Poll analysis

Well, thanks to everyone who ticked boxes in yesterday’s poll. I found the results interesting.

First off, if you can read this, you probably also have Greek, Cyrillic, and Hebrew characters installed. Probably also Arabic, but I somehow screwed up the poll between Arabic and Armenian. I ought to have also tested for more exotic Cyrillic characters: the Macedonian/Serbian њ, the Altai ҥ, the Kazakh/Kyrgyz ң, the Siberian ӈ and the Sami ӊ. Next time.

Next in order are a clutch of South Asian scripts. I was surprised that both Thai and Tamil were a nose ahead of Devanāgarī, which is surely used by a lot more people than either of the former two. After Devanāgarī, Gurmukhī and Gujarātī are level pegging (as is, from a slightly different part of the world, the much less widely used Georgian), followed by Kannada and then Telugu (which is level with two scripts related to Arabic – Syriac and Thaana), and then Malayalam.

After that the four big East Asian scripts – the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana, and phonetic and standard Chinese – if you have one of these you probably have all four.

Next is Armenian, though I think this may be unfair – as mentioned above, I screwed up the coding. I would have thought that anyone who can see Georgian ნ can probably also see Armenian Ն. And then Korean Hangul, which I am frankly surprised to see ranking so low. The only other one that more than half of you could see was Tibetan.

Now we get into the exotica. I’m surprised to see Oriya just below the half-way mark. I don’t know much about it, but it seems to have a similar number of speakers to Kannada and Malayalam which scored much higher, and the script doesn’t appear to present any real peculiarities. Lao rounds out the easier South Asian scripts (with the curious exception, which I’ll come to in a moment, of Burmese).

Three of the next five are recently invented North American scripts. The Canadian Aboriginal syllabic script is surprisingly popular (not just with Canadians); it is followed by Cherokee. Then we leap back to Asia for Sinhala and Mongolian, but the next is the utterly artificial Deseret script of the Mormons. It is rather sad that this alphabet, in which apparently only four books were ever published, is visible to more of you than the N’Ko script used by millions in West Africa, or the Ge’ez/Ethipic script used by tens of millions in East Africa.

Then we get down into the exotic. I’m not surprised to see Khmer, famously difficult to learn, down so low; next is Runic, perhaps the easiest to code of the ancient scripts; then Bernard Shaw’s Shavian script. Next, on level pegging, a whole clutch of scripts: Burmese (which came rather late to the party) and the slightly superseded scripts of Limbu, Tifinagh and Osmanya, plus Linear B, Old Italic, Gothic, Ugaritic and the ancient Cypriot syllabary. Then another clutch of ancients – Old Persian, Phoenician, Kharoṣṭhī and cuneiform. In joint second last place are four Asian scripts – Hanunó’o, Tai Nüa, Buginese, Syloti Nagri – and ancient Coptic and Ogham. And finally five more Asian scripts, only visible to one person – Tagalog, Buhid, Tagbanwa, Balinese and Phagspa.

For the funny n’s, it’s not very surprising that everyone can see ñ, ń, ɲ, ɳ and ŋ. I am slightly surprised that not quite everyone could see the perfectly respectable Czech/Slovak letter ň and the Latvian ņ, and that equally many can see the pretty bogus ṅ, ṇ and ṉ (OK this last is used by two actual languages but one is spoken by only 4000 people and the other apparently by only 20). Likewise, just behind, the perfectly genuine Lakota ƞ is level pegging with the bogus ṋ. Almost 90% of you can see ǹ as well, even though I haven’t found a language that uses it.

It is a shame that the glorious n̈ (as in Spın̈al Tap) has not been more popular among typesetters. But I’m surprised that as many as a third of you could see ᶇ, n with a hook, and that a quarter of you could see ᵰ, n with a niddle tilde. It shows that people who work on fonts find it easier to grapple with the more bizarre and less used Latin-based letters than with real scripts used by millions of people.

One thought on “Poll analysis

  1. The Unredeemed Captive, by John Demos is a book about a particular instance of Indians kidnapping a bunch of children from coloinal New England after a raid on the settlement. The short version is, that when they finally found them, they’d assimilated into native life and didn’t want to go back. (I’ve never had trouble figuring that out; I can’t think of a less joyful environment to grow up in than the Puritan colonies).

    From what I’ve read, Indians keeping their captives alive and letting them become part of their society was relatively common, and not always a bad option.

    I’ve also got Captured by the Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870 edited by
    Frederick Drimmer
    on my Wish List, so haven’t read it and can’t comment.

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