Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Reading in Asian Languages
Reading in Asian Languages: Making Sense in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean
is the title of the new book I co -edited published by Routledge in November 2011
The book is the happy result of my good fortune in having a series of bright Asian students who taught me bout their languages while I taught them about reading.
Some key premises of the book are:
1, There is single process for making sense of written language regardless of language, orthography,or
2. The model I have developed of the reading process is a good fit for non-alphabetic languages.
3, There is much misinformation and misunderstanding in the Western World about writing with Chinese
characters. Among these are:
a. The Marco Polo myth-We think they persisted in character based writing because they didn't know better,
Actually he followed the well-worn silk-route Chinese merchants had been using for centuries.
b. Memorizing thousands of unrelated charachters. There is system to the characters. All characters are composed of only 8 different strokes arranged in four quadrants. Within each character there usually
is a radical that relates it other characters- fruit for example. So finding a new character in context, a reader would have multiple cues about the meaning.
c. Chinese is hard to learn. Not so. at least it is no harder to learn than any other system. Many children in Japan, Taiwan and mainland China are already reading when they begin school.
d. Character based writing is inappropriate for computers use.
Computers don't use the alphabet. They use numeric codes. The CHinese computer works much like alphabetic ones. As the writer starts a character the computer offers a choice of possible completions.
I'm proud of this book. We hope it will spread understanding of the systems used by millions of people.
The chapters are authored by present or past students . Thanks to my co-editors Mieko Iventosch, Shaomei Wong, and Yetta Goodman. Shaomei;s adaption of my miscue taxonomy to Chinese is included. It is a major contribution to research in Chinese reading.