Written language

A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia.

A written language is the representation of a language by means of writing. This involves the use of visual symbols, known as graphemes, to represent linguistic units such as phonemes, syllables, morphemes, or words. However, written language is not merely spoken or signed language written down, though it can approximate that. Instead, it is a separate system with its own norms, structures, and stylistic conventions, and it often evolves differently than its corresponding spoken or signed language.

Written languages serve as crucial tools for communication, enabling the recording, preservation, and transmission of information, ideas, and culture across time and space. The specific form a written language takes – its alphabet or script, its spelling conventions, and its punctuation system, among other features – is determined by its orthography.

The development and use of written language have had profound impacts on human societies throughout history, influencing social organization, cultural identity, technology, and the dissemination of knowledge. In contemporary times, the advent of digital technology has led to significant changes in the ways we use written language, from the creation of new written genres and conventions to the evolution of writing systems themselves.

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