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Hofmann

Regular Script Graphemics: How Chinese Characters Are Written

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edelweis

congratz!

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陳德聰

I don’t know anything about Kindle but is there a way to get the e-book without having a Kindle? As you can see I also know nothing about e-books.

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Tomsima

A good all round PDF/eBook reader for pc: Sumatra PDF

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Hofmann

And this is where I start asking for reviews. Please see the OP for details.

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pinggwo

Hi Hoffmann,

I bought your book and it's pretty informative. I'll write a longer review later but I was wondering about the variant ways to write some radicals/parts, like 糸、隹、宀、亠、穴 etc (小 vs 3 dots on side, / instead of 、, dot instead of vertical stroke on top, etc), and if it matters which one you write. 

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Hofmann

Thanks, @pinggwo. It doesn't matter unless you're a type designer or teacher, or you have a teacher who cares about this stuff, except 宀 with a detached 丶 was uncommon until very recently. (Remember hedging?)

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艾墨本

@Hofmann can you say more about why you decided to release an incomplete book and then update rather than finishing it first?

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Hofmann

Yes. The nature of this product made this kind of product development approach most appropriate. Because there are no precedents, it's better that the product exists than not, even in imperfect form. After initial release, improvements can be implemented based on feedback from customers. This iterative process results in an ultimately higher quality product sooner than products developed using traditional approaches.

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Zbigniew

I like your book, Hofmann. It reminds me of Bjorksten's, but you go into more detail.

That said, I'm afraid I'll never be able to write regular Chinese except with a keyboard.

On a minor note, I might be inclined to use the word "Chinese" in your book's title.

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Hofmann

I know you didn't imply that we're comparable, but Bjorksten's book takes a completely different approach, and can't be considered a precedent.

 

Looks like I can change the title, absurdly enough. Anyone recommend some SEO readings?

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Tomsima

I haven't bought your book yet, due to not figuring out how to get it downloaded yet (I don't use kindle), I'm sure it's relatively easy to sort out, just haven't got round to it yet. As for the name, I prefer it as it is. A reader of a book with the word 'graphemics' in the title already requires a familiarity with the subject so as not to require clarification of what 'regular script' refers to. Adding 'chinese' to the title might suggest the book has an emphasis on the graphemic differences in /chinese/ regular script from the regular scripts used in Japan, Korea etc. (Does it have this emphasis?)

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Hofmann

I think the idea behind that was that some people want to learn regular script graphemics, but don't know it's called "regular script graphemics" (I usually get a squiggly red line under "graphemics" most of the time I type it) so they search for other terms. "Chinese" is in the subtitle, but I don't know how much weight it has compared to the title. There's also a list of key words that I can specify in the book details. "Handwriting" is among them.

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imron

Personally I think having a unique name is more useful.  The top result on amazon search for Graphemics is your book.  You won't get that for Handwriting or Chinese Handwriting.  If the content is good enough you'll define the term.  There's definitely a dearth of English language material for learning Chinese handwriting.

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Tomsima

I still want to get your book, but the Amazon store says it is unavailable for purchasing. I don't know if this is because I'm in China, I've purchased ebooks from the UK store whilst in china before and had no problems. Any solutions @Hofmann

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Tomsima
This is a review for Harvey Dam @Hofmann's book 'Regular Script Graphemics'. I wanted to provide a review as books of this kind in the English language are few and far between, and clearly a lot of work has been put in. I mean this not only of the book itself, but the work required in advance in order to provide a detailed and in-depth account of the 'graphemics' of regular script.

My first impressions are excellent, the illustrations are fantastically clear and aesthetically pleasing as one would hope regarding the subject matter. The author writes in a weloming and relaxed tone that does not attempt to portray the topic as abstruse and inaccessable except for only the truly worthy. As is mentioned in the book many times (perhaps a few too many times), 'people are lazy', and one should aim for '80%' perfect then keep moving. Exactly what is needed for a student of Chinese who wants to understand how to write 必 properly without being told they will never get it right because they can't read seal script. Or something like that.

The book is fairly short (perhaps concise is the better word here). I read the whole book in one day; however, importantly, once finished it has the potential to serve as a reference book for many years. In this respect it is a shame the book is currently unavailable in physical form. I for one would love to have this on my tea table at home next to my brushes, enabling a quick flick through when I need to check how exactly 王獻之 chooses to 美化 his own name. The length certainly isn't an issue, as said above, the fact that there are no scholarly rambles enables the student to get straight to the good stuff. At any rate, the book appears to be under construction/expansion, and I expect future updates to extend the length and amount of content.
 
One further comment of praise on the accessibility of this book. The author chooses to use the stroke graphics (eg. 丶,辶) instead of using all the complex stroke names they can go by. This is very refreshing, as again, it doesn't bog the student down in complex terminology. Hopefully future updates will correct the (at present many) errors in how these strokes appear in in-line text.
 
Okay, so the book is great. Thanks to the author I have finally resolved many stroke order queries, and I have a good idea of the differences in standards between geographical areas that I have yet to visit/study. In the hope that future updates will continue to improve this valuable resource, I will also provide my own thoughts and suggestions below in how the book could further be improved:
 
The author is, as mentioned in the book, a fan of 歐體. I would take a guess he has studied 歐陽詢 for many many years. This shows in the content of the book, both in the stroke style of the handwritten characters, and the choice of 異體字. Whilst there is discussion of 顔真卿 and similar 書法家 famous for their regular script, what I felt was lacking was more in-depth comparisons between other influential figures in this area, perhaps 智永 would be an interesting one, or even 宋徽宗 if thats not pulling things too far off topic. In many respects I ended up feeling like this book might be titled "Ou-Script Graphemics".

More expansion on the connections between the different scripts would also be welcomed. What was contained in the book on 篆書、隸書、草書 was illuminating in my understanding of how and why 楷書 is the way it is. I spent nearly the entirety of the book with shufazidian.com open next to me so I could see examples of what the author was referring to. Essentially, more contextualisation is needed in the way of reference models; more people, more examples and more comparisons.
 
Smaller issues include the use of 'bullshit' in the section on 清 (made me feel pretty uncomfortable seeing it in this context. perhaps thats just me), the use of 'graphemics' (I perhaps would choose the term 'aesthetics' as an already established academic discipline, "Regular Script Aesthetics" sounds both 專業 and accurately descriptive. But graphemics is pretty interesting and unique, so there's also that) and the positioning of the final chapter (the explanations that we must wait for as problems arise during the course of the book are constantly delayed until the very end. Perhaps this chapter could be edited and moved to the very beginning of the book?).
 
Finally, my respect to the author, who I can only presume has poured in many years of study and attended many 書法課 with a top quality teacher, and here shares some of this otherwise hard-to-access knowledge. It would be very welcome if an introduction to the author and his background were also provided in a preface.
 
Okay, well thats about it. Hope many others get interested in this book. Looking forward to the updates.
 
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Hofmann

Thanks @Tomsima for the review. I don't know if you got the latest version, but I recently added an index to the end. It's not a paper copy you can flip through, but it's a shot in that direction.

 

Text rendering is a major problem, and I'm not counting on Amazon to move faster than me. This book will likely be available in more flexible formats (like paper) before every character appears correctly on Kindle.

 

This is intended to be a description of regular script in general, and the features I describe can be observed in many people's handwriting, although it may appear that I'm only describing 歐陽詢 because I write like him. I could consider showing more of others' handwriting to weaken that image, but overall, I want to be concise.

 

I agree that some mentions of other scripts' influence on regular script can be improved by showing examples of other scripts. I'll see what I can do for the next update.

 

At this point, I've decided on just calling it what it is, graphemics, and relying on key words and whatever SEO magic can do. "Aesthetics" is foreign to me. There is the linguistic field of phonaesthetics, but it doesn't seem related to graphemics. The only connection I can think of is with idiomaticity, which is a weak connection at best. I agree that some of the last chapter should go to the beginning though.

 

I could consider putting in some information about me, but not at the beginning because I want to start presenting useful information immediately. Actually, in early drafts I jumped straight into the cases, with a lot more cursing as well. An editor is coming.

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Hofmann

I recently found that I have to jump through some hoops every time I want someone who bought the book to get an update. I did so recently so, so when they are done you'll be able to update the book on the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page.

Also, what do you think of video? As it is, the book suggests that readers search for videos if they want to write their strokes like me, which is unnecessary. Videos are therefore unnecessary for the purpose presenting information. If anything, they might call too much attention to my particular technique instead of general regular script, further strengthening the image that this is only a book about Ouyang Xun's handwriting. (And also, he wrote pretty normally; describing him would still be practically describing general features.)

But I've been thinking about JPMorgan Chase Bank, with their metal credit cards. Those cards don't have anything to do with the primary benefit you get from the product, but they feel distinctive in one's hand. They're heavier and stiffer than plastic cards, feelings associated with quality, although from a functional perspective plastic cards are better because they're lighter and more durable. Furthermore, when you pull them out and plunk them on a table or hand them to someone else in a transaction, Chase gets free advertising simply because most cards are plastic. Furthermore, they're backed up with actually desirable terms.

Of course, you can probably think of many other examples.  Volkswagen's speaker-emitted engine sounds , Starbucks's experience engineering, and the aluminum phone trend in the past few years when plastic is objectively better. The moral of the story is that aesthetics matter. So, video? or other suggestions?

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Hofmann

Anyone who was waiting for an edited version, I've just uploaded it. It will be available within 72 hours. Hope it's readable now. 

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