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On the classification of the Chinese script
Doctoral Committee Chair(s)
Department of Study
Degree Granting Institution
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This dissertation examines the seemingly intractable controversies on the classification of the Chinese script from broader linguistic perspectives, delves into the reasons for the controversies, and provides a theoretical exposition and various pieces of empirical evidence for the argument that the Chinese script should be classified as a morphemic system of writing, as opposed to a syllabic or a morphosyllabic system of writing.
Specifically, it is found that the controversies on the classification of the Chinese script are incurred by the establishment of some basic assumptions in the field of writing typology, by incommensurability of terms used in the analyses of the Chinese script and in writing typological studies, and last but not least, by different views toward the nature of the Chinese script.
Five chapters are included in the dissertation. Chapter One documents a peculiar case of character simplification attested in the course of the Language Reform in the People's Republic of China and presents a general survey of the controversies, especially the very recent one, on the classification of the Chinese script. Chapters Two and Three provide theoretical preliminaries germane to contemporary writing typological practice--the former dealing with what writing is and the latter with how typological classifications of writing systems are construed. Our argument that the Chinese script should be considered an example of a morphemic system of writing, in which graphs typically strive to make reference to distinct morphemes of the language the script is derived from, is supported by virtue of both a theoretical exposition, viz. Chapter Four, and various empirical observations, especially those concerning the graphic level of binomes (lianmianzi, presented in Chapter Five.