ALTERNATIVES TO THE WESTERN ALPHABETS

Chinese - irregular syllabary, in continuous use for over 3,000 years

Japanese -morpheme writing (Kanji) plus two regular syllabaries (kana)

Korean - Hangul, a real alphabet, invented by King Sejong in the        1400's and not patterned on the west

Cherokee - native syllabary (invented by 1821, Sequoyah)

Inuit, Cree (Northern Canada) use syllabaries, 20th century

Chinese characters (hanzi)

Oldest continuously used writing

Characters denote single syllables of sound

Irregular correspondence, meaning and sound both important

      the single syllable-sound /yi/ can be written in 40 ways

Over 30,000 characters in existence; 5 or 6 thou. needed for        general literacy

Common misconceptions about Chinese characters

--not concept writing, denote sound

--not logographic; only 40% denote monosyllabic words

--not really morphosyllabic, 11% of Chinese morphemes are       polysyllabic:  hudian (butterfly), putao (grape)

Symbolic structure of the characters

consist of strokes, which have no meaning of their own

      dictionaries ordered according to the strokes used

only 2% are pictographic or ideographic

most are symbolically complex, with a radical (meaning hint)      plus a phonetic element (sound hint)

Reform:1956, strokes of many characters were simplified,

      in People's Republic only, not Taiwan

PINYIN - 23 Latin-based letters with four tone marks are all that is needed to write all words of Mandarin Chinese;

WHY THE CHINESE DON'T ABANDON THE CHARACTERS

Loose connection with sound allows characters to be used to   write several different "Chinese" languages

Characters help distinguish homonyms

      qi = wife, seven, varnish, kinsman, cheat, period, roost.

Characters too much a part of the cultural history

      before 1800 half of all books were in Chinese

DRAWBACKS TO USING CHARACTERS

a) typing more costly; but computers make characters easier to print

b) foreign wrods and new words hard to write and learn:

ing-guo hero country mei-guo beautiful country,fa-guo the country of law

Dickens  die2-keng1-ze1  repeatedly-change-this

Chaikovsky:      chai2-xuo4-fu3-ze4-ci1

                        firewood-suddenly-begin-this-foundation