The 5 Types Of Writing Systems



By: Allen Chhu, Journalist

Writing systems can be divided into 5 main categories: Alphabets, Abjads, logo-syllabaries, Syllabaries, and Abugidas. Below are descriptions of what each one is.


Alphabets are systems where each glyph creates a different sound and you can put these glyphs together to make a work. The most famous alphabet is the Latin alphabet which is used by many different languages. Glyphs can also have more than one sound and it’s up to the reader to figure out what sound the letter makes.


Abjads are almost the same as alphabets with the only difference being that they’re made up of almost only consonants. For example, in Hebrew you would have to infer the vowels in-between the constants based on context and the same goes for Arabic.


In a syllabary, each glyph represents an entire syllable. A good example of this is Japanese, which has many different glyphs to represent each syllable. Hangul, which is the writing system for Korean, might look like a syllabary but actually isn’t because each constant and vowel has an individual glyph which you can combine to create a syllable.


A logo-syllabary has each glyphs represent an entire word or sound. The most common usage of this system is Chinese. Chinese has thousands of glyphs which each mean an entire word or just a sound.


Abugidas are in-between alphabets and syllabaries so they’re also sometimes called a syllabic alphabets. Abugidas have a unique glyph for each constant and vowel like an alphabet; however, unlike an alphabet, vowel are written as small changes to the constant which makes a syllable similar to a syllabary.


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