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dreamon

Ideographic Alphabet?

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dreamon

Here is an interesting question, inspired by the Chinese writing system. What is the minimum number of simple ideographic characters (or radicals) required to define every non-specialist English word? We assume that the simple characters are combined into short sequences called "words" (or compound characters) such as these:

run = (person, move, fast)

sun = (light, source, chief)

lamp = (light, source, artificial)

The sequence "defines" an English word if the majority of reasonably educated English speakers will guess the word correctly from the sequence. Any thoughts? Can this "ideographic alphabet" be made small enough to compete with phonetic alphabets?

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Daan

There is in fact a linguist who's written extensively on the number of "basic concepts" in language. I've been racking my brain but can't come up with her name or even the name for those "basic concepts" she uses. Basically, they can be defined as the words that can be put together to communicate even the most difficult meanings. Does anyone have any idea who I'm talking about?

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chrix

Anna Wierzbicka?`

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Daan

Yep! That's her. Thanks, Chris. So, dreamon (are you simply doreamon by another name?), read a little on semantic primes and see if they come close to what you were thinking about.

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renzhe

Sounds like predicate logic.

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dreamon

I am not doreamon; this was my second ever post to these forums (the first did not collect any replies). "Dream on" is what I say to myself in regards to my Chinese aspirations. I was curious as to the minimum number of primitive concepts required to define every common English word. The number is probably below 1000, since there is "Simple English" that uses about as many words. But in "Simple English" one has to form grammatically valid sentences with those words. What if we drop that requirement and instead rely on the human ability to imagine and use associations? Think of a children's game where a child tries to guess a complex word given a sequence of basic words. We disallow phonetic associations (such as spelling with words). Can we get down to just 100 basic concepts?

Yep! That's her. Thanks, Chris. So, dreamon (are you simply doreamon by another name?), read a little on semantic primes and see if they come close to what you were thinking about.

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dreamon

Sounds like predicate logic.

No, it is perhaps a direct opposite to logic: a guessing game of pure imagination and free association.

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