Phonetic orthographies

CE Whitehead cewcathar at
Mon Nov 27 18:47:28 CET 2006
seems to classify some of the Chinese languages as distinct languages;
they do share an orthography but it is not entirely a phonetic one, and it 
written words are pronounced differently from region to region--

I note that Arabic is undergoing a similar history except Modern Standard 
Arabic is not quite so old as Classical Chinese (it dates to 0 A.D. at least 
though; not sure how far back)
and of course its writing system is phonetic, minus the endings on words, 
the inflections (vowels and endings are not written in Arabic, except for 
long vowels).

The dialects vary greatly--Egyptian Arabic can be vastly different from 
Kuwaiti Arabic or Arabic from the Levant; but the Standard language is still 

It's still classed as one language.

For Chinese, I'm not so sure.

Italian and Spanish and Portuguese are three different languages with 
different spelling, though with my Spanish and Latin I quickly picked up a 
passive knowledge of the other two.  Political boundaries determine the 
language borders in Europe.

--C. E. W.
cewcathar at

>From: "David Starner" <prosfilaes at>
>To: "Gerard Meijssen" <gerardm at>
>CC: ietf-languages at, John Cowan <cowan at>
>Subject: Re: Phonetic orthographies
>Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2006 07:08:57 -0600
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>On 11/25/06, Gerard Meijssen <gerardm at> wrote:
>>John Cowan schreef:
>> > That's a very artificial distinction.  When Russian removed some
>> > letters and added another, was that a change in script?  Clearly not.
>> >
>>Well, this is why this may be an education to me, but to me it would be
>>a change in the script first and in the orthography second.
>Then virtually no two languages have the same script, and most
>languages have had several scripts. It's clear that that was not a
>change in script as the word is used in Unicode and ISO 15924, because
>both of them encoded Cyrillic, not Russian (early), Russian (old),
>Bulgarian (Soviet), Bulgarian, etc.
>>When people discuss Hant and Hans, they are NOT talking about an
>>orthography of one language. Chinese is not a language, it is a written
>>system that is shared by people speaking many languages.
>By and large, when most people discuss Chinese, it is a language. The
>Chinese Wikipedia is a success and could only be a success because the
>contributors use a common language. Hant versus Hans doesn't apply to
>Japanese or Korean or Vietnamese Cho Nom.
>Ietf-languages mailing list
>Ietf-languages at

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