There are so many people on the Internet
looking for the Chinese alphabet, one starts to wonder what is going
on. This frantic search is especially puzzling because there is no
such thing as the Chinese alphabet.
Every alphabet consists of a rather small number (20-50) of letters
which represent sound values used in spoken language. Using the
letters of the alphabet, one can write down the words of spoken
language. In Chinese writing, however, there are no letters and there
is no alphabet. The writing system consists of a large number of
symbols used to directly represent words regardless of their value.
Although there is some relation between the structure of each symbol
and its pronunciation, but the symbols cannot be broken down into
smaller components to construct a new word. Each word is set and is
basically written the exact same way as it was written 2,000 years
Compared to the number of letters in any
western alphabet, the total number of these symbols in the Chinese
writing system is staggering. Even to be able to read a novel, it is
absolutely necessary to learn at least 3,000 symbols. People with
college degrees are judged to have mastered about 6-7,000 of them, but
some large dictionaries can contain as many as 60,000 characters.
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