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Title: Right-to-left  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Arabic, Android version history, Bi-directional text, Khowar alphabet, Indentation (typesetting)
Collection: Character Encoding, Writing Direction
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In a right-to-left, top-to-bottom script (commonly shortened to right to left or abbreviated RTL), writing starts from the right of the page and continues to the left.

Arabic script is the most widespread RTL writing system in modern times. As usage of the script spread, the repertoire of 28 characters used to write Arabic language was supplemented to accommodate the sounds of many other languages such as Persian, Pashto, etc.

Several languages have both Arabic RTL and non-Arabic LTR writing systems. For example Sindhi is commonly written in Arabic and Devanagari scripts, and a number of others have been used. Kurdish may be written in Arabic, Latin, Cyrillic or Armenian script.

Hebrew, Syriac, and Mandaean (Mandaic) scripts are, like Arabic, derived from Aramaic and are written RTL. Samaritan is similar, but developed from Proto-Hebrew rather than Aramaic. Many other ancient and historic scripts derived from Aramic and inherited its right-to-left direction.

Taana appeared around 1600 CE. Most modern artificial scripts are LTR, but the African scripts N'Ko (1949), Mende Kikakui (19th century), and Adlam (1980s) were created in modern times and are RTL.

Ancient examples of text using alphabets such as Phoenician, Greek, or Old Italic may exist variously in left-to-right, right-to-left, or boustrophedon order; so it's not always possible to classify some ancient writing systems as purely RTL or LTR.

Right-to-left can also refer to top-to-bottom, right-to-left (TB-RL or TBRL) scripts such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, though they are also commonly written left to right. Books designed for predominately TBRL vertical text open in the same direction as those for RLTB horizontal text: the spine is on the right and pages are numbered from right-to-left.


  • List of RTL scripts 1
    • Current scripts 1.1
    • Ancient scripts 1.2
  • Computing support 2
  • RTL WorldHeritage languages 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

List of RTL scripts

Examples of right-to-left scripts (with ISO 15924 codes in brackets) are:

Current scripts

Ancient scripts

  • Cypriot syllabary (Cprt 403) – predates Phoenician influence.
  • Phoenician alphabet (Phnx 115) – ancient, precursor to Hebrew, Imperial Aramaic, and Greek.
  • Imperial Aramaic alphabet (Armi 124) – ancient, closely related to Hebrew and Phoenician. Spread widely by the Neo-Assyrian and Achaemenid empires. The later Palmyrene form (Palm 126) was also used to write Aramaic.
  • Old South Arabian
  • Pahlavi scripts (130–133: Prti Phli Phlp Phlv) – derived from Aramaic.
  • Avestan alphabet (Avst 134) – from Pahlavi, with added letters. Used for recording the Zoroastrian sacred texts during the Sassanid era.
  • Sogdian (no code), and Manichaean (Mani 139, associated with the Manichaean religion) – derived from Syriac. Sogdian eventually rotated from RTL to top-to-bottom, giving rise to the Old Uyghur, Mongolian, and Manchu vertical scripts.
  • Nabatean alphabet – intermediate between Syriac and Arabic.
  • Kharosthi (Khar 305) – an ancient script of India, derived from Aramaic.
  • Old Turkic (also called Orkhon runes Orkh 175), and Old Hungarian runes (Hung 176).
  • Old Italic alphabets (Ital 210) – Early Etruscan was RTL but LTR examples later became more common. Umbrian, Oscan, and Faliscan were written right-to-left. Unicode treats Old Italic as left-to-right, to match modern usage.[1]
  • Lydian alphabet (Lydi 116) – ancient; some texts are left-to-right or boustrophedon.

Computing support

Right-to-left, top-to-bottom text is supported in common consumer software.[2] Often this support must be explicitly enabled. For mixing right-to-left text with left-to-right text, see bi-directional text.

On the other hand, at present, handling of downward text is incomplete. For example, HTML has no support for it and tables are necessary to simulate it. However, CSS level 3 includes a property "writing-mode" which can render tategaki when given the value "tb-rl". Word processors and desktop publishing software have more complete support for it.

RTL WorldHeritage languages

RTL WorldHeritages according to[3] are listed below:

  • 'ar' – 'العربية', Arabic
  • 'arc' – 'ܐܪܡܝܐ', Aramaic
  • 'bcc' – 'بلوچی مکرانی', Southern Balochi
  • 'bqi' – 'بختياري', Bakthiari
  • 'ckb' – 'Soranî / کوردی', Sorani Kurdish
  • 'dv' – 'ދިވެހިބަސް', Dhivehi
  • 'fa' – 'فارسی', Persian
  • 'glk' – 'گیلکی', Gilaki
  • 'he' – 'עברית', Hebrew
  • 'mzn' – 'مازِرونی', Mazanderani
  • 'pnb' – 'پنجابی', Western Punjabi
  • 'ps' – 'پښتو', Pashto
  • 'sd' – 'سنڌي', Sindhi
  • 'ug' – 'Uyghurche / ئۇيغۇرچە', Uyghur
  • 'ur' – 'اردو', Urdu
  • 'yi' – 'ייִדיש', Yiddish

See also


  1. ^ Davis, Mark; Everson, Michael; Freytag, Asmus; Jenkins, John H. (2001-05-16). "Unicode Standard Annex #27: Unicode 3.1". Most early Etruscan texts have right-to-left directionality. From the third century BCE, left-to-right texts appear, showing the influence of Latin. Oscan, Umbrian, and Faliscan also generally have right-to-left directionality. Boustrophedon appears rarely, and not especially early .... Despite this, for reasons of implementation simplicity, many scholars prefer left-to-right presentation of texts, as this is also their practice when transcribing the texts into Latin script. Accordingly, the Old Italic script has a default directionality of strong left-to-right in this standard. When directional overrides are used to produce right-to-left presentation, the glyphs in fonts must be mirrored ... 
  2. ^
  3. ^

External links

  • Everson, Michael (2001-01-08) Roadmapping early Semitic scripts
  • Buntz, Carl-Martin (2000-21-12) L2/01-007, Iranianist Meeting Report: Encoding Iranian Scripts in Unicode
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