Re: Ideograms (was: Spiral symbol)

From: John H. Jenkins <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2013 10:46:34 -0800

On 2013年1月30日, at 上午4:50, Andreas Stötzner <> wrote:

> Most ideographs in use are pictographs, for obvious reasons. But it would be nice indeed to have ideograms for “thanks”,

> “please”,

> “yes”,

> “no”,

> “perhaps”

> – all those common notions which cannot be de-*picted* in the true sense of the word.

I'm not being entirely snarky here. The whole reason why the term "ideograph" got attached to Chinese characters in the first place is that they can convey the same meaning while representing different words in different languages. Chinese writing was one of the inspirations for Leibniz' Characteristica universalis, for example.

Personally, I think that extensive reliance on ideographs for communication is a bad idea. Again, Chinese illustrates this. The grammars of Chinese and Japanese are so very different that although hanzi are perfectly adequate for the writing of a large number of Sinitic languages, they are completely inadquate for Japanese. Ideographs are fine for some short, simple messages ("The lady's room lieth behind yon door"), but not for actually expressing *language*.

And, in any event, if you *really* want non-pictographic ways of conveying abstract ideas, most of the work has been already done for you.
Received on Wed Jan 30 2013 - 12:51:42 CST

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