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In a
written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will pick up spoken language or sign language by exposure even i ...
, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a
word A word is a basic element of language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, ...
or
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful Constituent (linguistics), constituent of a linguistic expression. The field of linguistics, linguistic study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology (linguistics), morphology. In English, morphemes are ...
. Chinese characters (pronounced ''
hanzi Chinese characters () are logogram In a written language, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''h ...
'' in Mandarin, ''
kanji are the logographic Chinese characters taken from the Chinese family of scripts, Chinese script and used in the writing of Japanese language, Japanese. They were made a major part of the Japanese writing system during the time of Old Japanese ...
'' in Japanese, ''
hanja Hanja (Hangul: ; Hanja: , ), alternatively known as Hancha, are Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages ...
'' in Korean) are generally logograms, as are many hieroglyphic and
cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Middle East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 B ...
characters. The use of logograms in writing is called ''logography'', and a
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs i ...
that is based on logograms is called a ''logography'' or ''logographic system''. All known logographies have some phonetic component, generally based on the rebus principle.
Alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written graphemes (called letter (alphabet), letters) that represent the phonemes of certain spoken languages. Not all writing systems represent language in this way; in a syllabary, each character ...
s and
syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the scientific Science is a systematic endeavor that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Science ...
are distinct from logographies in that they use individual written characters to represent sounds directly. Such characters are called '' phonograms'' in
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
. Unlike logograms, phonograms do not have any inherent meaning. Writing language in this way is called '' phonemic writing'' or ''orthographic writing''.


Etymology

Doulgas Harper's
Online Etymology Dictionary The ''Online Etymology Dictionary'' (''Etymonline'') is a free online dictionary, written and compiled by Douglas R. Harper, that describes the origins of English-language words. Description Douglas Harper, an American Civil War historian an ...
states that the term 'logogram' was derived from Greek logos "word, discourse; reason". and that the term 'logo' was derived ''from'' the term 'logogram', not the other way round.


Logographic systems

Logographic systems include the earliest writing systems; the first historical civilizations of the Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Mesoamerica used some form of logographic writing. A ''purely'' logographic script would be impractical for many other languages, and none is known. All logographic scripts ever used for natural languages rely on the rebus principle to extend a relatively limited set of logograms: A subset of characters is used for their phonetic values, either consonantal or syllabic. The term logosyllabary is used to emphasize the partially phonetic nature of these scripts when the phonetic domain is the syllable. In both Ancient Egyptian
hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographic in form in a way reminiscent of ancien ...
s and in Chinese, there has been the additional development of
determinative A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantics, semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, thoug ...
s, which are combined with logograms to narrow down their possible meaning. In Chinese, they are fused with logographic elements used phonetically; such "
radical Radical may refer to: Politics and ideology Politics *Radical politics, the political intent of fundamental societal change *Radicalism (historical), the Radical Movement that began in late 18th century Britain and spread to continental Europe and ...
and phonetic" characters make up the bulk of the script. Both languages relegated the active use of rebus to the spelling of foreign and dialectical words. Logographic writing systems include: * Logoconsonantal scripts *: These are scripts in which the graphemes may be extended phonetically according to the consonants of the words they represent, ignoring the vowels. For example, Egyptian G38 was used to write both ''sȝ'' 'duck' and ''sȝ'' 'son', though it is likely that these words were not pronounced the same except for their consonants. The primary examples of logoconsonantal scripts are: **
Hieroglyphs A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographic in form in a way reminiscent of ancien ...
,
hieratic Hieratic (; grc, ἱερατικά, hieratiká, priestly) is the name given to a cursive writing system used for Ancient Egyptian and the principal script used to write that language from its development in the third millennium BC until the ri ...
, and
demotic Demotic may refer to: * Demotic Greek, the modern vernacular form of the Greek language * Demotic (Egyptian), an ancient Egyptian script and version of the language * Chữ Nôm, the demotic script for writing Vietnamese See also

* * Demos ( ...
:
Ancient Egyptian #REDIRECT Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egypti ...
* Logosyllabic scripts *: These are scripts in which the graphemes represent morphemes, often polysyllabic morphemes, but when extended phonetically represent single syllables. They include: *: **
Cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Middle East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 B ...
: Sumerian, Akkadian, other
Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken by more than 330 million people across much of West Asia, the Horn of Africa, and latterly North Africa, Malta, West Africa, Chad, and in large immigrant and ...
,
Elamite Elamite, also known as Hatamtite and formerly as Susian, is an extinct language that was spoken by the ancient Elamites. It was used in what is now southwestern Iran from 2600 BC to 330 BC. Elamite works disappear from the archeological record a ...
, Hittite,
Luwian The Luwians were a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Anatolia, in present-day Turkey, during the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian language ...
,
Hurrian The Hurrians (; Cuneiform script, cuneiform: ; transliteration: ''Ḫu-ur-ri''; also called Hari, Khurrites, Hourri, Churri, Hurri or Hurriter) were a people of the Bronze Age Ancient Near East, Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language, H ...
, and
Urartian Urartian or Vannic is an extinct Hurro-Urartian languages, Hurro-Urartian language which was spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Urartu (''Biaini'' or ''Biainili'' in Urartian), which was centered on the region around Lake Van and ...
**
Anatolian hieroglyphs Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian language, Luwian, not Hitt ...
:
Luwian The Luwians were a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Anatolia, in present-day Turkey, during the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian language ...
**
Cretan hieroglyphs Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographi ...
:
Minoan language The Minoan language is the language (or languages) of the ancient Minoan civilization The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, whose earliest beginnings were from 3500BC, wi ...
. **
Linear A Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
:
Minoan language The Minoan language is the language (or languages) of the ancient Minoan civilization The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, whose earliest beginnings were from 3500BC, wi ...
. **
Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing ...
:
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland and Crete in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the ''terminus post quem, terminus ...
. **
Cypro-Minoan Syllabary The Cypro-Minoan syllabary (CM) is an Undeciphered writing systems, undeciphered syllabary used on the island of Cyprus during the late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1050 BC). The term "Cypro-Minoan" was coined by Arthur Evans in 1909 based on its visua ...
:
Eteocypriot Eteocypriot is an extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the Endling, last individual of the species, ...
** Yi (classical): various Yi languages **
Han characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the Written Chinese, writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system where they are k ...
: Chinese,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language ** ...
,
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
, Vietnamese ** Derivatives of Han characters: ***
Chữ nôm Chữ Nôm (, ; ) is a logographic In a written language, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''hanja'' ...
: Vietnamese ***
Sawndip Zhuang characters or ''Sawndip'' (Sawndip: ; ) are logograms derived from Chinese characters and used by the Zhuang people of Guangxi and Yunnan provinces in China to write the Zhuang languages for more than one thousand years. The script is used ...
:
Zhuang languages The Zhuang languages (; exonym and endonym, autonym: , pre-1982: , Sawndip: 話僮, from ''vah'', 'language' and ''Cuengh'', 'Zhuang'; ) are any of more than a dozen Tai languages spoken by the Zhuang people of Southern China in the province of ...
***
Jurchen script The Jurchen script (Jurchen: ) was the writing system used to write the Jurchen language, the language of the Jurchen people who created the Jin dynasty (1115–1234), Jin Empire in northeastern China in the 12th–13th centuries. It was derived ...
: Jurchen ***
Khitan large script The Khitan large script () was one of two writing systems used for the now-extinct Khitan language (the other was the Khitan small script). It was used during the 10th–12th centuries by the Khitan people, who had created the Liao Empire in nort ...
: Khitan *** Sui script:
Sui language The Sui language () is a Kam–Sui language spoken by the Sui people The Sui people (; Endonym, autonym: ''ai33 sui33''), also spelled as Shui people, are an ethnic group living mostly in Guizhou Province, China. They are counted as one of th ...
***
Tangut script The Tangut script (Tangut language, Tangut: ; ) was a logographic writing system, used for writing the extinct Tangut language of the Western Xia dynasty. According to the latest count, 5863 Tangut characters are known, excluding variants. The ...
:
Tangut language Tangut (Tangut: ; ) is an extinct language in the Sino-Tibetan language family. Tangut was one of the official languages of the Western Xia, Western Xia dynasty, founded by the Tangut people in northwestern China. The Western Xia was annihilated ...
*** Dongba script written with
Geba script ''Geba'' is a syllabary, syllabic script for the Naxi language. It is called ''¹Ggo¹baw'' in Naxi, adapted as ''Geba'', 哥巴, in Chinese. Some glyphs resemble the Yi script, and some appear to be adaptations of Chinese characters. ''Geba'' is ...
:
Naxi language Naxi (Naqxi ), also known as ''Nakhi, Nasi, Lomi, Moso, Mo-su'', is a Sino-Tibetan languages, Sino-Tibetan language or group of languages spoken by some 310,000 people, most of whom live in or around Lijiang, Lijiang City Yulong Naxi Autonomous C ...
(Dongba itself is pictographic) **
Maya Glyphs Maya script, also known as Maya glyphs, is historically the native writing system of the Maya civilization of Mesoamerica and is the only Mesoamerican writing system that has been substantially deciphered. The earliest inscriptions found which ...
: Ch'olti', Yucatec and other
Mayan Languages The Mayan languagesIn linguistics, it is conventional to use ''Mayan'' when referring to the languages, or an aspect of a language. In other academic fields, ''Maya'' is the preferred usage, serving as both a singular and plural noun, and as ...
** Aztec Glyphs:
Nahuatl Nahuatl (; ), Aztec, or Mexicano is a language or, by some definitions, a group of languages of the Uto-Aztecan languages, Uto-Aztecan language family. Varieties of Nahuatl are spoken by about Nahuas, Nahua peoples, most of whom live mainly in ...
(partly pictographic, partly logosyllabic) ** Mixtec Glyphs:
Mixtec Languages The Mixtec () languages belong to the Mixtecan languages, Mixtecan group of the Oto-Manguean languages, Oto-Manguean language family. Mixtec is spoken in Mexico and is closely related to Trique language, Trique and Cuicatec language, Cuicatec. T ...
(partly pictographic, partly logosyllabic) None of these systems is purely logographic. This can be illustrated with Chinese. Not all Chinese characters represent morphemes: some morphemes are composed of more than one character. For example, the Chinese word for spider, ''zhīzhū'', was created by fusing the rebus ''zhīzhū'' (literally "know cinnabar") with the "bug" determinative . Neither * ''zhī'' nor * ''zhū'' can be used separately in modern spoken Chinese (except to stand in for as a root word, for example 蛛丝 means spider silk). In Archaic Chinese, one can find the reverse: a single character representing more than one morpheme. An example is Archaic Chinese 王 ''hjwangs'' (meaning "proclaim oneself king"), a combination of a morpheme ''hjwang'' meaning king (coincidentally also written ) and a suffix pronounced /s/. (The suffix is preserved in the modern falling tone.) In modern Mandarin, bimorphemic syllables are always written with two characters, for example ''huār'' 'flower iminutive. A peculiar system of logograms developed within the
Pahlavi scripts Pahlavi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Iranian languages, Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are: *the use of a specific Aramaic script, Aramaic-derived script; *the incidence of Aramaic lang ...
(developed from the
Aramaic Aramaic ( syc, ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arāmāyā; oar, 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; arc, 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; tmr, אֲרָמִית) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languages, Semitic language that originated in the ancient Syria (regio ...
abjad An abjad (, ar, أبجد; also abgad) is a writing system in which only consonants are represented, leaving vowel sounds to be inferred by the reader. This contrasts with other alphabets, which provide graphemes for both consonants and vowels ...
) used to write
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg () in its later form, is a Western Iranian languages#Middle Iranian, Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after ...
during much of the Sassanid period; the logograms were composed of letters that spelled out the word in
Aramaic Aramaic ( syc, ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arāmāyā; oar, 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; arc, 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; tmr, אֲרָמִית) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languages, Semitic language that originated in the ancient Syria (regio ...
but were pronounced as in Persian (for instance, the combination ' would be pronounced "shah"). These logograms, called (a form of heterograms), were dispensed with altogether after the Arab conquest of Persia and the adoption of a variant of the
Arabic alphabet The Arabic alphabet ( ar, الْأَبْجَدِيَّة الْعَرَبِيَّة, ' or , '), or Arabic abjad, is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing Arabic. It is written from right to left in a cursive style and includes 28 ...
. Logograms are used in modern
shorthand Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek ''s ...
to represent common words.


Semantic and phonetic dimensions

All historical logographic systems include a phonetic dimension, as it is impractical to have a separate basic character for every word or morpheme in a language. In some cases, such as cuneiform as it was used for Akkadian, the vast majority of glyphs are used for their sound values rather than logographically. Many logographic systems also have a semantic/ideographic component (see
ideogram An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible onl ...
), called "determinatives" in the case of Egyptian and "radicals" in the case of Chinese. Typical Egyptian usage was to augment a logogram, which may potentially represent several words with different pronunciations, with a determinate to narrow down the meaning, and a phonetic component to specify the pronunciation. In the case of Chinese, the vast majority of characters are a fixed combination of a radical that indicates its nominal category, plus a phonetic to give an idea of the pronunciation. The Mayan system used logograms with phonetic complements like the Egyptian, while lacking ideographic components.


Chinese characters

Chinese scholars have traditionally classified the Chinese characters ('' hànzì'') into six types by etymology. The first two types are "single-body", meaning that the character was created independently of other characters. "Single-body" pictograms and ideograms make up only a small proportion of Chinese logograms. More productive for the Chinese script were the two "compound" methods, i.e. the character was created from assembling different characters. Despite being called "compounds", these logograms are still single characters, and are written to take up the same amount of space as any other logogram. The final two types are methods in the usage of characters rather than the formation of characters themselves. # The first type, and the type most often associated with Chinese writing, are
pictogram A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an computer icon, icon, is a graphic symbol that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in ...
s, which are pictorial representations of the
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful Constituent (linguistics), constituent of a linguistic expression. The field of linguistics, linguistic study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology (linguistics), morphology. In English, morphemes are ...
represented, e.g. for 'mountain'. # The second type are the
ideogram An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible onl ...
s that attempt to visualize abstract
concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of the concept behind principles, thoughts and beliefs. They play an important role in all aspects of cognition. As such, concepts are studied by sev ...
s, such as 'up' and 'down'. Also considered ideograms are pictograms with an ideographic indicator; for instance, is a pictogram meaning 'knife', while is an ideogram meaning 'blade'. # Radical-radical compounds, in which each element of the character (called
radical Radical may refer to: Politics and ideology Politics *Radical politics, the political intent of fundamental societal change *Radicalism (historical), the Radical Movement that began in late 18th century Britain and spread to continental Europe and ...
) hints at the meaning. For example, 'rest' is composed of the characters for 'person' () and 'tree' (), with the intended idea of someone leaning against a tree, i.e. resting. # Radical-phonetic compounds, in which one component (the radical) indicates the general meaning of the character, and the other (the phonetic) hints at the pronunciation. An example is (''liáng''), where the phonetic ''liáng'' indicates the pronunciation of the character and the radical ('wood') indicates its meaning of 'supporting beam'. Characters of this type constitute around 90% of Chinese logograms. # Changed-annotation characters are characters which were originally the same character but have bifurcated through orthographic and often
semantic Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference, Meaning (philosophy), meaning, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct discipline ...
drift. For instance, can mean both 'music' (''yuè'') and 'pleasure' (''lè''). # Improvisational characters (lit. 'improvised-borrowed-words') come into use when a native spoken word has no corresponding character, and hence another character with the same or a similar sound (and often a close meaning) is "borrowed"; occasionally, the new meaning can supplant the old meaning. For example, used to be a pictographic word meaning 'nose', but was borrowed to mean 'self', and is now used almost exclusively to mean the latter; the original meaning survives only in stock phrases and more archaic compounds. Because of their derivational process, the entire set of
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabary, syllabaries used to write Japanese phonology, Japanese phonological units, Mora (linguistics), morae. Such syllabaries include (1) the original kana, or , which were Chinese characters (kanji) used ...
can be considered to be of this type of character, hence the name ''kana'' (lit. 'borrowed names'). Example: Japanese ; is a simplified form of Chinese used in Korea and Japan, and is the Chinese name for this type of characters. The most productive method of Chinese writing, the radical-phonetic, was made possible by ignoring certain distinctions in the phonetic system of syllables. In
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 12 ...
, post-final ending consonants and were typically ignored; these developed into tones in
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese recorded in the '' Qieyun'', a rime dictionary first published in 601 and followed by several revised and expanded editions. The ...
, which were likewise ignored when new characters were created. Also ignored were differences in aspiration (between aspirated vs. unaspirated
obstruent An obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is manner of articulation, formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorants, which have no such obstruction and so resonate. All obstruents are consonants, but sonorants in ...
s, and voiced vs. unvoiced sonorants); the Old Chinese difference between type-A and type-B syllables (often described as presence vs. absence of palatalization or
pharyngealization Pharyngealization is a secondary articulation of consonants or vowels by which the Human pharynx, pharynx or epiglottis is constricted during the articulation of the sound. IPA symbols In the International Phonetic Alphabet, pharyngealization can ...
); and sometimes, voicing of initial obstruents and/or the presence of a medial after the initial consonant. In earlier times, greater phonetic freedom was generally allowed. During Middle Chinese times, newly created characters tended to match pronunciation exactly, other than the tone – often by using as the phonetic component a character that itself is a radical-phonetic compound. Due to the long period of language evolution, such component "hints" within characters as provided by the radical-phonetic compounds are sometimes useless and may be misleading in modern usage. As an example, based on 'each', pronounced ''měi'' in
Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese ()—in linguistics Standard Northern Mandarin or Standard Beijing Mandarin, in common speech simply Mandarin, better qualified as Standard Mandarin, Modern Standard Mandarin or Standard Mandarin Chinese—is a modern Standar ...
, are the characters 'to humiliate', 'to regret', and 'sea', pronounced respectively ''wǔ'', ''huǐ'', and ''hǎi'' in Mandarin. Three of these characters were pronounced very similarly in Old Chinese –  (每), } (悔), and } (海) according to a recent reconstruction by William H. Baxter and
Laurent Sagart Laurent Sagart (; born 1951) is a senior researcher at the Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale (CRLAO – UMR 8563) unit of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Biography Born in Paris in 1951, he earned hi ...
– but
sound change A sound change, in historical linguistics, is a change in the pronunciation of a language. A sound change can involve the replacement of one speech sound (or, more generally, one phonetic feature value) by a different one (called phonetic ch ...
s in the intervening 3,000 years or so (including two different dialectal developments, in the case of the last two characters) have resulted in radically different pronunciations.


Chinese characters used in Japanese and Korean

Within the context of the Chinese language, Chinese characters (known as
hanzi Chinese characters () are logogram In a written language, a logogram, logograph, or lexigraph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''h ...
) by and large represent words and morphemes rather than pure ideas; however, the adoption of Chinese characters by the Japanese and Korean languages (where they are known as
kanji are the logographic Chinese characters taken from the Chinese family of scripts, Chinese script and used in the writing of Japanese language, Japanese. They were made a major part of the Japanese writing system during the time of Old Japanese ...
and
hanja Hanja (Hangul: ; Hanja: , ), alternatively known as Hancha, are Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages ...
, respectively) have resulted in some complications to this picture. Many Chinese words, composed of Chinese morphemes, were borrowed into Japanese and Korean together with their character representations; in this case, the morphemes and characters were borrowed together. In other cases, however, characters were borrowed to represent native Japanese and Korean morphemes, on the basis of meaning alone. As a result, a single character can end up representing multiple morphemes of similar meaning but with different origins across several languages. Because of this, kanji and hanja are sometimes described as morphographic writing systems.


Differences in processing of logographic and phonologic writing systems

Because much research on language processing has centered on English and other alphabetically written languages, many theories of language processing have stressed the role of phonology in producing speech. Contrasting logographically coded languages, where a single character is represented phonetically and ideographically, with phonetically/phonemically spelled languages has yielded insights into how different languages rely on different processing mechanisms. Studies on the processing of logographically coded languages have amongst other things looked at neurobiological differences in processing, with one area of particular interest being hemispheric lateralization. Since logographically coded languages are more closely associated with images than alphabetically coded languages, several researchers have hypothesized that right-side activation should be more prominent in logographically coded languages. Although some studies have yielded results consistent with this hypothesis there are too many contrasting results to make any final conclusions about the role of hemispheric lateralization in orthographically versus phonetically coded languages. Another topic that has been given some attention is differences in processing of homophones. Verdonschot et al. examined differences in the time it took to read a homophone out loud when a picture that was either related or unrelated to a homophonic character was presented before the character. Both Japanese and Chinese homophones were examined. Whereas word production of alphabetically coded languages (such as English) has shown a relatively robust immunity to the effect of context stimuli, Verdschot et al. found that Japanese homophones seem particularly sensitive to these types of effects. Specifically, reaction times were shorter when participants were presented with a phonologically related picture before being asked to read a target character out loud. An example of a phonologically related stimulus from the study would be for instance when participants were presented with a picture of an elephant, which is pronounced ''zou'' in Japanese, before being presented with the Chinese character , which is also read ''zou''. No effect of phonologically related context pictures were found for the reaction times for reading Chinese words. A comparison of the (partially) logographically coded languages Japanese and Chinese is interesting because whereas the Japanese language consists of more than 60% homographic heterophones (characters that can be read two or more different ways), most Chinese characters only have one reading. Because both languages are logographically coded, the difference in latency in reading aloud Japanese and Chinese due to context effects cannot be ascribed to the logographic nature of the writing systems. Instead, the authors hypothesize that the difference in latency times is due to additional processing costs in Japanese, where the reader cannot rely solely on a direct orthography-to-phonology route, but information on a lexical-syntactical level must also be accessed in order to choose the correct pronunciation. This hypothesis is confirmed by studies finding that Japanese
Alzheimer's disease Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegeneration, neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and progressively worsens. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in short-term me ...
patients whose comprehension of characters had deteriorated still could read the words out loud with no particular difficulty. Studies contrasting the processing of English and Chinese homophones in
lexical decision task The lexical decision task (LDT) is a procedure used in many psychology Psychology is the science, scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, ...
s have found an advantage for homophone processing in Chinese, and a disadvantage for processing homophones in English. The processing disadvantage in English is usually described in terms of the relative lack of homophones in the English language. When a homophonic word is encountered, the phonological representation of that word is first activated. However, since this is an ambiguous stimulus, a matching at the orthographic/lexical ("mental dictionary") level is necessary before the stimulus can be disambiguated, and the correct pronunciation can be chosen. In contrast, in a language (such as Chinese) where many characters with the same reading exists, it is hypothesized that the person reading the character will be more familiar with homophones, and that this familiarity will aid the processing of the character, and the subsequent selection of the correct pronunciation, leading to shorter reaction times when attending to the stimulus. In an attempt to better understand homophony effects on processing, Hino et al. conducted a series of experiments using Japanese as their target language. While controlling for familiarity, they found a processing advantage for homophones over non-homophones in Japanese, similar to what has previously been found in Chinese. The researchers also tested whether orthographically similar homophones would yield a disadvantage in processing, as has been the case with English homophones, but found no evidence for this. It is evident that there is a difference in how homophones are processed in logographically coded and alphabetically coded languages, but whether the advantage for processing of homophones in the logographically coded languages Japanese and Chinese (i.e. their writing systems) is due to the logographic nature of the scripts, or if it merely reflects an advantage for languages with more homophones regardless of script nature, remains to be seen.


Advantages and disadvantages


Separating writing and pronunciation

The main difference between logograms and other writing systems is that the graphemes are not linked directly to their pronunciation. An advantage of this separation is that understanding of the pronunciation or language of the writer is unnecessary, e.g. 1 is understood regardless of whether it be called ''one'', ''ichi'' or ''wāḥid'' by its reader. Likewise, people speaking different
varieties of Chinese Chinese, also known as Sinitic, is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family consisting of hundreds of local varieties, many of which are not mutually intelligible. Variation is particularly strong in the more mountainous southeast of ...
may not understand each other in speaking, but may do so to a significant extent in writing even if they do not write in
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese ()—in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, pa ...
. Therefore, in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan before modern times, communication by writing () was the norm of
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...
n international trade and diplomacy using
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak", meaning "literary language/speech"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text", meaning "literar ...
. This separation, however, also has the great disadvantage of requiring the memorization of the logograms when learning to read and write, separately from the pronunciation. Though not from an inherent feature of logograms but due to its unique history of development, Japanese has the added complication that almost every logogram has more than one pronunciation. Conversely, a phonetic character set is written precisely as it is spoken, but with the disadvantage that slight pronunciation differences introduce ambiguities. Many alphabetic systems such as those of
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
, Italian,
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Cana ...
, and Finnish make the practical compromise of standardizing how words are written while maintaining a nearly one-to-one relation between characters and sounds. Both English and
French orthography French orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the French language. It is based on a combination of phoneme, phonemic and historical principles. The spelling of words is largely based on the pronunciation of Old French c. 1100–1 ...
are more complicated than that; character combinations are often pronounced in multiple ways, usually depending on their history.
Hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's Revised Romanization of Korean, standard Romanization. ( ) in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the modern official writing system f ...
, the
Korean language Korean (South Korean: , ''hangugeo''; North Korean: , ''chosŏnmal'') is the native language for about 80 million people, mostly of Koreans, Korean descent. It is the official language, official and national language of both North Korea and So ...
's writing system, is an example of an alphabetic script that was designed to replace the logogrammatic
hanja Hanja (Hangul: ; Hanja: , ), alternatively known as Hancha, are Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages ...
in order to increase literacy. The latter is now rarely used, but retains some currency in South Korea, sometimes in combination with hangul. According to government-commissioned research, the most commonly used 3,500 characters listed in the
People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
's " Chart of Common Characters of Modern Chinese" (, ''Xiàndài Hànyǔ Chángyòngzì Biǎo'') cover 99.48% of a two-million-word sample. As for the case of traditional Chinese characters, 4,808 characters are listed in the " Chart of Standard Forms of Common National Characters" () by the Ministry of Education of the
Republic of China Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the n ...
, while 4,759 in the "''Soengjung Zi Zijing Biu''" () by the Education and Manpower Bureau of
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
, both of which are intended to be taught during
elementary Elementary may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Music * ''Elementary'' (Cindy Morgan album), 2001 * ''Elementary'' (The End album), 2007 * ''Elementary'', a Melvin "Wah-Wah Watson" Ragin album, 1977 Other uses in arts, entertainment, a ...
and junior secondary education. Education after elementary school includes not as many new characters as new words, which are mostly combinations of two or more already learned characters.


Characters in information technology

Entering complex characters can be cumbersome on electronic devices due to a practical limitation in the number of input keys. There exist various
input method An input method (or input method editor, commonly abbreviated IME) is an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for ...
s for entering logograms, either by breaking them up into their constituent parts such as with the Cangjie and Wubi methods of typing Chinese, or using phonetic systems such as
Bopomofo Bopomofo (), or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols, also named Zhuyin (), is a Chinese transliteration system for Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Chinese (Sinitic) dialects that are natively spoken across most of northern and ...
or
Pinyin Hanyu Pinyin (), often shortened to just pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in China, and to some extent, in Singapore and Malaysia. It is often used to teach Mandarin, normally writte ...
where the word is entered as pronounced and then selected from a list of logograms matching it. While the former method is (linearly) faster, it is more difficult to learn. With the Chinese alphabet system however, the strokes forming the logogram are typed as they are normally written, and the corresponding logogram is then entered. Also due to the number of glyphs, in programming and computing in general, more memory is needed to store each grapheme, as the character set is larger. As a comparison,
ISO 8859 ISO/IEC 8859 is a joint International Organization for Standardization, ISO and International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC series of standards for 8-bit character encodings. The series of standards consists of numbered parts, such as ISO/IEC ...
requires only one
byte The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the smallest addressable un ...
for each grapheme, while the
Basic Multilingual Plane In the Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing syste ...
encoded in
UTF-8 UTF-8 is a variable-length character encoding Character encoding is the process of assigning numbers to Graphics, graphical character (computing), characters, especially the written characters of Language, human language, allowing them to be ...
requires up to three bytes. On the other hand, English words, for example, average five characters and a space per word and thus need six bytes for every word. Since many logograms contain more than one grapheme, it is not clear which is more memory-efficient.
Variable-width encoding A variable-width encoding is a type of character encoding scheme in which codes of differing lengths are used to encode a character set (a repertoire of symbols) for representation, usually in a computer. Most common variable-width encodings are ...
s allow a unified character encoding standard such as
Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The standard, ...
to use only the bytes necessary to represent a character, reducing the overhead that results merging large character sets with smaller ones.


See also

*
Emoji An emoji ( ; plural emoji or emojis) is a pictogram, logogram, ideogram or smiley embedded in text and used in electronic messages and web pages. The primary function of emoji is to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conv ...
*
Logo A logo (abbreviation of logotype; ) is a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition. It may be of an abstract or figurative design or include the text of the name it represents as in a wordma ...
*
Symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different ...
*
Syllabogram Syllabograms are sign A sign is an Physical object, object, quality (philosophy), quality, event, or Non-physical entity, entity whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. A natural sign bears ...
*
Wingdings Wingdings is a series of dingbat typeface, fonts that render letters as a variety of symbols. They were originally developed in 1990 by Microsoft by combining glyphs from Lucida (font), Lucida Icons, Arrows, and Stars licensed from Charles Bigel ...
*
Rebus A rebus () is a puzzle device that combines the use of illustrated pictures with individual letters to depict words or phrases. For example: the word "been" might be depicted by a rebus showing an illustrated bumblebee next to a plus sign (+) ...
, the use of pictures to represent words or parts of words


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* * * *


External links


古代文字資料館 Ancient Writing Library


{{list of writing systems Graphemes