As writing is the visual representation of speech, anything
written without some specific meaning cannot be considered to be writing; for
the written symbols or signs carry a particular meaning on the basis of shared
understanding of people.
The conventional method, which comprises these symbols, is
known as writing system, whereas its characters form script. As phoneme is the
smallest meaningless unit of speech (/a/, /t/, /s/, /v/), similarly, grapheme
is the smallest unit of a writing system (A, B, C). When phonemes and graphemes
are realized, that is in concrete form, they turn out to be phones and
Today various writing systems are used worldwide which
include logography, syllabary, alphabet, abugida, abjad and featural writing.
However, it should be born in mind that every language does not have alphabet
which is actually a writing system itself. Incidentally, the term orthography (as
English orthography) must not be confused with script; for the former refers to
writing of language including its norms
of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and
punctuation; while the latter refers to only a set of signs. So these
terminologies have distinctive use as to their technical point of view.
The basic unit of logography is logogram or logograph that
stands for a word or morpheme. It shows a concept or idea rather than a single
speech sound as in alphabet. The writing which makes use of logograms is known
as logographic system. Logograms are typically found in Chinese characters, Japanese
Kanji, cuneiform writing and the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt. The logograms
were first used in historical civilizations of the Near East, China, and
Central America. The Cuneiform writing was developed by the Sumerian people of
Mesopotamia around 3300 B.C., which was pictographic in nature. Sumerians used
some clay tablets to deal with the commercial affairs. Early Sumerian writing
included pictographic images. The image for “bird” was clearly a bird, for
example. After 3000 B.C.E., however, these images began to evolve into the
familiar groupings of wedge shapes that are recognized as cuneiform writing.
Around this time, the writing system also began to change into a more
phonetic-based system. A number of Asian languages (most notably Chinese,
Japanese, and Korean) employ heavy use of logographic characters. Chinese and
its derivative, Japanese kanji are perhaps the most widely cited examples of
predominantly logographic scripts still in use today. When discussing Asian
languages, the term “character” often replaces the term “logogram.” In the
Chinese language, there are over 50,000 characters, 2,000 of which are
considered necessary for basic literacy. In Japanese, knowledge of 1850
characters is required. While not all of these characters are technically
logograms, most have logographic elements. For example, a character may
represent only a part of a word as well as the word itself. The key advantage
of logographic system is its attribute of being universal, as found in
mathematics, which can be understood by any mathematician from any part of the world.
However, it also projects some problems; that is to say, it consumes a good lot
of time to learn and memorize them.
This type of writing system consists of symbols that
represent only syllables of a language. The fundamental sign of syllabary is
syllabogram which represents combination of a consonant and a vowel, where a consonant
may not necessarily occur as CV or V syllable. Writing systems that use
syllabaries wholly or in part include Japanese, Cherokee, the ancient Cretan
scripts, and various Indic and cuneiform writing systems. Some syllabaries include
separate symbols for each possible syllable that may occur in the language;
others use a system of consonant symbols that include an inherent vowel.
An alphabet comprises a set of standardized letters representing
phonemes known as phonemic script.