[quote=“Buttercup”]No, Fortigurn. Never mind.
You are both missing the point. You are waiguo learners. It seems an ‘inefficient system’ to you, but to competent, native speaking adult readers, it isn’t (writing issues go off slightly). It’s far more efficient than Pinyin because it’s so visually complex. The reasons it hasn’t evolved/been ‘overthrown’ aren’t entirely cultural. Think about Japanese. Because of its morphemic structure, it lends itself much better to alphabetisation, and yet kanji is still retained in a lot of situations. It’s not entirely due to cultural conservatism, it’s simply because, as eye hooks, kanji is more efficient.
Sorry, I just got up and that is probably not very well expressed.[/quote]
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘more efficient’. It’s not in the least efficient in terms of learning, which is precisely why the system was abandoned several thousand years ago in Mesopotamia, out of preference for an alphabet. That’s also precisely the reason why the Chinese themselves invented an alphabetic system to write their own language. As did the Japanese. As did the Koreans. The Koreans are streets ahead of the Chinese and Japanese in terms of language learning efficiency, because they switched to an alphabet.
I agree that characters are ‘more efficient’ in the sense of being able to convey more information with fewer words. When I write a sentence in Chinese it’s always shorter than an English sentence. But this is also due partly to stupidly redundant English grammar, which requires all kinds of idiotic words to be thrown in to complete the meaning. While I appreciate this kind of efficiency, I would prefer the kind of efficiency which enables me to learn the language at least as readily as I learned Greek and Latin. Characters don’t permit that.
Interesting quote here:
[quote=“De Francis”]Perhaps the greatest success of the script was achieved by its use in the Mass Education Movement. In the early twenties, when he was promoting his five-year plans to wipe out illiteracy in Changsha, Chefoo, and other cities under such slogans as “An illiterate nation is a weak nation,” James Yen was also beginning his initial experiment with the use of the phonetic script.21
For a time he gave up the attempt in the face of the strong opposition which he encountered “from practically all sides,” but later he tried again after the movement had acquired somewhat more prestige.22 The Mass Education Movement used the phonetic script only as an adjunct to characters, that is, as a means of learning the established ideographs, and made plain that the symbols were not to function as an independent form of writing. 23
The new script was said to have been well received by illiterates. Even those who had studied characters first in one or two years of primary school demanded to learn the symbols. “The Phonetic Alphabet is simpler than characters,” they said. “After we have learned it we can read any book.” 24 Indeed, it was even suggested by one writer that only by the use of the phonetic symbols could the Mass Education Movement achieve any real success.
He maintained that the results were negligible with mass education in characters owing to their difficulty, and that even the “Thousand Character Theory” would provide no solution, so that the only way out was to use the Phonetic Alphabet and characters together, as in Japan. 25[/quote]
[quote=“De Francis”]What hindered real progress in the use of the National phonetic Alphabet was a combination of apathy, disagreement, and distrust. Lack of official interest in the new system is made plain by the fact that the government, for all its acceptance of the alphabet in 1918 and its later gestures in the direction of promoting the script, was content for the most part to issue paper plans rather than to undertake concrete actions.
Those few bureaucrats who were sincerely interested in pushing the script were so frustrated by official half-heartedness that they were forced to give up the main burden of promotion to private individuals. But here too the enthusiasm of the few was circumscribed by the indifference of the many.[/quote]
There’s not a lot of science involved in resistance to a phonetic alphabet, mainly cultural fears. I don’t see that it’s substantially any different to the traditional/simplified characters debate.
I have Taiwanese friends who insist to me that the traditional characters cannot be simplified, or they will lose all their meaning and people won’t ever be able to read them. This, despite the evidence of hundreds of millions of literate Chinese using simplified characters up north.