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Re: Symbolic Characters Collaborative Creation project

From:Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>
Date:Wednesday, January 28, 2004, 12:59
Hi Steve,

Barbara babbles;
I'd be very interested to hear how you intend to overcome the pitfalls which
have prevented all previous attempts (polygraphica, real character, etc) at
a language-free ideographic writings system. The general concensus is that a
truly ideographic writing system isn't possible. The Cambridge Encyclopedia
of Language has a section dealing with that, there are other refrence works
but I can't bring them to mind off hand.

Thrashing out these problems in this forum might be of great assistance to

I'm also a bit baffled that you're using chinese characters as a starting
point as so few characters are actualy ideographic, somewhere around 2% of
the system, the majority being 2-character sound/semantic compounds. Yale's
"reading and writing chinese characters" deals with the cluster types in the
intro, and Robinson's "the story of writing" has a chapter on the myth of
chinese writing being "ideographic" and transcending language barriers.

I get a similar problem teaching Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs; most students
think the script is ideographic (not helped by the author of the main
grammar Gardiner's self admitted lazyness in distingishing between logograms
and ideograms) - whereas it's a phonetic script - mixing alphabet,
syllybary, and logograms, with perhaps a dozen or so ideograms out of the
700 odd glyphs that make up the written language in the Middle Kingdom;
indeed most of the ideograms are gramatical shortcuts (EG three lines under
a logogram to indicate the plural form).

I hope you send regular reports of your progress, because I'm sure that many
like me would not be interested in participating but would be interested in
knowing how you're getting on.



Steve Cooney <stevencooney@...> Symbolic Characters - to Barbara (belated)