An orthography is a set of conventions used for writing a language, which includes norms of hyphenation, capitalization, spelling, word breaks, punctuation, and emphasis. Most transnational languages in today’s world have a system of writing, and most of these systems have undergone a huge amount of standardization, hence exhibiting less dialect variation than the spoken language.
Such processes can fossilize pronunciation patterns that have become obsolete, like, for example, the words ‘would’ and ‘should’. They can also reflect purposeful efforts in the introduction of variability for the sake of national identity, like in the case of Noah Webster’s efforts to introduce noticeable differences between American and British spelling like ‘honor’ and ‘honour’, ‘color’ and ‘colour’, etc.
While some languages like French and Spanish have their orthography regulated by language academies, for most languages, including English, there are no authorities for the same. A sense of ‘correct’ orthography evolves naturally through encounters in schooling, the workplace, and informal contexts. Because of this, certain organizations such as newspapers of record or academic journals, deliberately opt for enforcing a particular style to guide for greater orthographic homogeneity.
Orthography is concerned mainly with matters of spelling and the relationship between graphemes and phonemes in a language. Other elements considered as part of this field include
- Word breaks
Therefore, it describes or defines the set of symbols that are used in writing a language and the conventions that regulate their use.
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