symbolproject.org 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
> 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
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,
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
> 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).
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