Here are my comments on a couple of recent messages copied below:
(1) What do you mean by "analytic systems"? I smell the "tyranny of the alphabet." Not only phonemes but syllables, morphemes, and words are all linguistic units. Don't all writing systems reflect some kind of analyses of various linguistic units?
(2) Han'gul is an alphabet, and I am not saying it just because I am a Korean, representing the "perception by Koreans." There is a clear order of the phonemic units in both writing and pronunciation within Korean syllables. The number of syllables are finite in a typical syllabary, and each syllable has a unique shape. No finite set of syllable shapes exists in Korean, as any number of new ones, including non-sense syllables, can be generated by using just a vowel or a vowel with one or more consonants.
Doug Ewell is right. Just because Koreans write their letters in syllable blocks, their writing system does not become a syllabary. With this kind of definition, English and all European languages and even Korean writing would become logographic, since (at least monomorphemic) words are formed by assembling the letters into (linear or sylalable) blocks, which are separated by spaces--In fact, this is a kind of reasoning that inspired my very compatriot Insup Taylor to call the Korean writing system an alphabet, a syllabary and a logography, all at the same time.
I am not sure why there is "less need for syllable-level representation [for Korean] than Tamil." However, the importance of the syllable as a linguistic unit in Korean phonology, is well established. The inventor of the Korean alphabet, King Sejong, certainly was a fantastic linguist. All the underlying principles and reasoning are clearly documented in a scholarly commentary called _Hunmin chong'um haerye_, accompanying the promulgation document and a handbook for learning the alphabet called "Hunmin chong'um" (1446).
In han'gul, other phonological units are also well represented by non-arbitrary letter shapes , which are capable of representing various Korean phonological phenomena such as vowel harmony, sound symbolism, and consonantal neutralizations, etc.
George Washington University
=====Friday, June 04, 2004 1:48 AM
From: suzmccarth <suzmccarth@...
To: qalam <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: functional classification of writing systems
Instead of the evolutionary model of logographies, syllabaries, and alphabets, etc. I suggest that there are only two basic types of systems.
These are alphabets or analytic systems, and syllabaries or wholistic systems. Each of these may encode to a lesser or greater degree the morphology of the language. Syllabaries may be non-
analytic like Japanese and Cherokee, or have an analytic composition like Cree, Korean and Tamil.
While the analytic nature of the syllabaries may be useful for technical encoding, these systems are still learned by some native speakers as syllabaries. Some members of these language communities will have reduced access to digital literacy if the syllabic nature of their system is not reflected at some level in the input method.
> --- In email@example.com, "suzmccarth" <suzmccarth@...> wrote:
> > > Additionally, calling Korean Hangul a syllabary is at odds
> > the
> > > perception of most Koreans, who see Hangul as an alphabet
> > whose letters
> > > just happen to be grouped into syllable blocks.
> > I agree, they have less need for syllable - level representation
> > than Tamil.
> > >
> > > > While the analytic nature of the syllabaries may be useful for
> > > > technical encoding, these systems are still learned by some
> > native
> > > > speakers as syllabaries. Some members of these language
> > communities
> > > > will have reduced access to digital literacy if the syllabic
> > nature
> > > > of their system is not reflected at some level in the input
> > method.
> > >
> > > Even if Koreans read Hangul syllable blocks one block at a
> > time, that
> > > does not make the writing system a syllabary. Peter Daniels
> > and others
> > > have pointed out that fluent readers of English, and other
> > languages
> > > written with alphabets, read clusters of letters at a time.
> > >
> > > -Doug Ewell
> > > Fullerton, California
> > > http://users.adelphia.net/~dewell/