September 2, 2019 4

Learn the Writing Systems of the World

Learn the Writing Systems of the World


Hyden Toonen: Tonight’s event is hosted by
NZSTI’s Canterbury Branch Without further ado I introduce Josiah Beach Josiah: Thank you Hyden. Cheers.
Thanks for that introduction. Thanks all of you for coming out, especially
those of you who I know who have travelled from as far away as Ashburton and Tekapo to be here tonight. Thank you. I just also want to acknowledge all our NZSTI members here tonight here and those of you from the University of Canterbury and Interpreting New Zealand. And also thanks to those of you here tonight
who have brought me back some of these script samples from the ends of the earth. You know who you are; thanks for your help
there. I hope you enjoy the exhibition here tonight, where you can see authentic examples of every single living script in the world today. This collection is the result of a five year
project of mine. I’m going to go through now how to recognise each of these scripts – even if you don’t speak the language. So in order to cover everything in one session, some generalisations are made and the complexities of some usage is also simplified. But I’d love to talk with you afterwards if
you want to discuss anything in more detail. The scripts we’re going to look at are only
‘living’ scripts and for the purposes of this presentation
that’s defined as a script that is still published on a regular basis by native speaker communities. So what exactly is a script? A quick question: how many languages do you
think there would be in the world roughly? 6000? 7000? Yes, exactly. That’s right. There are 6000 to 6500 according to most approximate
estimations, which is quite incredible when you think that
there are less than 200 sovereign countries in the United Nations. So it’s a huge number of languages. However the vast majority of these languages were never written down until the last 100 years They were spoken only. So a script like the Latin script, which we
use to write English. a b c etc. can be modified to write different languages, as I’m sure
you’re all aware. For examples in Vietnamese there are diacritics,
or accents such as ă, â or đ. In Polish there are diacritics such as ą,
ć, ę, ł, ź, ż and so on and so forth. So even though the script is modified slightly to facilitate different languages, it’s still considered the same basic script because it has the same basic letters even though there are additions at the top and bottom. So in the same way as Latin [script] is adapted
for use for lots of different languages the Arabic script is also modified to be used
by different languages as well. And they do a similar thing by adding different
diacritics in order to express the sounds that may not have been in the original Arabic
language. So if there are around 6000 to 6500 languages
in the world, how many living scripts do you think there would be today? 58? 38? Yes, how did you know that? Well done.
Yes, there are 38 living scripts in the world today And 10 of those 38 are actually only used
by very small minority communities, which leaves only 28 scripts which are used on a
national level or in an official capacity. So 28 scripts is actually quite possible to
get your head around, as hopefully we’ll do tonight. So even though theoretically any script can
be used to write any language, as we all know usually one language is written in one script. As an example here you can see here a Japanese
and Chinese sentence written in the Latin alphabet. But as we all know, usually Japanese and Chinese
are written in the Japanese and Chinese scripts respectively The English language can also be written in
different scripts. These are both two English sentences using
the English language, in Chinese and Arabic characters.characters But of course we all know English isn’t usually
written in these scripts, it’s written in the Latin alphabet. I could write for example in Chinese [characters]…
‘hello’ or 哈喽 (Hā lòu) but it doesn’t have any meaning, it’s just the sound. Or I could write in the Arabic [script]…
هالو (halo) but again it doesn’t have any meaning. So the key concept here is that a script – a
writing system – is separate from a language. Languages are spoken things and they can be
written in different ways. Some scripts like Latin and Arabic are adapted
for use in lots of different languages, but other scripts are used only for one language,
such as Japanese or Korean. They’re only used for one language. So this map here shows the different types
of scripts. We can class scripts in the following ways: The blue shaded parts of the map here are
‘alphabets’. Alphabets are scripts which theoretically
have one letter for each phoneme, or sound, in the language. Both vowels and consonants separately have
an independent letter. The green shaded parts of the map here are
‘abjads’. Abjad scripts usually only include consonants,
vowels are only written optionally or in certain circumstances. The brown, yellow and orange sections of the
map here are ‘abugidas’. In these scripts there is one letter, or character,
per syllable, and this character is modified to change the vowel or to put consonant clusters together. The red area of the map here is Chinese characters. Some [Chinese] characters are pictorial representations
of an object, and others represent an idea or a concept. Some of them have a semantic meaning component
with a phonetic radical at the side. Although, with Chinese characters there’s
no consistent system for how they are made up which makes them very difficult to learn. Finally the pink areas of the map here are
scripts which were inspired by or invented under the influence of Chinese characters. So first of all we’ll look at alphabets around
the world. As you can see on the map the Latin script,
which is this light blue, is used in every continent in the world and
for languages that fit into every language family in the whole world. It’s got a vast extensive usage around the
world. The Cyrillic script, which is this darker
blue, is used to write Russian and also most of the languages of countries in the former
Soviet Union as well. There are also three other alphabets, in Europe
which are used exclusively for one language in one country each. And these are Greek, Armenian and Georgian. So, we’re going to look at each of these in
turn. The Latin script was used by the Roman Empire,
and after that collapsed the Latin alphabet was used by countries that
were in its former territory. So in later centuries, broadly speaking, use of the Latin script has followed European
colonisation around the world. And because many of the places that were colonised
didn’t have their own writing system before European contact, with the exception of places
like Vietnam, therefore many languages in the world were
written for the first time in the Latin script we know for English. The next script is Cyrillic. This is named after Saint Cyril who was a
missionary to the Russians and is credited with developing the script. Also Armenian and Georgian scripts are attributed
to early missionaries, who were the first to write down some of the early languages
of Europe. So Cyrillic is quite easily recognisable to
English speakers as the ‘Russian’ alphabet, and so that’s often another name that’s given
to it. Many Cyrillic letters are similar or even
exactly the same as Latin. Use of the Cyrillic script, broadly speaking,
has followed Russian expansion around the world. And it’s been adapted to be used by other countries in central Asia that were part of the Soviet Union. The Greek alphabet has not changed significantly for centuries. The Greek alphabet was the first one to assign independent letters to vowels, and this revolutionised writing in Europe. In fact, every other alphabet here developed
from the Greek alphabet. It pre-dates all of them and Greek [alphabet]
is the basis of the rest of them. The Armenian script, like Greek and Georgian,
is only used in one country – Armenia. Georgian, as well, is only used in Georgia. And [Georgian] is the only European script which does not have capitals or lower cases. So next we are going to look at how to recognise
each of these scripts. If we can do next slide… no. All right.
Yes, perfect. Right, so this is Latin, the script we’re
all familiar with as English speakers. This text is actually in Italian, which is a tribute to the language this script was originally written in, Latin. So can I go next… next one, thanks. Maybe
not… no problem. Here we go. Right. Cyrillic. Cyrillic is the most similar script
to Latin [script]. Over half of its letters are actually recognisable to English speakers, although several of them are pronounced differently. For example, these letters here, if you can
read them: B and V In the Latin alphabet we pronounce them ‘b’
and ‘p’, in the Cyrillic alphabet ‘v’ and ‘r’ respectively. So if you want to learn a new alphabet for
fun I’d recommend the Cyrillic script. After just a week you could learn to write
your name in the Cyrillic script or sound out Russian words, even if you don’t know
what they mean. The next script we have here is the Greek
script. It’s probably the next most familiar script
to English speakers. Many of its letters are recognisable but fewer than in Cyrillic. Some letters that are familiar to English
speakers, that might help you identify this, are theta θ, psy Ψ, what else, sigma Σ
and omega Ω. Also, Greek may, but not always, have accents
above some of the letters as you can see here. Next is Armenian. The distinguishing feature
of this script, for English speakers at least, is the number of straight lines that it has. And the fact that although many of the letters
look quite familiar, actually none of them are exactly the same as
[any of the letters in] the Latin script at all. Many of them have lines which extend higher
or lower than in the Latin script. For example this one here վ which is a little
bit like a lower-case u but goes a lot higher. This one ի which looks like an h but goes
lower. And this one here ա which looks like an upside
down lower-case m, at least to English readers. Finally in this section is Georgian. So as you can see, a recognisable feature of this is the curved font which resembles calligraphy in many ways. However, there is also a newer Georgian font which is sometimes used these days and it looks very different from this. But we will look at that in the next slide. So, now is a chance for you to have a go recognising
some of these scripts. You can have a look at your handout to see the scripts we’ve covered. Does anyone want to have a guess at the first
one here, number one? Greek? Yes, why do you think Greek? Why does it look like Greek? Sigma. Yes, the letter sigma. Yes, that’s right. Number two? Latin. It is Latin, yes. Exactly
the same alphabet that we use in English. Number three? Georgian, that’s right. The
rounded one. Number four? It’s Vietnamese, but remember
we’re talking about scripts. Latin, it’s the Latin script. It is indeed Vietnamese but
the script is the Latin script. Number five? Greek? Why is that? Sigma again.
All right, that’s a useful letter. Number six? Cyrillic, exactly. Yes. Any particular
letters stand out? B, haha, yes. This one here, Number seven? [Armenian] Yes, that’s right. Number 8? It’s Armenian again, yes. Number
9? Russian, which is… Cyrillic. That’s right. It is the Russian language. Number 10? Yes, it is Georgian.
This is Georgian in the other font, so as you can see the fonts are very different from each other and they’re both used these days in modern Georgia alongside each other. So it can be hard to recognise that as Georgian. Number 11? Cyrillic or Latin? This is a trick
question because all of these letters appear exactly identically in both the Cyrillic and the Latin alphabet. So if we pronounce it according to Latin pronunciation
we get ‘pectopah’ right? But if we pronounce it according to Cyrillic
pronunciation it’s ‘restoran’ which is the Russian word for restaurant. So that’s a trick question.
It could be Cyrillic or Latin. The second category we’re going to look at is abjads,
or consonant alphabets, as they’re sometimes known. So the green shaded parts on the map here are abjads. The main green you can see here is the Arabic
script, as well as Hebrew in dark green right here and also Mongolian as a minority languagein China. Amharic? Amharic actually is not classified
as an abjad. Amharic is in the next section. Good question though. So abjad scripts emphasise consonants,
while vowels are only used in certain circumstances. Although even languages that are pure abjads do have ways for denoting vowels specifically if they need to, such as the diacritics that
you can see in Hebrew or Arabic. For example, the Arabic written in the Koran is full of diacritics everywhere, and the reason for that is to make sure that the pronunciation of 6th century Arabic is preserved. So diacritics, or accents, can be added if necessary to denote vowels and explain the pronunciation. Although they wouldn’t usually
be included in normal text. So the Arabic script has been used wherever
Islam spread around the world. Originally in the places it spread it was
only used to write the Arabic language. Yes, that’s right. This is an Arabic letter up here. So originally wherever Islam spread the Arabic script was used to write the Arabic language, but then it was later adapted for the local languages,
by adding diacritics etc. In the past it has been used in Europe in
Turkey. It’s been used in the Middle East in Persia/Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and in the Gulf States. Throughout North Africa, and also in Central
Asia before the Soviet Union. Also as far away as Malaysia in South-East Asia. However the current use of the Arabic script is actually mainly here in the Middle East and North Africa. Next is Hebrew which is commonly used as a majority language only in the State of Israel, and only since 1948. Although of course it’s also used by a sizable
Jewish diaspora around the world as well. Finally in the abjad category is Mongolian. Mongolian is only used officially in the Inner Mongolian Region of China. So if we can [go to the] next slide, we’ll
look at these scripts one by one. The three living abjads of the world today
are all written from right-to-left, which in the case of Mongolian is actually tilted
90° so it’s written vertically. So the Arabic script has been used to write
many, many languages just like the Latin script has. Languages including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu,
Dari, Uyghur and many more. When the Arabic script is used to write a
language other than the Arabic language, it is usually adapted to include letters for vowels, and therefore technically it is more like an alphabet than true abjad. Several places like Turkey and Malaysia have actually switched from the Arabic script to the Latin script. And this is in part due to difficulties clearly
representing vowels, which is not something that Arabic [script] is naturally designed to do. Central Asian countries that were annexed
and absorbed into the Soviet Union, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s have switched between the Cyrillic script and the Latin script, often several times,
but haven’t gone back to the Arabic script. Next is the Hebrew script. So that has been
used to write Jewish languages for thousands of years. For over 1000 years though, it was only understood by scholars and it was essentially a ‘dead’ script. There were no native speakers or writers of it. However something historically unprecedented happened. So the Hebrew language and script is the only one that’s been completely resurrected from extinction. And after there being no native speakers for
over 1000 years, there are now over 9 million people who speak Hebrew as their first language and write the Hebrew script as the first they learn. It’s also quite a miracle that Mongolian [script]
is not extinct. The country of Mongolia switched to using the Cyrillic script under the influence of the Soviet Union, although it was never part of it. And it was only in the Inner Mongolian Region,
which is a part of China, that the script was preserved. This is in part because Chinese characters are so ill-suited to writing any other languages apart from Chinese. And so that’s why [Mongolian script] has
been preserved. It contributes to the diversity of the scripts of the world, so it’s fantastic that it has survived. Also, Mongolian is the only [script] that
is exclusively written vertically, although Japanese and Chinese can be written vertically on occasion. So next we’ll look at how to recognise each
of these three abjad scripts. Arabic first, is probably one of the most
recognisable scripts in the world. Its distinctive features are that it’s written from right-to-
left and many of its letters are connected within a word. Every letter has 3 forms, depending on where
it is in the word. So for example, there’s the initial form:
نـ the medial in the middle:
ـنـ and the final if it’s at the end of a word:
ـن So you can see here this is the letter ‘n’
and you can see the dot that appears over the top regardless of which form it takes. It’s a very cursive and rounded script.
I think that’s all I was going to say about Arabic. Obviously, as I said, diacritics can denote
sounds that were not originally in the Arabic language. Next is Hebrew. Things that are recognisable about the Hebrew script are that its letters are quite ‘square’ or ‘block-like’. It’s also written from right-to-left like Arabic [script] and its distinguishing characteristic for English speakers are the ’empty-box’ shapes
of its letters, is how I’d describe it. Diacritics can also be used to denote vowels if necessary, although I can’t see any there in that example. Finally Mongolian. Mongolian is quite easy
to recognise. Its distinctive features are that it’s the only [script] exclusively written top-to-bottom vertically. Its letters are connected together like Arabic [script] and each letter again has three forms like in Arabic, depending on where that letter
comes in the word. It is, yes. [it’s written in vertical] columns
from left to right. Interestingly, it has one dot for a comma
and two dots for a full stop. Right, ok. So now is a chance for you to practise
recognising these scripts. You can again lookat your handout for examples. Anyone want to have a guess at number 1?
Mongolian, why? It’s vertical, yes. Number 2? Arabic, why?
Cursive, yes. Letters are joined together. Number 3? Hebrew, yes.
Empty box-like shapes. Number 4? Arabic, why?
Because you know Arabic, haha. Again you’ve got the letters joined together and it’s a cursive-like script. Number 5?
Hebrew, yes. Square letters. And number 6?
Mongolian, yes. Easy right? Look at you,
you’re recognising scripts like pros. You’ll impress all your friends,
depending on who your friends are. Ok, the next section we’re going to look at is abugidas, or as they’re sometimes known, syllabic alphabets. So these are the brown, yellow and orange
sections of the map. They do not have capital or lower cases
like European alphabets, and they do not have initial, medial or final forms like Arabic and Mongolian do. Instead, every consonant ‘letter’, so to speak, is added…
I’ll just write it here as an example. Every consonant ‘letter’ has an inherent ‘-a’ vowel after it. For example this is क ‘ka’ in the Devanagari script. Then if you want to modify the vowel you add
the diacritic like this and क ‘ka’ becomes कॆ ‘ke’ Or alternatively add this [diacritic] and
क ‘ka’ becomes कू ‘ku’. You put different letters together to form a word. So for example here we have कन ‘ka na’
and that could become कूनू ‘ku nu’ or कने ‘ka ne’. If that makes sense. So there’s one letter per syllable.
And if there are consonant clusters, then the letter is altered again to express ‘kr’ ‘tr’ etc. So that’s basically how an abugida works. One letter per consonant which is then adapted to modify the vowel. Right, so that brown part of the map here is the Ge’ez script which is used to write Amharic in Ethiopia, and it’s also used to write Tigrinya in Eritrea
which became independent from Ethiopia in 1991. So apart from Ge’ez all the other abugidas
in the world are related. They all descend from the same common Brahmic script in Northern India. The scripts of India can be broadly categorised into Northern-branch and Southern-branch as you can see by the colours there. And as well as India, several other South-East
Asian countries also used abugidas. So broadly speaking, use of the abugidas here followed the spread of Hinduism and then later Buddhism,
in later centuries. So interestingly, most of the abugidas in the world
have tended to develop into an entirely new script when they are used to write a new language, rather than having diacritics added [to an existing script]. Although there are some exceptions to this. So let’s look at all the abugidas. There is
a good number of them. First of all there’s the Ge’ez script used
in Africa. So it’s actually not related to these other abugidas. It developed from the same source as Hebrew
and Arabic [scripts] but it branched off at a very early stage and ended up becoming an
abugida. All of the other abugidas are related. Next there are the five Northern-branch abugidas used in India: Bengali, Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi and Tibetan. We have the six Southern-branch Indian scripts:
Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sinhala, Tamil and Telugu. Other abugidas used in countries outside of India are: Burmese, Khmer, Lao and Thai. And then finally we are going to look at Thaana, which doesn’t fit into the above category and it’s not even an abugida. It’s a very unique script and it has a very
peculiar background, which we’ll look at shortly. So let’s look at how to recognise each of
these scripts. Firstly Ge’ez, as you can see here is a very distinctive, angular and irregular
shaped script. As you can see here and you can also see a
closer-up example in your handouts there. The Devanagari script is actually used for several different languages, including the Hindi language. Although this example sentence here is actually in Nepali which is a tribute to our resident Nepali translator here, Shailesh. Its distinguishing feature is that within a word it has an almost always constant line along the top. And that’s unbroken, there are only spaces between the words. And diacritics can be written above [the line] as necessary. Next is the Bengali script. Bengali is actually
quite similar to Devanagari, but one way to tell the difference between Devanagari and Bengali is that Bengali often has more sharper shapes or
more slender shapes than Devanagari. Next is Gujarati. Gujarati is used almost exclusively for the Gujarati language in Gujarat State in India. It’s also very similar to the Devanagari script but its distinctive feature is that it has no horizontal line across the top. So you could almost think of it as being Devanagari
but without the horizontal lines. Next is Gurmukhi. The Gurmukhi script is used to write
the Punjabi language of North [West] India. Its distinguishing feature is that although
it has a line across the top like Devanagari, the line is not consistent and it is broken
in places as you can see here, here and here. So it will ‘dip’. It’s not a continuous line
as Devanagari has. Finally in this section is Tibetan. The Tibetan script is used to write Tibetan in Tibet and Bhutanese in Bhutan. Its distinguishing feature is the curved letters at the bottom, the curved tails, and also the apostrophe-like symbol ‘ that appears
between every single syllable, which you can probably see better in the handout.
There’s a common dot-like symbol ‘ there. So now is your chance to put this into practice. Does anyone want to have a guess and try to recognise these scripts? Again, you can refer to your handout to see
examples of them. Number 1 here? Gujarati, yes. Why?
Yes, there’s no line at the top. Number 2? Devanagari, yes. Why?
Yes, there’s a consistent line that’s unbroken. Number 3? [Ge’ez] yes. Why? It’s crazy? Very irregular kind of shapes right? Quite angular shapes. Number 4? [Bengali] Yes, as you can see here
it’s ‘sharper’ than the Devanagari script here. Number 5? Gujarati again, yes. Why?
No line across the top. Number 6? [Bengali] Yes. Sharper shapes. Number 7? Yes, why Gurmukhi?
The line’s broken, it’s not consistent. Ok, anyone else? Number 8? Tibetan, why Tibetan? Yes, the tails at the bottom. It has tails at the bottom, sloping tails. Number 9? Ge’ez, the Ge’ez script used in
Ethiopia and Eritrea, yes. Number 10? Tibetan again. Number 11? Gurmukhi, that’s right. Yes, the
line is broken. And finally number 12. It’s Devanagari again.
Yes, exactly. Alright, next we are going to look at the
Southern-branch abugidas in India. So unlike the Northern [branch] scripts where
there is often a horizontal line, in South [branch] script abugidas instead of flat tops
the letters are often rounded. Now one explanation for this is that in Southern
India almost all writing was done on palm leaves, which were engraved with needles. And so if there were lots of straight lines
it would cause the palm leaves to split, hence the letters became more rounded. The first one here is Odia, formerly spelled
Oriya. Its distinguishing feature is that almost all of its letters are rounded at the
top. It’s been described by Japanese linguist Akira
Nakanishi as ‘a parade of bald heads’ Which is not a very complimentary description, but
it is a very useful way to help you recognise it. Next is Telugu. A distinguishing feature of
Telugu is the common V-shaped ‘hat’ diacritic on the top of many of its characters. Looking like this: ✓ and you see that on a regular basis along the top here. And that’s a quick way to identify Telugu. Next is Kannada. So the Kannada script is
actually in some ways similar [to the Telugu script] but it has its own distinctive diacritic,
which is this: ﯨــ which appears quite commonly above letters as you can see here. And you can see closer examples in your handout. So that’s a quick way to identify Kannada. Next is Malayalam, used in Southern India. It has a distinctive ‘walking stick’ vowel sign ါ which you can see here, here and here. Also [another distinctive letter pronounced
‘ka’ which is written like this ക here] And that can help you to identify it as well. Next it Tamil. Tamil script is used to write the Tamil [language] in Southern India and also Sri Lanka. Its main distinguishing feature is the amount
of straight lines that it has, which is unusual for a Southern-branch Indian script. And also the regular ‘dot’ diacritic which
appears above a lot of letters. Finally in this section is Sinhala, used to
write the Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka. A distinguishing characteristic of this script
is that it has almost no straight lines at all. There are lots of looping, circular letters. Ok, so let’s have a review. You can consult
the examples on your handout again. Does anyone want to have a guess at identifying
these 6 abugida scripts from Southern India? Number 1? Odia, yes. Why? Bald heads, yes it’s a memorable way to help you remember it. Number 2? Kannada, that’s right. Yes, why?
Yes, the distinctive diacritic which actually is on 4 of those 5 letters there. Number 3? Telugu. Yes, why? That’s right,
the V shape. Number 4? It’s Malayalam, with the walking-stick shaped diacritic ါ and also this ‘ka’ ക letter over there. Number 5? Yes, it’s Odia again with the rounded
tops. Number 6? No, this one is Malayalam again,
with that ക shape that goes around there. Number 7? This one’s a little bit hard to
identify. This one is Sinhala. Number 8? Kannada, yes. With the distinctive
diacritic there. Number 9? It’s the same as this one. Sinhala, yes. Almost no straight lines at all. Lots of looping letters. Number 10? Yes, Tamil. Number 11? [Telugu] Yes. And number 12? Number 12 is Tamil as well. All right. Well done. Right, so now we’re going to look at the last
section in the abugida category. We’re going to look at 4 abugidas which as
used in South-East Asian countries other than India. And then we’re also going to look at
Thaana at the end. So there 4 abugidas we’re going to look at
are still considered part of the ‘Indian writing zone’ and they also descend from the same
common Brahmic script as the others. So Burmese. The Burmese script is used in
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, hence the name. A distinguishing feature of Burmese is the ‘ya’ or ‘ra’ letter. Which, when combined with other vowels, is written like this ြ it loops right over, as you can see here and here. And also here. Another way to identify it is also the hollow ‘colon’ like this း that resemble English colons. Which you can see here, here, here and here. They are a letter. It’s not punctuation, it’s
actually part of one of the letters. The next script is Khmer, which is what we
call in English Cambodian. And a distinguishing feature for Khmer is
the zig-zag shapes above most of the letters. So if you look for that zig-zaggy shape, that
will tell you it’s Khmer. Next is Lao and Thai. Now Lao and Thai are
actually very similar and our resident Thai expert Mr. Robin Bickley
has told me that there is actually a 30% overlap of mutual intelligibility between these two
[scripts]. But a way to differentiate between them is that Lao is more rounded, whereas Thai is straighter. [It has] straighter letters. Alright. Finally, Thaana, which is completely separate [from] these other scripts in the abugida category. It’s not actually an abugida
at all. It only came into being in the 1600’s. So
the first 9 letters of this alphabet resemble Arabic numerals that were in use at the time, and the following 9 letters resemble Telugu
numerals that were in use at the time. So all of the letters in the alphabet come
from these two sets of 9 numbers in other scripts. It’s also written from right-to-left. Consonants are written on the bottom, followed
by a vowel at the top. So you change the vowel at the top if you want to move from ‘ka’ to
‘ku’ etc. So a theory for this unusual use of numerals
to make up the writing system for a language, is that the letters were deliberately scrambled in order to make them difficult to read for the local populations. The theory is that the script was only used
by scholar who were involved in sorcery and that they used them to write incantations
or ‘fadinta’ and keep them secret from people. So that’s a theory of how the script developed
in such an unusual way, where its letters are made up of numbers from other scripts. But these days it’s still alive and the Thaana
script is the official script of the 400,000 population of the Maldives Islands in the
Indian Ocean. Although it was in danger from 1976 to 1978
when it was briefly replaced by the Latin script. Thankfully though, it’s still around,
and it’s the official [script] of the Maldives. So now’s your chance to practise recognising
and identifying these 5 Southern-Asian scripts. You can check again your examples in the handout. Does anyone want to have a guess at number 1?
Burmese, yes. So [there’s] the rounded letter there and also the colon-like symbol. Number 2? Thai, no. The distinctive feature
here is the zig-zaggy shape above the letters. Cambodian [Khmer], yes. It’s actually pronounced ‘k-mai’ although
it looks like it’s pronounced ‘k-mehr’. So that’s the [name of] the people, the language
and the script – Khmer. Number 3? Yes, this one is Thai.
Lots of straight lines. Number 4? No, this one is Khmer again with
the zig-zags at the top. Number 5? Burmese, that’s right. Yes, you can see that distinctive shape there in the letter and also the ‘colons’. [What is ‘happy rat killer’?] This was actually a photo I took in Myanmar,
and I believe it is just a rat killer brand. This was an advertisement for rat killer.
And it has an English title was well as Burmese. Number 6? Yes, Lao. Exactly, yes. Like Thai
but a bit more rounded. Number 7? Yes, Thaana. Number 8? Lao again, yes. Number 9? [Thai] Yes. And number 10? [Thaana] That’s right, yes. Well done. So as you can see on the map above,
we’ve actually covered everything in the whole world except for these three scripts in North-East
Asia. So there are actually only 3 places in the
world where writing has emerged spontaneously, isolated form other scripts. Usually what happens is that a script is adapted
and borrowed, and develops out of another script. But the three places where scripts have emerged
spontaneously are in Central America, with Mayan hieroglyphics. These are now extinct
and have not surviving child scripts. The second place where it developed was Mesopotamia/Egypt with Egyptian hieroglyphics. And all of the scripts we’ve looked at tonight can all trace their roots back to a common ancestor in Mesopotamia. The third and final place where a script has
emerged spontaneously without outside influence is in China, with Chinese characters, where Chinese characters developed out of
pictorial representations of an object. Initially they were just drawing a small picture of
the object itself. But modern Chinese characters today are officially
used in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore. As well as a very sizable diaspora
around the world. As you probably know, just about any major
city in the world has Chinese characters due the Chinese diaspora spread out around the
world. So [Chinese characters] are a common sight
around the world, including right here in Christchurch. So there are two versions in modern Chinese.
The longer-form Traditional characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the Simplified forms that are used everywhere else. So every single character in Chinese [script]
not only has a sound, but also a meaning attached to it. There an inherent meaning in every
character. So unlike in English where, for example, the sound ‘t’ for T is used in hundreds, thousands of different words it just represents the
sound ‘t’ – usually, sometimes it’s silent. But if I have, for example, the word here T E N, ten. What’s the meaning of T in the context of ten? You’d say it doesn’t have a meaning it’s just a sound. It’s a visual representation of a phonetic sound. So Chinese characters tie meanings to sound,
and you can’t have a sound without a meaning which is unique in contrast to every other
script we’ve looked at. Next is the Japanese script, which is used
only in Japan. It consists of 2 parallel syllabaries as well as a sizable set of Chinese characters
known as Kanji. The Korean script is used only to write the Korean language. It’s used in both North and South Korea. Although apparently in the North it is used
exclusively, without Chinese characters. In South Korean it’s common to see some Chinese
characters mixed in with Korean as you can see on the newspaper example there. It’s also used by Korean ethnic minorities in North-East China near the border. So let’s look at these bit by bit, one by
one. Chinese characters developed completely separately and isolated from other scripts, as I mentioned. Chinese characters were originally pictograms,
that were just showing the object That is to say, they looked like the object. They were a small picture of what they were supposed to represent. But later these characters developed into
ideograms, which represented a concept or an idea. Some [Chinese characters] have partly a semantic
component with the meaning, and a phonetic radical with gives a hint at the pronunciation. So every other single writing system, as I
just mentioned now, is showing the phonetic representation of the spoken word, but Chinese
characters don’t do this at all. A way to represent this to English speakers would be to compare these two words, these two symbols here: three
3 So the first one here, three, it represents
the sound in English ‘th r ee’ and we just happen to know that represents the numeral
3 Of course, in other languages this has no
meaning. But we also pronounce this one 3 as ‘three’. And it means 3 in other languages even if it’s pronounced differently. There’s nothing about this [symbol] 3 to tell you the pronunciation but when we see it we know the pronunciation anyway. There’s nothing here that says ‘th r ee’. However, once you know that it means 3 it’s easy to explain it logically and say ‘well there are three points here and they’re all connected together, so it’s quite logical that it represents 3’ And this is in some ways what Chinese characters
are like. Once you know what they mean you can break them down and explain what they mean, but you have to know them and memorise them
first, because there’s no systematic way that you can be 100% sure of what a new character
means or how it’s pronounced. There are things that can give you a clue,
but you can never know for sure. So the script is tied very closely to the spoken language. So because they were isolated from other countries,
China’s neighbours, Japan and Korean, initially had no choice but to write their languages
in Chinese characters, to which the script was very unsuited. However they did later develop their own scripts
to write their languages. But they developed them under the influence of Chinese characters quite isolated from outside influence. Japanese is one of the most fascinating writing
systems in the world. The language is completely unrelated to Chinese in any way whatsoever. So therefore Chinese characters, which the
Japanese call Kanji, were naturally quite unsuited to representing the Japanese language. So by the 8th Century two parallel syllabaries
of 46 symbols each had developed to express the 46 sounds of Japanese, independent of
any meaning. So these syllabaries just [express sound]
like an alphabet, a sound without a meaning. They’re called Katakana and Hiragana. And so although theoretically you could use
the symbols in either syllabary interchangeably, Hiragana has come to be used for grammatical
suffixes and particles, whereas Katakana is mainly used for non-Chinese
foreign loan words, of which Japanese has a staggeringly large amount. Finally, Korean. Korean, like Japanese, initially
wrote their language in Chinese characters, which are known as Hanja in Korean. But since Chinese characters only really represent the Chinese language well, Korean needed its own script. Nevertheless, Korean continued to be written
only in Chinese characters right up until the 1400’s, when the Korean script, known
as Hangul, was developed. So these days [the Korean script] is used
in Korea also in conjunction with some Chinese characters, although apparently that’s not
officially sanctioned. And apparently also as time goes on the use
of Chinese characters in Korean [language] is diminishing over the years. Hangul, the Korean alphabet, is sometimes
described as an ‘alphabetic syllabary’ so it doesn’t fit too well into a specific category. [How many Chinese characters are used in Korean?] [2350 Chinese characters, Hanja, were officially used in South Korea from the mid-1970’s until the 1980’s. They are now not officially used at all, however some personal names, brands and academic terms still use them today] So let’s look at how to recognise these 3
scripts. Chinese people actually consider Traditional and Simplified versions of characters to be variants of the same script. In fact only 30% of commonly used characters have a different form between Traditional and Simplified, leaving 70% of common characters which are
identical between either Traditional or Simplified. Spoken language is not affected at all, whether
Traditional of Simplified versions are used. Simplified Chinese doesn’t mean the language
is simplified, but rather that a smaller number of strokes
are used, as you can see this character here simplified to [this character] here. But you can also see that many of these characters
are identical between [the two versions]. Chinese characters can be recognised by complex
characters that have a large number of strokes and very little repetition. Most of you probably see Chinese characters
quite regularly wherever you live. Often the shapes are quite square-ish as well
rather than looping or rounded. So if you don’t speak Chinese you can only
really tell the difference between Traditional and Simplified characters if you have parallel
sentences like you do here. As I said, the Traditional ones are more complex
with a greater number of strokes, in the characters where there is a difference at all. Japanese. Because Japanese uses a mixture of complex Chinese characters, Kanji, like here, here, here and here mixed in with simpler less cluttered letters, Hiragana and Katakana like this, a way to identify [Japanese] is to look for this distinction. The distinction between complex Chinese characters
and simpler less cluttered strokes. In newspapers and novels Japanese can also
be written vertically, although it’s generally written left-to-right [horizontally] like in English. Finally, Korean. The Korean script’s distinguishing
feature is that it has lots of perfect, complete circles and lots of straight lines at 90 degree
angles. And I think I’ve already covered everything
else I was going to say about Korean. I think Korean’s actually quite an easily recognisable language as well, as it has a distinctive look about it. Alright, so now is your chance to practise
identifying these three remaining scripts. And I don’t expect non-Chinese speakers to be able to guess whether it’s the Traditional or Simplified version of Chinese. So number 1 here. Any guesses? Korean, why?
The circles, yes. Yes, it’s quite recognisable. Number 2? Chinese, someone said simplified.
Yes, why? Ah, ok. Right, so you know some Chinese? So if you know Chinese you can recognise
this radical for example, is simplified. But again, a number of very complex characters
with lots of strokes and almost no repetition. Number 3? Chinese again, and is it Traditional
or Simplified? Traditional that’s right. So if you speak Chinese you can say
‘oh look, that’s a very complex traditional character’ but if you can’t speak Chinese that might
be difficult to identify. Number 4? [Korean] Yes, why? Circles, yes. Number 5? Japanese, yes. Why? The manga, yes.
You can see here, well I hope you can see from where you are, complex characters, followed
by a simpler character. Simpler characters here with some complex
characters at the bottom. Number 6? Chinese. Someone said traditional,
it is traditional yes. This is a character that’s in the traditional form. So for example, in a sentence here, this character
has a different form in simplified [兒 would become 儿] [專 would become 专]
[請 would become 请] [壓 would become 压]. So that’s [four] characters that would be
different in Traditional vs Simplified. All the other are the same between either version. Finally, number 7. Japanese, yes. Why? Complex
character, followed by a very simple rounded character. And again here, simpler characters with a
very cluttered complex character. Alright. So my collection here today also includes
a number of scripts which are very, very rare. They are still living [scripts] but in many
cases the samples I have here are examples of the only publication
which still uses the script at all. In fact, the Cherokee newspaper has actually
now ceased printing. And so now it could be classified as a dead [script]. It’s no longer
published on a regular basis at all. So I include them here because they fascinating
and they are still living scripts. However, you’re unlikely to ever come across
them in your work or in your travels because they have such a limited usage. So I’ll just go through them briefly. There’s
the Neo-Tiffinagh script of the Berbers in North Africa, which pre-dates Arab conquest. There’s the N’Ko [script] which was invented in Guinea in Africa in 1949, used to write the N’Ko minority language. The Samaritan script which is still used by
a very small Samaritan community in Holon, Israel. Syriac is the ancient Syrian script which is still used by Syrian Christians in minority communities throughout the Middle East. Inuktitut/Cree is a script that was invented by a missionary to write indigenous languages in Canada in the 1800’s. Although it was actually inspired by Devanagari
in India, some people have described this as being an ‘alien-like’ script that you might
see on a UFO, due to the geometric sort of shapes. There is also the Cherokee syllabary which
I alluded to just now. Again, this was invented by a missionary to write the Native American
Cherokee language in the 1800’s, which continues a tradition that stretches
right back to Cyrillic of it being missionaries that invent writing systems to write down
a language that’s never been written before. That continued right up until the 1800’s
[since which time missionaries have mainly written down new languages in the Latin script] There is the Yi [script] which is a syllabary which has been used since the 15th Century by a minority people in China. And this has an incredible back-story as well,
but I don’t have time to go into it today. Ol Chiki is an alphabet invented in India
1925 to write the minority Santali language. Fraser is a script invented by a missionary
to write the Lisu language in South-West China. And Tai Le is a script related to Thai, used
by the Dai minority people in South-Western China. So that is the end of this introduction to
writing systems. Thanks for coming out tonight and I’m happy to talk to you more afterwards
if you’d like to discuss anything more in detail. Or if there’s anything else you’d like to
know, that I may or may not be able to answer. Thanks again for coming out, please help yourself
to a drink, take your time to look around the exhibition and thanks for coming.

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