Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems

Hardback: $39.00
ISBN-13: 9780824812072
Published: June 1989

Additional Information

336 pages
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  • About the Book
  • Visible Speech is an attempt to set the record straight about the nature of writing. John DeFrancis, a noted specialist in the Chinese language, shows that writing can be based only upon a sound system and not upon any other linguistic level. He corrects the erroneous views of Chinese writing as pictographic, ideographic, logographic, or morphemic, and defends his conclusion that because of these misrepresentations, the nature of all writing continues to be misunderstood.

    Using the writing systems of Sumerian, Egyptian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Mayan, and English, among others, to illustrate his points, Dr. DeFrancis stresses their basic identity as representatives of visible speech, while noting their secondary differences as manifested in their diverse script forms. He proposes a new classification of writing systems based on this theme of diversity and oneness, and makes an impassioned case for the essential phonetic component of all writing.

    This book reflects the author's sound scholarship and novel insights, which place it in the forefront with such classics on writing as those by Gelb, Diringer, Cohen, Février, and Jensen. The readable style aims at a general audience interested in understanding the nature of the symbols that first strike the eye, while the academic research involved makes it an indispensable work for scholars in the many fields related to language and linguistics.

  • Contributors
    • John DeFrancis (1911- 2009) John DeFrancis (1911–2009), Emeritus Professor of Chinese at the University of Hawai'i, graduated from Yale in 1933 and immediately departed for China to pursue his interests. In three years of study and travel, he covered over 4,000 miles in Northwest China and Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, and down the Yellow River, immersing himself in grassroots contact with the language and people. Upon his return to the United States, DeFrancis earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at several institutions nationwide. Dr. DeFrancis is the author of dozens of articles and books on spoken and written Chinese, among them a widely used 12-volume set of educational materials and Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems (UH Press, 1989).