Chinese is NOT picture writing! – History of Writing Systems #5 (Determinatives)



Watch this ancient Chinese scribe figure out how to use a fixed set of characters to write limitless words in his language. How? By combining meaning writing (logographs) and sound writing (rebus)!

The result is a set of helpful hints called determinatives, because they help you determine the meaning of a pronunciation character. Determinatives show up in Mayan, Egyptian and other ancient writing systems. In Hanzi (Chinese) and Kanji (Japanese) they’re called radicals, simply because they narrow down the root meaning (the “radix”) of the written character.

While we’re visiting China, we’ll stumble across an unexpected tension: should writing be easier for the reader to read or for the writer to write?

Oh, and why don’t we go a step further? What if we pat Chinese characters on the back, say “nice try” and take our scripts ALL THE WAY to pronunciation writing? Tune in next time!

The entire story of writing:

Who created this?
Art, animation and music by NativLang
CC-BY and public domain credits:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zyYKGKVOZmDG1F71zaCcV69FSYtWk_SKT14tMQcFGU8/edit?usp=sharing

source

Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

22 thoughts on “Chinese is NOT picture writing! – History of Writing Systems #5 (Determinatives)

  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    Hanja 漢字 is one of hardest writing system out there no wonder King Sejong created 한글 ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    i love ur video but this one is a C+ at best. Not only pronounciation is way off, but much of ur explanations are way off leading to most confusions in the comment section. I would consider revise the video.

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    Honestly, while the current Chinese writing system is difficult, I do not think a phonetic system will work well. First of all, Chinese has so many homophones. Everything written phonetically will give me a massive headache. You could argue that, hey we dont need write characters when we speak, we can understand them based on context, but you have to keep in mind that written and spoken Chinese can be very different. Think of literature or poetry. The beauty of the Chinese writing system is that it allows the condensation of information, and that could be highly helpful to developing certain styles. Another reason is that there are so many Chinese sub-languages, and the pictographic writing system works well as a common ground for all the different languages. Of Chinese used phonetic characters instead, traveling to different areas would be so much harder as u woulf have to essentially learn the local dialect in order to read. Thirdly, once u get to a certain level, u will appreciate Chinese characters as they often help you guess the meaning of words. As you probably know, words in modern Chinese are often made up of two characters. If you encounter a new word, but it contains one or two words that yoh are familar with, then you can more or less guess the meaning of the word. This is incredible helpful tbh. Another reason is idioms. Chinese people use idioms extensively, and these idioms are highly condensed. Goes back to my second reason. I seriously cannot imagine Chinese idioms writtwn phonetically. It takes away its meaning and beauty…and makes things even more confusing. Lastly, its just a beautiful, while prehistoric, writing system. And its not like it doesnt work. Heck, how did people write back then? Dont underestimate the power of the human mind. Anyways, it carries a lot of culture in it too, and losing the writing system would just be pathetic

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    the determinative makes chemistry element chart easier, actually u are able to know the characteristic of the element when first see it

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    Chinese is so ridiculously complicated. It's time to switch to something like pinyin or hangul

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    How much different is it in Cantonese and Japanese where the spoken languages are different so the rhymes and homophones would be different?

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    omg so thats why my teacher looks like someone died when my classmates say ji yue ji ri… how many amputated feet

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    omg so thats why my teacher looks like someone died when my classmates say ji yue ji ri… how many amputated feet

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    omg so thats why my teacher looks like someone died when my classmates say ji yue ji ri… how many amputated feet

    Reply
  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    omg so thats why my teacher looks like someone died when my classmates say ji yue ji ri… how many amputated feet

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    wow , another western who have no idea on chinese writing teached people. these all are new writing, not ancient Chinese writing.

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  • November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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    Super bad example and I started to doubt the remaining episode …..

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