14 May 2006

The topology of writing

What are the formal structural similarities among the alphabets of various scripts? What is the underlying logic of letters? Is there a topology behind the use of letters? Can the forms be considered as a contour map of the features of the natural world such as trees, mountains houses, apartments and streets that are common to a certain culture or locale? Which shapes of letters are the most popular? Mark Changizi, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena looked at "the common features of 100 different writing systems, including true alphabets such as Cyrillic, Korean Hangul and our own; so-called abjads that include Arabic and others that only use characters for consonants; Sanskrit, Tamil and other "abugidas", which use characters for consonants and accents for vowels; and Japanese and other syllabaries, which use symbols that approximate syllables, which make up words." Click here to read about the structure of letters.

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