5 of the Most Interesting Writing Systems

Writing has existed for millennia, recording human history, heritage and knowledge over time. Many scripts have been invented, some stayed, some continued to be used, and some have yet to be deciphered. Now let’s see some of the most fascinating scripts humans have come up with!

1. Ersu Shaba

Ersu Shaba is a script used to write the Ersu language and is the only writing system to incorporate colour. A predominantly pictographic script, Ersu Shaba is rather limited in its scope and usage, and neither does it fully represent the language. Only Shaba priests are fully literate in the script. Nevertheless, the Ersu Shaba glyphs remain to be one of the most fascinating, intriguing and wonderful writing systems to be used.

2. Tibetan (Especially the U’chen script)

Tibetan is a fascinating abugida used to write the Tibetan language and other Sino-Tibetan languages like Dzongkha. With vowel signs above and below characters, other secondary consonant characters also affect the pronunciation of a syllable. Thus for a certain syllable, there may be multiple ways to write it. What people also overlook is that Tibetan is way more than a 5 vowel system; it has tones and more nuclear vowels. Thus, it can be said that the Tibetan script does not effectively represent all the phonemes in the Tibetan language. This is by far my most favourite Abugida.

3. Rongorongo

Rongorongo is an undeciphered script found on Easter Island. Various kinds of glyphs exist, including human-like figures, lizards, fishes and the sort. To date, there is still no conclusion on how the glyphs are pronounced, nor how the glyphs can be interpreted. However, it never fails to intrigue people who come across this fascinating writing system.

4. Tangut

A now extinct language, Tangut is a language which uses a writing system which resembles Mandarin Chinese but is way different from that, on one part is that even though Tangut employs a logographic writing system many of the characters are not pictographic but rather more semantic and phonologic. According to Gerard Clauson, an Orientalist, Tangut is most remarkable for being written in one of the most inconvenient of all scripts … very few are made up of as few as four strokes and most are made up of a good many more … there are few recognizable indications of sound and meaning in the constituent parts of a character, and in some cases characters which differ from one another only in minor details of shape or by one or two strokes have completely different sounds and meanings. Being a rather complicated writing system to pick up and learn, Tangut undoubtedly amazes and bewilders those who come across this Chinese-resembling system.

5. Mongolian (classical Mongolian script)

Mongolian today is split between writing in Cyrillic alphabet and the Mongolian alphabet. Now let’s focus on the classical Mongolian alphabet bit. It is by far among the few writing systems to be written vertically from left to right. Being cursive in nature, Mongolian has things in common with the Arabic script, both having lone, initial, medial and final forms of most letters. This script inspired usage in other languages like the Manchu language in the 17th century. Resembling raining knives, the classical Mongolian script is truly unique, particularly in the directions in which it is written.

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