Betting on the Alphabet

Canadian Journal of Communication
Vol 29, No 2 (2004)

“Dispelling the Alphabet Effect”
Paul Grosswiler

This non-Western ethnocentric interpretation of the impact of Chinese script stands in stark contrast with Logan’s. What Gernet lauded as political unity, Logan mistrusted as hegemonic political power. What Gernet understood as a respect for erudition and the lettered person, Logan construed as a conservative cultural force.


Although it is easy to identify technological achievements in China, it is difficult to identify science as it deals with theories and ideas. As in Europe, laws of nature were not formulated to allow the growth of systematic positive knowledge in China before 1600. Despite its technological marvels before 1600, why did the scientific revolution not occur in China, Bodde asked. He speculated that Confucian opposition to war and Taoist distrust of technology might explain some of the answer, since so much Western science has come from its glorification of warfare and the resultant technology of global destruction that it has spawned.

Bodde, Derk. (1991). Chinese thought, society, and science. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Gernet, Jacques. (1982). A history of Chinese civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Logan, Robert. (1986). The alphabet effect: The impact of the phonetic alphabet on the development of Western civilization. New York: William Morrow.

And so for day 2666

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