Book Review: The Chinese Language - a comment

Title: The Chinese Language - Fact and Fantasy
Author: John DeFrancis
ISBN: 0-8248-1068-6 / 0-8284-0866-5
Year of publication: 1984
This book gives an introduction to some of the concepts underlying the Chinese language and writing system - not as an introduction for someone wanting to learn the language, but as a means of understanding how this complex beast is put together.

It gives little or no thought to the ideas of "balance" or "official view"; this is the author's opinion on how the world works, and makes no bones about being exactly that.

Main points:

High points

There are 2 sections of the book that stand out as truly fascinating, above and beyond the info on the language itself:

Low points

The author does not seem to realize that his qualitative argument against the ideographic nature of Chinese characters is circular. Reduced to essentials, it is: His foundation arguments for thinking so seem sound, but he gets a little strident in making the argument; "the impossibility of memorizing 10.000 characters" has to contend with the fact of people memorizing 3000 characters that don't have phonological components. As a computer scientist, I don't enjoy making arguments about "impossible" on the basis of a mere factor of 3.

However, his arguments for thinking of the Chinese script as having a partial phonetic basis do not really depend on the circle, and will stand comfortably on their own.

Status of this memo

This note is an aide-memorie to Harald Alvestrand, trying to make sure he does not forget everything he thought about while reading the book. It is made publicly visible so that other people can have some fun  reading it.
Harald Alvestrand does not know how to read, write or speak any variant of Chinese.