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What language is it?: Home

This is a Guide for YUL staff to help identify scripts and which selector they belong to.

ICRS Librarians

Contact the appropriate librarian in International Collections and Research Support (ICRS) for help with material in any of these areas:

Scripts not displaying?

Hint: if some fonts aren't displaying:

  1. View this page in firefox or chrome.
  2. Make sure the browser character encoding is UTF-8
  3. Else: look at the language name page in Omniglot

What shape is it?

You have a book. You don't know what language it's in.

Who do you call? ICRS! This Guide will help match script to librarian.

Does it look...

  • Like English/Latin script?
    • Example: Russian [русский] or Greek [ελληνικά]
  • Blocky?
    • Example: Hebrew [עִבְרִית ], Tamil [தமிழ்], or Lao [ສປປລາວ]
  • Circular?
    • Example: Sinhala [සිංහල]
  • Like Arabic?
    • Example: Farsi/Persian [فارسی]
  • Like Chinese?
    • Example: Korean [한국말]
  • Like Sanskrit?
    • Example: Sanskrit [संस्कृतम्] or Bengali [বাংলা]

If all else fails, please visit

Language vs. Writing System: Why you should care

English speakers have it easy. Generally, English is always written in the Latin alphabet (English writing system).

But in theory, we could also write (transliterate) English words in the Russian alphabet/script (named Cyrillic). That would look a little something like this:

Latin alphabet: Hello world!

Cyrillic: Хелло ворлд!

Both are English--they just use different scripts. This is not the case for many other languages.

For example, the dead language Pali (think: the Latin of Theravada Buddhism) is written in many different scripts, depending on which country is using the text. The most common scripts are:

  • Khmer script [អក្សរខ្មែរ]
  • Sinhala script [සිංහල]
  • Thai script [อักษรไทย]
  • Lao script [ອັກສອນລາວ]
  • Burmese/Mon script [မြန်မာအက္ခရာ]
  • Devanagari [देवनागरी]
  • Latin script (yes!)

This guide will help you identify the script ONLY. More work may need to be done to identify the language. 

Librarian for South Asian Studies

Profile Photo
Rich Richie
Sterling Memorial Library, 212

Southeast Asia Reading Room: Sterling Memorial Library, 214

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 208240

130 Wall Street

New Haven, CT 06520