RE: Script vs Writing System

From: Andrew C. West (
Date: Thu May 13 2004 - 07:23:15 CDT

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    On Wed, 12 May 2004 11:12:24 -0700, "Peter Constable" wrote:
    > 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.

    Whilst not an "alphasyllabary" (as its script units are believed to be
    polysyllabic), the small Khitan script also shares the same structural feature
    as Hangul, that is that phonetic elements corresponding to a basic lexical unit
    are laid out into a rectangular block. Indeed, it is quite possible that the
    blocked layout of the Hangul script was inspired by the small Khitan script
    (which was in use in the area of north-east China adjacent to Korea only a few
    hundred years earlier).

    In addition, traditional Chinese zither notation (qin pu) is also laid out in
    ideographic-like square blocks. However, as this is a notational system rather
    than a script, the constituent elements of each block represent string, finger
    and plucking technique rather than phonetic values.

    Perhaps a term could be devised that encompasses block layout (rather than
    linear layout) scripts such as Hangul and small Khitan (and even Chinese zither
    notation ?).


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