News flash: Twitter now comes in 28 languages – including Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, and Urdu, which are written from right-to-left. Twitter has long supported right-to-left text from users, but it now has instructions and can display hashtags from right-to-left as well.
Why are some languages written from right to left and others from left to right? Let’s start at the beginning – 3500 B.C. At least that’s typically when scholars acknowledge that writing began, or more specifically, when the writing system known as cuneiform began to emerge. Other forms of writing, like Egyptian and Indian hieroglyphics, predate cuneiform, but cuneiform was different because it started to use abstract shapes to represent sounds. Rather than using an image of a bird to represent bird, as hieroglyphics does, cuneiform used markings to represent the sound “ah” or “sa.” This was a big leap in writing systems because it was the development of a phonemic alphabet, in which letters represent sounds.
The biggest advantage of using letters instead of symbols is how many figures you need. If every word was a symbol, we would need thousands and thousands of symbols, but because we can make sounds out of letters and those sounds correspond to the words we speak, an alphabet becomes much easier to use. This is what happened with cuneiform. Early on it had thousands of symbols, but over time as the symbols became more representational and less literal, fewer were needed.
Early on in its development, cuneiform was written from left to right. It has been hypothesized that this is because right-handed scribes would smudge their work if they wrote from right to left. There is little historical evidence for this hypothesis.
Why would you compile a dictionary of an extinct language? Read about the Assyrian dictionary here.
How and when specific languages started writing from right-to-left is still under debate. For example, Persian (which is a descendant of cuneiform) is written from right-to-left, even though its predecessor is not. This may be from particular historical circumstances, but there is no academic consensus on the exact reasons.
Both Arabic and Hebrew came from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which was written from right to left. Proto-Canaanite was also sometimes written in a hybrid form called boustrophedon in which the directions of the lines alternate. One line is written right to left, and the next line is written from left to right. This is easier on the scribe, but not necessarily on the reader. This writing style was used sporadically in Greek and Latin, particularly in religious inscriptions.
Because they are based on characters rather than letters, Chinese and Japanese can be written horizontally or vertically. Traditionally, Chinese was written in vertical columns with the text starting in the top right corner of the page, running down and then to the left. Today, Chinese has mimicked the direction of English and is more commonly written in rows starting from the top left corner, written from left to right and down the page.
By including right-to-left languages, Twitter is making the Internet a more non-English-friendly place. Read an interview with a Twitter localization manager here.
What do you think about this change?
“One line is written right to left, and the next line is written from right to left.”
I think you mean one line is written right to left and the other left to right?
I feel it is a good thing that Twitter includes that. Most people probably aren’t going to try to read posts that aren’t in a language they know, so it doesn’t really harm many people.
I’ve always liked Japanese in this sense–it can be read from right-to-left, left-to-right, or up-to-down. That system works well for its diversity, but really can make it hard to read if you don’t have it as your main language–especially when there are three “alphabets”.
It’s about time.
So basically no one knows why some languages are written from left to right and others from right to left.
I suspect that writing from right to left represents either an early cultural adaptation in handwriting related to differences in hand gestures (as is the norm from one cultural tradition to another to have differences in the meaning or connotation between the left side of the body or hand and the right side of the body or hand), or an aspect related to ease of flow in handwritten language.
But I suspect that perhaps it’s not as complicated as we may think it is. Maybe the writing differences result from a long list of combined changes (not just one) that took place early in the development and acceptance of written language on one cultural tradition to the next, just as foods and dress vary widely from place to place and from one region to another.
This article does not even try to answer the question it poses.
The title asks why some languages are written from right to left. All the article itself has to say on the subject is that no one really knows.
Hardly an informative piece—all I have learned is that whoever wrote this didn’t know any more about the subject than I do.
too bad they don’t have vertical yet
Not a fan of Twitter but am a fan of epigraphic studies, so I’m glad to see dictionary.com make a relationship between the two. I don’t agree that including semitic and/or eastern languages make the internet a ‘non-English-friendly’ place. Rather, it would do us all good to see these languages in order to take away their mystery. I see Arabic and Hebrew, Korean and Japanese on message boards all the time; these folks are always integrating certain English words into their syntax. In the end, I’d love to know what ‘hello’ looks like in Hebrew and Arabic and be able to identify such words over against transliteration or having it in English all the time.
In the 2nd to last paragraph (ignoring the final sentence), it says that,
“the directions of the lines alternate. One line is written right to left, and the next line is written from right to left.”
If the lines alternate, shouldn’t it say that one line is written from right to left and the next is written from left to right?
Writing is fine as it is. English is the world’s most spoken language and also the diplomatic language. European and American thinking is the most advanced in the world today.
What say that we make every country drive on the left to bring the world in line with what the Romans did two thousand years ago? No, of course not.
There are also some of these same languages that wrote the page from bottom to top in addition to writing from right to left.
im muslim and we read that way.its actually fun plus what is really cool is reading upside.lol,but i dont write that way though:(
When the Jewish people started “writing” they did so using a hammer and chisel. Since most people are right handed, the right hand was stronger and held the hammer. The most natural way of moving is therefore right to left.
Thats… umm… nice….
Honestly, you didn’t answer your own question!!!!
This is cool…………..but its cool how people can actually read that way considering we pretty much always read left to right. Can these people read our way like we can?
I was trying to read from right to left and it’s so difficult when you are not used to it! We get so accustomed to read in one direction over the years.
my mum is a man
first time commenting …
… pretty nervous
I find it easier to write from right to left in English, flipping my letters so that they are mirrored. I’m a lefty, so that way I don’t smudge my writing. It’s a fun challenge. I suggest you try it. (although not while taking notes. You’re not going to be able to write fast enough.)
This article is not helpful…
Just a technical note: the Persian language should not be referred to as “Farsi” in English. Just as you say “I speak Spanish” instead of “I speak español,” “I speak French” instead of “I speak français,” or “I speak German” instead of “I speak Deutsch,” you would say “I speak Persian” instead of “I speak Farsi.”
Even though the usage of “Farsi” instead of “Persian” has been common since the 1980s, it is ultimately inaccurate and should be avoided.
it does too
Chinese language was initially written from top to buttom and sentences are formed by laying them from right to left, there is nothing special about writing from right to left and it is commonly seen in most Japanase books which keep the original layout borrowed from the tranditional Chinese language. Authentical Chinese shops have their name boards written from right to left as well.
i sniff turkey
first time commenter…
I always thought that maybe it had to do with available writing materials, like carving letters/figures in stone. Since most people are right-handed, a stone mason or scribe or whoever would’ve held the pick(?) in his left hand and the hammer in his right hand. ‘Writing’ from right to left would allow him to see the work he’d already done better than if he were ‘writing’ from left to right, in which case his left arm would block what he’d already ‘written.’
in chinese we write vertical
!!!gnitsertni os si tahT
(read from right to left)
Chinese is a language that can be written from left to right, right to left and top to bottom; it’s a logographic system language, which mean that every figure is a individual word.
all languages point towards Jerusalem.
my comments keep leaving
a Message to cliff:
Hellow in Hebrew is שלום – pronounced – shalom
a word which actually has 3meanings :
it means- hello and goodbye and peace.
So when you great someone by saying “shalom”
you are actually greating him by saying “peace”-
and that started long before the hippy movement…
And your point is?
i can totally throw down sick dunks!
Some cars have right sided driving wheel while others have the opposit, both do the same job.
>.> I think some1’s being Jealous of those Right-to-Left Languages, I LOVE LEARNING NEW LANGUAGES !!! I write from left to right and from Right to left, Don’t get me wrong But my Arabic hand writing is just as beautiful as my English (I’m American). And for those who must think writing in Arabic is hard, No not at all. It’s kinda like cursive everything connected but Backwards (Right to left) ! Ohh and “What do you think about this change?” IT’S A SIGN THAT THE WORLD’S COMING TO AN END ! …Well my world Yeah ! Congrats on Being a Muslim Santana ^ ^ I love that Name !
As a lefty, I can see why language is written from right to left. I keep getting smudge marks on the page and ink on my left pinky! Very annoying. However, I can write complete sentences in cursive backwards from left to right (if you hold it up to the mirror, you can read it) and the problem is solved!
I hate you all
lla uoy etah I
I hate you all
lla uoy etah I
I hate you all
lla uoy etah I
I hate you all
lla uoy etah I
I hate you all
lla uoy etah I
Is that what they mean?
?naem yeht tahw taht sI
When you write an article you’re supposed to investigate. Saying that “For example, Persian (which is a descendant of cuneiform) is written from right-to-left, even though its predecessor is not.” shows that the writer did not investigate. Persian is written from right to left simply because it uses the Arabic script.
Vanessa’s comments are perfect!
This was the first time I read an article in Dictionary.com.
The title made me curious to learn why some languages are written from right to left, and others from left to right. I read it all expecting an answer maybe in the last line. Then I realized that I just lost my precious time by reading the entire article!
I will never read a Dictionary.com article again!
Would it not have been a much simpler article if you’d summed it up as:
“We don’t know”
Interesting! I know that it is fun to read backwards, upside down, with the letters flipped etc. but I didn’t really think about reading from right to left…
For future reference, when writing an article, it is usually better to write about something that you know at least a little about…Just sayin’…
Ancient languages are written from right to left because in the olden days, writers didn’t have pens and paper, so they would chisel their words into stone slabs. And since most people have always been right-handed and right-handed folks will instinctively hold the chisel in their left hand and the hammer in their right, it was only natural to write from right to left.
But when using a pen-like object, right-handed people will automatically hold the pen in their right hand and perform a pulling motion across the page, hence writing from left to write feels more natural to the right-handed majority.
Therefore, languages that emerged prior to pen and paper tend to be written from right to left, and those that formed afterwards from left to right.
So, why do some people write left to right?
(cont.) or right to left?
Renrut, please check your facts. English is not the most spoken language in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers#More_than_100_million_native_speakers).
Also, your statement that “European and American thinking is the most advanced in the world today” is sadly ethnocentric and misguided. First off, how do you define “advanced”?
Second, have you considered the innumerable advancements made by cultures such as the Japanese, Russians, and Germans (to select only a few)?
Third, your implication that English is superior because of European and American thinking is a non sequitur. America does not have a national language, and when our founding fathers were voting to determine if we should, we were (I believe) one vote away from having German as our national language. Furthermore, English is far from the only language spoken in Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Europe).
Personally, I am delighted each time a company expands its software capabilities to support more languages. I very much support the preservation of all languages and dialects as culturally and historically significant. Way to go, Twitter!
That is really cool. I know I couldnt write like that EVER. I wish I could but I can’t, I am blonde haha!
who is is kool
Why do plants have names like “devils backbone?” or Jews Slipper or Fiddle Flower? I just bought one and Im working on research and came upon this lil topic… maybe dictionary.com could explore this little factoidle. :p
Cheers! Yay to be doing nonsense at work!
what i have to say is that what i always pretty well say being that if the means/method of communication is clear than so be it!- just embrace its difference.
-Comments i liked-
*Cliff – liked how u said ud like to be able to recognize more words in different languages…it would be nice to be more learned on different forms of a simple hello …etc
*Lauren- didnt like her comment- it sounded very ignorant of many things- how can anyone say they know something totally completely and absolutely? better to explore the unknown
*Cyberquill -lmao “olden days”- ha love it
loved the comments which summed up the article as “i dont know”–well who cares if you dont know-let it be a mystery-no harm in that!!
Sameh- liked her point- being that in sum, everything is relative
***and lastly, to Potatoe: nice moniker
and just a ps. left handed people rock- and this isnt a biased comment either ahaha -apparently leftys use both sides of their brain
and pps. i didnt read the article yet-only the comments
peace homie dictionites <3
alastor, they do have a vertical. It’ called Japanese I think. Though, I can be wrong. By the way, the end result here is that ‘no one knows why right to left and left to right’.
[...] ‘Right to Left’ — Left for the Right. — How many rights do we need? – Individual Freedoms? — Up and Down take heed. — Well, to us it comes down to Paper Maps — Not necessarily obsolete. — Unless the Map is upside down — North is at the Top. — East is to the Right — There we shouldn’t stop.– West is to the left. — It’s time to stop and eat. — Some Multee-Doodle feat. — What this has to do with writing — Mayhap for the directionally challenged: — Herman Hesse took a “Journey to the East” for his spiritual awakening — The ‘Monkey King’ — “Journey to the West” – to conquer some forsakening: — Opposites coming together. — The Cosmetology of the Universe — Chaotic so it seems. — Tell that to your hair dresser, — The ultimate confessor: — The trick that always gets paid. — The Stuff of which we all are made — Forgetaboutit — Smashing Pumpkins — In your Act of Dreams. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]
Who’s from Brockton????????
I get loney By (DRAKE)
Korean language is written from top to bottom, i guess. long time ago, during a visit to LA, we were told that Korean newspapers published from Korea are written from top to bottom, but the Korean newspapers published from LA are written from left to right.
i think facebook is better then twitter
I think this topic is just a random thing that dictionary.com decided to talk about, and to be honest, I don’t really think it matters whether we write left to right or vice versa. It’s not really worth the controversy. Getting worked up about it isn’t really going to help anyone with a brain. Let’s calm down, people. I know at least some of you have brains.
Sounds as if the really don’t know. No concrete evidence presented–just guesses, conjecture and supposition
I did not even read this darn thing and a already know that it is going to be boring!!!!!
yraM evol I. (;
I like fried chicken…………..
…………………………………..I did not know what to right.
English IS, actually, the most widely spoken language in the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean native speakers. My dad, for instance, is trilingual, speaking Polish as his native language, but also English and German. Many people learn English from moving to an English speaking country, or for business, or just for personal use or in school (no, that doesn’t mean everyone who learns it in school qualifies as a “speaker”, but if you become really good at it and pursue it yourself to become bilingual or partially bilingual).
About your second point: Although I do agree that American and European thinking isn’t necessarily the “most” advanced in the world, since when is Germany not in Europe?
i know all of ths already but include languges that are read up-down or vice versa :);)
lester, it japanese and a bunch of other languges that go vertical
A common complaint about this article is, “Why doesn’t the article answer the question posed in the title?” If you go back to read the title, the question actually is answered: YES, “…some languages [are]written from right to left or from top to bottom.”
The complaint we are having issue with is in the graphic to the left of the first paragraph.
And one way this protesting could have been avoided, is if the writer had asked as the last line of the article: “Why do YOU think languages are written in the directions they are?”
so…you guyz are saying is that we write it backwards????? :s
:O o_O :X :\ O:) :! :$ B) :*
=O :-X :-!
Im GREAT at reading backwards
ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixtey, seventy, eighty, nintey, tenty, tenty-ten, tenty-tweny….
some languages are from right to left because of the way their writings are.
Hey, I made them change the article to include Japanese and Chinese! Cool!
wow everyone knows that she is lying
all languages go horizontally…………. DUH!!!!!!
i don’t get this could somebody explain to me in simpler terms why they wrote right to left?
Leonardo De Vinci was ambidextrous and when he wanted to hide an invention, he would write backwards. Was this done in ancient times so the “commoner” could not tell what the politicians were up too?
Our Politicians and Media have invented ‘double talk’ or ‘jabberwocky’ to confuse the ‘great un washed’ and then they top it off with lies.
By sheer force of size Chinese has probably the highest number of people speaking a single language within a culture; however, like Japanese there are many dialects, Japanese use the same ‘kanji’ in their newspapers but the words are pronounced at least 3 different ways.
English is the most commonly used ‘International’ business language.
All computer software was written in English.
Also, All Commercial Airlines in all countries LAND AND TAKE OFF IN ENGLISH. So much to Mr Putt of La Mancha objection that English is the most frequently used language.
English is the MOST COMMON SECOND LANGUAGE in all the world. Which really makes the ‘Anti-Western’ cultures really, really mad.
Also, there are more OFFICIAL words in the English Language than the next two or three languages combined.
And the answer is????
Writing from right to left in ink, as people used to before the ball point, is subject to smudging, unless the writer is lefthanded. Perhaps a majority of hebrew were left hand dominant in the days when their language was created?
I wish the website could let us save such articles and quotes the same way u can fav.words with an account
This article has no point, and is therefore not understood. At first I thought it was talking about Why languages are written in such a way. But rather it is Are they written in such a way. The answer is Yes, there are many forms of writing as they pertain to the language. But this information provided in this article is based on an ill informed person. I wish to put illiterate as a pun, but that is not the case. English, the most difficult language–for god knows whatever reason–is written left to right. Spanish also follows this rule. Other languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic (also listed in this article), are written left to right. This information is not incorrect. But they have forgotten that there are, or at least were, languages written from top to bottom. The most commonly forgotten example, and one of the most intricate in my opinion, is the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. They can be read left to right, right to left, OR TOP TO BOTTOM. It is still unsure why these languages are written as such, but it can be put as theory that all cultural changes, such as ways to communicate between just two people, influenced this. Especially outside cultural influences. The want to communicate with more and more people caused the will to adapt.
I meant ARabic and Hebrew are Right to Left, my apologies.
it is a welcome development.
omg this is a neat saying idk y they have to be written lke that mabey so every1 can see it and read it’
joe i know your poop
I the world keeps with the current trends, everyone will be speaking some form of English in the next few decades. There are already more English speaking people living in non-English countries than in countries where English is the primary language. With that being said, it is still very difficult to understand the guy on the tech support line!
Not saying that English will be the standard, but with more countries teaching English in their schools in addition to their own native language!
Does It Matter -__- Get Lives People!!
I call this “mirror language”
i think facebook is better then twitter
olleh! = oh lay!
what would you rather say?
hello or OHH LAY!!!
i think ive made my choice
Same as asking me…why do Americans drive on the right hand side of the road while we drive on the left.
Why do Indians wobble their heads when they say yes while the English nod.
It is cultural……and will remain so till the end of time.
End of discussion…….how it happened is anyones guess!!!!
this article was more pointless than my job
i love rap its my life lol
stnemmoc erom on
Thanks for your info..its verry good..greating..succses for you..
TOMORROW’S MY B-DAY!!! oh yea, party time!!! O.o
Reading back words has got to be the easiest thing known to mankind to do!
writing it on the other hand, well you have to think about what your writing as your writing it!
Boring they dident answer the quesction they asked!
[...] Why are some languages written from right-to-left? | hotword.dictionary.com [...]
hi all … one of reasons Arabic is written from right to left is related to religion.. in Islam the right hand is dedicated for doing the “right”eous things ..like for example eating ..shake others hands .. .. handing charity money to others .. you will notice that Muslims use the right hand for all the right things ..so they start writing from the right (as everything start from the right is right for them)