What is writing and what is Chinese writing: A historical, linguistic, and social literacies perspective
AdvisorGoodman, Kenneth S.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMany misconceptions and misunderstandings about what writing is pervade in the field of literacy research and practice, and often school children from almost every household bear the brunt of misguided literacy research and inappropriate literacy practice. This dissertation examined the nature of written language generally and the nature of Chinese writing specifically from historical, linguistic, and social literacies perspectives. The problems with the evolutionary concept of writing development are discussed in depth. Several possible explanations for this evolutionary account of writing are discussed, and these are followed by some alternative ways to understand the historical change of writing. The Chinese writing system is examined in detail in order to present a prime example of a non-alphabetic writing system that has been in use and serving its language users effectively for thousands of years. The unique strategies of character formation and word formation of Chinese writing make it possible to create new vocabulary without increasing the number of signs. The use of phonetic component in semantic-phonetic compound characters builds the connection between oral and written Chinese. Chinese writing is a modern logograph that works, and it is a proof that the alphabet is not necessarily the final stage towards which all written languages must proceed. The choice of a writing system has to be understood from the linguistic and socio-cultural background of the language community. Every written language is ambiguous as it is redundant, and every written language has both phonographic and logographic elements. There is no pure written language. Different writing systems represent different linguistic levels, but all written languages of different writing principles are semiotic system in which symbols are used to communicate meaning. A distinction between word or character recognition and reading whole real text is made, and it is argued that using the experimental results of the former to suggest the process and teaching of the latter which resembles the reading in real life is misleading and very inappropriate. When researchers focus on the word or character level of reading, there are more dissimilarities than similarities among different written languages. However, when the reading of whole text in real life situation is studied, the process of making sense of print is similar across all different writings. At the end of this study, research on Chinese word recognition and reading process is reviewed, and some suggestions for literacy practice are made.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading and Culture