Languages from around the world are written by using a number of scripts. These writing scripts can be classified into the following categories: logogram, syllabary, and alphabet. Logograms are written by using one character to represent an entire word or idea. Syllabary is a script that uses symbols to represent the syllables in a word. An alphabet uses separate symbols that represent a specific sound to form a word. This article takes a closer look at some of the most widely used writing scripts in the world.
The Most Popular Writing Scripts in The World
Latin is an alphabet type of script and the most widely used in the world. Around 4.9 billion people or 70% of the global population relies on this alphabet, which generally consists of an average of 26 letters, to write a range of languages. This script originated in present-day Italy and has since spread around the world with the help of several historic events, most notably: the Roman Empire, Christianity, and European colonization. The Latin alphabet is also used as the basis for the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used to express the phonetics of all languages. Some of the major language families that utilize this script include: Germanic, Romance, Polish, Austronesian, and Turkish (among others).
The second most widely used script in the world is Chinese, also known as hanzi, kanji, or hanja. The characters of this writing script are considered logograms and used in several different languages across Asia, including: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. In fact, an estimated 1.34 billion people around the world use Chinese characters in written communication. This script consists of thousands of characters and is considered the oldest continuously utilized form of writing in the world, with evidence of its use dating back to as early as the Shang Dynasty of 1200 BC.
Arabic is the third most widely used script in the world. Around 660 million individuals use Arabic script to communicate in a number of languages, including: Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, Punjabi, Persian, Malaysian, and Kurdish (to name a few). Unlike the other previously mentioned scripts, Arabic is written from right to left. This script dates back to around 400 AD, although its first large-scale use was to write the Qu’ran. As Islam spread around the world, it took the Arabic script with it. Over time, more characters and symbols were added to accommodate the needs of other regional languages.
Devanagari script is considered an alphasyllabary system of writing. It is used to communicate in around 120 languages, including the following: Nepali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Marathi. Estimates suggest that around 608 million people around the world utilize Devanagari on a regular basis, making it the fourth most widely used script in the world. This script is written and read from left to right and can be easily recognized by its circular-like shapes and straight-lined outlines. It consists of 47 principal characters, 33 of which are consonants and 14 are vowels. Its current form is believed to have originated in the 10th century AD, although some researchers suggest that it was first developed around the 1st century AD.
The chart published below offers a more in-depth look at additional popular writing scripts used around the world today.
The World's Most Popular Writing Scripts
|Rank||Name of script||Type||Population actively using (in millions)|
|1||Latin Latin||Alphabet||over 4900|
|2||Chinese 汉字 漢字||Logographic||1340|
|7||Kana かな カナ||Syllabary||120|
|9||Hangul 한글 조선글||Alphabet, featural||78.7|
|30||Modern Yi ꆈꌠ||Syllabary||4|
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
Your MLA Citation
Your APA Citation
Your Chicago Citation
Your Harvard CitationRemember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.