If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas

Chad Hansen
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 52, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 373-399
DOI: 10.2307/2059652
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2059652
Page Count: 27
  • Download PDF
  • Cite this Item

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas
Preview not available

Abstract

Chad Hansen challenges views about written Chinese deriving from Leonard Bloomfield's aphorism, "Writing is not language, but merely a way of recording language by visible marks." This interpretation of written Chinese-forcefully advanced by Peter Boodberg, William Boltz, John DeFrancis, and David Keightley-holds that any written language is representationally dependent upon speech and consequently Chinese characters are not ideographic. Hansen argues such views are incorrect because they fail to explain mathematics or sign language, and conflict with results from brain research; further, he rejects as circular Aristotelian notions that ideas interpose between written words and things. Hansen is convinced that Chinese characters are like Arabic numbers and require no such mediation. He believes that if we understand Chinese characters as ideographic, we can unlock a conventional path to linguistic meaning that present Western theory misses, namely, that characters do not represent ideas, but replace them in semantic theory. He argues that Chinese characters function as public conventions of meaning and thus are "ideographic" in the common sense of the word. He holds that studies of sign languages and studies of language function in the human brain both indicate that language is not dependent upon speech and can be based upon patterns of signs. Thus, he concludes that even if any written form of language based on Chinese characters can be shown to derive from speech, that does not disprove the ideographic nature of the characters. Thus, it is proper to continue to use the popular term "ideographic" when describing Chinese or other East Asian languages using Chinese characters.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
373
    373
  • Thumbnail: Page 
374
    374
  • Thumbnail: Page 
375
    375
  • Thumbnail: Page 
376
    376
  • Thumbnail: Page 
377
    377
  • Thumbnail: Page 
378
    378
  • Thumbnail: Page 
379
    379
  • Thumbnail: Page 
380
    380
  • Thumbnail: Page 
381
    381
  • Thumbnail: Page 
382
    382
  • Thumbnail: Page 
383
    383
  • Thumbnail: Page 
384
    384
  • Thumbnail: Page 
385
    385
  • Thumbnail: Page 
386
    386
  • Thumbnail: Page 
387
    387
  • Thumbnail: Page 
388
    388
  • Thumbnail: Page 
389
    389
  • Thumbnail: Page 
390
    390
  • Thumbnail: Page 
391
    391
  • Thumbnail: Page 
392
    392
  • Thumbnail: Page 
393
    393
  • Thumbnail: Page 
394
    394
  • Thumbnail: Page 
395
    395
  • Thumbnail: Page 
396
    396
  • Thumbnail: Page 
397
    397
  • Thumbnail: Page 
398
    398
  • Thumbnail: Page 
399
    399