The Law of the Letter

John Emerson sent me a link to this article ages ago, and I’ve just re-read it. It’s worth a read as an introduction to how type has been used to enforce and shape national identity around the world:

Hindi and Urdu also share a common vocabulary and grammatical structure, and linguists refer to them as one language: Hindi-Urdu. In print, however, the distinction has religious and political significance. Hindi is written in Devanagari, historically associated with Hinduism, while Urdu is written in an Arabic script associated with Islam. Hindi is used in India, while Urdu is used in Pakistan. The ideological wedge between what it means to be Serbian or Croatian, Hindu or Muslim, has been used by nationalist demagogues to promote conflict and political power.

Go and have a read: The Law of the Letter.