The terms "spelling" and "orthography" seem to be largely synonymous. What is the difference really? Is it that "orthography" is a more formal or technical term and hence more well-defined? Or is it just a fancy word to make me sound smarter when saying the same thing? (-:
I agree, they sound similar and synonymous, but they have a definite difference.
Like Lefteris Gkinis said, orthography comes from the Greek and means "Correct way of writing".
It includes also punctuation and spelling. So, rather than a mere activity, it's the part of the Grammar that studies, and is related to, the correct way of writing, whether it is about single words, punctuation, etc.
The spelling, like the NOAD says, is "the process or activity of writing or naming the letters of a word." So it's something more specific, since it's only related to how the single words are "made".
In order to answer your question, we have to first investigate the exact meaning of orthography. Orthography is the standardized procedure of a writing system, which includes punctuation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, etc. This means that spelling is only a part of orthography(spelling is part of a writing system), but orthography includes a lot more than just spelling. That is where the difference between orthography and spelling lies.
This might help. (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=orthography)
Interestingly, German Rechtschreibung directly translates the Greek.
I take this opportunity to approach the real meaning of this question. I found it very accurate and a nice topic to think about.
The word orthography is a Greek word passed as is in the Latin language. In order to understand the meaning we have to divide the word into two parts:
sosto=> the right action (to take, make, write, act). By "right" we mean "following the rules which stand in our life."
grapho=> the verb "write."
Taking the meaning of first word (leading us what to do) and the second word (which field to do that action), it altogether means "do the right in writing" or "correct way of writing."
To spell, or "name the letters of", derives from O.E. spellian "to tell, speak," via Frankish, Germanic, and Gothic terms, ultimately from PIE spel-, "to say aloud, recite." Also, spelling is translated in Greek as
silavismos which has two meanings:
- To divide a word in certain pieces under certain rules for grammar use
- To divide the word in as many pieces as there are letters (also for grammar use)
This can be done whether the word was written with right rules or not ("un-orthographic"). While "rightness" is built into the word orthography, such is not the case with spelling.
Thus we conclude that
spelling are two different words with quite different use and meaning.