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Chinese is NOT picture writing! - History of Writing Systems #5 (Determinatives)


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Watch this ancient Chinese scribe figure out how to use a fixed set of characters to write limitless words in his language. How? By combining meaning writing (logographs) and sound writing (rebus)!

The result is a set of helpful hints called determinatives, because they help you determine the meaning of a pronunciation character. Determinatives show up in Mayan, Egyptian and other ancient writing systems. In Hanzi (Chinese) and Kanji (Japanese) they're called radicals, simply because they narrow down the root meaning (the "radix") of the written character.

While we're visiting China, we'll stumble across an unexpected tension: should writing be easier for the reader to read or for the writer to write?

Oh, and why don't we go a step further? What if we pat Chinese characters on the back, say "nice try" and take our scripts ALL THE WAY to pronunciation writing?


Watch the video: Chinese is NOT picture writing! - History of Writing Systems #5 Determinatives (November 2021).