RE: Script vs Writing System

From: Peter Constable (
Date: Wed May 12 2004 - 13:12:24 CDT

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    > I agree with this but Kent's meaning

    (it was Patrick)

    > of "featural" is probably refering to this
    > feature of Hangul of grouping letters into square syllables.

    No, that is definitely *not* what was meant. In the taxonomy devised by
    Gelb and promoted by Daniels, Hangul is described as a "featural" script
    because the description of the script prepared under King Seychong's
    administration described the shape of certain jamos (e.g. k, t, m) as
    being iconically related to the corresponding points of articulation.
    Point of articulation being what linguists since Jakobson have referred
    to as a phonological feature, the term "featural" was applied.

    My concern with using this in the taxonomy is that every other category
    in the taxonomy is structural in nature, having to do with the
    relationship between structural units of the writing system and
    structural units of the phonology (sign <> phoneme / syllable...). In
    describing Hangul as "featural", however, those structural issues are
    ignored, and instead the focus is on an iconic relationship between
    shapes of symbols and the shape of the vocal tract. I don't mind noting
    such a characteristic of a script, but I think it is not good science to
    create a taxonomy that mixes defining criteria in an ad hoc manner:
    categories in a taxonomy should be defined on a consistent basis. There
    is absolutely no reason why a purely structural taxonomy could not
    include Hangul. It just requires an additional category of like
    "alphasyllabary", which Peter Daniels simply refuses to accept.

    Peter Constable
    Globalization Infrastructure and Font Technologies
    Microsoft Windows Division

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