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Kseniia
Choosing one writing system over the other
 Hello everyone!

 A couple of days ago I stumbled across this post on Reddit — https://www.reddit.com/r/AskCentralAsia/comments/bntj7j/a_new_written_turkic_language_is_about_to_be_born/​​​​​​​ — and some questions have been on my mind since then.

What do you think a good linguist should consider when choosing one writing system over the other — apart from political factors (which can of course be important but not quite as interesting)? Can we say that some writing systems are just objectively better suited to some languages, from a linguistic point of view? Does it make sense to design completely new letters (no matter the form) instead of using diacritics or digraphs/ trigraphs in the Latin script, for example? Will it make the writing system better in terms of "phoneticness", so to speak?

And, finally: do you think the way a language is written can have some impact on the way people speak, or is it just a convention that doesn't matter that much at the end of the day?

If anyone has an opinion on this I would be really interested.
May 15, 2019 12:24 PM
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Comments · 7
I think the strongest factors here are political and the native language of the linguist that in most cases go together because the linguist should have support from community and government. In another case, the linguist's work will be just an academic exercise.
May 16, 2019
A few observations.
Only when I started learnign Arabic I learned that there are old books in Belorussian written in Arabic script. Wooden mosques in numerous Belorussian villages (and one demolished in Minsk) were also a surprise. 

I wonder if this is known well in Belorussia.

When the Chinese were developing Yi,  they invented Yi syllabary... Instead of already existing logographic Yi script. Why?

@Val, yes. I think in this case when a certain choise makes the system more likely to be adopted, the author is going to make this choice, whether it is "good" or not. I think in this case it going to be Cyrillic with standard letters of Turkic Cyrillic alphabets and perhaps really minor changes to adapt it to its phonetics. If the community were nationalist, then it would most likely be Latin. Modern nationalists love Latin more than creating new letters or restoring historical letters. P.S. yes, Cyrillic. The discussion is interesting. I liked how the Turkish guy found Latin more natural for a Turkic language:) 

I wonder what would he say if I told that Greek or Armenian is no less natural (especially given that these alphabets are more native to Turkey). 
May 16, 2019

Kseniia, I've a question.
Do you think that in most cases composition of a character lets a Chinese child guess the meaning of an unfamiliar character (say, 2873th in frequency)?

If yes, then it is interesting. Even then Chinese is more complex than a syllabary. Do Chinese or English speakers have 2, 3, 5 times more difficulty when reading compared to "phonetical" Belorussian speakers? Maybe just 1.5 times? 

The problem is that linguists take very enthusiastically arguments like "this system matches a certain structure in the langauge".

Great, but it is not science. Great that they've found structure. Great that the system matches it. Now why do you think it makes it "better"? Because you love structures? 

Other arguments are
- "easier for kids to learn" (but it is not the same as the best tool for adults to use and please, prove scientifically the assertion about kids).
- redundancy of effort when writing (-ъ), but I don't know which side-effects this еръ could have when reading.

May 16, 2019
Kseniia, Chinese demonstrates how many arguments which favour some aphabetical systems over others can sound VERY convincing while having little predictive value.
Based on those arguments the only thing that can be "worse" than an ideographic system would be a system where whole phrases are described with pictures.


May 16, 2019
Now why do you think it makes it "better"? Because you love structures? 
Well, I think our brain does love structures. Kind of. I think. Isn't the tendency to seek patterns in random information more or less universal?
As for "easier for kids to learn", it's anecdotal of course but I once had a pleasure to teach one child both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, and, to my surprise, in the beginning it wasn't really much easier with Cyrillic even though the child was a native Russian speaker. Maybe it means that written language is extremely unnatural in every form, lol. Even such things as "consistent spelling"... they do make everything easier for non-native speakers, but when you already know the language and just want to write things down... maybe it's not that important after all? 

And who would have known there are books in Belarusian written using the Arabic abjad! Do you remember when these books were written?

I also liked that the Turkish guy found Latin more natural for a Turkic language :) [yep, I'm saying it as someone who thinks that Cyrillic is more natural for Slavic languages, haha. Nice to see that other people are similarly biased as well]. Not sure that considering the Greek and Armenian scripts as valid alternatives for Turkic languages would be greeted with much enthusiasm, but who knows? :) By the way, what makes you think that "modern nationalists love Latin more than creating new letters or restoring historical letters"?
May 17, 2019
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Kseniia
Language Skills
English, Gaelic (Irish), Russian
Learning Language
English, Gaelic (Irish)