Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems

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University of Hawaii Press, 1989 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 306 pages
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Visible Speech is an attempt to set the record straight about the nature of writing. John DeFrancis, a noted specialist in the Chinese language, shows that writing can be based only upon a sound system and not upon any other linguistic level. He corrects the erroneous views of Chinese writing as pictographic, ideographic, logographic, or morphemic, and defends his conclusion that because of these misrepresentations, the nature of all writing continues to be misunderstood.

Using the writing systems of Sumerian, Egyptian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Mayan, and English, among others, to illustrate his points, Dr. DeFrancis stresses their basic identity as representatives of visible speech, while noting their secondary differences as manifested in their diverse script forms. He proposes a new classification of writing systems based on this theme of diversity and oneness, and makes an impassioned case for the essential phonetic component of all writing.

This book reflects the author's sound scholarship and novel insights, which place it in the forefront with such classics on writing as those by Gelb, Diringer, Cohen, Fevrier, and Jensen. The readable style aims at a general audience interested in understanding the nature of the symbols that first strike the eye, while the academic research involved makes it an indispensable work for scholars in the many fields related to language and linguistics.

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This book is a good compendium for linguists and philologists who want to understand the relative efficiencies of world writing systems

Contents

Kinds of Communication
3
Communication Classification Scheme
6
What Is Writing?
20
The Hybrid Style of Mathematics
23
A Yukaghir Love Letter
25
Lineage of the Yukaghir Love Letter
27
Yukaghir Mnemonic Notation
33
LoneDogs Winter Count
37
A 1 Pictographic Script
97
A 100 Syllabic Script 102103
102
A Simple Syllabary and a Simpler Alphabet
118
Mayan
121
Mayan Syllabic Writing
127
Pure Syllabic Systems
128
Japanese Kana Syllabaries
137
Yi Syllabic Writing
148

Letter from a Cheyenne Father
38
Ojibwa Love Letter
39
Chippewa SongandDance Troupe Petition
40
DeFrancis Writing Classification Scheme
58
Sampson Writing Classification Scheme
60
Gelb Writing Classification Scheme
62
Hill Writing Classification Scheme
63
Syllabic Systems
67
Uruk IV DeadEnd Symbols
72
Jemdet Nasr Rebus Symbols
76
The Evolution of Sumerian Writing
85
Chinese
89
The Evolution of Egyptian Writing
156
The Egyptian Alphabet 158159
158
Phoenician Hebrew and Arabic Scripts
168
Phoenician Greek and Latin Scripts
180
The Korean Hangul Alphabet
195
Writing in Comparative Perspective
209
Notes
271
Glossary
277
References
283
Index
299
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About the author (1989)

John DeFrancis (1911- 2009) John DeFrancis (1911 2009), Emeritus Professor of Chinese at the University of Hawai'i, graduated from Yale in 1933 and immediately departed for China to pursue his interests. In three years of study and travel, he covered over 4,000 miles in Northwest China and Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, and down the Yellow River, immersing himself in grassroots contact with the language and people. Upon his return to the United States, DeFrancis earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at several institutions nationwide. Dr. DeFrancis is the author of dozens of articles and books on spoken and written Chinese, among them a widely used 12-volume set of educational materials and Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems (UH Press, 1989).

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