I am a huge, huge geek for orthography. At my most well-studied, I can read and write in five different scripts, and there are at least a dozen more on my wish list.
I think graphophilia and linguaphilia, if I’m allowed to make up that word, often afflict the same people, but that’s not always the case. I’ve read a lot of linguists who don’t think writing is “really” language, and there are quite a few artists and printmakers who love the aesthetic quality of scripts and might have zero interest in all of the interesting morphology or syntax encoded in them. For me, though, it’s a win-win. Writing systems are beautiful and fascinating, and are a symbol of the human gift for creativity and complex thinking, as well as being a permanent record of language. (If you’re interested in calligraphy or the relationship between language and writing, you might like this post I wrote a while back.)
So! Having said all that, here is today’s pop quiz!
This one is a multiple choice with images. All of the images are shamelessly stolen from a website called Omniglot, where I have lost many hours of my life exploring. The samples are all translations of Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which reads, in English:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Which of these languages are written in the following samples?
1. a) Thai, b) Armenian, c) Mandarin, d) Amharic
Sequoyah, the man who single-handedly invented the Cherokee syllabary. As the wikipedia article notes, “This was the only time in recorded history that a member of a non-literate people independently created an effective writing system.”