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Fonts & Encodings by Yannis Haralambous

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4.3. East Asian Scripts

The three great nations of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) have writing systems that pose challenges to computer science. In this section, we shall discuss two of these writing systems: the ideographs of Chinese origin that were also adopted by the Japanese and the Koreans, and the Korean syllabic hangul script.

4.3.1. Ideographs of Chinese Origin

Westerners must put forth an enormous effort to learn Chinese ideographs: there are thousands of them, and they all look similar—at least that is the impression that we have at first. We can easily be discouraged by the thought that even if we managed to learn 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 ideographs there would still be more than 60,000 others that we had not even touched upon, and life is so short. But do we know all the words in our own language? Certainly not! Are we discouraged by that fact? The author is not ashamed of his ignorance of the words "gallimaufry", "jecorary", "frondescent"[4-2], and many others. The same goes for the East Asian who comes across an ideograph that he does not recognize. The only difference is that we can usually pronounce words that we do not know, whereas the East Asian cannot do so with an unknown character. On the other hand, he is better equipped to understand its meaning. We require a solid knowledge of etymology in order to interpret a word; he, however, has a better chance of correctly interpreting an ideograph if he can recognize the radicals from which it is constructed.

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