i'm getting a little impatient with the confusing way in which terms are
being used. to begin with, virtually all writing systems are "mixed", in
that roman script uses mostly alphabetic symbols but some logographs (the
numbers etc.); arabic script uses mostly abjadic symbols but again some
logographs; devanagari script uses mostly alphasyllabic symbols but again
some logographs; chinese script uses mostly logosyllabic symbols but maybe
some other stuff (how do you classify punctuation?). japanese script
currently uses logosyllabic kanji plus syllabic kana plus alphabetic roman
letters, plus miscellany. korean script is maybe the most complex and
fascinating of all: it uses logosyllabic symbols plus alphabetic hangul
containing possibly featural elements (i've never been completely
convinced), arranged as if they were syllabic symbols - plus, nowadays,
alphabetic roman letters and miscellany.

the late jim mccawley had some succinctly insightful things to say about
the "impure" nature of writing systems, in an article published just before
his death, and unfortunately available only in an obscure korean conference
volume. i'll send a xerox to anybody who wants it and can read hard copy.

if we aim to be a little clearer about the way we use terms, one thing we
could do would be to use adjectives to refer to types of symbols, and nouns
to refer to types of (mixed) writing systems. i've tried to do this above.
thus we refer to an ALPHABETIC symbol, but to writing systems called
ALPHABETS - which are *mostly* alphabetic. to do this consistently, we'd
have to use some novel adjectives, such as "featural", "abjadic", and even
"abugidic". of course this policy would make it hard to find a noun to
refer to the unique japanese script - unless, of course, we just called it

alternatively, we could just keep on using terms in vague and confusing
ways, the same as we do in all human discourse. cheers; bill

William Bright
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics & Anthropology, UCLA
Professor Adjoint of Linguistics, University of Colorado, Boulder
Editor, Written Language and Literacy
Editor, Native American Placenames of the United States
1625 Mariposa Avenue, Boulder, CO 80302
Tel. 303-444-4274
FAX 303-413-0017
Email william.bright@..., williamobright@...

William Bright's website: http://www.ncidc.org/bright