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Modern Chinese character ri meaning "day" or "Sun" A logogram is a single written character which represents a complete grammatical word.
Most traditional Chinese characters are classified as logograms. As each character represents a single word or, more precisely, a morphememany logograms are required to write all the words of language. The vast array of logograms and the memorization of what they mean are major disadvantages of logographic systems over alphabetic systems.
However, since the meaning is inherent to the symbol, the same logographic system can theoretically be used to represent different languages. In practice, the ability to communicate across languages only works for the closely related varieties of Chineseas differences in syntax reduce the crosslinguistic portability of a given logographic system.
Japanese uses Chinese logograms extensively in its writing systems, with most of the symbols carrying the same or similar meanings.
However, the grammatical differences between Japanese and Chinese are significant enough that a long Chinese text is not readily understandable to a Japanese reader without any knowledge of basic Chinese grammarthough short and concise phrases such as those on signs and newspaper headlines are much easier to comprehend.
While most languages do not use wholly logographic writing systems, many languages use some logograms. A good example of modern western logograms are the Hindu-Arabic numerals: Logograms are sometimes called ideogramsa word that refers to symbols which graphically represent abstract ideas, but linguists avoid this use, as Chinese characters are often semantic — phonetic compounds, symbols which include an element that represents the meaning and a phonetic complement element that represents the pronunciation.
Some nonlinguists distinguish between lexigraphy and ideography, where symbols in lexigraphies represent words and symbols in ideographies represent words or morphemes. The most important and, to a degree, the only surviving modern logographic writing system is the Chinese one, whose characters have been used with varying degrees of modification in varieties of ChineseJapaneseKoreanVietnameseand other east Asian languages.
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mayan writing system are also systems with certain logographic features, although they have marked phonetic features as well and are no longer in current use.
Vietnamese speakers switched to the Latin alphabet in the 20th century and the use of Chinese characters in Korean is increasingly rare. The Japanese writing system includes several distinct forms of writing including logography.
As logographic writing systems use a single symbol for an entire word, a syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent or approximate syllableswhich make up words.
A symbol in a syllabary typically represents a consonant sound followed by a vowel sound, or just a vowel alone. In a "true syllabary", there is no systematic graphic similarity between phonetically related characters though some do have graphic similarity for the vowels.
More recent creations such as the Cree syllabary embody a system of varying signs, which can best be seen when arranging the syllabogram set in an onset — coda or onset— rime table. Syllabaries are best suited to languages with relatively simple syllable structure, such as Japanese.
The English languageon the other hand, allows complex syllable structures, with a relatively large inventory of vowels and complex consonant clustersmaking it cumbersome to write English words with a syllabary. To write English using a syllabary, every possible syllable in English would have to have a separate symbol, and whereas the number of possible syllables in Japanese is aroundin English there are approximately 15, to 16, However, syllabaries with much larger inventories do exist.
The Yi scriptfor example, contains different symbols or 1, if symbols with a particular tone diacritic are counted as separate syllables, as in Unicode. The Chinese scriptwhen used to write Middle Chinese and the modern varieties of Chinesealso represents syllables, and includes separate glyphs for nearly all of the many thousands of syllables in Middle Chinese ; however, because it primarily represents morphemes and includes different characters to represent homophonous morphemes with different meanings, it is normally considered a logographic script rather than a syllabary.
Several languages of the Ancient Near East used forms of cuneiformwhich is a syllabary with some non-syllabic elements.
Alphabets[ edit ] Main article: Alphabet An alphabet is a small set of letters basic written symbolseach of which roughly represents or represented historically a phoneme of a spoken language. The word alphabet is derived from alpha and betathe first two symbols of the Greek alphabet.
The first type of alphabet that was developed was the abjad. An abjad is an alphabetic writing system where there is one symbol per consonant.
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