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Use of non-alphabetic languages (e.g. Chinese pictogrraphs) in information system Essay

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One of the problems of information flow in the network system is the language barrier especially when information exchange is between two ports with different language. Linked with this problem is the difficulty in reading the information transferred, unless the two use the same writing system. Today, the effort in universalizing the system of writing or even the language had gone not much farther that is why, even in the information system, the hindrances brought by this problem can be clearly seen.

There are a lot of systems of writing around the world but they can be categorized either in at least one of these three groups namely, logographic, syllabary and alphabetic (library. thinkquest. org). The first system, the logographic uses a single symbol to represent a word. The syllabary uses a single symbol to represent a syllable, which can then be combined to form a word. These two systems are of common use to many countries in Asia such as Japan, China and Korea.

The last system, the alphabetic, uses characters or letters as the smallest unit to form syllables, which then represents a single unit of sound. Of these three, the alphabetic is the easiest to learn, mainly because it has less number of characters than those of the other systems that even has over thousands of symbols (library. thinkquest. org. ), although this is not necessarily mean that alphabetic is the most effective and efficient form to be use.

Having the variety of system used in day to day encounter, the said variety is brought to the electronic-based system of communication which is the information system. The current information system uses mostly the QWERTY keyboard (home. earthlink. net). This type of keyboard specializes in the use of the alphabetic languages. Since alphabetic has only about less than 50 characters including letters and numerals, a unit can be represented in just one key, making it efficient for someone to key in words using the keyboard.

On the other hand, system that uses logographic and syllabary such as the Chinese pictographs and the Japanese’ Katakana and Hiragana cannot have a single representation for a character since they are using thousands of characters and putting one by one in a single key for a character is not practical and even not an idea to think of. Solving this problem, there are two most common approaches in keying in characters or input text for non-alphabetical languages developed and are incorporated in the standard QWERTY keyboard so as to assist non-alphabetical language users to make input a little effective.

These two are the radical-based method and the phonetic-based method on inputs (Hamzah pp. 311-312). In the radical based method, the standard stokes for a specific language is typed and then possible characters possessing the strokes you typed are prepared for you and then you select the right character that you are supposed to input. For example, there are 11, 172 Hangul characters but those characters has only 24 fundamental or basic strokes. Thus, to type Hangul or Korean characters, we only need to use 24 keys where every key has a unique stoke.

This method is now commonly used in cellular phones. On the other hand, the phonetic-based input method uses the sound property of the alphabetic system in keying in characters. See Figure 1, courtesy of Hampzah p. 311 from http://www. pacis-net. org/file/2006/1104. pdf. In the figure on the previous page, if you want to key in non-alphabetic characters, you must first think of how the word is pronounced and then use its representation in alphabetic system. The original Japanese word can be pronounced as “tegakino” and thus tegakino must be typed in the QWERTY keyboard.

Because the Japanese language have complexity in pronunciation brought about by words with similar sounds (www. japan-guide. com), then typing tagekino alone will not guarantee that what you are supposed to type is the right thing, so the system will then list characters with similar pronunciation as tagekino and now you are allowed to select the right group of characters that will fit or that you are intended to type. Noticed that in these two methods, the effort of input of a single character or a word is significantly higher than the effort it takes to input an alphabetical character or a word.

This hypothesis is further proven by the study made on the input of Chinese and Japanese characters. The result of the study revealed that it takes about 36% of the total time of input of a Chinese character just to pick the right character from the list, even after the system of writing of Chinese is condensed and over 2000 characters are simplified (www. omniglot. com). Also, about 70% of the total time of input of Japanese characters account for choosing a kanji character that will be used in input for the intended Japanese character (Hamzah p. 313).

Time is truly important in many of the transactions in the information system. More of the times, the data transfer must be done in real-time since the information transferred is either very important for the receiver or are controversial. Using the previous two methods of text input for non-alphabetical language, time is sacrificed and thus the flow of information or the processing of information becomes relatively slower, thus affecting great deal of transactions. Studies have been made in solving this issue and they come up with the idea of freeform annotation.

Freeform annotation would mean that keying in characters will not use keyboard but by hand or through handwriting. This will use a somewhat scanning device that will scan the input through handwriting and then the system will match the strokes input with the characters stored in database. After the matching has been done, the characters selected by the computer will then be displayed and the user will be prompted by the computer to confirm if the selected characters are the intended characters of the users. However, only few are interested in making studies about the use of this method in information system (Hamzah p.

312). Other solutions that are now getting its way into the electronic system are those that are related to live translation. This would simply means that databases are to be build and programs would be produced so as to make information flow between users with different system of writing meet or be understood by both. Databases and programs such as Automatic Machine Translator, Multilingual Customer Support Platform and Glossary Builder will be utilized during data transfer to suit the preferred language and system of writing of the user (partners.

wholetree. com). Thus using these innovations, the language barrier between nations with different systems of writing can now be lessen or even eliminated if more and more advancement with the technology and the linguistics experts’ cooperation in the succeeding projects. In the electronic age, the common problems that have arises concerning the language has been bought in the electronic-based system. Problems such as variations in the system of writing and the variations of pronunciation and usage of words are now a problem of the information system.

Though there are assumed solutions to these problems like the annotation and translation processes, it is still difficult to solve the problems stated above. It is somehow linked with the problems with the variations of culture, for language is somewhat a part of it, that is why it is one of those problems that are almost impossible to give a definite solution. I am only saying it is almost impossible because I believe that through advancement and collaborative efforts, this flaw can have a solution.


Basic Information. 6 June 2007. <http://www. japan-guide.com/e/e2050. html>. Consider QWERTY… the Typewriter Keyboard…” 6 June 2007. <http://home. earthlink. net/ ~dcrehr/whyqwert. html>. Hamzah, Muhd Dzulkhiflee, et, al. (2006) A Video Analysis of Eye Movements During Typing. 6 June 2007. <http://www. pacis-net. org/file/2006/1104. pdf>. “Simplified Chinese Characters”. Omniglot: Writing Systems and Languages of the World. 6 June 2007. <>. “The Development of Writing. ” ThinkQuest. 6 June 2007. <http://library. thinkquest. org/ C004367/la6. shtml>.

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