Creating a logographic writing system for a language can quickly become overwhelming; having a different symbol/image for each word can quickly become overwhelming; it’s why Sequoyah switched to a syllabary instead of a logogram. The more words there are in a language the more symbols there have to be.

However, there are historically successful uses of logograms - for instance, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese (when it first started). I’m not aware of any modern natural language that actually uses a logographic system as its primary writing system, though.

How would a conlang use a logographic writing system after the language grew to any extant? Would it be possible to create a conlang that actually uses a sustainable logographic system?

  • 4
    Any reasons for the downvotes, folks? Input would be appreciated, I'm sure.
    – anonymous2
    Feb 7, 2018 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


The problem with pure logographies is that languages tend to have a significant amount of morphemes, be these bound or free, that mark relatively abstract concepts, such as posession, the roles of NPs, etc., and some abstract words are rather hard to draw symbols for. As such, a purely logographic system cannot really deal with natural languages to their full extent, and therefore pick up "impurities", not just out of convenience, but out of necessity, since without them they are generally at best mnemonic aids and not a full (or almost full) representation of the spoken language. If you want a pure logographic system to be realistically viable for your conlang, going the oligomorphemic route, like Toki Pona, is probably the most reasonable, as the low number of morphemes reduces the strain of learning a large number of symbols, as well as the issue of coming up with new ones for new or rarely written-about concepts, since morphemes are a closed class, and the necessarily relatively general meaning of these morphemes means that it would likely be relatively straightforward to represent the majority of them with mostly intuitive iconography.


The Tangut script is an example of a more pure logographic writing system, with only 10% of the characters having a phonetic component. The Tangut script was created in 1036 by one person, apparently a priori but inspired by Chinese, and used until to 1502. So far, 5863 characters are known, excluding variants.

Tangut characters are extremely complicated, but they're probably unnecessarily so. Blissymbolics, which is an ideographic writing system with much simpler characters, has over 5,000 official symbols.

After creating a couple hundred root characters, I feel like you create a character for a new word in a couple of seconds by combining the meaning of existing characters. If Toki Pona can build a full vocabulary with 120 morphemes, you should be able to do the same with a logographic writing system.

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