Idea: Chinese Etymology
Three aspects of the chinese character:
Semantic: Most modern Chinese characters are semantic-phonetic complexes, meaning one component hints at the meaning while the other hints at the sound. Semantic components are often called “radicals” but this is a misleading term.
Phonetic: Phonetic components exist in over 85% of characters today and are nearly as reliable as English phonetics. The phonetic approach is of great value in learning Chinese and greatly under utilised.
Apparent: With simple phonetic/semantic compounds, the apparent components are often the actual components. However, with many non-standard characters the original components are unrecognisable in modern characters. The apparent components provide an easy way to find characters.
Archaic > Ancient > Traditional > Simplified
There are usually 4 progressive versions of a character since it was first discovered, starting from archaic to simplified. Something interesting is that usually, archaic forms are almost pictorial. Archaic Forms are also known as Pictographs—picture graphics.
Why I picked this topic:
The Chinese character is one of the oldest languages in the history of mankind. And the most interesting thing about it is that most of these characters come from pictograms (Picture graphics). Which means, before it became a Chinese cultural symbol or language, it was made up of culture-neutral symbols that could communicate meanings of sentences or objects without the language barrier. Also, there is a huge bank of symbols and pictograms to be analysed in the development of the character from archaic to ancient and to simplified/ traditional.
Important Questions to guide the exploration:
Can the study of chinese etymology create new relevance for the written chinese character in the world today?
Can it change the way we design? (is there a contemporary way of treating chinese characters now that we know of these pictograms that are culture/language-neutral?)
Dilution of the Chinese chacter in Singapore today
In Singapore, the government has been pushing singaporeans to learn and speak chinese where possible. It is Singapore’s longest running Campaign all the way till this year, 2017, the government is still pushing for this movement amongst youths. This means the dilution of this language is a problem and it is a relevant problem to research and dive into.
Schools under Ministry of Education, Children and Teenagers alike
Through the study of chinese etymology (language-neutral pictrograms), can it bridge the gap between a westernized generation of students and their traditional chinese roots?
Chinese or Western Design? Where do Singaporean Designers Stand? Like Hong Kong, we have a very interesting mix of western and chinese influences on design? But why is it that we are studying western graphic design, adhering to principles of western art and gd, but we are not applying what we know in Chinese art and gd into our practices?
Through the Study of Chinese Etymology, make chinese typography / characters relevant to Singaporean Designers.
These are just two rough contexts I picked out as to why the study of Chinese etymology is important or relevant to people who will see my work. The deliverables are not confirmed yet because I have yet to really look at what will work, what makes a design relevant (is it through creating typefaces or through a publication or application etc) and can only be confirmed through more research.
YellowBridge / ChineseCharacter / Chinese Etymology.org
Speak Mandarin Campaign / Parent Child Talent Competition / Chinese Graphic Design Paper