ERIC Number: ED347546
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Nov
Reference Count: N/A
Why We Choose To Write the Way We Do in China.
The traditional theory of Chinese writing is that it is divorced from the language because as a non-alphabetic system, it cannot represent real speech. Chinese writing, however, is a functional linguistic system in its own right. Writing does not need to be totally dependent on speech, but can be related either to the phonological or the semantic aspect of the language. What counts is whether a writing system is compatible with the language, with its particular linguistic features, and whether it will meet the needs of the language's development. Examining the origins of written Chinese, formation of the characters, and language reform reveals how Chinese ideographs have had the ability to transcend dialect differences and communicate to all Chinese, providing China with a cultural unity that would be impossible with a phonetic system. Chinese writing is also feasible and indispensable in Chinese contexts. And although many linguists feel that the Chinese language is difficult, there is no evidence to support this, since Chinese people never feel it is difficult to learn and memorize thousands of characters. The argument against characters is based primarily on the traditional assumption that phonological mediation is the prerequisite for lexical identification and perception in reading. In fact, the high density of information actually promotes the process of stimulus recognition, and comprehension; hence it can be argued that reading in characters is more efficient and less time-consuming. (Twenty-nine references are attached.) (PRA)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: China; Historical Background; Ideographs; Speaking Writing Relationship; Writing Contexts
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference (41st, Palm Springs, CA, December 3-7, 1991).