What is unique about the Chinese written language system compared with those of the West?Look at the oracle bone and Chinese writing example and then answer the questions on the discussion board....

 What is unique about the Chinese written language system compared with those of the West?

Look at the oracle bone and Chinese writing example and then answer the questions on the discussion board.

An Inscribed Oracle Bone and Chinese Characters

(1600-1100 BCE)


The inscriptions on the oracle bones have become very important historical evidence in the study of early Chinese civilization. The oracle bones, known in Chinese as jia gu wen, are either tortoise shells (jia) or ox shoulder blades (gu) with scripted texts (wen). The first oracle bone was discovered in 1889 in An Yang County, the capital of the Shang Dynasty (1,600-1,100 B.C.E.), and so far nearly 100,000 pieces have been unearthed.

It is believed that the original function of the oracle bone scripts was for fortune telling. The scripted bones were thrown into fire, and the priests read the crack signs from the bones and told fortunes. The inscriptions on the oracle bones represent the earliest form of the Chinese written language. Unlike most of the languages in the world, the Chinese language has never evolved from its original pictographic and ideographic structure into alphabetic or syllabic form. It maintained its ancient flavor into contemporary times, due largely to China's long period of cultural isolation. The chart shows the evolution of early Chinese writing from pictogram to ideogram and to phonogram.

Asked on by sara212

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

According to the text that you have included here, what is unique (or at least very unusual) is that Chinese writing has not evolved to use an alphabet or, at the very least, a syllabary.

In Chinese writing, there are thousands of characters.  Educated Chinese people have to memorize around 4,000 different characters.  There is no way to sound a word out (as you can if you have an alphabet) unless you happen to have memorized the sounds that those characters make.

This system is pretty hard to learn and most languages have gone away from such systems.  Chinese hasn't and that makes it relatively unique.

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