I am in the midst of semantics, poetry, and RDF but I did want to take a moment to add my own comment on a new linguistic nosh currently being nibbled in the neighborhood. The nosh in question is a new book by William Hannas titled “The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity”, referenced in a NY Times article.
According to Language Hat, the first to reference it, the author of the book, …claims that Asian science has suffered because the main Asian languages are written in “character-based rather than alphabetic” systems. According to the Times:
Mr. Hannas’s logic goes like this: because East Asian writing systems lack the abstract features of alphabets, they hamper the kind of analytical and abstract thought necessary for scientific creativity.
Stavros, currently living in South Korea and studying linguistics, reacted in a manner both swift and sure:
Roughly translated: Mr. William Hannas, with all due respect to your abilities and experience, but I would like to suggest that you stuff your head up your bum. Idiomatically: Fuck you.
Jonathon has also weighed in on this topic, specifically character association with sound, with:
In other words, as far as Japanese is concerned, the assertion that the language is based on characters corresponding to a syllable of sound is utter nonsense. Unless you’re referring to five year olds—but then there aren’t too many five year olds of any nationality winning Nobel prizes.
But he also added:
Roughly translated: With all due respect Mr. Hannas, but I beg leave to dispute your assertions and suggest that you take this banana and insert it into your rectum. Idiomatically: Fuck you.
I don’t have the expertise these webloggers have to contribute much to these excellent and appreciated discussions on linguistics, but even I, as someone with little exposure to this field, have a difficult time understanding why a people’s use of characters rather than an alphabet for writing would interfere with their scientific achievements. All I know is how much I appreciate the beauty of the characters, but I imagine that makes me provincial in the eyes of a learned man such as Mr. Hannas.
So I’ll add my own contribution to the response:
Roughly and idiomatically translated: What they said. (Thanks to Aquarionics for linguistic help.)
Of course, once I wrote this, I thought of Jonathon’s previous writing on Linguistic Imperialism and the impact that political correctness is having on what we say.
Well, back to the poetry and the RDF and the next essay, which I’ll release later tonight but must take my afternoon walk. In the meantime, while trying to look something up related to this topic, indirectly, I found a website that might be of interest: Omniglot.
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