[sw-l] SW system type... alphabetic vs. others ( pictographic, ideographic, logographic)

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Tue Jun 21 12:24:56 UTC 2005

Tomáš Klapka wrote:

> People always tell me that it is pictographic, ideographic or ...

> So it must be alphabetic.
> Is it right?

It depends on how you define alphabetic, pictographic &c

For oral languages, as well as the idea of an "alphabet" which has
vowels and consonants, there's the idea of a "betagam" which has
consonants only - usually used in Semitic langauages where vowels are
represented only as optional diacritics. The idea of vowels and
consonants don't apply in SignWriting, so I'd suggest not using the term
"alphabet" when talking about SignWriting - it's one of those things
where signed and spoken languages part ways.

"Pictographic" refers to a writing system where the written words are
simple pictures of the referents. But in SignWriting the written words
are _not_ pictures of the referents, they're pictures of the signs

The nearest thing to this we have in oral languages is the linguists'
"vowel diagram" which shows a picture of the inside of the mouth and
where the vowel is pronounced. I would suggest referring to this, and
therefore to SignWriting also, as a "diagrammatic" writing system - the
writing system diagrams the actual execution of the language.

Mundbildschrift could be thought of as a diagrammatic writing system for
oral languages and for one channel of signed languages.


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