Orthography - Etymology and Meaning

Etymology and Meaning

The English word orthography dates from the 15th century. It comes from the French orthographie, from Latin orthographia, which is derived from Greek ὀρθός orthós, "correct", and γράφειν gráphein, "to write".

Orthography is largely concerned with matters of spelling, and in particular the relationship between phonemes and graphemes in a language. Other elements that may be considered part of orthography include hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation. Orthography thus describes or defines the set of symbols used in writing a language, and the rules about how to use those symbols.

Most natural languages developed as oral languages, and writing systems have usually been crafted or adapted as ways of representing the spoken language. The rules for doing this tend to become standardized for a given language, leading to the development of an orthography that is generally considered "correct". In linguistics the term orthography is often used 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. The original sense of the word, though, implies a dichotomy of correct and incorrect, and the word is still most often used to refer specifically to a thoroughly standardized, prescriptively correct, way of writing a language. A distinction may be made here between etic and emic viewpoints – the purely descriptive (etic) approach which simply considers any system that is actually used, and the emic view which takes account of language users' perceptions of correctness, which are analogous in some ways to a moral sense of right and wrong.

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