China, Korea, and Japan have quite independent and very different languages, but history has linked their cultures. This book describes the ways writing developed historically and is used currently in the three countries, how the writing systems relate to the cultures, how the cultures relate to each other, how writing and reading are taught, how literacy has developed, and the relation of writing and literacy to the societies of East Asia. We hope the book will interest people who (like us) are fascinated by the history, culture, and writing systems of the area and want to learn (or to teach) about them, or who might have business in those countries.
Chinese characters (Hanzi) are well suited to writing Chinese, but are less well adapted to Korean and Japanese. To accommodate their different languages, Korean and Japanese use very different indigenous phonetic writing systems. Korean uses an alphabetic syllabary called Han'gul , and Japanese uses a syllabary called Kana (in two forms, Hiragana and Katakana). Han'gul is sometimes used alone, sometimes with Chinese characters called Hancha, in writing Korean, but, in Japan, Kana are always used together with Chinese characters (known in Japan as Kanji). The book emphasizes these three scripts, but does not neglect other scripts that are or once were used in writing the three languages, including the Roman alphabet.
The Web pages here present the publisher's book announcement, a short sample from each chapter (sometimes two), and other related material. Not least, we provide links to the publisher's Web site and to an order form for the book. We hope that these pages will intrigue you, and leave you wanting to buy the book so that you can get a deeper insight into the literacy culture of China, Korea, and Japan. But even if you don't want to buy the book, we hope that these pages will leave you with some understanding of the place of writing in the lives of these peoples, now and over the centuries.