Alphabet vs. script (was RE: Perception that Unicode is 16-bit (w as: Re: Surrogate space i)

From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 11:18:40 EST

John Cowan wrote:
> > - "Alphabet" is a specific class of scripts, whose
> principal characteristic
> > is that tends to map each sign to one of the language's phonemes.
> I think that should rather be called an "alphabetic script",
> e.g. Latin, Greek, Cyrillic.

You are right. I didn't consider "alphabetic script".

> "Alphabet" rather means the repertoire associated with a specific
> language which uses an alphabetic script. Thus Italian and English
> share the Latin script, but the English alphabet is a superset of the
> Italian alphabet.

You are right, even if "alphabet" is also commonly used as a synonym of
"alphabetic script". But now I agree that the distinction that you introduce
is useful and improves precision.

<who is a superset of whom>

BTW, it is the Italian alphabet that is a superset of the English alphabet,
because accents are often removed from Italian words used in English (see
the spelling of "L'UnitÓ" or "LibertÓ" on
<>), whereas English origin
maintain their j's, k's, w's, y's in Italian (see the spelling of "The New
York Times" in

(So *my* alphabet is bigger than yours ;-)


> I say "associated with" because particular graphemes may be used with
> the language (e.g. accented vowels in Italian or French) and yet be
> excluded from the alphabet by being consolidated with other alphabetic
> letters.
> There is also a distressing and non-English tendency to use "alphabet"
> as a synonym for "alphabetic letter" (e.g. "English uses 26
> alphabets") which I have seen on this mailing list and elsewhere.
> This is a barbarism.

I have noticed that this is particularly common in Indian English. The
"Learn <your favorite Indian language> in 30 days" series by Balaji
Publications always uses it.

Thank you.

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