Alphabets of the world but also syllabaries and logographies

A single drawing being worth a thousand words, please look intensely at the one below. Thank you very much …


Alphabets are composed of letters representing the simplest sounds possible. Although the letters of the Arabic alphabet you can see a sample of above have little names, they really are only the little names of the letters. The letters themselves represent the simplest sounds as do the letters of the English alphabet for example.

Please note that all alphabets descend from only one ancestor, the Phoenician alphabet, from around the years -1,300 !


Syllabaries are made up of syllables, not of letters. A written sign refers to a group of sounds, usually to a consonant and a vowel.

You can find here a good list of syllabaries. I let you go take a look. (Yes, you need to come back !)


Logographies are composed of characters representing words or meaningful components of words (called ‘morphemes’).

At the beginning, logographies’ characters represented things or ideas. They looked more like drawings than abstract constructs. Look for example at the transformation of some Chinese characters over time.

Still curious ? This website lists quite a few logographic writing systems just for you to go take a look at …

Writings of our times

In the magic world of written records, in our present times (yes, around the 2,000s), the most common scripts are the following :

#1. the Latin alphabet
#2. the Chinese logography
#3. the Arabic alphabet
#4. the Devanagari alphabet (adopted by the Hindi language among others)
#5. the Cyrillic alphabet (adopted by the Russian language among others)
#6. the Kana syllabary (adopted by the Japanese language among others)

In a coming article, I’ll tell you about the beautiful but not very practical ideographic scripts. Their characters didn’t represent little letters, nor syllables, nor even words, but whole ideas such as the ones expressed on our present-day traffic signs. You know those signs we only have a vague sense of what they mean even though we look at them every day …

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