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The word writing stands among other things for sign systems for the preservation and transmission of spoken or otherwise coded information . Previously manually written and only ( visually ) to read or ( tactile detectable), today's transcripts or can documents also be in for people not directly usable form to be read via technical device or even the control to serve the device itself. In general, writing on a carrier (e.g. paper , digital memory ) is noted (written or otherwise applied to the carrier) and decoded for use (read, e.g. for mental recording or for controlling a device).

Recent writings in the world

Writing as an equivalent to languages

In the font Linguistics is between about linguistic character inventory, the font or the script (engl. Script ), on the one hand and the individual languages embodiment, the writing system (engl. Writing system ), on the other. Belongs to the system at least one control apparatus ( orthography ) and its base unit is the grapheme , while a single element of the script, the character (Engl. Character ) or symbol is.

However, the terminology is not entirely uniform. Coulmas uses the “writing system” for what Dürscheid et al. a. Name "font"; These are traditionally distinguished in three ways, with a distinction usually not being made either according to the level of analysis and interpretation of the graphic characters or according to script and writing system:

Letter font ( alphabet font , segmental font)
A few dozen arbitrary , segmental , often geometrically simple graphemes correlate with phonemes (see also alphabet ).
Syllabary (syllabography)
A few dozen to hundreds of suprasegmental, sometimes systematic graphemes correlate with the spoken syllable or at least with complexes made up of a syllable edge and the core .
Word writing ( logography )
Thousands of complex graphemes of an often open repertoire correlate with morphemes that can have word status.

Alphabet and syllabary fonts refer to sounds ( phonographic writing ). The ratio depends on the language that is written down. Logogram fonts , on the other hand, are to a certain extent semantographic , i.e. meaning-based: the character has a certain meaning, possibly without a fixed pronunciation, if it depicts the visible world ( pictogram ) or represents an abstract concept ( ideogram ).

When it comes to alphabet or segmental scripts, a distinction is made between alphabet scripts in the narrower sense and consonant scripts . These are in turn differentiated according to whether the vowels are not, not necessarily or not displayed on the same level as the consonants. In between - and accordingly sometimes assigned to one type, sometimes to the other type - there are fonts in which vowels appear as obligatory auxiliary signs of consonants (as in Indian scripts ). In a certain way these are the link between alphabet scripts in the narrower sense and consonant scripts; to a certain extent also to the syllabary.

In the case of syllabary scripts, a distinction can be made between whether their syllabograms are formed according to a common pattern or arbitrarily, and according to whether they are sufficient to represent all spoken syllables of the language in question in one writing system without orthographic combination rules.

Some languages ​​use multiple scripts side by side or mixed scripts that contain features from two or all three systems.

The cryptographic scripts used for encrypted information transmission and the short scripts are a specialty .

Font classes

Font Sign stands for example Explanation and analog example
Abjad consonant Arabic The consonantic phonemes are represented with one character. The vowels have to be learned. Example:
Mt nm Schrftzchn d knsnntschn Phnm press. D Vkl must be glowing.
Abugida Syllable segment Devanagari One character represents the segment of a syllable. Example:
M i t (a) egg-n e m (a) Z ei ch e n (a) w i rd ei-n e S i lb e d a r (a) g e st e l (a) t () .
Alphabetical phoneme Latin Phonemes (vowels and consonants) are roughly represented with a character. The German writing system also follows this.
Phonetically According to Korean , Zhuyin A character is used to represent phonetic units of a language. Example:
With ėnem Šriftzėħen fonetiše Ėnhėten ėner Špraħe are represented.
Syllable syllable Kana , shorthand Individual language syllables and words are represented with a single character. Example:
8ung. Difficult & difficult to imitate in German, as there are only a few syllabic characters. (The characters 8 and & are intended to clarify the system.)

No natural language can be clearly assigned to one of these font classes. German has a rather rough and unsystematic character-phoneme mapping, unlike Hungarian, Czech or Spanish. This is even more drastic in English, which is why written English has already been jokingly referred to as syllabary (the English example of George Bernard Shaw is known : " ghoti " = "fish"; " gh " as in "enou gh ", " o " as in " w o men ”,“ ti ”as in“ na ti on ”). Hebrew has included the representation of vowels using a point system, although it is a purely consonantic script. You can see the origin of the hieroglyphs from a syllabary, although they form a consonantic script. Only artificial writing systems can be clearly classified, such as the international phonetic alphabet ( IPA ), Bopomofo for the representation of the Chinese phonemes or the writing of planned languages .

Historical development

Allegorical arrangement of various historical writings ( frontispiece from Carl Faulmann's Illustrated History of Scripture , 1880)

Before the development of writing, only the oral transmission of knowledge was possible. Misrepresentation of meaning and the omission or addition of content are mostly unavoidable in the oral communication. Psychological, social and cultural factors play an essential role in the oral tradition. All over the world vital information, but also secret knowledge, rituals, myths, legends and sagas have been passed on orally (such as the story of the great flood ), which have a similar core, but can differ considerably in their details.

Cultures still exist today that only pass on traditions and knowledge orally. For the Aborigines in Australia, oral testimony is even in the foreground, although they are in close contact with a writing culture. The literal passing on to subsequent generations helps to preserve one's own culture and values, and at the same time characterizes a specialty of this culture.

The invention of writing is considered to be one of the most important achievements of civilization, as it allows knowledge and cultural traditions to be passed on reliably over generations, and their preservation (depending on the quality of the inscribed material and other natural, but also social circumstances) over a long period of time. All known early high cultures ( Sumer , Egypt , Indus culture , Middle Kingdom , Maya , Olmec ) are associated with the use of writing.

Traditionally, Sumer is mentioned as the culture in which writing was first used. Probably the oldest written finds come from the Uruk site from waste layers under the so-called Uruk III layer. They are thus dated to the 4th millennium BC. These are business texts. The script used does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the language, so it is wrong to call this script Sumerian in the strict sense. Few researchers believe that the symbols of the Vinča culture in south-eastern Europe, which dates back to the 5th millennium BC Be dated to an actual script. The Egyptian hieroglyphs are often viewed as an idea imported from the Near East; More recent finds by Günter Dreyer in Egypt, however, call this doctrine into question, and he suspects an independent invention. In China and Central America ( Maya ) the script was also developed independently. The first known written document from Central America is a stone block discovered in Veracruz , in which a total of 62 symbols are carved; some of these signs were also found on finds that researchers attribute to the culture of the Olmecs . It is currently assumed that the twelve-kilogram tablet is around 3000 years old.

The doctrinal opinion on the development of writing systems in geographically largely separated cultures, backed up by evidence, is countered by individual scientists and private scholars time and again in different variants with the thesis that the oldest known writing systems were developed from an older, partly common, globally widespread layer of characters ( Herman Wirth , 1931–1936, The Sacred Original of Mankind , see also Kate Ravilious, 2010, on Genevieve von Petzinger, in The writing on the cave wall , et al.). However, no evidence has yet been presented that stands up to scientific criticism.

Characteristics of writing can be direct transfers from one culture to another, for example the development of the Latin from the Greek alphabet . In some cases, acquaintance with the scripts owned by other cultures has led to the development of a new script (e.g. the Korean script or the Cherokee syllabary ).

The history of writing should not only be seen as a history of the fixation of language. It is to be expected that there will also be a separate history of symbols, signs and characters. The script we know today goes rock drawings , e.g. B. in the cave of Lascaux , about 20,000 years ago. There, too, abstract symbols were used that were probably magical and symbolic. For tens of thousands of years, people have been using these signs and images to leave messages. One can only speak of writing, however, when a defined system of symbols is available for expressing various information. As far back as the Neolithic (Neolithic), stones with geometric lines were made, which research can say with some certainty that they were used for counting, which is probably the most important basis for real writing development. These stones were called calculi after the Latin word for calculating stones , from which the French calcul (arithmetic, calculation) and the German calculating were derived.

In contrast to language, writing is too young to have left any traces in evolutionary biology. Therefore, when learning to read, existing, sometimes very old, brain structures are reorganized.

Deciphering ancient writings

The deciphering of old scripts poses a particular challenge. It often succeeds when a text with translations is found, or when the language or a dialect of the language is known.

Font arrangement and other graphic classifications

Greek bustrophedon

One can distinguish between fonts on the basis of the direction of writing , namely horizontal into left-hand ( sinistrograd , for example Arabic and Hebrew), right-hand ( dextrograd , Latin) and bustrophedone (alternating lines), as well as vertical downward (fonts of the Chinese culture, Mongolian ) and upwards (some Filipino scripts, historical notation for military drum). In the case of vertical fonts, a distinction must be made between those in which the columns run from right to left (Chinese and others) and those in which the columns run from left to right (Mongolian). In the case of horizontal fonts, the lines usually run from top to bottom. The pages in books are scrolled in such a way that left-to-right for left-hand fonts and right to left for right-hand text. In the case of vertical writing, the direction of the columns determines the direction of the scrolling.

In most scripts, the corpora of characters extend in a fixed area between two (or more) imaginary or pre-drawn lines. They can be divided according to whether the baseline runs above (for example Devanagari), below (Cyrillic), in the middle (early Greek) or above and below (Chinese). There is also a distinction between characters with variable (Arabic) and fixed width (Chinese).

Another distinction that is occasionally used is that between linear fonts , i.e. those whose characters consist of lines, and others (for example, dot / Braille or cuneiform).

Font classification

In the western world there are different font classification models, some of which differ considerably from one another. Two models in particular are common in Germany.

ISO 15924

The ISO 15924 standard "Information and documentation - Codes for font names" (edition 2004–02) contains a subdivision into eight main groups:

DIN 16518

The DIN 16518 standard "Classification of Fonts" (edition 1964-08) divides metal type fonts into eleven groups:

The font classification corresponds to the historical development and takes into account the Latin scripts common in the German and Western European language areas. There are comparable classifications in other countries.

Since the DIN model is not perfect, there have been many other attempts at font classification. In 1998 Indra Kupferschmid presented her classification according to the form principle to the DIN committee. This classification was later adopted in their books by Max Bollwage and Hans Peter Willberg . It distinguishes the fonts according to their form principle (style) into dynamic, static, geometric and decorative fonts and their equipment with serifs and line contrast. The Willberg student Ralf de Jong has developed a further matrix based on this.

See also

Portal: Font  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of font


Web links

Commons : writing systems  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Script  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Font  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. SZ Wissen 12/2006, p. 14
  2. Kate Ravilious: The writing on the cave wall . In: New Scientist . No. 2748 , February 17, 2010.
  3. Controversy over the oldest writing known to man. In: scinexx. Springer, May 5, 2010, accessed May 5, 2010 .
  4. Tobias Landwehr: Reading Skills: How writing changes the way we think . In: spectrum . July 17, 2017 ( ).