The magic of language

Published August 25, 2009 by Christa Maurice

Sometimes, because I’m weird, I consider what has to happen for a person to read. Think about it, squiggles on paper that we have decided as a group mean certain sounds. We have further decided that those sounds mean a particular thing when coded together. Rearrange that same group and you get a different meaning. In English that translates to 26 letters that make 30+ sounds to make thousands of words.

Thinking about it too much usually causes me to lose the ability to read for a little while. This is what happens when I have too much time on my hands and too much caffeine in my blood.

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5 comments on “The magic of language

  • To make you even crazier…

    When you have a language that is very sound-poor (meaning not many sounds are available) such as Chinese, you tend to have a set of characters with specific meanings already embedded in them. So you have to memorize thousands of characters in order to be able to read. In Japan, for example, you need to know at least 2k most commonly used kanji characters to be considered HS graduate-level literate. (BTW — JP kanji came from China, but JP gets hiragana & katakana b/c JP has more sounds than Chinese.)

    Korean has even more sounds than Japanese so it is now entirely phonetically written, although it wasn’t until recently that it’s happened that way. Before because Korea’s close ties to China, it used Chinese writing system for everything.

    For things like English — it’s totally confusing since there aren’t any one set of absolute rules that people can follow, unlike Spanish, which is very easy to sound out even if you have no idea what the heck you’re reading. LOL. 🙂

    • Re: Korean using Chinese until recently.

      That would be the 14th century. The linguistics of Korean are pretty amazing. I stumbled across a site devoted to it and my jaw dropped. It is so logical.

      • Although it was technically invented in the 14th century by Sejong the Great, it was very slow to be adopted because many aristocrats resisted the movement to change the writing system. Many elites thought writing is something that only the most well-educated should be able to do. (Crazy I know)

        IIRC women were much more open to the new writing system because in many cases they weren’t taught Chinese characters. So han-gul became something that women and lower class people used.

        Now everyone uses it.

        Yes, the writing system is very logical, but the government always changes the spelling rules, which drive me crazy. The rules I studied over ten years ago no longer apply. (sigh)

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