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The Graphic systems or writing systems (or scripts) are classified according to some common distinguishing characteristics. There are about 4,000 languages that make use of an established writing system.
The usual name of the script is given first; the name of the language(s) in which the script is written follows (in brackets), particularly in the case where the language name differs from the script name. Other informative or qualifying annotations for the script may also be provided.
Predominant national and selected regional or minority scripts
Ideographic scripts (in which graphemes are ideograms representing concepts or ideas, rather than a specific word in a language), and pictographic scripts (in which the graphemes are iconic pictures) are thought to be unable to express all that can be communicated by language, as argued by the linguists John DeFrancis and J. Marshall Unger. Essentially, they postulate that no full writing system can be completely pictographic or ideographic; it must be able to refer directly to a language in order to have the full expressive capacity of a language. Unger disputes claims made on behalf of Blissymbols in his 2004 book Ideogram.
Although a few pictographic or ideographic scripts exist today, there is no single way to read them, because there is no one-to-one correspondence between symbol and language. Hieroglyphs were commonly thought to be ideographic before they were translated, and to this day Chinese is often erroneously said to be ideographic. In some cases of ideographic scripts, only the author of a text can read it with any certainty, and it may be said that they are interpreted rather than read. Such scripts often work best as mnemonic aids for oral texts, or as outlines that will be fleshed out in speech.
Adinkra, traditionally used in modern Ghana, by groups such as the Asante people.
In logographic writing systems, glyphs represent words or morphemes (meaningful components of words, as in mean-ing-ful), rather than phonetic elements.
Note that no logographic script is composed solely of logograms. All contain graphemes that represent phonetic (sound-based) elements as well. These phonetic elements may be used on their own (to represent, for example, grammatical inflections or foreign words), or may serve as phonetic complements to a logogram (used to specify the sound of a logogram that might otherwise represent more than one word). In the case of Chinese, the phonetic element is built into the logogram itself; in Egyptian and Mayan, many glyphs are purely phonetic, whereas others function as either logograms or phonetic elements, depending on context. For this reason, many such scripts may be more properly referred to as logosyllabic or complex scripts; the terminology used is largely a product of custom in the field, and is to an extent arbitrary.
In most of these systems, some consonant-vowel combinations are written as syllables, but others are written as consonant plus vowel. In the case of Old Persian, all vowels were written regardless, so it was effectively a true alphabet despite its syllabic component. In Japanese a similar system plays a minor role in foreign borrowings; for example, [tu] is written [to]+[u], and [ti] as [te]+[i]. Paleohispanic semi-syllabaries behaved as a syllabary for the stop consonants and as an alphabet for the rest of consonants and vowels. The Tartessian or Southwestern script is typologically intermediate between a pure alphabet and the Paleohispanic full semi-syllabaries. Although the letter used to write a stop consonant was determined by the following vowel, as in a full semi-syllabary, the following vowel was also written, as in an alphabet. Some scholars treat Tartessian as a redundant semi-syllabary, others treat it as a redundant alphabet. Zhuyin is semi-syllabic in a different sense: it transcribes half syllables. That is, it has letters for syllable onsets and rimes(kan = "k-an") rather than for consonants and vowels (kan = "k-a-n").
A segmental script has graphemes which represent the phonemes (basic unit of sound) of a language.
Note that there need not be (and rarely is) a one-to-one correspondence between the graphemes of the script and the phonemes of a language. A phoneme may be represented only by some combination or string of graphemes, the same phoneme may be represented by more than one distinct grapheme, the same grapheme may stand for more than one phoneme, or some combination of all of the above.
Segmental scripts may be further divided according to the types of phonemes they typically record:
An abjad is a segmental script containing symbols for consonants only, or where vowels are optionally written with diacritics ("pointing") or only written word-initially.
An abugida, or alphasyllabary, is a segmental script in which vowel sounds are denoted by diacritical marks or other systematic modification of the consonants. Generally, however, if a single letter is understood to have an inherent unwritten vowel, and only vowels other than this are written, then the system is classified as an alphasyllabary regardless of whether the vowels look like diacritics or full letters. The vast majority of alphasyllabaries are found from India to Southeast Asia and belong historically to the Br?hm? family. The term abugida is derived from the first characters of the abugida in Ge'ez (A) ? (bu) ? (gi) ? (da) -- (compare with alphabet). Unlike abjads, the diacritical marks and systemic modifications of the consonants are not optional.
In at least one abugida, not only the vowel but any syllable-final consonant is written with a diacritic. For example, representing [o] with an under-ring, and final [k] with an over-cross, [sok] would be written as s.
In a few abugidas, the vowels are basic, and the consonants secondary. If no consonant is written in Pahawh Hmong, it is understood to be /k/; consonants are written after the vowel they precede in speech. In Japanese Braille, the vowels but not the consonants have independent status, and it is the vowels which are modified when the consonant is y or w.
These systems have not been deciphered. In some cases, such as Meroitic, the sound values of the glyphs are known, but the texts still cannot be read because the language is not understood. Several of these systems, such as Epi-Olmec and Indus, are claimed to have been deciphered, but these claims have not been confirmed by independent researchers. In many cases it is doubtful that they are actually writing. The Vin?a symbols appear to be proto-writing, and quipu may have recorded only numerical information. There are doubts that Indus is writing, and the Phaistos Disc has so little content or context that its nature is undetermined.
^This maps shows languages official in the respective countries; if a country has an independent breakaway republic, both languages are shown. Moldova's sole official language is Romanian (Latin-based), but the unrecognized de facto independent republic of Transnistria uses three Cyrillic-based languages: Ukrainian, Russian, and Moldovan. Georgia's official languages are Georgian and Abkhazian (in Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia), the sparsely recognized de facto independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia use Cyrillic-based languages: Both republics use Russian. Additionally, Abkhazia also uses Abkhaz, and South Ossetia uses Ossetian. Azerbaijan's sole official language is Azerbaijani, but the unrecognized de facto independent republic of Nagorno-Karabakh uses Armenian as its sole language. Additionally, Serbia's sole official language is Cyrillic Serbian, but within the country, Latin script for Serbian is also widely used.
^Difficult to determine, as it is used to write a very large number of languages with varying literacy rates among them.
^Based on sum of 1.335 billion PRC citizens with a 92% literacy rate (1.22 billion), and 120 million Japanese Kanji users with a near-100% literacy rate.
^Hanja has been banned in North Korea and is increasingly being phased out in South Korea. It is mainly used in official documents, newspapers, books, and signs to identify Chinese roots to Korean words.
^January 2017 estimate. 2001 census reported that languages with more than 1 million native speakers that use Devanagari had a total number of native speakers of 631.5 million. The January 2017 population estimate of India is 1.30 times that of the 2001 census, and it was estimated that the native speakers of Devanagari languages increased by the same proportion, i.e. to 608.95 million. This was multiplied by the literacy rate 74.04% as reported by the 2011 census. Since the literacy rate has increased since 2011 a + sign was added to this figure.
^Based on Japanese population of roughly 120 million and a literacy rate near 100%.
^Since around 1945 Javanese script has largely been supplanted by Latin script to write Javanese.
^Excluding figures related to North Korea, which does not publish literacy rates.
^Based on 67% literacy rate in Andhra Pradesh (according to government estimate) and 74 million Telugu speakers.
^Tamil Nadu has an estimated 80% literacy rate and about 72 million Tamil speakers.
^Sri Lanka Tamil and Moor population that use Tamil script. 92% literacy
^Based on 60.38 million population and 79.31% literacy rate of Gujarat
^An estimated 46 million Gujaratis live in India with 11 Gujarati-script newspapers in circulation.
^An estimated 1 million Gujaratis live in Pakistan with 2 Gujarati-script newspapers in circulation.