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Re: [ANE-2] Reading revolutions

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  • Peter T. Daniels
    vide infra �-- Peter T. Daniels grammatim@verizon.net Jersey City ... Citation? He has very, very little to say about Type III, except that it presents
    Message 1 of 42 , Oct 3, 2010
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      vide infra
      Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...
      Jersey City

      >From: Robert M Whiting <whiting@...>
      >To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      >Sent: Sun, October 3, 2010 7:02:00 AM
      >Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Reading revolutions
      >On Sat, 2 Oct 2010, Peter T. Daniels wrote:
      >> If he claims that abugidas are syllabaries, then he is _not_ "clinging
      >> to Gelb," who insisted they are alphabets.
      >No, you've got it exactly backwards. Gelb always insisted that abjads
      >were indistinct syllabaries (i.e. syllabaries where each symbol stood for
      >a consonant plus any vowel) and abugidas were retroversions of the
      >indistinct syllabary to a fuller syllabary.

      Citation? He has very, very little to say about "Type III," except that it
      "presents some difficult problems." He seems completely unaware that Indic
      scripts can explicitly mark vowellessness and unconcerned (he can't have been
      unaware) that Ethiopic can't.

      >A main difference between
      >abjads and abugidas was that the abugida had a default vowel associated
      >with the consonantal symbol while other vowels had to be marked with an
      >appendage to the symbol. Gelb particulary objected to calling abjads
      >and abugidas alphabets because in his view an alphabet has independent
      >symbols of equal weight for each distinctive sound of the language,
      >whether consonatal or vocalic. This is what makes the categories of abjad
      >and abugida important for keeping these distinctions clear.

      Too bad he never came up with any such terms, and I had to invent them in order
      to resolve the factual error of the "Principle of Unidirectional Development."

      >Gelb particularly objected to calling abjads consonantal alphabets because
      >to him 'consonantal alphabet' was an oxymoron.

      And lumping them together with syllabaries was NOT the solution.

      > However, whether abjads
      >are consonantal alphabets or indistinct syllabaries is something that
      >cannot be determined by internal analysis because from the point of view
      >of entropy both will have exactly the same effect on the reader: The
      >reader still has to supply all the vocalization (the only possible
      >exception might be in how double consonants can be written). Thus abjad
      >is an important classification for "consonantal scripts that do not
      >indicate vowels". How the scripts do not indicate vowels (i.e., whether
      >each symbol represents consonant plus no vowel or consonant plus any
      >vowel) is not part of the definition of abjad. In such a case abjad is
      >not "based solely on external features" but on the internal feature of not
      >indicating the vowels with the writing system.

      Sorry, _you_ don't get to say what is and what isn't "part of the definition of

      >In any case, Gelb always considered both abjads and abugidas to have
      >inherent vowels (either specific or indistinct) associated with each
      >symbol and hence were to be considered syalabaries, not alphabets. The
      >abugidas were just somewhat more obviously syllabic.
      >And while the true alphabet *is* counterintuitive since, as Peter has
      >pointed out numerous times, the syllable, not the phoneme, is the natural
      >unit of speech perception, Panini was on to the concept of the phoneme in
      >the 4th century BC.


      >> It's not surprising that the publisher did not send the book to be
      >> reviewed by linguists (or by writing systems specialists).�What is
      >> surprising is that they published it -- and simultaneously with
      >> Gnanadesikan's quite fine book.
      >You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, by you frequently can by
      >who is asked to review it.

      One wonders who they asked to referee it before they published it!

      >Bob Whiting
    • Graham Hagens
      Peter - thanks for your insightful responses to what Brian called by enigmatic note. It is probably time to stop before I get into more trouble. But just a
      Message 42 of 42 , Oct 27, 2010
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        Peter - thanks for your insightful responses to what Brian called by 'enigmatic' note.
        It is probably time to stop before I get into more trouble.
        But just a couple of remarks:
        Peter Daniels wrote:
        >And a Chinese person tells us that he can _get a general idea of_ a Japanese
        >newspaper article even though he knows no Japanese. In neither direction are
        >they _reading_ in the other language.

        Precisely my point: they are not reading the other language, they are absorbing the information in their own.
        As you know various trades achieve this all the time by means of technical symbolism. 
        In my profession I am frequently required to understand chemical data embedded within a text written in any one of a number of languages with which I am unfamiliar. 
        It is surprisingly easy to do.
        In the case of mathematics even more so.  Marshall McLuhan famously stated that the medium is the message: in technical literature symbolism becomes the medium.
        >>This carries the implication that humans would have kept looking for something
        >>like the alphabet for a long long time had it not emerged when it did.

        >Sorry, I cannot fathom this statement. What is "something like the alphabet"
        >that could have been "looked for"? Seems like _you're_ suggesting some sort of
        >superiority for an alphabet!
        Exactly.  And why not?
        Don't you think it's a little odd that such an idea might appear so out to lunch that an exclamation mark is required?
        What if we could design a system which would allow us all to communicate in our own languages and have others anywhere in the world absorb the information in theirs?
        Anyway, as I said.  Probably time to stop, we're a long way from the ANE now
        Graham Hagens
        Hamilton, ON 

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