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Encyclopedia > Logogram
Egyptian hieroglyphs, which have their origins as logograms.

Writing systems
History
Grapheme
List of writing systems
Types
Alphabet
Abjad
Abugida
Syllabary
Logogram-based
Related
Pictogram
Ideogram

A logogram, or logograph, is a single grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme (a meaningful unit of language). This stands in contrast to other writing systems, such as syllabaries, abugidas, abjads, and alphabets, where each symbol (letter) primarily represents a sound or a combination of sounds. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (592x695, 142 KB)Cursive hieroglyphs from the Papyrus of Ani, an example of the Egyptian Book of the Dead The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (592x695, 142 KB)Cursive hieroglyphs from the Papyrus of Ani, an example of the Egyptian Book of the Dead The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those... Image File history File links Kielitynkäkuva. ... Writing systems of the world today. ... Writing systems evolved in the Early Bronze Age (late 4th millennium BC) out of neolithic proto-writing. ... In typography, a grapheme is the atomic unit in written language. ... A list of writing systems (or scripts), classified according to some common distinguishing features. ... For other uses, see Alphabet (disambiguation). ... For the traditional ordering of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, see Abjad numerals. ... An abugida or alphasyllabary is a writing system composed of signs (graphemes) denoting consonants with an inherent following vowel, which are consistently modified to indicate other vowels (or, in some cases, the lack of a vowel). ... A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables, which make up words. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... A Chinese character. ... In typography, a grapheme is the atomic unit in written language. ... A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes. ... In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest lingual unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... Writing systems of the world today. ... A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables, which make up words. ... An abugida or alphasyllabary is a writing system composed of signs (graphemes) denoting consonants with an inherent following vowel, which are consistently modified to indicate other vowels (or, in some cases, the lack of a vowel). ... For the traditional ordering of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, see Abjad numerals. ... For other uses, see Alphabet (disambiguation). ... A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia. ...


Logograms are commonly known also as "ideograms". Strictly speaking, however, ideograms represent ideas directly rather than words and morphemes, and none of the logogrammatical systems described here is truly ideographic. A Chinese character. ...


Logograms are composed of visual elements arranged in a variety of ways, rather than using the segmental phoneme principle of construction used in alphabetic languages. As a result, it is relatively easier to remember or guess the sound of alphabetic written words, although it is relatively easier to remember or guess the meaning of ideographs. Another feature of logograms is that a single logogram may be used by a plurality of languages to represent words with similar meanings. While disparate languages may also use the same or similar alphabets, abjads, abugidas, syllabaries and the like, the degree to which they may share identical representations for words with disparate pronunciations is much more limited. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

Contents

Logogrammatical systems

Logogrammatical systems are the earliest true writing systems; many of the first civilizations in the Near East, India, China, and Central America used some form of logogrammatical writing. Examples of languages that have logogrammatical systems include:

There are no purely logogrammatical language systems in existence today. A common myth is that Chinese is a logogrammatical language. Though many characters have associated meanings, nearly all Chinese words involve combinations of characters. Only a small minority of words in Chinese involve single characters. Additionally, characters are made up of sub-character radicals that can also cue pronunciation and meaning. Only the most basic monosyllabic words in Chinese could be considered logogrammatical. A section of the Papyrus of Ani showing cursive hieroglyphs. ... Khafres Pyramid (4th dynasty) and Great Sphinx of Giza (c. ... Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous hieroglyphic script native to western Anatolia first appears on Luwian royal seals, from ca. ... Luwian (sometimes spelled Luvian) is part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo European language family and has been preserved in three forms: (1) Cuneiform Luwian, (2) Hieroglyphic-Luwian and (3), the somewhat later Lycian. ... The cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. ... Sumerian ( native tongue) was the language of ancient Sumer, spoken in Southern Mesopotamia from at least the 4th millennium BCE. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language in the beginning of the 2nd millenium BCE, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific... Akkadian (lišānum akkadÄ«tum) was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ... 14th century BCE diplomatic letter in Akkadian, found in Tell Amarna. ... Elamite is an extinct language, which was spoken by the ancient Elamites (also known as Ilamids). ... Hittite is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who once created an empire centered on ancient Hattusas (modern BoÄŸazkale) in north-central Anatolia (modern Turkey). ... Luwian (sometimes spelled Luvian) is part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo European language family and has been preserved in three forms: (1) Cuneiform Luwian, (2) Hieroglyphic-Luwian and (3), the somewhat later Lycian. ... Hurrian is a conventional name for the language of the Hurrians (Khurrites), a people who entered northern Mesopotamia around 2300 BC and had mostly vanished by 1000 BC. Hurrian was the language of the Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, and was likely spoken at least initially in Hurrian settlements in... Urartian is the conventional name for the language spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Urartu in Northeast Anatolia (present-day Turkey), in the region of Lake Van. ... The Dongba are the shamans or priests of the Naxi people of southwestern China. ... Naxi is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by some 300,000 people mostly concentrated in the Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County (Lìjiāng NàxÄ«zú Zìzhìxiàn 丽江纳西族自治县) of the province of Yunnan, China. ... The Tangut script is logographic, used for writing the Tangut language. ... Tangut (also Xixia) is the ancient northerneastern Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Tangut Empire. ... Maya glyphs in stucco at the Museo de sitio in Palenque, Mexico The Maya script, commonly known as Maya hieroglyphs, was the writing system of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica, presently the only deciphered script of the Mesoamerican writing systems. ... The Chorti language (Chorti) is a langauge of the Mayan language family. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... The Classic Maya language is the oldest historically attested member of the Maya language family. ... The Yi scripts, also known as Cuan or Wei, are used to write the Yi languages. ... Yi (also Moso, Lolo, Noso, ) is a family of closely related Tibeto-Burman languages spoken by the Yi people. ... 漢字 / 汉字 Chinese character in Hanzi, Kanji, Hanja, Hán Tá»±. Red in Simplified Chinese. ... Chữ nôm (𡦂喃 lit. ... Categories: Ethnic groups of China ... Categories: Ethnic groups of China ... The Jurchens (Chinese: 女真, pinyin: nǚzhēn) were a Tungusic people who inhabited parts of Manchuria and northern Korea until the seventeenth century, when they became the Manchus. ... The Jurchens (Chinese: 女真, pinyin: nǚzhēn) were a Tungus people who inhabited parts of Manchuria and northern Korea until the seventeenth century, when they became the Manchus. ... The Khitan language is a now-extinct language once spoken by the Khitan people. ... The Khitan language is a now-extinct language once spoken by the Khitan people. ... The Zhuang (Simplified Chinese: 壮族; Traditional Chinese: 壯族; Hanyu Pinyin: ; own name: BouчcueÅ‹ÑŒ/Bouxcuengh) are an ethnic group of people who mostly live in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. ... The Zhuang language (autonym: Cuengh or CueÅ‹ÑŒ; Chinese: 壮语; Hanyu Pinyin: ) is used by the Zhuang people in the Peoples Republic of China. ... Nsibidi is a traditional system of writing (alphabets) indigenous to West Africa. ...


Logograms are used in modern shorthand systems in order to represent common words. In addition, the numerals and mathematical symbols used in modern writing systems are also logograms — 1 stands for one, 2 for two, + for plus, = for equals and so on. In English, the ampersand & is used for and and et (such as &c for et cetera), % for percent, $ for dollar, # for number, for euro, £ for pound, etc. Shorthand is an abbreviated, symbolic writing method that improves speed of writing or brevity as compared to a normal method of writing a language. ... A numeral is a symbol or group of symbols that represents a number. ... The roman ampersand at left is stylized, but the italic one at right reveals its origin in the Latin word An ampersand (&), also commonly called an and sign, is a logogram representing the conjunction and. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...


Ideographic and phonetic dimensions

All full logogrammatical systems include a phonetic dimension (such as the "a" in the logogram @ at). In some cases, such as cuneiform as it was used for Akkadian, the vast majority of glyphs are used for their sound values rather than logogrammatically. Many logogrammatical systems also have an ideographic component, called "determinatives" in the case of Egyptian and "radicals" in the case of Chinese. Typical Egyptian usage is to augment a logogram, which may potentially represent several words with different pronunciations, with a determinative to narrow down the meaning, and a phonetic component to specify the pronunciation. In the case of Chinese, the vast majority of characters are a fixed combination of a radical that indicates its semantic category, plus a phonetic to give an idea of the pronunciation, although this has become somewhat opaque over the last three millennia. The Mayan system used logograms with phonetic complements like the Egyptian, while lacking ideographic components. A Chinese character. ...


Chinese characters

Chinese scholars have traditionally classified Chinese characters into six types by etymology. There are several kinds of Chinese characters, including a handful of pictograms (象形 pinyin: xiàngxíng) and a number of indicatives (指事 zhǐshì), but the vast majority are phono-semantic compounds (形聲 xíngshēng). ...


The first two types are "single-body", meaning that the character was created independently of other Chinese characters. Although the perception of most Westerners is that most characters were derived in single-body fashion, pictograms and ideograms actually take up but a small proportion of Chinese logograms. More productive for the Chinese script were the two "compound" methods, i.e. the character was created from assembling different characters. Despite being called "compounds", these logograms are still single characters, and are written to take up the same amount of space as any other logogram. The final two types are methods in the usage of characters rather than the formation of characters themselves.

Excerpt from a 1436 primer on Chinese characters
Excerpt from a 1436 primer on Chinese characters
  1. The first type, and the type most often associated with Chinese writing, are pictograms, which are pictorial representations of the morpheme represented, e.g. 山 for "mountain".
  2. The second type are ideograms that attempt to graphicalize abstract concepts, such as 上 "up" and 下 "down". Also considered ideograms are pictograms with an ideographic indicator; for instance, 刀 is a pictogram meaning "knife", while 刃 is an ideogram meaning "blade".
  3. Radical-radical compounds in which each element (radical) of the character hints at the meaning.
  4. Radical-phonetic compounds, in which one component (the radical) indicates the general meaning of the character, and the other (the phonetic) hints at the pronunciation. An example is 樑 (Chinese: liáng), where the phonetic 梁 liáng indicates the pronunciation of the character and the radical 木 ("wood") its meaning of "supporting beam". Characters of this type constitute the majority of Chinese logograms.
  5. Changed-annotation characters are characters which were originally the same character but have bifurcated through orthographic and often semantic drift. For instance, 樂 can mean both "music" and "pleasure".
  6. Improvisational characters (lit. "improvised-borrowed-words") and come into use when a native spoken word has no corresponding character, and hence another character with the same or a similar sound (and often a close meaning) is "borrowed"; occasionally, the new meaning can supplant the old meaning. 自 used to be a pictographic word meaning "nose", but was borrowed to mean "self". It is now used almost exclusively to mean "self", while the "nose" meaning survives only in set-phrases and more archaic compounds. Because of their derivational process, the entire set of Japanese kana can be considered to be of this character, hence the name kana (仮名; 仮 is a simplified form of 假).

The most productive method of Chinese writing, the radical-phonetic, was made possible because the phonetic system of Chinese allowed for generous homonymy, and because in consideration of phonetic similarity tone was generally ignored, as were the medial and final consonants of the characters in consideration, at least according to theory following from reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation. Note that due to the long period of language evolution, such component "hints" within characters as provided by the radical-phonetic compounds are sometimes useless and may be misleading in modern usage. An excerpt from a 1436 primer on Chinese characters. ... An excerpt from a 1436 primer on Chinese characters. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest lingual unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... A Chinese character. ... The orthography of a language specifies the correct way of writing in that language. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... Japanese writing Kanji 漢字 Kana 仮名 Hiragana 平仮名 Katakana 片仮名 Manyogana 万葉仮名 Uses Furigana 振り仮名 Okurigana 送り仮名 Rōmaji ローマ字 For other meanings of Kana, see Kana (disambiguation). ... Homonyms (in Greek homoios = identical and onoma = name) are words which have the same form (orthographic/phonetic) but unrelated meaning. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Tone (linguistics). ... The Seal script characters for harvest (later year) and person. ...


Chinese characters used in Japanese and Korean

Within the context of the Chinese language, Chinese characters by and large represent words and morphemes rather than pure ideas; however, the adoption of Chinese characters by the Japanese and Korean languages (where they are known as kanji and hanja, respectively) have resulted in some complications to this picture. Japanese writing Kanji Kana Hiragana Katakana Hentaigana Manyōgana Uses Furigana Okurigana Rōmaji   ) are the Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system along with hiragana (平仮名), katakana (片仮名), and the Arabic numerals. ... Hanja is the Korean name for Chinese characters. ...


Many Chinese words, composed of Chinese morphemes, were borrowed into Japanese and Korean together with their character representations; in this case, the morphemes and characters were borrowed together. In other cases, however, characters were borrowed to represent native Japanese and Korean morphemes, on the basis of meaning alone. As a result, a single character can end up representing multiple morphemes of similar meaning but different origins across several languages. Because of this, kanji and hanja are often described as morphographic writing systems. A morphogram is the representation of a morpheme by a grapheme based solely on its meaning. ...


Advantages and disadvantages

Separating writing and pronunciation

The main difference between logograms and other writing systems is that the graphemes aren't linked directly to their pronunciation. This is partly brought on by necessity due to the number of homophones in languages that use logograms. An advantage of this separation is that one doesn't need to understand the pronunciation or language of the writer to understand it. The reader will recognise the meaning of 1, whether it is called one, ichi or wāḥid in the language of the writer. Likewise, people speaking different Chinese dialects may not understand each other in speaking, but can to a limited extent, in writing even if they don't write in standard Chinese. Moreover, in the ancient orient (including Vietnam, Manchuria, Korea, Japan, etc), communication by writing (筆談) was the norm of international trade and diplomacy. Deaf people also find logogram systems easier to learn as the words are not related to sound. Homonyms (in Greek homoios = identical and onoma = name) are words which have the same form (orthographic/phonetic) but unrelated meaning. ... Vernacular Chinese (pinyin: báihuà; Wade-Giles: paihua) is a style or register of the written Chinese language essentially modeled after the spoken language and associated with Standard Mandarin. ...


This separation, however, also has the great disadvantage of requiring the memorization of the logograms when learning to read and write, separately from the pronunciation. Japanese has the added complication that almost every logogram has more than one pronunciation. Conversely, a phonetic character set is written precisely as it is spoken, but with the disadvantage of slight pronunciation differences introduces ambiguities. Many alphabetic systems such as those of Latin, Italian and Finnish make the practical compromise of standardizing how words are written while maintaining a good one-to-one relation between characters and sounds. English, unfortunately, is not such a language. Hangul, the Korean language writing system, is an example of an alphabet that was designed to replace the logogrammic Hanja in order to increase literacy. The latter is now rarely used in Korea. The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today. ... English orthography (or spelling), has relatively complicated rules when compared to other orthographic systems written with alphabetic scripts and contains many inconsistencies between spelling and pronunciation, necessitating rote learning for most people learning to read or write English. ... Jamo redirects here. ... This article is mainly about the spoken Korean language. ... Hanja is the Korean name for Chinese characters. ...


Just as each pronunciation can represent several words, each logogram can (as is the case with the Japanese) have more than one pronunciation, though this is not an inherent characteristic. This makes learning to read a fairly complicated business since the context will modify the pronunciation.


Reducing the number of graphemes

Due to the large number of graphemes in logogram based writing systems, fewer graphemes are needed to represent each word. This is considered a benefit since it requires less space.


The meaning of words can be known directly. This significantly reduces the amount of effort required to advance from basic literacy to functional and academic literacy, despite the initial difficulty in becoming literate. Everyone who knows what the characters mean, can know what a new word means without explanation. This advantage become more pronounced as one advances in academia.


In English, for example, more abstract words are constructed artificially from Greek or Latin words. These words are often unintelligible to most people outside of the speciality. For example, the word "logogram" is a combination of the Greek words 'logos' ("word" or "speech") and 'gram' (“something written” or “drawing”). In Chinese, it is written as 表語文字 (Word expressing letter) and anyone who is literate at a basic level can correctly guess the meaning. Once one learns the basic 2000-3000 letter/words out of the logograms, one immediately becomes functionally literate. And it take small effort to become academically literate at a highly advanced level. On the other hand, in Western languages, for example, there is no lowering of the learning curve for new terms and new vocabulary as they progress academically unless one has learned, or is learning, Greek or Latin. The use of logogram reduces the amount of words one must memorize as most can be read and written almost instinctively. This is cited as the primary reason for the close correspondence between the literacy rate and functional literacy rate in Japan and China. The learning curve refers to a relationship between the duration of learning or experience and the resulting progress. ...


Characters in information technology

Inputting complex characters can be cumbersome on electronic devices due to a practical limitation in the number of input keys. There exist various input methods for entering logograms, either by breaking them up into their constituent parts such as with the Cangjie or Wubi method of typing Chinese, or using phonetic systems such as Bopomofo or Pinyin where the word is entered as pronounced and then selected from a list of logograms matching it. While the former method is (linearly) faster, the learning curve is steeper. With the Chinese alphabet system however, the strokes forming the logogram are typed as they are normally written, and the corresponding logogram is then entered. An input method editor (IME) is a program or operating system component that allows computer users to enter complex characters and symbols (such as Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan and Korean characters), using a standard Western keyboard. ... Portrait of Cangjie showing his four eyes and eight pupils Cang Jie(Traditional Chinese: 倉頡; Simplified Chinese: 仓颉, Pinyin: cāng jié), is a legendary figure in ancient China, claimed to be an official historian of the Yellow Emperor and the inventor of the Chinese characters. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Zh yīn F o (注音符號), or Symbols for Annotating Sounds, often abbreviated as Zhuyin, or known as Bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) for the first four syllables of these Chinese phonetic symbols, is the national phonetic system of the Republic of China (based on Taiwan... Hanyu Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ), commonly called Pinyin, is the most common variant of Standard Mandarin romanization system in use. ...


Also due to the number of glyphs, in programming and computing in general, more memory is needed to store each grapheme as the character set is larger. As a comparison, ISO 8859 contains only 256 graphemes and requires only one byte for each, while the Basic Multilingual Plane encoded in UTF-8 requires up to three bytes. On the other hand, English words, for example, average on five characters and a space per word [1] and thus need six bytes for every word. Since many logograms contain more than one grapheme, it is not clear which is more memory-efficient. Variable-width encodings allow a unified character encoding standard such as Unicode to use only the bytes necessary to represent a character, reducing the overhead that follows merging large character sets with smaller ones. ISO 8859, more formally ISO/IEC 8859, is a joint ISO and IEC standard for 8-bit character encodings for use by computers. ... In computer science a byte is a unit of measurement of information storage, most often consisting of eight bits. ... Unicode reserves 1,114,112 (= 220 + 216) code points, and currently assigns characters to more than 96,000 of those code points. ... UTF-8 (8-bit Unicode Transformation Format) is a variable-length character encoding for Unicode created by Ken Thompson and Rob Pike. ... A variable-width encoding is a type of character encoding scheme in which codes of differing lengths are used to encode a character set (a repertoire of symbols) for representation in a computer. ... Unicode is an industry standard designed to allow text and symbols from all of the writing systems of the world to be consistently represented and manipulated by computers. ...


References

  • DeFrancis, John (1984). The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1068-6. 
  • Hannas, William C. (1997). Asia's Orthographic Dilemma. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1892-X. 
  • Hoffman, Joel M. (2004). In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language. NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-3690-4.  - Chapter 3.

John DeFrancis is a Chinese language professor emeritus and researcher at the University of Hawaii who wrote a number of Chinese instructional texts (his Readers series is particularly well regarded) in the 60s and 70s. ...

Footnotes

  1. ^ Sentence and word length.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Ancient Scripts: Akkadian (1201 words)
Logograms are written in capitals, often transcribing Sumerian words, but also sometimes Akkadian if the logogram has more meanings in Akkadian than in Sumerian.
In fact, the logogram ; represents the word babu ("gate"), DINGIR resolves to ilum ("god"), and RA is the genitive case in Sumerian for dingir.
Note that the logogram for "king", šarrum in Akkadian, is transliterated as LUGAL, which is Sumerian for "king".
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