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Graphetics is a scientific discipline that deals with the different types of writing systems and their different designs. A distinction is made between handwriting and printing, and shorthand ( shorthand ) with longhand. The subject area of ​​graphetics also includes the different spellings and typefaces that have alternated over the centuries (Gothic script, Fraktur, Sütterlin script, Latin script) as well as screen typographies and pictographs, especially non-language-bound picture and character fonts.

About the terminology

The term graphetics is formed in analogy to the term phonetics . In both cases it is a question of the formal design of linguistic units, of the forms in which language is used. Judging from the visual design on the language system, the stands Graphetik the Graphemik ( graphematics s) over comparable as phonetics phonemic (same meaning understood with the phonology ). The difference between -etics and -emics can be parallelized associatively with that of physics / semantics signifiant / signifié or parole / language:

Use of language ( parole ) Graphics phonetics
Language system ( langue ) Graphemics Phonemics

The term graphetics goes back to a suggestion by Hans Peter Althaus .

An example

Graphetics : The graph “s” can be written as a lower case letter or as a capital letter, it can be reproduced in handwriting or in block letters. You can choose one of the many font systems for the printed matter, different font sizes or variants (bold, italic ...): each of these forms can be deliberately chosen and used appropriately, for example for advertising purposes, as an invitation, to write a scientific article. It is always only a question of the form of the characters, not of their function in the language system; this remains the same.

Graphemics : When you compare the word “travel” and the word “tear” with each other, it is no longer just about the form, but about the function of the characters that distinguishes them. It is then no longer just a matter of graphs , but of various graphemes . In this case the two different graphemes “s” and “ß” distinguish two words from one another; the contrast between the two is important for identifying or differentiating the two words.

Importance of graphetics

Graphics develop the prerequisites for successful writing and reading lessons. It deals with the various scripts, such as the difference between script and block letters, between normal writing and the so-called shorthand ( stenography ). Her objects include the many different fonts ( Times New Roman , Arial ...) that can be selected for different purposes.


  • Hans Peter Althaus: Graphetics . In: Hans Peter Althaus, Helmut Henne, Herbert Ernst Wiegand (eds.): Lexicon of German linguistics . 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1980, ISBN 3-484-10389-2 , p. 138-142 .
  • Burckhard Garbe: Phonetics and Phonology, Graphetics and Graphemics of New High German since the 17th century . In: Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger (eds.): History of language. A handbook on the history of the German language and its research. 2nd subband . 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-015882-5 , p. 1766-1782 .
  • Dimitrios Meletis: Psycholinguistic Aspects of Graphetics. The relevance of the form and materiality of writing . Graz 2014 ( [PDF; 2.9 MB ]).

Web links

Wiktionary: Graphetics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations