Talk:John DeFrancis

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i changed the wording of a sentence to make it sound more neutral, otherwise wikipedia would be actively supporting this guys views.ㄏㄨㄤㄉㄧ (talk) 19:41, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

I changed it back. Of course his book is his opinion; however, if you want to claim that he made up stuff, you have to find a reliable source that says so. --Alvestrand (talk) 22:18, 28 September 2008 (UTC)


"debunks a number of "widespread myths" about the language—for instance, erroneously calling Chinese characters "ideograms" instead of "logograms.""

Umm? Does he really say that? I got the impression that he says that Chinese characters represent syllables (obviously), and in most cases (but not all!) morphemes. --JensMueller (talk) 19:28, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

I think he does, but I'll have to check. Jerry Packard's The Morphology of Chinese has a good summary of DeFrancis' work somewhere in it. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 01:30, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
I'll have a look in the book when time permits. You don't have to consult a secondary source like a blog as a source for what he writes in a published book ... --JensMueller (talk) 05:23, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
In the relevant chapter (chapter 8, "The Ideographic Myth"), he quotes Boodberg (1937) as saying "the term "ideograph" is, we believe, responsible for most of the misunderstanding of the writing. The sooner it is abandoned the better. We would suggest the revival of the old term "logograph". Signs used in writing, however ambiguous, stylized, or symbolic, represent words." (page 145 in my edition). He goes further to say that the word "logograph" has become tainted by being used as a synonym for "ideograph", and suggests the term "morphosyllabic" for the script (page 147). So I think the actual sentence here is wrong - DeFrancis was too much of a linguist to imagine that the words linguists use for describing characters (like "logograph") have fixed, immutable meanings, but he argued strenously that the use of "ideograph" was actively harmful. --Alvestrand (talk) 05:52, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
See also the end of chapter 4 (page 88): "“Logographic,” “lexigraphic,” “morphemic,“ and “morphographic” are good as far as they go, but they go not far enough. [...] The name “morphosyllabic” is, I believe, an improvement over “logographic,” “lexigraphic,” “morphemic,“ and “morphographic” because none of these tell us how to get from graph to meaning. This is accomplished, as the next two chapters will show, chiefly by means of the syllabic sound represented by the phonetic element. He also spends a whole chapter (11, "The Monosyllabic Myth") showing that most Chinese words consist of two (or more) syllables and are written with a corresponding number of characters (although he mentions that abbreviations are frequent in classical literature). I think it is clear that he doesn't consider “logogram” as the best term. OTOH AFAICT he never introduces a noun (“morphosyllabogram”?) to replace “logogram”, so I think we should stick with adjectives, too. Ligneus (talk) 22:40, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
A few lines farther down on page 88 he writes,
"As to what to call the individual Chinese characters themselves, it follows from this suggested nomenclature that something like "morphosyllabogram" or "morphosyllabograph" would be appropriate, but since these are undesirable jawbreakers, I suggest that we quite simply call them "Chinese characters."
I'm going to edit the article to remove the statement that DeFrancis supported the term "logograph."
--Phlar (talk) 04:14, 16 March 2013 (UTC)


There has been criticism of DeFrancis's views and books, mostly consisting of reviews in scholarly publications when the book was first published. They are mostly accessible by the online database JSTOR which I have access to.

There are four types of critics

1. Outright hostile to John DeFrancis and his ideas

(Review of "The Chinese language: Fact and Fantasy")
Dennis Duncanson does not restrain himself in being polite in his sarcastic and biting review of DeFrancis and "Fact and Fantasy", not agreeing with anything he says.

2. Polite, but rebutting DeFrancis's arguments

(Review of "The Chinese language: Fact and Fantasy")
(Not Fact and Fantasy, a response to "The Chinese Renaissance and the Vernacular")

3. Mixed rebuttal and support

(Not Fact and Fantasy, its a review another work by DeFrancis called "Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems")
(Not Fact and Fantasy, its a review another work by DeFrancis called "ABC Chinese-English (Alphabetically Based Computerized) Dictionary by John DeFrancis")

4. Supportive of most of the work but irked by some mistakes and preposterous he made, or his rudeness towards other scholars in the book. It might sound funny for a review but one person was serious enough that he pointed it out.

(Review of "The Chinese language: Fact and Fantasy")
(Review of "The Chinese language: Fact and Fantasy")
In the following review, the reviewer William C. Hannas was irked by DeFrancis's extreme rudness and arrogance

The reviewers are all western sinologists or western based, I don't have access to Chinese criticism of DeFrancis or even know whether they care about him since he doesn't have a following in China itself.

I will be begin drafting a criticism section.

And the following is not a specific rebuttal to DeFrancis, but a study which claims that Kanji (characters) are easier to learn than syllabic Kana

Matheus Andrews (talk) 19:11, 13 April 2013 (UTC)

This sounds like a worthy undertaking. I wish I had free-of-charge access to the full text of the reviews. (PS: I took the liberty of adding some indents to your section for readability. Feel free to undo / adjust as you see fit.)
Phlar (talk) 17:35, 24 April 2013 (UTC)

POV removal[edit]

Until yesterday, a statement at The_Chinese_Language:_Fact_and_Fantasy read, "A good portion of the book is devoted to debunking what DeFrancis calls the 'six myths' of Chinese characters." To lessen the chance that readers might take the statement to indicate that Wikipedia considers DeFrancis to have succeeded in his undertaking, I inserted the words "attempts at" prior to "debunking."

A statement here, at this article, likewise requires amendment. I'm changing "One of his most well-known books, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (University of Hawai'i Press, 1984) debunks a number of 'widespread myths' about the language—for instance, erroneously calling Chinese characters 'ideograms'" to "One of his most well-known books, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (University of Hawai'i Press, 1984) attempts to debunk a number of what DeFrancis considered "widespread myths" about the language—including, for instance, what he referred to as 'The Ideographic Myth'."

If someone cares to revert, please provide a citation (or citations) to justify the lack of a modifier prior to "debunks" and the inclusion of "erroneously." Lawrence J. Howell (talk) 07:44, 28 May 2013 (UTC)