RE: Term Asian is not used properly on Computers and NET

From: Jungshik Shin (
Date: Tue May 29 2001 - 16:28:36 EDT

On Tue, 29 May 2001, Marco Cimarosti wrote:

> Doug Ewell wrote:
> > Peter has an excellent solution -- much better than trying to
> > explain the
> > term "CJK" to ordinary people -- and I plan to use the term
> > "East Asian" in the future.
> But, if by "East Asian" you mean "languages written with Han ideographs",

 To be precise, "languages ... ideographs" should be
"languages which Han ideographs are used to write either as the principal
script (as for Chinese), one of principal scripts (as for Japanese)
or as a 'supplementary' script (as for Korean or Vietnamese)" :-)

> you fall in another pitfall, because Mongolian, Russian, Vietnamese and many
> other languages spoken in East Asia aren't accounted for.

 Well, the part of Asia where Vietnam (along with Thai, Laos,
Cambodia/Khmer, Indonesia) is usually refered to as South East Asia while
the part where Japan and Korea (along with a subtantial part of China)
are is refered to as North East Asia or Far East. And, Mongol belongs
not to East Asia but to Central Asia along with some countries/regions
you aggregated. Granted, 'North East Asia' might be arguably best
(despite obvious problems), but it may not be so familiar to people
(not living in the region nor having paid any attention to geopolitics of
the region). On the other hand, 'East Asian' has been used pretty often
to mean 'Chinese,Japanese and Korean' and as such is more familiar to
more people than 'North East Asian' (which is arguably more accurate).
So, which one would I pick?

  While we're at getting terms straight, I want to say that
languages should be distinguished from scripts/writing systems (NOT that
you mixed them up BUT that I've occasionally seen the distinction get lost
when it's important to keep). In principle, any language can be written
with any script/writing system (however clumsy it could be).

  The other day, I came across a term 'ideographic languages' in a premier
magazine of I18N/L10N to refer to Chinese, Japanese and Korean as a group.
A week ago, I saw it again in a draft proposal of some sort (for I18N) by
a pretty well-known figure in I18N community. As most people on this list
know well, this is a complete non-sense. How on earth could a language
(as opposed to writing system/script) be ideographic? Even if they meant
'ideographic writing systems', it's not correct because Japanese and
Korean use syllabic (Japanese) and alphabetic(Korean) writing systems
along with Han ideographs with a great difference in the extent to which
Han ideographs are employed in everyday writing (Japanese : frequenty,
Korean: very rarely).

  Some people appear to think that Chinese,
Japanese and Korean are closely related to each other as their geographic
proximity suggests. This can't be farther from the truth. Chinese on the
one hand and Japanese and Korean on the other hand (with the latter two
being 'agglutinating' and defying any attempt to classify them so far -
i.e. they're kinda 'orphan' languages - and the former being 'isolating'
and belonging to 'Sino-Tibetan' family) are far more distant from
each other than English and Sanskrit (both belonging to Indo-European
language family and being 'inflecting'. well, modern English has many
features of 'isolating' languages) are from each other. Basically,
there's NO linguistic relation whatsoever between them (except that
they share a significant amount of words, which does NOT mean they're
related linguistically)

  Summing up, two pitfalls I18N people should avoid while dealing with
Chinese,Japanese and Korean:

 - Their languages are similar to each other : they're very very different
   from each other

 - Writing systems for all three can be considered ideographic: They're NOT

  Jungshik Shin

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