Scientific Strength of Writing Systems – The Aspects

Nowadays, most scientific papers are published in English. English has effectively become the language of science. Historically, Latin, French and German were the leaders. The commonality among them is that they are all spelled in Latin alphabet. Thus, written system, instead of spoken language, might actually be of significance. Usually, their widespread use in science is attributed to economic, political, scientific, technological status of and colonization by the countries in question. However, it will be a different story since we consider written language as the foundation of science.

In my articles “language – the core of science” and “writing systems define their own sciences”, we state that writing systems are the foundation of science and sciences of different writing systems differ in quality and capability. Now we go on to study how the writing systems differ in potential and strength in building science. This paper addresses basic aspects of strength. It provides a basis for analyzing the scientific strength of different writing systems.

Keep in mind that science is founded on the textual mind.

Strength of science is determined by writing system

First, we need to clarify – in what the advancement of science should be assessed. Science is in the text itself. It should not be assessed by non-texts, not by incidental discovery, not by chance, but by the systematic property of writing system, which makes the human world sustainably advancing. Text constrains the scientific mind – not what you think how advanced science the texts should represent, but the texts support and limit the advancement of science. That is why scientists’ achievements are judged by his publications, which explain not only what they have discovered, but relations to existing works. That is, the discovery is based on the existing texts.

Secondly, the texts are objective and not altered by individual will and desire. The legibility of a writing system has fundamentally affected its capability in establishing sciences, regardless of a person’s intention and endeavor. This is also a more basic level than the disciplines and branches. Texts’ visual characteristics constrain a person’s mind in organizing and processing them. That is an objective factor. Individuals might possess varying levels of capacity in processing texts. That is a subjective factor. Objective factor affects all people using the system. For the same person, legible system is easier to process. Hence, the visual feature of texts determines a writing system’s scientific strength.

Let’s focus on the visual characteristic of texts and reading. A page of text contains two dimensions of symbols. The layout of a page can be identical for various writing systems. The symbol shapes are the basic difference between writing systems. In an instance, our eyes focus on one or a few words – a short sequence of symbols, performing the intensive textual thinking. Our investigation concentrates on visual feature of symbols and their sequence.

Aspects of strength

During reading, texts are taken into the eyes in a sequential manner, currently mainly in left-to-right, right-to-left or top-down directions. Symbols are connected sequentially to build up a sentence and more. Fitness for sequential reading determines the scientific strength of a writing system. The following aspects are the basis for evaluating the fitness[1].

1.Sequentiality

We had previously discussed that vertical reading restricts the expansion of texts, while horizontal reading facilitates sequential expansion of texts. Due to horizontal reading, the number of symbols for alphabets is reduced to dozens. The simplification of symbols is good for sequential expansion when adjacent letters combine to form words. On the contrary, complex symbols (characters) don’t form natural connections. Instead, they are composed of internal components.

The complexity of symbols can be examined during reading. In complex symbols, such as Chinese characters, you often need to pay attention to sub-character components which affect the meaning of the characters. With disruptions and pauses for focusing on internal components, the reading is not genuinely sequential, because the components inside a character are not in a sequence in the direction of reading, nor are they with those in the following character. In genuine sequential reading, there is little sub-symbol information; and symbols are recognized easily without pausing and extra attention.

Better sequentiality means better connectivity between symbols, the components of the science that we study. Sequentiality underscores science’s accumulativeness and cause-result reasoning.

2.Clarity of symbols

Clarity of symbols leads to clarity of symbol sequence, i.e. words, etc. Symbols should have salient visual features easily recognized and remembered, not complex, not containing strange shapes or features too mild to discern, such as a small dot inside a big character. The usual composing shapes are round, rectangle, straight line, hook, curve, etc. The symbols should be similar in size and of evenly distributed form. There should be little information that requires effort for recognition.

Symbols are the building elements of science. Their being clearly read permits our minds to investigate and remember the things with certainty.

3.Differentiation between symbols.

Distinctions between symbols are important for symbols not be mistaken as another. Good differentiation facilitates reading, because for similar-shaped symbols extra effort is needed to figure out which symbol is being read. The difference should be of the shape itself instead of alteration of the same shape. For example, “b” and “d” are different shapes. A vertical line and a vertically tilted line are alterations of the same shape. If treated as two separate symbols, they are easily confused as each other. The difference should be on the main part of the symbols. For example, the “i” differ with “j” more than differ with the symbol of two dots on the cap of “i“. Diacritics and ligature also hinder the differentiation between symbols.

Differentiation between symbols are the basis for differentiation between words. During research, an individual must distinguish among the things he/she is studying, distinguish his/her work from others’ and existing works, without ambiguity.

4.Combination of symbols

Words are usually formed by a symbol sequence of variable lengths, separated with each other by space. Several symbols might combine to form sub-word units. If the symbols are not complex, the eyes usually take a few of them as a unit for processing, which are often smaller than a word. This demonstrates texts are built from smaller units up to bigger ones within a fixation. Multisyllable words are good examples as they have syllables as sub-word units. To improve legibility, it is better for sub-word units to have features that distinguish themselves from each other. For example, a symbol of the sub-word unit might be specially shaped that serves as a marker for the symbols as a unit.

A word is the basic unit of meaning, instead of visual processing. Clarity and distinction of sub-word units are important for the recognition and formation of words, expansion of vocabulary, the correlation between words and division of meaning. That certainly facilitates research.

5.Other aspects: sentences, punctuation, page layout etc.

Words are arranged to form sentences, paragraphs and pages. The markers of larger portions of text include capitalization of the first letter of a sentence, punctuation, wider space between paragraphs, bold fonts in subheadings, table of contents, titles etc. These features are common for many alphabetic systems. Non-alphabetic systems might also have similar treatments. These aspects are important in building up the texts larger than words and aiding interpretation. But they are not so basic as the above four. And it is easier for a system to adapt to those of other systems, because these are in a relatively macro (less detailed) level of thought. The adaptation doesn’t need to alter the symbol shapes or words, which are deeply rooted in people’s minds.

Helped by these markers and features, scientific details are wrapped up into articles, theses and books. They help construct the properties such as hierarchy, order, emphasis, grouping, and summarizing.

These aspects are basic for assessing the degree of analyticity, accuracy and establishment. The non-optimal systems’ science is imprecise, ambiguous and susceptible to alteration. Their sciences are prone to processing errors. Daily conversation might seem easy for every system to express, but for advanced scientific matter in hundreds of books, rigorous grammar and complex vocabulary have to be supported by a legible system.

Conclusion

The wonderful world we live in is empowered by science and technology, which is founded on writing systems. The basic distinctions between writing systems are aspects such as sequentiality, visual feature of symbols and their combinations. Different writing systems vary in these aspects, leading to their varying degree of strength in founding science. That would also lead to different advancement level of the societies.


[1] Refer to the first three properties listed in my paper “language – the core of science”, namely sequential, clarity, compactness and simplicity, which are the most basic properties. They determine the latter properties.