Why written languages look alike the world over
Structural similarities among more than 100 written languages make them appear as though they are the same, according to a recent study. Researchers studied more than 5,500 characters of 116 writing systems used across 3,000 years to determine what humans seem to favor in written languages.
“People appear to have an aesthetic preference for certain kinds of shapes and designs, and that preference seems to explain the writing systems we see,” says Julie Fiez, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study. Fiez, who studies the neuroscience of reading, says those features may tap into how our eyes and brains process images: Neurons fire faster at the site of objects that display vertical symmetry—like human faces—and horizontal and vertical lines, which are common in natural landscapes.