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Possibly a cultural effect as well: were the numbers
of literate Chinese as a percentage of the population
greater than those of the Egyptians? In other words,
is this another network effect that when the Egyptian
signs were in use, only a small group relative to the
population used them competently, so when historical
events broke up the continutity and contiguity of that
community of competence, the network snapped and so
did the tradition? Whereas, in China, this network
catastrophe did not occur or did not occur in sufficient
strength to snap the cohesion of the network? Latin
is a so-called dead language, but is now remarkably
stable for the uses to which it is put.
Were Chinese characters used for more purposes than
Egyptian hieroglyphs? IOW, did multiple applications
make the network of use(s) stronger?
From: John Cowan [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
"Bullard, Claude L (Len)" scripsit:
> That must make rehosting the Egyptian information into new
> media quite challenging.
Indeed. The Unicode people are just beginning to tackle the problem
with a preliminary set of characters (the "Gardiner set") currently on
deck: 761 characters. At least 4500 other characters are further
back on the queue, and there may be as many as 8000 when all is done,
many years hence.
> Why were the Chinese more prescient and competent?
> Media types? Information types? Cultural emphasis?
> Dumb luck?
IMHO the biggest factor was an unbroken reading tradition. Any
literate Chinese person has a feel for when two different glyphs are
"the same thing", just as Latin-alphabet persons can recognize "T" in
hundreds of different fonts without confusing it with "t", its nearest
neighbor in rendering space. (If the upright protrudes past the bar,
it's "t", otherwise it's "T").
But Egyptian hieroglyphs were unreadable for more than a millennium, and
this feel for the system has to be painfully reconstructed from partial and
sometimes misleading evidence.