Term of Art: Orthography

“Orthography: [Through French and Latin from Greek orthographia correct writing]. 1. A term for correct or accepted writing and spelling and for a normative set of conventions for writing and especially spelling. In the 15th and 16th centuries, there was considerable variety and uncertainty in the writing and printing of English. Advocates of standardized spelling emphasized the importance of regularization by referring to it as trewe ortografye, trew orthographie, etc. 2. The study of letters and how they are used to express sounds and form words, especially as a traditional aspect of grammar; the spelling system of a language, whether considered ‘true’ and ‘correct’ or not. In linguistics, however, the name for the study of the writing system of a language and for the system itself is more commonly graphology, a level of language parallel to phonology. The earlier, prescriptive sense of the term continues to be used, but the later, more neutral sense is common among scholars of language. The orthography of English has standardized on two systems, British and American. While far from uniform in either system, it allows for much less variation than is possible, for example, in the orthography of Scots.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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