ABC of Kulcha

Useful review article by a US academic working in Japan of some recent books on the cultural stereotyping of Asians. Main issues dealt with:

Is a population of US graduate students a suitable profile for a “Westerner” when making cultural comparison?

Is it true that the use of (non-alphabetic) kanji script in Japan and China prevents abstract thinking?

Is there a link between “Western” creativity and alphabetic script?

Does a kanji (or ideographic) culture encourage an imitative rather than a creative mindset?

The really interesting question – not broached in this article – would be: what evidence is there from “biscriptuals” (users of kanji and alphabets) that script constrains thought? One candidate might be the Chinese/English blogger at Linguistic Paradise, who incidentally tells us of that Thailand is holding a World Congress on the Power of Language: Theory, Practice, and Performance in 2006. Could be a good venue to raise this script ‘n culture question – surely a “world forgotten fact” as the Congress’ website inventively puts it.

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.


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