Characters (as a synonym for “linguistic sign ” also Signe ; also outdated character (from Middle High German karacter , “letter, holy sign, magic sign, impression”)) are the smallest units of a font (e.g. the Latin and Cyrillic alphabet , the Devanagari , the Kana - syllabary or sinograms ).
Characters form the inventory of a font ( character set ) independent of certain written languages . Graphemes, on the other hand (analogous to phonemes ), form the inventory of an individual language writing system and require a system of rules ( orthography ) for their application . This distinction is difficult or even invalid when a font is used exclusively for one language. The common, cultural demarcation of people, country, religion, language and writing was particularly widespread in antiquity, but is still evident today, for example. B. in Hebrew Judaism in Israel.
Types of characters
According to phonographic aspects, a distinction is made depending on the correspondence to sounds:
- Segmental characters
- Alphabetic characters
- Consonants and vowels are notated separately from each other on the same level (e.g. Greek , Latin , Cyrillic )
- Consonant sign
- the consonants are noted on the main level (e.g. Semitic scripts, phonics), vowels either not or on a subordinate level as diacritical free or bound characters with or without their own character body
- Syllable characters
- a syllabogram stands for a syllable (e.g. Mycenaean , Kana )
- Symbolic characters
- a character represents a syntactic or semantic unit ( word , morpheme )
- Iconic characters
- There is a non-arbitrary, motivated relationship between what is labeled and what is significant.
- the designated is represented graphically (horse head for "horse")
- associative (feet or legs for "walking")
- Symbolic characters
- There is an arbitrary, conventionalized relationship between what is designated and what is significant.
- abstract mathematical symbols such as '=', letters
- Indexical characters
- There is a directional, deictic relationship between what is designated and what is significant .
The classification is not comprehensive in each case.
Through the development of written language, there are intermediate forms of the function of characters as well as symbols that have changed their shape after their creation. Through the mechanical implementation of fonts ( lead type , typewriters , printer), the representation of the characters in a font is defined by a complete listing. The emergence of various fonts sets (including fonts ) give the development of characters but still room.
- Unicode - for encoding characters
- Beate Henning: Small Middle High German Dictionary. 6th edition. De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014 ( karacter ).