Classification of writing systems
People sometimes question the way the writing systems on Omniglot are classified. Most writing systems fit well into one category or another, but others straddle several categories, or don’t fit well into any category.
For example, when used to write Hebrew, the Hebrew script is an abjad or consonant alphabet. When it’s used to write Yiddish all the vowels are usually written, so is the Yiddish version a fully vocalised abjad or a phonemic alphabet?
Writing systems like Chinese, Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Mayan are the most difficult to define. In many sources Chinese is classified as logographic, i.e. a writing system consisting of logographs or logograms, which are defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a letter, symbol, or sign used to represent an entire word”. This is not the best name for the script as only some Chinese characters are logograms. Other terms include morphosyllabic, logosyllabic, ideographic, pictographic.
In Visible Speech, John DeFrancis says that:
The Chinese system must be classified as a syllabic system of writing. More specifically, it belongs to the subcategory that I have labeled meaning plus-sound syllabic systems or morphosyllabic systems.
Morphosyllabic seems to be a good term for Chinese, but what about Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Mayan, etc?