Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


The ideographic meaning of this symbol - of a child beneath a roof representing "learning" or "education", has changed over the years to a deflective meaning of "character" or - more from the point of view of the ideograph - as simply, "ideogram."

Ideograms (from Greek ιδεα idea "idea" + γραφω grapho "to write") are symbols that represent a word in a written language, as opposed to using phonemes or syllables to construct words from their component sounds.

Early hieroglyphics and cuneiform were ideograms, though later they were used extensively (and in cuneiform, exclusively) for their pronunciation. In fact Egyptian heiroglyphs, in their most developed stage, represented a merger of ideograms and phonograms which later became the key to its recovery. See Rosetta Stone.

Japanese ideograms, or Kanji, are mostly alternated Chinese characters. They are never used for phonetic writing. Instead, Japanese has developed a system of phonetic writing - katakana, and its sister syllabulary, hiragana.

Chinese characters, although usually classified as ideograms or logograms, are more alphabet-like than most people think. Some even argue that the basic unit in Chinese is not characters but many-word phrases. Due to different dialects and the numerous homophones, methods to latinize Chinese will surely fail. For example Pinyin system is excellent in teaching official dialect Mandarin Chinese, but it cannot replace characters as first intended.

Table of contents
1 Related terms
2 References
3 External links

Related terms

An ideogram is distinguished from a pictograph in that a pictograph is any symbol that represents an idea, whereas an ideogram is part of an established written language. Since ideograms represent words or morphemes rather than ideas directly, some linguists prefer the terms logogram and logographic to avoid confusion.


External links