised the neologisms "abjad" and "abugida" to replace consonantal alphabet and alphasyllabary for the purposes of political correctness. I think the terms are confusing, arbitrary, and unnecessary.
Last edited by MoonRightRomantic on Thu 20 Jul 2017, 14:03, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
eldin raigmore
fire
fire
Posts: 5679
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by eldin raigmore » Wed 31 May 2017, 19:34

Probably tangential to your post, but not to your titular topic.
Apologies if this counts as "topic" drift.

I'm thinking of a conlang in which each syllable is a string of consecutive phonemes, and each word is a string of consecutive syllables;
simultaneously each morpheme is a string of consecutive phonemes, and each word is a string of consecutive morphemes.

In the spoken language, that's all there is. to it. Except at the word-boundaries -- (the beginning of a word has to be also the beginning of both its first syllable and its first morpheme; and likewise the end of a word has to be also the end of both its last syllable and its last morpheme) -- syllables and morphemes can overlap each other willy-nilly.

However, in writing, there's a thing called a "block". (Or that's what I'm calling it at the moment.)
A block is a string of one to four consecutive phoneme-glyphs written together. (Like a Hangeul syllable-block.)
If a block and a syllable share a phoneme, then either the block is entirely contained within the syllable, or the syllable is entirely contained within the block.
Simultaneously, if a block and a morpheme share a phoneme, then either the block is entirely contained within the morpheme, or the morpheme is entirely contained within the block.
Edit: In other words:
You can't have a block ending in the middle of a syllable that begins in the middle of the block;
nor can you have a syllable ending in the middle of a block that begins in the middle of the syllable.
Likewise:
You can't have a block ending in the middle of a morpheme that begins in the middle of the block;
nor can you have a morpheme ending in the middle of a block that begins in the middle of the morpheme.
Last edited by eldin raigmore on Fri 02 Jun 2017, 15:38, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Wed 31 May 2017, 23:16

I've based sajátnyelvföld on pasigraphy...
I use pictograms for primes...
The result with diacritics is a logography...
I use a syllable for each compound, so it is a syllabary...
In a normalized way one can see an abugida...
With some typography, I can write it developed, and it looks like alphabet...
So what about its classication...
User avatar
eldin raigmore
fire
fire
Posts: 5679
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by eldin raigmore » Fri 02 Jun 2017, 15:41

lsd wrote:I've based sajátnyelvföld on pasigraphy...
I use pictograms for primes...
The result with diacritics is a logography...
I use a syllable for each compound, so it is a syllabary...
In a normalized way one can see an abugida...
With some typography, I can write it developed, and it looks like alphabet...
So what about its classication...
I'd add another classification:
  • Weird, other, mixed, or unclassifiable (mostly "weird")
, and put your sajátnyelvföld in that category.
But maybe that's the lazy way out; or doesn't do justice to your writing system.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Fri 02 Jun 2017, 16:35

Nope, it's just pictograpy and logography and syllabary or abugida and alphabet...
Not something else...

This comes from the coincidence between an ideographic system detached from the spoken language and the addition of a rigorous phonetic rule...
1 sense = 1 sign= 1 phoneme ...
With suppression of the double articulation ...
Typical of a priori languages (sometimes called philosophical) ...
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Fri 09 Jun 2017, 14:28

I entertained the idea of writing English using two parallel scripts, representing morphemes and phonemes separately. The morphemes would illustrate the etymology of words, while the phonemes would represent how those words are pronounced in the corpus' dialect.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Fri 09 Jun 2017, 16:12

Etymological in an etymological sense (telling the truth) ...
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Sat 10 Jun 2017, 22:14

lsd wrote:Etymological in an etymological sense (telling the truth) ...
In English, a morpheme may change pronunciation by context. For example, acerbic and acrid share the same root.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Sat 10 Jun 2017, 22:24

ok, etymological not in an etymological sense (expressing the families of words)...
horizont
rupestrian
rupestrian
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon 03 Jul 2017, 10:55

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by horizont » Tue 04 Jul 2017, 10:16

Hmm, I'm a total newbie, but can someone explain why hebrew is consonotary?
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Tue 04 Jul 2017, 16:40

In the Hebrew script, like Arabic, each symbol stands for a consonant...
These alphabets are called abjad...
User avatar
eldin raigmore
fire
fire
Posts: 5679
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by eldin raigmore » Tue 04 Jul 2017, 19:11

horizont wrote:Hmm, I'm a total newbie, but can someone explain why hebrew is consonotary?
If you're wondering how Hebrew and Arabic got away with having no letters for vowels, there's been a lot of speculation that it has to do with the fact that Hebrew, Arabic, most or all other Semitic languages, and a few other Afro-Asiatic languages, are "Tri-Consonantal (Verb-)Root Languages".
Any two words with exactly the same consonants in exactly the same order are different inflections of the same word-root.
And vice-versa; leaving out the prefixes and suffixes, all the different surface word-forms of the same root-word have exactly the same consonants in the same order.
So if you're reading a text, and all the consonants are written down, it's easy to guess correctly which form of the word is meant.
Compare the following:
S f yr rdng txt nd ll th cnsnnts r wrttn dwn ts s t gss crrctl whch frm f th wrd s mnt.
O i oue eai a e, a a e ooa ae ie ow, i eay o ue oey i o o e o i ea.
See? Even in English, it's not that tough to read a sentence with the vowels left out! A lot tougher with the vowels retained but the consonants omitted.

Provided the spaces (and maybe the punctuation) are not omitted!
Compare
Soifyourereadingatextandalltheconsonantsarewrittendownitseasytoguesscorrectlywhichformofthewordismeant.
Sfyrrdngtxtndllthcnsnntsrwrttndwntsstgsscrrctlwhchfrmfthwrdsmnt.
If you leave out all the vowels as well as all the spaces and all the punctuation and all the capitalization, it's next to impossible to figure out what any significant-length English sentence is meant to be. (Tri-Literal-Root languages have the (insufficient!) advantage that almost all the main words' roots are three "letters" long. English doesn't even have that.)
Early forms of several written languages (Latin and Hebrew among them) didn't indicate where one word left off and the next began.
For Hebrew and other abjads this could mean that readers might make a mistake that might change the meaning without making the sentence ungrammatical; and perhaps not even nonsensical.

Scribes and rabbis of Hebrew started drafting certain consonant-characters (aleph and yod, e.g.) to make them indicate which vowels went where. That helped a lot.

People who wrote Latin -- especially those who carved it in stone -- had a habit of abbreviating certain long words to just the first few letters. This only made things worse, if they weren't putting interpuncts or spaces between the words. And they had only one case of letters -- the ones we now call uppercase or majuscule or "capital" letters. So they couldn't tell from capitalization where a sentence or a proper noun or any other noun or any other word began if there were no spaces and no punctuation.

Does that help?
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Tue 18 Jul 2017, 14:31

horizont wrote:Hmm, I'm a total newbie, but can someone explain why hebrew is consonotary?
Originally Hebrew was written without indicating vowels, but later a series of diacritics were devised to indicate vowels. So it depends on which version of the script you are writing.
lsd wrote:In the Hebrew script, like Arabic, each symbol stands for a consonant...
These alphabets are called abjad...
"Abjadiyah" is the Arabic word for alphabets. I deliberately choose my terms from English rather than Peter Daniels' loan word-derived neologisms because they translate better. If you ask an Arab conlanger about "abjad" they won't understand what you mean without explaining a whole new context. If you used "consonantary" they would be able to puzzle out the meaning from the individual morphemes "consonant" and "-ary".
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Tue 18 Jul 2017, 15:46

MoonRightRomantic wrote:"Abjadiyah" is the Arabic word for alphabets. I deliberately choose my terms from English rather than Peter Daniels' loan word-derived neologisms because they translate better. If you ask an Arab conlanger about "abjad" they won't understand what you mean without explaining a whole new context. If you used "consonantary" they would be able to puzzle out the meaning from the individual morphemes "consonant" and "-ary".
If you talk to him about "consonantary" and he also understands English and is even able to deconstructing the word to understand its meaning, something tells me that he also knows the term "abjad"...
Perhaps he will even think that by arabophobia you have not used it...
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Tue 18 Jul 2017, 18:26

lsd wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote:"Abjadiyah" is the Arabic word for alphabets. I deliberately choose my terms from English rather than Peter Daniels' loan word-derived neologisms because they translate better. If you ask an Arab conlanger about "abjad" they won't understand what you mean without explaining a whole new context. If you used "consonantary" they would be able to puzzle out the meaning from the individual morphemes "consonant" and "-ary".
If you talk to him about "consonantary" and he also understands English and is even able to deconstructing the word to understand its meaning, something tells me that he also knows the term "abjad"...
Perhaps he will even think that by arabophobia you have not used it...
Arabophobia? I was discussing abjads and abugidas with Arabs on a linguistics forum and they didn't understand what I was saying because Peter Daniels has no authority outside his own circle of academics. That's why I decided to use other terms from the academic literature.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Tue 18 Jul 2017, 18:53

MoonRightRomantic wrote: Peter Daniels has no authority outside his own circle of academics.
Image
Image
His circle is quite large... (that what I said...)
User avatar
qwed117
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 4298
Joined: Thu 20 Nov 2014, 02:27

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by qwed117 » Wed 19 Jul 2017, 10:14

lsd wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote: Peter Daniels has no authority outside his own circle of academics.
Image
Image
His circle is quite large... (that what I said...)
[+1]
[Insert Scientist/Researcher] had no authority outside of [his/her] own circle of [field+ist].
Spoiler:
My minicity is Zyphrazia and Novland
What is made of man will crumble away.
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Wed 19 Jul 2017, 14:00

qwed117 wrote:
lsd wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote: Peter Daniels has no authority outside his own circle of academics.
Image
Image
His circle is quite large... (that what I said...)
[+1]
[Insert Scientist/Researcher] had no authority outside of [his/her] own circle of [field+ist].
I don't know what you're trying to say here, because the results refute your argument. Abjad is the Arabic word for alphabet and is used as such outside of papers which cite Daniels. When trying to distinguish writing systems that note vowels from those that don't, it is less confusing to use terminology like "consonantal alphabet" or "consonantary" rather than a foreign word that already has a meaning.

I understand Daniels was trying to be politically correct by using neologisms for different writing systems, but since no natural language makes that distinction it just ends up being confusing. I know this from personal experience, because I have gotten that response from people who speak Arabic. Korean linguists have written papers where they refer to Hangul, their own writing system, as simultaneously a "syllabic alphabet" and "alphabetic syllabary" while extolling the virtues of such a system.
User avatar
lsd
greek
greek
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri 11 Mar 2011, 21:11

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by lsd » Wed 19 Jul 2017, 18:22

My point of view: to use a baptist word, seach a dictionary the usual meaning in the language you want to use...
In english abjad is common... consonantary not...

If you want to use other word define it first and go on...
(or use an a priori (called philosophical) language where every word is transparent...

(as apriorist, I prefer consonantary...)
MoonRightRomantic
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu 11 Feb 2016, 23:22

Re: Classifying ambiguous writing systems

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Wed 19 Jul 2017, 22:37

lsd wrote:My point of view: to use a baptist word, seach a dictionary the usual meaning in the language you want to use...
In english abjad is common... consonantary not...

If you want to use other word define it first and go on...
(or use an a priori (called philosophical) language where every word is transparent...

(as apriorist, I prefer consonantary...)
I would hardly call a Wikipedia article an indication that a given jargon is common English. Wikipedia is outright banned from being referenced in academic literature by all reputable academic institutions.

According to google trends, searches for "abjad" originate from India and Indonesia. This is probably because most keyboards use the Latin letters for input.
Post Reply