The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system (script) to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur or Serbian, there can be more than one orthography. Orthography is distinct from typography.
Orthography in English comes from orthographie (French, 13c.), from Latin: orthographia, from Greek ὀρθός orthós, "correct", and γράφειν gráphein, "to write".
While "orthography" colloquially is often used synonymously with spelling, spelling is only part of orthography. Other elements of the field of orthography are hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation. Orthography describes or defines the set of symbols (graphemes and diacritics) used, and the rules about how to write these symbols.
Most natural languages developed as oral-aural languages, and writing systems have usually been crafted or adapted afterwards as representations of the spoken language. In an etic sense, the rules for writing systems are arbitrary, which is to say that any set of rules could be considered "correct" if the users of the language mutually agreed to convene upon that set of rules as the standard way to represent the spoken language. However, as standardization takes stronger hold, an emic epistemology of "right and wrong" develops, in which compliance with, or violations of, the standards are viewed as right, or wrong, in a way analogous to moral right and wrong, and in which each word has a written identity that is no less standardized than its oral-aural identity, which is emically unitary. The term orthography is sometimes used in a linguistic sense to refer to any method of writing a language, without judgment as to right and wrong, with a scientific understanding that orthographic standardization exists on a spectrum of strength of convention. But the original sense of the word stem, which evolved long before linguistic science, implies a dichotomy of correct and incorrect, and the word stem is still most often used to refer not just to a way of writing a language but more specifically to the thoroughly standardized (emically "correct") way of writing it.
Full article ▸