World Facts

Which Languages Are Written From Right to Left?

Certain languages are written with a script that goes from right to left.

Present day writing is a result of thousands of years of evolution that emerged independently in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. Historians suggest that the earliest form of writing can be traced to 8000BC. The Cuneiform script originated from Mesopotamia in 3200BC and remains the only form of writing that can be traced to its origin. Although the three systems of writing developed independently their primary use was accounting. In the third millennium BC, the Sumerians began inscribing funerary art in graves to symbolize afterlife. Modern-day writing can be presented in three ways, left-to-right, right-to-left, and top-to-bottom. A majority of languages are written from left-to-right. Twelve are written from right-to-left. Traditional and simplified Chinese, several dialects of Japanese such as the Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, and two dialects of Korean; Hangul, Hanja are either written from left-to-right or top-to-bottom.

Which Languages Are Written From Right to Left?

There are 12 languages that are written from the right to the left:

  • Arabic
  • Aramaic
  • Azeri
  • Divehi
  • Fula
  • Hebrew
  • Kurdish
  • N'ko
  • Persian
  • Rohingya
  • Syriac
  • Urdu

Arabic is most used of these twelve languages. The Central Semitic language is used by about 1.7 billion people most of whom are in the Arab world. The Aramaic language is native to the Assyrian people of northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, and northwestern Iran. There are about three million people who speak the language.

The Azeri language is the official language of Azerbaijan and the Dagestan region of Russia. A majority of speakers are in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan. The language is spoken by about 27 million. The Fula language/Fulani is native to the Fulani people of West Africa but it is used by 24 million people spread across west Africa, central Africa, and Sudan. The Dhivehi/Maldivian language is used in the Maldives. It is used by a native population of about 340,000. The Hebrew language is native to Israel where it is also the official language. The language is spoken by about 9 million people. The earliest forms of written Hebrew dates back to 10th century BCE. Hebrew is the only Canaanite language that is still in existence.

Why Right-to-Left?

The reason why these languages are written from right-to-left is not known but a majority do not use the Latin alphabet. Researchers and historians theorize that the writing direction was influenced by the medium used. According to historians, non-Latin alphabets such as Arabic and Hebrew are complex to inscribe and scholars using scrolls found it easier to hold the scrolls with their left hand and write with their right. Writing on the left side of the scroll was obstructed by the hand and the scholars preferred to write from the far right.

Which Languages Are Written From Right to Left?

Right to Left Languages
Arabic
Aramaic
Azeri
Dhivehi
Fula
Hebrew
Kurdish
N'Ko
Persian
Rohingya
Syriac
Urdu

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