Most beautiful alphabet?

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tpspoons's picture
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Most beautiful alphabet?
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What language do you think has the most beautiful [[writing systems|alphabet]]?

Christian R Szabo's picture
Joined: 3 Oct 2008 - 7:28pm
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Sinhalese

Matthew Stephen Stuckwisch's picture
Joined: 7 Feb 2007 - 10:21am
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Georgian.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Chris Lozos's picture
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Korean

ChrisL

Simon Daniels's picture
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Elfish

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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Sanskrit.

Ben Mitchell's picture
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Khmer

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Tibetan, by far.
Distant second: Arabic.

hhp

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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Pics would be so helpful in something like this -)

Christian R Szabo's picture
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It's Armenian. ;)

John Hudson's picture
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Sinhalese is pretty darn splendid. Manchu is one of my favourites. The ancient Cypriot syllabary reminds me of Matisse paper-cuts, at least how interpreted by the Imprimerie nationale. But for sheer, heartbreaking beauty there are few things to match the highest quality nasta'liq.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Sinhalese? The Official Script of Coca-Cola™?

hhp

Craig Eliason's picture
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Overview of some nice ones (including some already mentioned) is [[http://www.omniglot.com/writing/syllabic.htm|here]].

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
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Tibetan and Japanese!

Satya Rajpurohit's picture
Joined: 27 Jul 2006 - 3:31pm
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So far I have seen, Bengali (or Bangla) is the most beautiful script on the earth.

\\

Brian Jongseong Park's picture
Joined: 15 Mar 2006 - 12:53pm
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I'm partial to the Tamil script myself, but I see how Sinhalese can have more fans.

How much does calligraphy factor into this? You can find breathtaking examples of calligraphy that can make the most mundane of scripts look like the most beautiful things on Earth. How would an outsider judge the Latin alphabet presented with samples of Roman inscriptions, blackletter, and copperplate calligraphy lettering respectively?

Nina Stössinger's picture
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I think Burmese looks absolutely amazing. Like something that Aliens would write.
Armenian is beautiful too.

Ben Mitchell's picture
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I was hoping someone would say Burmese. Travelling there made me realise just how different other alphabets can be. It's also really nice to hear spoken, lots of fricatives and approximants. And they have a 'creaky' tone!

Natalia™'s picture
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Hanacaraka, the old javanese script

David Berlow's picture
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Mongol I think. But which one do you think is the most beautiful on baseball caps?

Max Rabkin's picture
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Alphabets that you can read are a lot less beautiful than those you can't. At least, this has been my experience with Hebrew and Hangeul.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Indeed. Like how I used to watch Spanish-language TV with great pleasure until I actually learned Spanish, at which point I realized they were just saying the same crap that was on American TV. Now I watch Korean TV.

Also, it's worth noting the typical disparity between beauty and functionality. Tibetan for example is actually a horrid writing system when it comes to expressing the language.

BTW, David: Japanese? ;-)

hhp

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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So, are we too positivist or politically-correct to mention our ugliests? :-)

hhp

Simon Daniels's picture
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>So, are we too positivist or politically-correct to mention our ugliests?

Klingon

>But which one do you think is the most beautiful on baseball caps?

Klingon

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Frode Bo Helland's picture
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What is that, David? I'm pretty much in love with the latin alphabet, I guess.

Jeffrey's picture
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Mayan is great (though I don't know if it qualifies as an alfabet?)

Korean is great too, as is Burmese (which I did not know)

cheerio Queneau

Jeffrey's picture
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Oh and I have to second frank: I'm pretty much in love with the latin alphabet as well (it's also the only one that makes sense to me...:-) )

cheerio Queneau

david h's picture
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Frode -- Samaritan.

tpspoons's picture
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Wow some really great answers, havn't heard of a lot these.

David Berlow's picture
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And what a good Samaritan it is, I love the perpendicular stresses.

"Mayan is great"
I love Mayan too, but reading in bed, late at night and turning those 128 kg pages is tough.

Don McCahill's picture
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Inuktitut is not the most beautiful, but I will mention it here in case others disagree.

[[http://www.omniglot.com/images/langsamples/udhr_inuktitut.gif"]]

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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Latin? Dunno, I think our alphabet is pretty unbeautiful – a strange compilation deriving from various historical sources. Of course, there's the comfort of familiarity, but aesthetically speaking, more "unified", or "designed" alphabets seem more appealing to me, more coherent.

"So, are we too positivist or politically-correct to mention our ugliests?"
Maybe too much in love with writing systems in general? I for one am having a really hard time thinking of an ugly alphabet.
Hmm, maybe Futhark doesn't seem very aesthetic (but still highly interesting of course). I'm not too fond of Hiragana either – Katakana looks way cooler ;-).

Chris Lozos's picture
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"I love Mayan too, but reading in bed, late at night and turning those 128 kg pages is tough."

I don't know how Moses did it either, take two tablets and call me in the morning :-)

ChrisL

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Nina, the Latin caps are sublime.
The lc however is pretty lame.

hhp

Nina Stössinger's picture
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Yah, I was looking at the Latin as a complete package, Hrant. The UC/lc disparity somehow kills the "design concept" (insert funny smiley here).

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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While I have to agree the shapes of the fuþark really aren't very pretty in themselves, I think they have a great decorative kind of beauty. And when written rather than carved in wood or stone, I think they had great potential that were never properly developed. Also, one has to admire an alphabet that supposedly were deprecated (is that the right word?) around 1300, but still were in daily use in Telemark in the early 19th century. The last authentic rune inscriptions were made in Dalarna around 1910, supposedly.

I think the Latin alphabet is beautiful because of its inconsistence. And because of its unsurpassed extensibility.

Chris Lozos's picture
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I actually love the Latin lowercase with its sense of rhythm. Even if it came about due to a mishmash of languages, it has a form which includes the planned with the accidental.

ChrisL

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> I think the Latin alphabet is beautiful because of its inconsistence.

That's just apologism.

> And because of its unsurpassed extensibility.

It's been extended so much simply because that has helped the West make more money, not because of any inherent quality. Furthermore, most of the extensions are quite ugly, cumbersome and dysfunctional.

Chris, then I don't understand how you could put Hangul on top. (For the record, I love Hangul, but not for its appearance, which is what this thread is about, at least to me.)

--

BTW, these classic Latin chauvinisms and more
are addressed in my Spatium/Hyphen essay.

hhp

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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Sindre, that sample is a bit unfair (see what Jongseong said about calligraphy above). I've got nothing against Futhark, except I don't find the letterforms themselves particularly beautiful, and I thought this thread is (ok, was) simply about shallow aesthetic considerations. :-)

Chris: You say you love the Latin lowercase, but do you also love the combination of UC/lc?

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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> It’s been extended so much simply because that has helped the West make more money, not because of any inherent quality.

That's a gross oversimplification. As languages evolved, they had to reflect the sound changes, while maintaining etymological logic and consistency. French, for instance, had evolved to a stage were too many words had become homonyms, so accents, cedillas and circumflexes were needed. Portuguese and Lithuanian, for instance, lost a lot of final n's and m's, which led to the nasalization of the preseding wovels, expressed by adding a tilde in Portuguese and an ogonek in Lithuanian. The umlaut of the Germanic languages expresses the changed wovel, while keeping the relationship to the root. And so on and on. This is the kind of extension I'm talking about. One alphabet made usable for several related languages. How did the West make money on Romanian putting a circumflex over an a when its pronounciation changed to i, of etymological reasons? Brilliant minds have made the Latin alphabet work better than any other alphabet in the world. When Turkish was written with Arabic script, it was close to incomprehensible, because of the crucial vowel harmony that just could not be properly expressed.

> That’s just apologism.

No, it's not. That's what I think.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> Brilliant minds have made the Latin alphabet
> work better than any other alphabet in the world

There it is! Cultural chauvinism, which can permeate anything, including writing systems. It even causes people to not realize for example that the Latin alphabet doesn't even work well for English! Nevermind its idiotic hyper-reliance on an x-height. Saddest of all however, such chauvinism causes people to rape an entire people's psyche by inventing monstrosities like the Vietnamese script.

> When Turkish was written with Arabic
> script, it was close to incomprehensible

That's a massive -and convenient- exaggeration.
Some people (like Thomas Milo) would even say it's completely wrong.

> No, it’s not. That’s what I think.

Actually, it's mostly what you want to feel.

hhp

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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Ah, sorry about that, Nina. That's a very valid point, indeed. I guess we Norwegians still have some kind of inferiority complex, after all those years of Dane rule. You're right, the fuþark is functional (no horizontal strokes, that won't work when carving in wood), not pretty. The Turks developed a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Turkic_alphabet|very similar script]], so did the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Hungarian_script|Hungarians]].

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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> sick monstrosities like the Vietnamese script.

I knew you would bring that up. And I agree 100 per cent. Vietnamese looks like shit (though I believe it works). That doesn't make my claim invalid. Concerning English, that's the fault of bored monks and halfwits during the middle ages, and a result of the sponginess of the English language. That's why it's a great pity that English has become the new lingua franca.

> Some people (like Thomas Milo) would even say it’s completely wrong.

I'd say he's completely wrong. Why did teachers use the Latin alphabet in schools before the reform, do you think?

> Actually, it’s mostly what you want to feel.

How are you going to change that?

Jeffrey's picture
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Hey guys,

Let's just get back to the topic! It's just a bit of fun, not about culture clashing and bashing, or about western superiority/inferiority. Just show us the alphabets you like, for whatever reason....

cheerio Queneau

Nina Stössinger's picture
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Am I alone to think that especially on Typophile, tangents and deviations from the original topics often make for the most fruitful and interesting discussions?

Jeffrey's picture
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I also really like the Cherokee alphabet, it has some beautiful characters.

cheerio Queneau

Jeffrey's picture
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@ Altaira, Maybe you are right about this. I like a good discussion as much as you do, I just like to see some nice examples as well ;-)
So bash away if you wish!

cheerio Queneau

Chris Lozos's picture
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"Chris: You say you love the Latin lowercase, but do you also love the combination of UC/lc?"

Nina, Yes I do! As much of a technical problem itis to space as a type designer, I still love the way it looks and makes a page and still works with photos and illustrations. It does not get in the way of them. Evolution by un-design can bring things into focus and force us to see their own beauty by their opposition.

ChrisL

Sindre Bremnes's picture
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No, you're not alone, Nina. Let's wait for Mr Papazians reply.

Nina Stössinger's picture
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Waiting in anticipation.

Chris, but are you sure you wouldn't feel the same about any other alphabet that you would happen to grow up with? And then stress its particularities as exactly the things you love about it? I mean, if I'd grown up with the fuþark and now spent my days and nights typesetting and even designing it (funny thought), I might think it's beautiful. Probably because of its angularity. :->
Which would mean that your comment possibly says less about Latin than about how we tend to feel about our cultural environment.