By Retired Teacher Sir, Louis L Swaka

Many of my old students do still ask me how many types of writing there are in the world. Therefore to be brief I have to say precisely the history of writing.

The art of writing began some 3000 BC in the Middle East by Sumerians and the practice soon spread. As a result, the art of writing system is the achievement of Sumerians.

Then Egyptian writing came about from the Sumerian influence.

The evolution seems to have come from the “word –writing system” to syllabic writing –system although not purely logographic word signs came to be used as syllabic sign by means of this refers principle.

Out of this Egyptian writing system grew variously syllabic one, used in West Semitic i.e. Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician somewhere on 2ndmillennium BC.

This writing spread to the Greeks from Phoenician; Hence it is from ancient Greeks that we are indebted, the principle of alphabetic writing. They rendered the syllabic –writing more precise. But, these Syllabic signs were sometimes ambiguous .g. The same sign could designate ta, ti, te and to vowel signs was added to syllabic sign to avoid confusion.

Alphabetic writing has spread throughout the world although other writings are still being used.

Latin –alphabet developed from Greek which became model of Western Europe. Writing has become indispensable component of modern society.

As the civilization becomes complex greater quantities of information have to be stored and transmitted, language will continue to be basically oral competence whose written representation is only secondary although language is often influence by their representation.

Thus there are three (3) types of writing systems

  1. Logographic Writing = word-writing –system eg. Chinese orthography (spelling) –each symbol or character stands for a word

– No phonetic value except by virtue of the fact that the word for has a character pronunciation.

The advantage is that a word may sound different in two dialects but a written character will be the same. The disadvantage e.g. many symbols require thousand symbols learning to read and writing involves much time and effort. 

Furthermore one has to figure out how to write a word i.e. characters stands for and fixed relationship between symbols and sounds

  1. Syllabic –writing system eg English each symbol represents a single syllable or syllable type or instance the word macaroni would be written ma, ca, ros ni Each symbol has a particular phonetic.

Value and use in any word that contains the phonetic sequence it stands for, it is possible to  figure how a word is pronounce from the way it is written and vice versa .

 The advantage is that the signs of a syllabic system are in dozens not thousands and less cumbersome –a good example or typical syllabic language is Japanese.

 Alphabetic –Writing

Each symbol represents not a whole syllable but a single sound segment.

The English word “CAT” contains three (3) letters one each for the sound segment [K] [ae] [t]

Since the number of sound types in this alphabetic writing is small that number of symbol required also is comparatively. Small, only twenty –six (26) letters of English.


However English often uses signs e.g. $=dollar or numbers e.g. 34, 5, 69……

A great many letters (alphabets) in English orthography have constant phonetic value eg the letter M F V Z B D R While the orthographic of vowels are full of regularities only few are irregular eg fat/ fate pal /palemad/made…………..etc

To conclude, the teahouse of writing grew out of the general institution pictorial art the difference between pictorial representation and written representation is that pictorial representation is direct whereas writing representation a situation through mediation of language.


We can describe a situation by three ways

  • Drawing a picture
  • Taking about it
  • Writing (combines aspect of each being graphic representation of a spoken message

In all writing systems symbols designate linguistic units rather than ideas or things i.e. anything that can be said can be written easy to store and transmitted

Finally the world is gifted by the three (3) types of writing i.e. Logography, Syllabic and Alphabetic systems.







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