RE: Perception that Unicode is 16-bit (was: Re: Surrogate space i n

From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 04:45:43 EST

Doug Ewell wrote:
> A *script* like Latin or Cyrillic typically has many more
> characters than any one language will ever use.
> An *alphabet* is, by definition, language-specific.


We probably all agree that Chinese, Japanese and Korean share the "CJK

But would you say, following your definition, that the subset of the CJK
Script used to write Mandarin in Mainland China should be called "The
Chinese Simplified *Alphabet*"?

I know that the term "alphabet" is used in a similar manner in information
theory, but this doesn't sound very fine to me when talking about writing

My current understanding of the two terms is the following:

- "Script" is a generic term meaning a writing system of any kind, its
inventory of signs and its orthographic rules.

- "Alphabet" is a specific class of scripts, whose principal characteristic
is that tends to map each sign to one of the language's phonemes. It opposes
to, e.g., a "syllabic" script, which maps longer sequences of phonemes
(often in the form consonant+vowel) and a "logographic" script which maps
signs to morphemes ("words" or parts of words). Someone subdivides this
definition of "alphabet" in various classes according to whether all
phonemes are equally mapped to symbols, or only some of them (e.g. an
alphabet that privileges consonants over vowels is also called an "abjad", I

_ Marco

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