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Key Terms about Writing

character: a character is used both as a general term for any symbol that appears in a writing system (including wordspace) and for the symbols in the Chinese and Japanese writing systems such as   (‘person’).

consonant doubling, like <ll> ‘will’ or <nn> ‘sunny’, is often used to show that the preceding vowel is ‘short/closed’, e.g, ‘hopping/hoping’. There are slight differences over doubling in British and American style, e.g. ‘travelling’ versus ‘traveling’.

correspondence rules: the rules in sound-based writing systems for connecting sounds to letters, i.e. the English phoneme /ei/ to the letter <a> and vice versa <a> to /æ/, etc

direction: some writing systems go from left to right like English, some from right to left like Arabic and Hebrew. Older forms of Chinese and Japanese are written in columns from top to bottom.         

font: strictly a complete set of type for printing, nowadays mostly referring to a particular design for the whole set of characters available through a computer keyboard, called by typographers a typeface.

grapheme: a grapheme is ‘any minimal letter string used in correspondences’ (Carney 1994: xxvii), i.e. one letter or more acting as unit to relate to sounds.

letter/sound correspondences: in sound-based scripts, written symbols like letters correspond to sounds of the spoken language, sometimes simply as in ‘phonetic’ scripts like Italian, sometimes in complex and indirect ways as in English.

meaning-based writing system: a form of writing in which the written sign (character) connects directly to the meaning, as in Chinese characters.

orthographic regularities: rules that govern how letters behave in English, such as <ck> corresponding to /k/ occurring at the ends of syllables ‘back’, <c> at the beginning ‘cab’

punctuation: 'the rules for graphically structuring written language by means of a set of conventional marks' (Coulmas, 1996, 421). Punctuation consists of the use of additional marks like < ; , ? > either to show the structure of the sentence or help with reading aloud

routes: reading may follow the sound-based route or the lexical route. While languages tend to prefer one or the other, individuals may switch constantly between them.

script: a script is the actual physical symbols of the writing system, for instance Roman or Cyrillic alphabets.

silent letter: a letter that does not correspond directly to a speech sound but often has indirect effects, e.g. silent <e> ‘fat’ versus ‘fate’, and silent <u> ‘guess’ versus ‘gesture’.

sound-based writing system: a form of writing in which the written sign connects to speech, whether through syllables (Japanese), consonants alone (Arabic, Hebrew) or both vowels and consonants (alphabetic languages like Greek, Urdu or English).

transparency: a writing system in which each symbol corresponds to a particular sound of the language, and, vice versa, each sound corresponds to a symbol, is called ‘transparent’ or ‘shallow’.

writing system: a writing system ‘determines in a general way how written units connect with units of language’ (Perfetti, 1999, p.168).