Reading Direction

Simon Robertson's picture

A friend on Facebook recently posted this status "did you know that all languages west of Jerusalem read left to right & all languages east of Jerusalem read right to left".

I'm not convinced this is true, is it?

speter's picture

Of course it isn't true.

Simon Robertson's picture

Do we have references? Examples?

riccard0's picture

Quick, someone alerts Georgians they’ve reading wrong all this time!
Hrant, you will need to convince Armenians.

Igor Freiberger's picture

You may show this map to your friend.
More information available in this article.

quadibloc's picture

There are only about nine languages that read right to left.

Hebrew, Arabic (and Farsi and Urdu) - and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian.

The latter four read left to right most of the time nowadays. But when they are read vertically, the vertical lines then proceed right to left, and thus books laid out in the traditional way for Chinese will have the front cover located on what appears to be the "back", just as books in Hebrew would.

So, east of Jerusalem, we have Hindi, Thai, Malayalam and Tibetan, for example, that read left to right.

Khaled Hosny's picture

There are only about nine languages that read right to left.

Directionality is a property of script not language, e.g. Azerbaijani used to be written in Arabic script, switched to Cyrillic in the Soviet era and then Latin post Soviet.

Similarly, many African language used to be (and still to some extent) written in Arabic script (Ajami) and now written in Latin script.

There are more right to left scripts; Syriac, Thaana, N'Ko. Old Italic can be written write to left. Egyptian hieroglyph is written in any direction, its derived scripts are always right to left.

And there boustrophedon where each line is flipped in the other direction.

John Hudson's picture

Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian. The latter four read left to right most of the time nowadays. But when they are read vertically, the vertical lines then proceed right to left...

Mongolian script is always read vertically and always in columns left-to-right, not right-to-left.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Mongolian is even more interesting, it is a descendant of Sogdian script which is written from right to left but rotated 90 degrees, that is why it columns start from left to right unlike other vertical scripts.

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