LINGUIST List 2.284

Monday, 10 June 1991

Disc: Phonology and Orthography

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  1. , Re: Things Phonological and Orthographical
  2. "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University"HARTMUTjane.ruc.dk, RE: Things Phonological and Orthographical

Message 1: Re: Things Phonological and Orthographical

Date: Fri, 7 Jun 91 15:39:54 PDT
From: <rwojcikatc.boeing.com>
Subject: Re: Things Phonological and Orthographical
I got the same reading of John Coleman's argument as Margaret Fleck did--that
syllabaries and logographic systems would be more efficient than alphabetic
systems if you compared combinations of characters to symbols. Under that
reading, the cumbersome Japanese and Chinese typewriter keyboards would be
considered superior to the English keyboard on the grounds that it would take
fewer strokes to type words than with the alphabetic keyboards. So why are
typists so few and far between for those hummers? The keyboards contain too
many keys. It was this sense of efficiency that I originally meant when I
called alphabets more efficient than syllabaries.

				-Rick Wojcik (rwojcikatc.boeing.com)
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Message 2: RE: Things Phonological and Orthographical

Date: Mon, 10 Jun 91 12:33 +0100
From: "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University"HARTMUTjane.ruc.dk <HARTMUTjane.ruc.dk>
Subject: RE: Things Phonological and Orthographical
Two remarks on Margaret's posting:
(1) I think people have agreed upon considering scripts like Chinese or
Japanese kanji as logographic, not ideographic. This is an important
distinction. (There was an article a couple of months ago in monumenta
Nipponica about this and the historical aspects of the question - I can
supply the reference if somebody is interested -, but amongs linguists
this should be old hat - Coulmas (1982) in his 'Ueber Schrift' refers to
Japanese kanji as a logographic script, and he's not the first one.)
(2) I don't find English spelling so different from the practice used
in Arabic script, viz. omitting vowels. T If you exaggerate a bit, you
might say that in English spelling, vowel letters only mark the _place_
of the vowel in the phonetic chain, plus give some rough indication
of the quality of the associated vowel phoneme (think of words like read
[2 readings!], beach, break, ...). With languages like Finnish, Czech, and,
in spite of a complicated letter <-> match, French and Modern Greek (not
to talk about Japanese kana etc.), it is possible to read a text aloud without
actually knowing what it says, you just follow the letters. This is impos-
sible with Arabic, Ivrit and other scripts that don't supply vowels: you
have to understand the text first before you can read it aloud. English is
closer to the second group than to the first. (This was pointed out to me
by somebody when I complained about Irish spelling on bilingual road
signs in ireland, like when you read 'Dun Laoghaire' and don't know which of
the vowels are to be pronounced and which of them just palatalize/velarize
consonants. 'You have to know what the place is called (and what it's name
is pronounced like) before you can read it aloud,' I said. 'Well,' the
answer was, 'this is even more the case with English ...'. And true it is!
Hartmut

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