This book tells us what hard time the Chinese language had during the century between mid-19C and mid-20C. While various new technologies were developing for the conveying of information, the ideographic nature of the Chinese language made it difficult to apply these technologies to it. The typewriter was a typical example.

 

At the beginning of 20C, when the use of the typewriter was spreading, "the Chinese typewriter" became a butt of joke, as an example of contradiction, or even as a non-object. Despite heroic efforts by a number of reformist thinkers and engineers, Chinese remained for a long time the most inefficient of languages by the techno-linguistic standard, requiring much more effort to be processed than languages of alphabetical structure.

 

The situation was reversed with the coming of the computer, which allowed new principles of language processing to be applied. The linear principle of the mechanical age had put Chinese at a disadvantage, but when the correlational principle was adopted by the computer, the Chinese language was the greatest beneficiary. For example, one needs to strike only six keys or so to write in "漢字文明圈" while about three times the number of strikes are needed to write in the same meaning in other languages.

 

This change has many implications, both about the past and about the future. During the last couple of centuries, the value of the Chinese and East Asian tradition was generally undervalued. This book shows us that the techno-linguistic problem was one (arguably the greatest) of the reasons. It was a situation where even most of the students of the East Asian tradition relied more on Western languages than on Chinese for their studies.

 

In a reversed situation where Chinese is more efficient than other languages for the conveying of information and ideas, we are to expect the expanding of its role as an academic language. The expanding will naturally begin in areas dealing with the Chinese or East Asian tradition, but with time it will be extended to other areas of social and natural sciences. What changes will be brought along to these areas by the adoption of Chinese as a major academic language?

 

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