ScriptSource is a dynamic, collaborative reference to the writing systems of the world, with detailed information on scripts, characters, languages - and the remaining needs for supporting them in the computing realm. It is sponsored, developed and maintained by SIL International. It currently contains only a skeleton of information, and so depends on your participation in order to grow and assist others.

The need for information on Writing Systems

In today's expanding global community, designers, linguists and computer professionals are called upon more frequently to support the myriad writing systems around the world. A key to this development is consistent, trustworthy, complete and organised information on the alphabets and scripts used to write the world's languages. The development of Writing System Implementations (WSIs) depends on the availability of this information, so a lack of it can hinder the cultural, economic and intellectual development of communities that communicate in minority languages and scripts.

The information needed varies widely, and can include:

  • Design information and guidelines - both for alphabets and for specific letters/glyphs
  • Linguistic information - how the script is used for specific languages
  • Encoding details - particularly Unicode, including new Unicode proposals
  • Script behaviour - how letters change shape and position in context
  • Keyboarding conventions - including information on data entry tools
  • Testing tools and sample texts - so developers can test their software, fonts, keyboards

Some of this information is available, but is scattered around among a variety of web sites that have different purposes and structures, and often lies undocumented in the minds of individual script experts, or hidden in library books.

This information is also often segregated by audience. A font designer may be frustrated to find that available resources on a script address the spoken/written language relationship, but not the background and visual rules of the letterforms. A linguist may find information on encoding the script - such as the information in The Unicode Standard - but not important details of which languages use which symbols. An application developer may find a long writeup on the development and use of the script, but nothing to tell them what script behaviours are required.

There are also relatively few opportunities for experts from these fields to cooperate and work together. What interaction does exist often happens at conferences, on various mailing lists and forums, and through personal email. There are few experts who have the time to participate in these exchanges, and those that do may be frustrated to find that the same questions keep coming up again and again. Until now, there has been no place where this knowledge can be captured, organised and maintained.

The purpose of ScriptSource

ScriptSource exists to provide this information and bridge the gap between the designer, developer, linguist and user. It seeks to document the writing systems of the world and help those wanting to implement them on computers and other devices.

The initial content is relatively sparse, but includes basic information on all scripts in the ISO 15924 standard. It will grow dynamically through public submissions, expert content development and live linkages with other web sites. Rather than being just another web site about writing systems, ScriptSource provides a single hub of information where both old and new content can be found.

Where does the information come from?

ScriptSource gathers information from a variety of sources, both public and private. There are two types of data on the site - Core and Community.

Core data includes lists of scripts, characters and languages, their features, and the relationships between them. Some information is drawn from international standards such as  ISO 639-3 (languages),  Unicode (characters) and  ISO 15924 (scripts). Additional detail is drawn from other respected sources such as the  Ethnologue (language/country data) and the  Common Locale Data Repository (character-language relationships). Further data, such as language-script associations, is collected and maintained manually by the ScriptSource staff and SIL International. All core data is carefully maintained and cannot be directly modified by the general public, although we welcome corrections and submissions.

Community contributions are short texts, graphics, links, bibliographic entries, documents and software. These are submitted by the broad community of ScriptSource members, including ScriptSource staff, and are associated (linked) with specific scripts, characters and languages. These submissions go through a light moderation process to ensure that the content belongs on the site and is associated to the core data in the most useful ways. Finally, the community can also post needs, so that volunteers and organizations are more able to identify and meet them.

Content on ScriptSource is made available through a variety of licenses, but we strongly recommend open content licenses. For more information see our Licensing Policy.

Distinctive features

ScriptSource is unique in how it gathers, organizes and presents script information. More than just a wiki, a flat database, or document library, it is built upon a model designed specifically for writing system information. This allows for a very rich user experience that meets the practical needs of linguists, designers and programmers. Some key features:

Collaboration - Rather than trying to maintain a shared document, or posting random things to a forum, ScriptSource members can contribute information that retains their authorship and opinion, yet is grouped with similar relevant information. This allows people from many different disciplines and physical locations to contribute to a diverse whole. The information is not constrained by majority opinions or by strong editorial exclusion or by the type of data, rather it fully supports multiple opinions and a flexible range of content. For more information on contributing to ScriptSource see our Contributor Guidelines.

Aggregation - ScriptSource pulls information - both core and community - from a wide range of sources, and presents them together. Some of this is via direct import from standard data sources, other is a result of daily manual activities such as monitoring of relevant internet forums. Whenever possible we prefer to link to data available elsewhere, including well-known sites such as Wikipedia and Omniglot. Our hope is that ScriptSource will be a central hub that points to useful information around the globe.

Filtering - In order to help the user easily find the precise type of information needed, ScriptSource data is filtered according to the current script/character/language and subject area. Only data relevant to the main subject of the page is presented, so that users can easily focus on the information that is most relevant to their needs. When new features, such as conversations and feeds, are added, appropriate posts and threads will be automatically shown on relevant pages.

Planned enhancements

Although ScriptSource already contains a wealth of useful information and features, we are always looking for better ways to capture and present script information and enable collaborative software development. Here are three of the areas we hope to explore in the future.

Comments & Conversations - Most people would prefer to share information through short comments or forum posts rather than by submitting an entry - although the latter is not difficult! We hope to add a simple comment mechanism so that users can add their clarifications and enhancements to existing entries, sources and needs. We also hope to support threaded conversations - but rather than do that through a separate forum, we want to integrate it into the existing script, character and language pages.

Feeds & Interfaces - The dynamic nature of ScriptSource means that information on a script, character, language or topic can change or be enhanced at any time. We hope to add basic feeds, using mechanisms such as RSS, to automatically inform members of new information on the site - but only information on their particular topics of interest. In addition, we intend to make a portion of ScriptSource data available to other sites and software developers through direct programming interfaces (APIs). Of course, we will take great care to honour all content licenses and only share data with those who agree to abide by them.

Foundry - Eventually, we hope ScriptSource will also become not only a source for fonts, keyboards and other Writing System Implementation components, but a place for collaborative software development. ScriptSource could provide space for projects, mechanisms for source control, etc., so that a font designer can work hand in hand with a keyboard expert and a linguist in order to create a solution that none of them could develop on their own. We do not, however, wish to replace or compete with similar collaborative development sites. Our intent is not to necessarily run this ourselves, but to support the best location for this activity and integrate it into ScriptSource as best we can.