Re: Measuring a writing system "economy"/"accuracy"

From: Eric Muller (
Date: Wed Jun 29 2005 - 14:16:11 CDT

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    John Hudson wrote:

    > From your message, particularly the reference to IPA, I suspect that
    > you are talking about phonetic economy and accuracy.

    Yes, the question is "when a writing system is viewed as a mechanism to
    record sounds, how good a job does it do?", where "good" is to be
    defined. I chose "economy", because arguably a writing system that has
    10 symbols or symbol combinations for the same sound is not "as good" as
    one that has only 1. But that is not enough: a system with a single
    symbol for all sounds would be very economic, hence the "accuracy" part.

    IPA, as least when restricted to the set of symbols used for the writing
    of a given language, is presumably both an economic (there is a single
    sign for a given sound) and accurate writing system for that language.
    Hence the idea of measuring by comparing to IPA (with the undersanding
    that the methodoly would have to account for the situation mentionned by

    Then the meta-question is: is that kind of question interesting? how
    should we define good? if we could answer it, what could we
    explore/learn? Or is the whole approach just doomed from the start, may
    be because historical accidents are far more important in the evolution
    of writing systems than the forces that would tend to make them "better"?


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