Asia's Orthographic Dilemma

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University of Hawaii Press, Jun 1, 1997 - Foreign Language Study - 352 pages
With the advent of computers and the rise of East Asian economies, the complicated character-based writing systems of East Asia have reached a stage of crisis that may be described as truly millennial in scope and implications. In what is perhaps the most wide-ranging critique of the sinographic script ever written, William C. Hannas assesses the usefulness of Chinese character-based writing in East Asia today.

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This outdated racist piece of garbage should never have been published in the first place. From the very start, this western imperialist rants about how european-styled alphabets like latin are vastly superior to what he calls backwards East Asian scripts of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Written in 1997, this book comes off as arrogant thinking that all east asian languages should be written in the roman alphabet; and that the East Asian scripts have held back the development of these people; and made them less creative. It comes off as ignorant of the latest computing developments that render character input as easy as and arguably more efficient than touch typing with a keyboard. Funny since it has worked for more than 2000 years, and East Asia has developed many of the most scientific, cultural, economic, technological contributions to humankind.
All along he makes it clear that he views East Asian people and their languages as inferior and wishes to genocide their entire culture by destroying their scripts. This is a common theme among very old western sinologists like him. They spend so much of their time learning about this culture only to bash it in the end. They do not study these cultures because they appreciate them; they are in fact some of the most anti east asian people in the world and make every opportunity; thinking that western culture is better than every other in the world.
Books written by racist western chauvinists like Hannas should never be published. Reading Hannas' book will give you brain cancer. Any Asian will immediately be put off by the arrogant, patronizing tone. East Asia has already surpassed the west in many aspects of technology and is making its own innovations, in spite of these supposed 'inferior scripts'. A century from now, let's see who really is backwards. The idiocy of this book that never should have been published but was anyways already provides a clue.

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While the book provides a degree of insight into issues within han-derived scripts, the author focuses primarily on exaggerating the issues present in an unbalanced and prejudiced argument interwoven with personal opinions and feelings, shown instantly by the early-on statement on what benefit the writing system has, stating that "the short answer is, nothing". The author tries to dispell common perceptions, which is done well. Despite this, there are even more incorrect or misinformed pieces of information brought up by the author, and the lacking of a whollistic view of the subject, merely the author's opinion, which remains strongly negative throughout the book, largely limiting in utility.
Overall, it provides some insight into the topic about which it discusses, and many issues addressed with the system itself, but largely lacks the focus on linguistics, and more on linguistic pride, often being quick to point out his own language's benefits and the faults of asian scripts, which is generally off-topic and irrelevant to the book's claimed subject of interest. The arguments presented also lack balance, meaning the book is misinforming and limiting in its legitimate value and informative utility.


Critique of Chinese CharacterBased Writing
5 Representation
6 Learning and Literacy
7 Reading
Forces for Change
9 The Chimera of Reform
10 Language Speech and Writing
11 Computing with Chinese Characters
12 Chinese Characters and East Asian Culture

8 Appropriateness to East Asian Languages

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