Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ Symbolic Characters - to Barbara (belated)

From:Steve Cooney <stevencooney@...>
Date:Monday, February 2, 2004, 22:10
Hello, Barbara - Im sorry, I did not see your post
originally - I'm not used to busy lists like this.

--- Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>
> Thrashing out these problems in this forum might be > of great assistance to > you.
> 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.
The pitfalls of these are all that the languages were conlangs. How successful would you consider the most "successful" conglang, Esperanto? By "conlang" standards, Esperanto is a raving success, though in fact it's a dismal failure for the task it sets out to accomplish. The solution is collaboration - so we'll say that whatever we devise is a a "Collang" (not a conlang). What does this mean? Well, consider the essential elements - in order to create something of this kind, you cant possibly think of everything yourself. This goes from the overall typology (flexible, if the symbols are complete, and origin and destination are known) to the output of the glyphs as fonts, with user interfaces designed for these fonts. So, assuming that perhaps a pool of thirty people work on these symbols at a time, (there are *several* times more than that number of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese people - each of whom might bring some familiarity with using Han characters.) So, 1. Open up the process. 2. Assemble data in a logical, accessible way. 3. Maintain and support an IME client for reading/writing/transliterating these characters. 4. Release charachter sets like software is released. Over several releases, certain improvements would take shape, - each symbol representing concepts, which can be assembled according to a flexible typology scheme.
> 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.
Your 2% figure is incorrect. Chinese Characters began as pictographs, out of which developed a logographic relationship with the language. The most pictographic symbols are quite familiar to anyone who has taken a serious look at Chinese, and are extremely easy to understand. This ubiquitousness is in fact what Chinese rests upon, (as a starting seed) the pictographic characters, which tend to be embodied in the radical set. If you understand how chinese characters are formed, radicals (mainly pictographic/pictographic) are assembled into connected symbols, representing words (word fragments or whole words used solo or in combination). So saying that "only 2% of Chinese is ideographic" is like saying only .0001% percent of English is written in an alphabet, since there are .0001% of English is single words, (like a - the only one? ). Thus the lines are blurred, which happens naturally in the process by which pictograms become logograms. My thesis statement is: I think its entirely possible to write in conceptual symbols, that are completely non-logographic, yet intuitively so understandable, that (supplemented with for Roman alphabets for phonetics -i.e English, Latin Phonetic English, Romaji, Pinyin) Furthermore, the construction of each of these glyphs will be under constant, consistent reconstruction. Concievably, for the first time, it could be that the world becomes completely involved in the collectively crafting its own language on a regular basis, outside of the localized contexts. After a first release, symbol assembly/collaboration can bypass local languages completely.
> 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).
Yes, its all muddy -- which is why I think this sort of debate is purely semantics: By what laws must a conceptual language conform to the term (logographic, pictographic) that describe a historical relationship between glyph and spoken word? Furthermore, I fairly certain that there is some relationship between the type of language (picto-alphabet) and the task it needs to accomplish. So, looking at how Egyptian heiroglyphs changed (less ideographs) over time, it might be possible that these went away simply when local languages became unified by Egyptian rule - with the help of the pictographic/ideographic scaffold. This is a very loose thought, and I dont really care either way what that history was. The modern context of world internet makes any comparisons untenable.
> 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.
I really appreciate your response. I am develping rapidly, and have several contacts in China as well, who seem rather interested in the idea. I'm my mind, its merely a normal development of language from localzed to internationalized, back to localized again (when all humans agree on a spoken form). -SC __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free web site building tool. Try it!


Steve Cooney <stevencooney@...> - to Barbara (Same message with de-butchered English)