Orthography of language: its 6 essential areas


The concept of orthography originates from the Greek language. It is a Greek word composed of two parts. The first part, orthros, means “right, true”. The second part, graphein, means “to write”.

Orthography concerns the correct writing of a language. In simple terms, it is a combination of the conventions governing the writing system of language.

The origin of orthography

The concept of orthography was created in the second half of the fifteenth century in England. Primitive men used to communicate by drawing or carving on the stones. They tried to convey their meanings through pictures and symbols.

Later on, they invented a kind of oral language to communicate. They used the spoken language for social communication. Therefore, language was more spoken than written in ent times.

Many centuries ago, people used to produce certain sounds to share their feelings, thoughts, and opinions. They invented a language used for verbal communications that needed to be recorded. That is, it was required for a language to be written so that people could use it to expand their relationships more.

Recording verbal communications became growingly necessary in societies. The conditions of transactions were required to be written so that no one could cheat or fraud. The knowledge should be written so that people could share their thoughts and creations or they could use the others’ knowledge.

Later on, primary printers decided to establish a writing system in the second half of the fifteenth century in England. They invented letters of the alphabet. Plus, they decided which group of written letters should correspond to a particular word.

For example, they decided the letters “t, h, o, u” should together correspond to the meaning of you. (The archaic form of “you” is “, thou.). The early printers set the constructions of the writing system of language. Therefore, the early printers were the inverters of orthography.

Importance of orthography


Writing is undoubtedly the main factor of knowledge and language expansion. It provides those who are capable of writing with many great opportunities. That is, people can write and publish their writing pieces which can be: short stories, novels, poems, science fiction, and scientific researches or books.

Writing also plays an important role in the fast transportation of news. The spread of news in written formats created inventions such as newspapers or magazines. It provides people up-to-date authentic information, news, and circumstances about their surroundings or another region.

Roles of orthography in language


Orthography plays many fundamental roles in language. It defines which written word should correspond to a particular concept. For example, it defines that the written word “love” should correspond to the concept of “strong affection towards somebody”.

In addition, orthography defines the alphabet language of a language. Take the English language as an example, the orthography of English defines all the twenty-three letters, whether consonants or vowels.

We can conclude that orthography is a distinctive feature belonging to the writing form of a certain language. It distinguishes the written format of a language from other written formats since it determines the letters of a language.

 For example, orthography defines that the letters “a, b, d and f” all belong to the English language whereas the letters “あ, へ, う and ひ” all belong to Japanese alphabets.

Furthermore, orthography not only describes the alphabetical symbols but also includes a description of the phonological symbols. It defines which letter should correspond to a particular sound.

Each letter of a language’s alphabet may correspond to different sounds. Therefore, orthography mainly deals with the phonology of a language. That is, the language learners will not know what phonology is if they do not know a thing about the orthography of the language.

Moreover, orthography deals with the grammar of a language. It governs the currency of writing. Orthography defines whether a text, English as an example, is written accurately or not.

For example, it defines that the written sentence “I see you do homework” is grammatically wrong. It should be written “I see you doing homework” which is grammatically correct and conveys a certain meaning.

As mentioned, orthography defines the writing symbols of language. As a result, orthography can also distinguish ancient words from modern words.

For example, it defines that the words “thou, thy, betwixt, anon, forthwith and erelong” are all archaic while the words “computer, application, and saloon” are all modern and can be used in today’s communications.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, it is important to know what orthography is. Lack of acquiring the rules of orthography results in poor writing skills and comprehension. That is, unawareness of writing rules can create miscomprehension of a text and therefore inability to convey meanings by writing.

Let’s assume that someone does not know enough about the writing structures in English; nevertheless, they are required to write an English job application letter to a big Famous company.

Regarding their lack of skills in writing, they will certainly write an informal letter which is full of mistakes and errors.

The letter itself causes the failure of their request. No company accepts an application letter full of errors and mistakes. In contrast, a well-written application letter increases the chance of acceptance. Companies look forward to hiring people with high knowledge and literacy.

As it is noticeable, writing can reveal the level of language knowledge and proficiency. The more well-written texts someone writes and practices, the more will they be considered as a literate person.

As a result, it’s important to learn about the orthography of a language to write well and accurately. Plus, it’s also significant to expand writing knowledge and skills as much as possible.

Orthography areas

Orthography is largely concerned with the relationship between phonemes. A phoneme such as /a/ is the smallest unit of speech. Graphemes, a grapheme is the smallest meaningful functional unit of a writing system, in a language. For example, orthography defines “sh” as a grapheme for the phoneme /ʃ/.

As mentioned, orthography corresponds to a letter for a particular sound. So, letters are used to represent particular sounds of a language. The representations of sounds by letters are ruled by the orthography of the language.

Orthography is related to spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation of a language. It also defines how the vocabulary of a language should be written.

Orthography distinguishes syllables of a single word. It outlines how to connect words in order to form a meaningful sentence. Orthography also states when to capitalize words of a language. It reveals the emphasis of capitalized words.

Orthography defines the structures that are related to how and when to break words. It includes the rules of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices. Here, we are going to explain each area that is influenced by orthography:


Spelling is a set of conventions regulating the way speech turns into written form. Spelling refers to the correct arrangement of a certain group of letters in order to form a word so that the word can convey a meaningful concept.

Orthography distinguishes the correct spelling of a word. For example, it defines that the word “swit” has a wrong spelling and it should be spelled as “sweet”.

Spelling is a way of transforming phonemes into graphemes. According to the alphabetical principles, spelling is a set of transcriptions of speech sounds. There are a lot of differences between the way the words are spelled and the way they are pronounced.

The fact that words may sound differently than they are spelled occurs in many languages as English for example. In English language, many words such as “yogurt, heart, thought, brown, white, and through” are not spelled according to their pronunciations.

Therefore, the orthography rules of spelling should be learned in order to acquire writing skills.


Hyphenation refers to the use of hyphens. A hyphen is a short line (-). This short line is used to separate words or syllables. A hyphen is not the same as a dash since a dash is a long line used to separate different parts of a sentence. Hyphenation is also an essential part of orthography.


There are conventional writing rules for the capitalization of words in different languages. In English, titles are usually capitalized for emphasis. Plus, the first letter of the word that is in the beginning of a sentence must always be capitalized. The rules of capitalization are influenced by the conventions of orthography.

Word breaks

This is related to the structures that define how a word should be divided when it reaches the end of a line. It is completely influenced by writing structures of language. Also, this only occurs in writing. Therefore, the rules of orthography exactly define how and when a word should be broken in a piece of writing.


In writing, some words or phrases may be emphasized. In simple terms, the writer may put emphasis on some words by bolding, underlying, or capitalizing them. The writer bolds, capitalizes, or underlines the important parts of the text to attract the reader’s attention. This type of emphasis is completely created by orthographic conventions.


Punctuation is a set of conventional signs that is used to transform the writing into small sections such as sentences or phrases. It provides the readers a comprehensive understanding of the written text.

Punctuation shows the reader how to read the sentences. Without punctuation, the meaning of a text would be unclear. Let’s look at the two given examples

a)         A woman without her man is nothing.

b)         Woman: without her, man is nothing.

As it is noticeable in the two given examples, the meaning of the two sentences differs a lot. Punctuation creates a great distinction between the meaning of the two sentences.

As a result, punctuation is a combination of distinctive signs that determine the meaning of a piece of writing. The rules of punctuation are constantly changing. They also vary in different countries.

In English language, there are two types of punctuations which include British English and American English punctuation. These two types of punctuation are just different in the way they determine the use of quotation marks.


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