Chinese Calligraphy

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Francisca del Pino
Li Wei
RCC Shufa
10/15/12
Chinese Writing System is a Pictographic-based language
When looking at Chinese characters like these: “吗, 日, 林, 认, 再, 男”, it is possible to recognize different shapes and forms that cannot be seen in a typical western alphabet. The characters look like images that represent diverse objects. Does this mean that Chinese is a pictographic-based language? People that have not studied Chinese before, make the common mistake of believing that it is. They incorrectly associate the characters with pictures because their appearance is not as rigid and defined as the alphabet letters used in Western calligraphy. Even though Chinese does include a few pictographic characters in its language, it is not a pictographic-based language. The book Chinese Writing and Calligraphy by Wendan Li is a primary source that supports this statement. Li agrees that the distinct look of Chinese written signs may lead to misconceptions such as the belief of it being a pictographic script. However, he clarifies that “no language, even ancient languages, can be completely pictographic” (74). This is true because of two main reasons. The first one is that abstract ideas such as hope, faith, love, hate, and wisdom are concepts that could not be shown throughout pictures. The second reason is that there are also grammatical relations that prevent a language to be fully pictographic. Once a language is in use, the need for grammar between words is necessary and if it were to be a pictographic-based language this could not happen. By knowing that no language can be a pictographic-based language, it is clear that Chinese is not the exception. Wendan Li also explains that many of the written Chinese characters derived from object drawings; this is a reason of why some of the characters maintain a physical resemblance to the objects that they represent. Even though these pictographic characters exist, Chinese is a logographic language that never...
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