[LINK] Are GUI design standards no longer relevant?

Birch, Jim Jim.Birch at dhhs.tas.gov.au
Tue Jan 19 13:06:33 AEDT 2010

From: David Boxall

> One factor, we decided, is the complexity of the written form. 
> Pictographic writing has a virtual infinity of symbols (the largest 
> Chinese dictionaries include about 56,000 characters, but the system
> open-ended: there is no upper limit to the number of characters). With

> all its faults, an alphabet is easier to learn and use than a
> of graphics.

Alphabetic and pictographic writing use some different parts of the
brain.  One bilingual Chinese stroke victim lost the ability to read
Chinese but retained the ability to read English.  Pictographic writing
uses more brain areas and is demonstrably (slightly) slower.  For
example, Japanese katakana can be read faster than Japanese kanji.
Different people are dyslexic in the different systems. 

Alphabetic writing - writing sounds, not concepts - was a major advance
in writing and the invention of the Greek alphabet coincided with a
major increase in literacy in educated circles.  The developers of the
Greek language realised that it could be used to write down all
languages and developed some special characters for phonemes that
existed in neighbouring languages but not in Greek.   Socrates was
illiterate and distrusted writing because he thought it would reduce the
capacity for comprehensive balanced knowledge.   His pupil Plato learn
the new alphabetic writing thing and wrote down his teacher's lessons.
In turn, Plato's pupil Aristotle existed in a world where literacy was
normal for educated people.  This is a massive cultural change over a
couple of generations and the alphabet appears to be a key factor.

Children growing up in a phonetic languages - like Italian and German -
don't have a development slump a year or so into their reading and
writing while they struggle with the weird spellings in English.  IMHO
phonetic English would be a good move.  Both alphabetic and logographic
written language feeds into the part of the brain where sounds are
combined/analysed into words so alphabetic languages, especially
phonetic versions, have a natural advantage.  (For obvious reasons,
there is no reading centre in the brain.)

I can highly recommend the book on the history and science of language
called "Proust and the Squid" by Maryanne Wolf if you're interested in
this stuff.



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