Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John DeFrancis

I wrote about Isaac Taylor in my first post on this blog. I intended to get back to him but haven't so far. He wrote The Alphabet in 1883 and it has been considered the first scientific work on writing systems written in English.

In the 20th century I believe that there was also one book which brought about a paradigm shift in writing system theory. Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems. by John DeFrancis, 1989.

In a discussion group last year on several occasions when cornered on a definition or idea, I said, "I think that comes from DeFrancis, doesn't it?" Now I am rereading it to reassure myself. Yes, he did say all that and much more. The only problem is that someone asked Dewho?? So, if you want to read one book - this would be my choice. But then who wants to read one book?

I have added a couple of book lists to the sidebar and I want to particularly mention Gary Feng's book list. Gary has a great blog on cognitive psychology and writing systems but it seems to be off for the summer so I'll try to link up to it later.


Several books of DeFrancis are listed on the Pinyin Readings section of the Pinyin Info website and a chapter of each has been made available to read. This is a great resource.

(I found this site a couple of years ago when I first started using google and typed in "morphosyllabic" - there it was in one of DeFrancis' books! Its funny now to think about the first word that I typed into google!)


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