Pictorial Writing

Westerners have always been fascinated by “writing systems of East Asia. “Chinese, Japanese and Korean, are ‘syllabaries,’ in which each character corresponds to a syllable of sound, and in Chinese, at least, a basic unit of meaning (called a morpheme). By contrast, alphabetic systems rely on letters that by themselves are pure abstractions: a single letter represents neither a syllable of sound nor a morpheme. While alphabets tend to be small, syllabaries can be quite large: there are more than 50,000 Chinese characters, though most people can get by with knowing about 5,000. But a better understanding of Asian writing systems has not stopped Western experts from making grand claims about their virtues and limitations.”