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Clarified "Chinese"

An Idea of A New Font: Redraw ideas behind Chinese characters, and read learn them faster than the Chinese characters themselves.
  (+17, -1)(+17, -1)
(+17, -1)
  [vote for,

Chinese language is increasingly used on the web. Many more people in China are able to read English than people in the West are able to read Chinese, giving the Chinese a fair advantage of knowing two most used languages in the world, giving them access to a lot more information than to any others.

The translation software is imperfect, and doesn't really solve the problem yet.

Chinese characters were meant to be intuitive, however, due to limitations of the brush commonly used to write them in the past, they were made unintuitive through continuous adaptation to their quick writing with a brush.

An idea is that we could learn to read Chinese characters online much easier if we created the their non-Chinese equivalents that are intuitive for us, read and learned them instead of learning Chinese characters.

Today we have computers, and we do not have the limitations of the brush. So, an idea is to draw pictograms to best represent the concepts behind each character, and publish them as a new font for viewing Chinese documents.

Inyuki, Jul 05 2010

Hieroglyphic Universal Translator Hieroglyphics_20Universal_20Translator
Notice the last annotation [theircompetitor, Jul 06 2010, last modified Jul 07 2010]

Straight from the ma's mouth. http://www.symbols.net/chinese/horse/
[swimswim, Jul 07 2010]

High Logic http://www.high-log...om/fontcreator.html
Looks like a cool tool to play with this idea ;) [Inyuki, Jul 07 2010]

Yingzi http://www.zompist.com/yingzi/yingzi.htm
On how English language would have evolved, in case someone would have invented English hieroglyphics. (Several really intuitive characters.) [Inyuki, Jul 08 2010]

Earthlanguage.org http://www.earthlanguage.org/dic/dic.htm
Elegant basic shapes, and examples of characters made from them. (Some intuitive characters.) [Inyuki, Jul 11 2010]

Most Chinese characters are not pictograms http://en.wikipedia...i/Chinese_character
"most characters are phono-semantic compounds, with one element to indicate the general category of meaning and the other to suggest the pronunciation." [AntiQuark, Jul 13 2010]

FontStruct http://fontstruct.com/
Probably a good starting point? [Inyuki, May 28 2012]

New Kanji http://www.facebook...453.100002486290232
[not_morrison_rm, May 29 2012]


       This sounds like a good idea, although I have almost no knowledge of Chinese. If it was originally graphically intuitive, and has become "formalized" for ease of manual writing, then this sounds like a sensible plan.   

       Even if the font were not widely used, perhaps it would be available as a "tranliteration font", so that Chinese Web pages could be rendered (by a literal one-to-one symbol substitution) into this font.   

       I'll suspend a bun until I hear comments from others who know more about Chinese, but I like the thinking behind this.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 05 2010

       I have taken two Chinese brush drawing classes, and one of them concentrated on word concepts, more so than drawing flowers and such.   

       I really liked trying to control the brush stroke, amount of ink, and paper orientation, while thinking of what I wanted to draw, at the same time. (Even though it took me all night to do a short note. Or to even write my name.) I like the idea of learning a new font, through the computer.   

       But it could not replace the joy I get out of setting the mood in the room, music, and such, and the touch of the brush, when simply wanting to draw small characters.   

       So anything that would appeal to more people to try and learn the beauty of the language gets a hand crafted bun from me. +
blissmiss, Jul 06 2010

       So this idea is to make the Chinese character for, say, "horse" look more like a horse?   

       I pick that one because it looks pretty much like a sketch of a horse already (and rather pretty--I used it as my symbol) and it was the first one I learned.   

       The trouble is that the sound it symbolizes, "ma", is used for "horse" and for "mother", which may be the Mongol influence.   

       So you'd have to start another symbol for mother and for each of the the other two words it represents.   

       That's all based on two semesters about ten years back, so it may not be right. Speaking of college, I was told that learning to speak, read and write Chinese is about equal to four years of college, effortwise. Anything to make it easier is a good idea.
baconbrain, Jul 06 2010

//unfair advantage// sp. "fair"
FlyingToaster, Jul 06 2010

       I don't think the Chinese character for horse looks anything like a horse. This would work for some characters but not others. I can see that Bliss could be used for some of them but there are some things which can't be translated such as numerical classifiers.
nineteenthly, Jul 06 2010

       [bacon brain]: this would be confusing as the pictogram for mother-in-law would be quite similar to horse...
Cedar Park, Jul 06 2010

       I'm reading the original idea and I'm already wondering how you'd choose uniformly understandable pictograms for just about every word you yourself just used.   

       As a compromise, I suggest that the pinyin (English romanization) for each character be overlaid upon the character itself, so that when confronted with an unknown character, you can at least pronounce it and guess what it must be. Also, since Chinese characters often have a "phonetic" component, I recommend that this be drawn in a different color, since Chinese people typically read by identifying that component first and then filling in the rest of the meaning, but non-Chinese learners are not so good at that vital skill.
phundug, Jul 06 2010

       I like these suggestions a lot [phundug], though the pinyin should be underneath the character, not superimposed.
pocmloc, Jul 06 2010

       Am I to assume implementation would be as simple as creating a font? Or am I missing something? Does it consist of direct substitution of more mnemonic symbols for the standard ones?
LoriZ, Jul 07 2010

       I think creating them would require investment from the US/EU or other social bodies that could have vested interests in enabling the populations to easier access the information in Chinese web for the economic benefits, and devising characters that are intuitive to the people within these social bodies (Westernization of Chinese characters).   

       This would require statistical analysis of what works for the populations.   

       It could require fine artists and a linguists each looking at each existing Chinese character, their modern meanings, analyzing it and trying to draw several candidate pictograms that from the point of the linguist could do a better job at conveying the meaning than the original character itself does.   

       The data for statistical analysis could be collected online through multiple choice tests for single characters and their combinations, asking to guess which character or a combination stands for a concept in the question.   

       Then, the best performing pictures had to be digitized, and the True Type font created.
Inyuki, Jul 07 2010

       Sorry, this won't work. It already exists as a pedagogical tool for some of the basic characters, but long before a student reaches "basic literacy" (1500 - 2000+ characters) the system would become more complicated than the normal Chinese character system. Notice this is "basic" literacy.   

       Chinese characters encode both sounds and meanings, and a small number of elemental components (214 in simplified Chinese) of most characters are recombined in various ways to produce different sound/meanings. Beyond this, many sounds and meanings are independent from the image of the character. And beyond this, characters themselves change meaning when combined into words. When you look at the complexity of the system that is produced by an initially small number of components, it is actually highly efficient (just not compared with a phonetic writing system).   

       This is a nice idea, but only works as a bootstrapping method to get students learning the most basic characters. And in that regard, it already exists as a standard technique in many textbooks.
swimswim, Jul 07 2010

       All that's true, but as with everything else there's an eighty:twenty rule. Certain characters are more common than others. However, it is like the Initial Teaching Alphabet in that you'd then have to learn the actual Chinese characters.
nineteenthly, Jul 07 2010

       //And beyond this, characters themselves change meaning when combined into words.// [swimswim]   

       I've often thought that by simply improving the inter-word spacing and punctuation of Chinese sentences, one could increase the ease of reading the language 100-fold. I n s t e a d o f h a v i n g t o r e a d l i k e t h i s a n d t r y t o t e l l w h e r e e a c h w o r d e n d s   

       As a student of Chinese for 4 years now, parsing Chinese sentences is still very difficult for me, because Chinese use very few punctuation marks, often rearrange the components of a sentence without warning, and *looooooove* nesting clauses.   

       (It often helps to check the end of a sentence in advance, for clues as to the meanings of words at the beginning of the sentence. For example, "shi" means "to be", but "shi X de" means a kind of past tense. X can be a clause that's 2 lines long, so unless you scan ahead or have ESP, you'll be thrown off by that "shi" until you notice the "de", and then you'll probably stutter and have to reread the whole sentence. This Wastes Time. I like to circle the "shi" to indicate it's not "to be" but rather part of that two-character combination)   

       I've developed a few notational tools I use to mark up passages when I read them; very similar to how one would use spacing and parentheses to help clarify a formula in a spreadsheet. If we could popularize these techniques, that would be half the battle.
phundug, Jul 07 2010

       I'm inclined to agree with [bigs]. As far as I can tell, written Chinese is an antiquated, bizarre and pain in the arse system which is inconsistent even within itself, and radically unsuited to modern electronic communication.   

       We moved on from runes and cuneiforms a while ago, and even the Egyptians got fed up with writing sentences along the lines of "Bird-sideways hand eye, sun three-pitchers bird sun sun", so maybe it's time for Chinese to do so too...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 07 2010

       To learn a language is to learn a culture. Discuss.   

       BTW - I thought you meant clarified as in "clarified butter". I was agog.
wagster, Jul 07 2010

       I am sure someone has invented the chopstick straw at some point.
swimswim, Jul 07 2010

       //To learn a language is to learn a culture. Discuss. //   

       Even Chinese restuarants offer Western cutlery if they have many Western customers. It's more fun and interesting to learn to eat with chopsticks, but they give you the option of keeping your shirt clean even if you aren't prepared to master the art of chopsticking.   

       Likewise, it is interesting to learn things like heiroglyphics, cuneiform and Chinese writing. I just don't think they're doing themselves much good if they really want the rest of the world to learn their language.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 07 2010

       On the other hand, most of the Chinese characters are 3-digit 214-base numbers. So, simply by changing the more complex ones of the 214 components into more intuitive ones could probably help a lot.
Inyuki, Jul 08 2010

       It would be better, surely, to use only primes (or at least to use a prime base). Otherwise you might mean to say "My dog has a large nose", and factor it incorrectly into "Spring is early this year carrot".
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 08 2010

       The conversation of Mandarins is highly allusive, and filled with literary references. Any licentiate studying for the provincial civil service examination would recognize "Spring is early this year carrot" as a line from the Analects, and interpret it, correctly as "My dog has a large nose."
mouseposture, Jul 08 2010

       That's exactly the problem!!!! The intended meaning was "Yes".
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 08 2010

       Ah, [MB] I see where you went wrong. There simply is no way to say "Yes" in Chinese; also, no way to say "No." That's what makes it //radically unsuited to modern electronic communication//
mouseposture, Jul 08 2010

       I don't think anyone can really speak Chinese - they're all just faking it.
phundug, Jul 12 2010

       Isn't the spoken version of Simplified Chinese the same as English, but LOUD AND VERY SLOW? So the written version would be A L L . C A P S with spaces between the letters.
mouseposture, Jul 13 2010

       [-], it's a myth that Chinese characters are all pictograms. (See link).
AntiQuark, Jul 13 2010


       Translation - A baby ate my dingo.
quantum_flux, Jul 13 2010

       //Isn't the spoken version of Simplified Chinese the same as English, but LOUD AND VERY SLOW? //   

       Actually, since Chinese has some sounds which are hard for non-Chinese to distinguish between (e.g. pinyin "sh" and "x", or pinyin "zh" and "r"), no matter how slowly spoken, maybe those sounds should be replaced with sounds that are distinguishable by more people.
phundug, Jul 13 2010

       Once upon a time I read that the Chinese ideogram for "trouble" was a stick-figure drawing called "two women under one roof". I've wondered ever since what that symbol originally looked like.
Vernon, May 28 2012

       Woman standing at a door.
nineteenthly, May 28 2012

       Although it's true that most Chinese characters are not pictograms, there is still value in this system. Japanese people, despite pronouncing all of the symbols differently, can recognise the meaning in many of the Chinese symbols that are common to the two languages, in the same way that an English reader can get the gist of a text written in any Germanic or Romance language due to the large overlap in morphemes and common orthography. If all computers had the option of selecting Inyuki's ideographic font as the default for these East Asian languages, those of us who are Chinese-illiterate could hope to understand a little bit more, even if much of it is still indecipherable.
idris83, May 28 2012

       //Japanese people, despite pronouncing all of the symbols differently   

       To be honest, it's actually worse than that. The pronunciation depends on if it's the first character in the world group or not. So, box with vertical line running through it is "chuo" (middle, centre) but as second part it's the "Chinese" pronunciation "naka"..and certainly the learner of Japanese is well naka-ered.   

       I think this is likely to get the same reception my own scheme for new Kanji.
not_morrison_rm, May 29 2012

       This idea could be realized by a crowd-sourcing website & campaign with a small web-app for drawing.
Inyuki, Dec 27 2012


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