Writing system beauty

The place to discuss alphabets and other writing systems.

Writing system beauty

Postby Jayan » Thu 30 Apr 2009 4:40 pm

What do you think makes a writing system beautiful? OK, so beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but surely there are some principles to it. Is it the connectedness, the cultural background, the uniqueness, or something else?
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby sokuban » Thu 30 Apr 2009 10:55 pm

Lots of things could attribute to it. Raw beauty is a defining factor, but it can only be worth so much in my opinion. (When I say 'raw beauty' I mean the artistic factors of the appearance of the script. Arabic has a lot more raw beauty than say Latin in my opinion for example. Though I guess raw beauty is only a comparison of handwriting, so I'm not sure if it is that fair. But there are some scripts that just can't look beautiful no matter how you put it, mainly if they don't have a cursive form for example.)

Other things would include complexity/connectedness. Though I'd say a script with a lot of these factors would be 'cool', as opposed to beautiful; I guess it means the same thing.
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby ILuvEire » Thu 30 Apr 2009 11:23 pm

I like a lot of scripts for a lot of reasons. I like Latin and Cyrillic because all of the letters "match," (simple lines and circles etc.), same thing with Korean, all of the letters are nice and blocky. Chinese looks good until you get into some of the really complex hanzi, I don't think those are pretty at all. I also don't like the Japanese script, because the kana don't match the kanji (in my eyes, katakana are simple and blocky, hiragana are complex and curvy and kanji are blocky and complex).

Also, I usually don't like scripts that are really complex (...Tamil...)
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Neqitan » Fri 01 May 2009 1:08 am

I think it's a combination of all facts: culture, complexity, language usually associated with it, etc. Not something that can be measured numerically anyways.
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby kwami » Wed 09 Sep 2009 12:14 pm

ILuvEire wrote:I also don't like the Japanese script, because the kana don't match the kanji

Japanese has a different aesthetic appeal: the complexity of the script corresponds to the semantic density. Lexical words (nouns, verbs) are written in kanji, except for 'empty' (semantically bleached) words such as mono 'thing' and suru 'to do'. Function words and grammatical inflections are written in kana, which at least in calligraphy flow quite nicely into and out of the kanji. Your eye automatically focuses on the blocks of greater density, which is where the lexical information lies, and these are strung together with the lighter kana, which show how they relate to each other. So in a sense Japanese biscript is quite iconic, which I find beautiful. (Except for English words in katakana, which are ugly.) I don't care for Chinese, because there even the most empty words, like ah!, are graphically complex. (But then, for someone raised on Chinese, the Latin alphabet looks like Morse code, and must seem an atrocious script.)

And why do people typesetting Japanese and Chinese use such ugly fonts, with those stupid triangular serifs at the end of each stroke, when there are so many absolutely gorgeous Chinese fonts out there?

I don't care for Cyrillic, because all the letters look the same: hardly any ascenders or descenders. Not so bad in handwriting, as people add underscores and overscores, but in print most words are simple blocks, like Latin written in all caps. You just don't have the word shapes you do with Latin minuscules, which I'd think would hinder reading fluency. Printed Hebrew (but not Hebrew handwriting) would seem to have the same problem, though I'm not as familiar with it.

And Persian/Urdu is just gorgeous. But Arabic is an impractical script in many ways, if practicality is desired. No good for fine print: the ingredients listed on a can have to be in a much larger type size when they're in Arabic than when in most other scripts. Thoroughly impractical when the font size it too small to make out the consonant pointing and you're trying to be brief (i.e. provide little context) in order to save space. But then, maybe a lack of fine print would be a good thing, with positive political consequences.
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Delodephius » Wed 09 Sep 2009 7:01 pm

To me, it's simple geometric shapes that are easy to write (European and Mediterranean alphabets, Hebrew, Canadian Aboriginal syllabary, Brahmi, South Arabic alphabet, Phags-Pa, etc.), but also scripts in which all letters in a word are connected (Arabic, Syriac, Mongolian, etc.). Also, I find a script more beautiful if there is a substantial texts written in it. Scripts that were seldom used I for some reason don't find very appealing. This also means a script has a long history or it was widely used even for a short period of time.
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Talib » Wed 09 Sep 2009 7:15 pm

Probably balance. What Hebrew, Latin and Cyrillic have in common is that letters are made of the same basic elements with no extraneous flourishes. (Compare Devanagari which seems unnecessarily ornate.) But what draws me to a script is the "exotic" factor. Arabic looks foreign and beautiful; so does Chinese but I'm not drawn to that script because it's too complicated.
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Sobekhotep » Wed 09 Sep 2009 11:09 pm

kwami wrote:I don't care for Cyrillic, because all the letters look the same: hardly any ascenders or descenders.

For some reason, I really like the look of printed Cyrillic. I think it just looks "cool"; I don;t know why. :D

kwami wrote:And Persian/Urdu is just gorgeous.

I absolutely agree!
If only they (Arabic, too) would use the sukūn! I can deal with no short vowels but please give me the sukūn :lol:
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Talib » Thu 10 Sep 2009 12:38 am

Sobekhotep wrote:For some reason, I really like the look of printed Cyrillic. I think it just looks "cool"; I don;t know why. :D
It has that "Soviet chic" appeal, I think. Like something out of an old James Bond movie.
kwami wrote:And Persian/Urdu is just gorgeous.
I like the look of Nasta'līq but I think the Naskh script (the style normally used for printed Arabic) is beautiful too and much more legible (!). I've been trying to learn some Hindi/Urdu lately so this has been an issue for me.
If only they (Arabic, too) would use the sukūn! I can deal with no short vowels but please give me the sukūn :lol:
I have actually thought this might be a good idea (we could distinguish whether the matres lectionis letters represent vowels or consonants).
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Re: Writing system beauty

Postby Delodephius » Thu 10 Sep 2009 12:51 am

Talib wrote:
Sobekhotep wrote:For some reason, I really like the look of printed Cyrillic. I think it just looks "cool"; I don;t know why. :D
It has that "Soviet chic" appeal, I think. Like something out of an old James Bond movie.

That is actually the type of Cyrillic I don't like. I don't like fonts that remind me of the Soviets. Even though my family on both sides were communists (my grandfather was a Partizan, a communist freedom-fighter during WWII) I don't like the Soviets, but it is a bit complicated. Yugoslavia was an anti-Soviet communist country surrounded by mostly pro-Soviet (or Soviet puppet) states. It was a communist country that was pro-Western and this was also reflected on the lifestyle here.
Hmm... politics also seem to effect how someone feels about a script.

Anyway, I prefer the old Cyrillic type, the one used in the Russian Tsardom and in pre-communist Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. It was more Serif, and also the Old Slavonic type was used more often too (like in building signs and front covers of books).
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