Stage Linguistique wrote:
> > From: Marco Cimarosti
> > Are Egyptian hieroglyphs not logographic writing?
> > OK, I'll take your word,
> > but how about the many analogies between in the
> > structure of the two writing
> > systems? E.g., the Egyptian "determinatives" seem to
> > match the Chinese
> > "radicals"
> The Egyptian determinatives are stand-alone signs,
> whereas most of the Chinese radicals are not.

Although I am not sure what you mean by "radicals" (the keys on a Chinese
dictionary or the semantic components in Chinese characters?), I am really
dubious about your "most".

Most "radicals" (in either sense) I can think of are also hanzi in their own
right, and several of them are even found in very common words.

But of course, this could depend on the fact that I rememeber better the
radicals which are hanzi in their own right... Do you have any numbers?

As for Egyptian determinatives, I'm not sure what you mean by "stand-alone
signs": do you mean that they can used as logographs (i.e., they can be
written with the "vertical bar" or "ideographic" determiner below them)?

> Also, the Egyptian determinatives play a grammatical
> rôle, the Chinese radicals don't.

What grammatical role do the Egyptian determinatives play!!??

> > while the Egyptian "ideographs" seem to
> > match the Chinese
> > xiangxing and xiangshi classes of the traditional
> > Chinese six-class
> > analysis.
> Anyway, most Egyptian words were written using the
> signs for their phonetic value, not for their
> ideographic value.
> This is not the case in Chinese:
> most characters (~90%) carry *both* a phonetic and an
> ideographic value.

Both facts are true.

Anyway, they don't seem to contradict the analogy between Chinese "radicals"
and Egyptian determinatives: these facts simply point at the fact that
Chinese has many more omophones that Egyptian.

> The only way you could draw a parallel between the
> Egyptian system and the Chinese characters would be by
> considering each Egyptian word a «character» which
> couldn't be broken into smaller units.

No, there is another way, which is much more sensible in my opinion: stop
considering chinese logograms as "characters" which couldn't be broken into
smaller units.

The fact of calling Chinese characters "characters" is, IMHO, a funny idea
which sprang with movable-type typography, spread with ignorant European
explorers of China and, unfortunately, is still acritically accepted in the
era of digital communication. This idea that hanzis are the basic building
blocks of Chinese writing has has little or no basis in reality.

In fact, neither lexicographers nor common people ever considered Chinese
"characters" as non-analyzable units: lexicographers organized their
dictionary exactly by analyzing hanzi, and common people remember and
explain (even on the phone!) the "spelling" of a certain hanzi by listing
its components(*) in order.

(*: I stick to the term "component" to avoid the "" taboo word. :-)

> But it's simply
> not the case: the Egyptian 'squares' can be further
> broken into stand-alone signs. In this aspect,
> Egyptian is more akin to Korean.

Sorry: you are first comparing apples with oranges (Egyptian and Chinese
"squares") and then apples with melons (Egyptian and Korean)...

_ Marco