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A logogram is a single written character which represents a complete grammatical word. Most Chinese characters are classified as logograms.

A good example of modern western logograms are the numbers - 1 stands for one, 2 for two and so on; the ampersand & is used for and, while @ sometimes stands for at.

Compared to alphabetical systems, logograms have the disadvantage that one needs many of them to be able to be able to write down a large number of words. An advantage is that one does not need to know the language of the writer to understand them - everyone understands what 1 means, whether they call it one, eins, uno or ichi; likewise, people speaking different Chinese dialects, or even Chinese and Korean or Japanese, cannot understand each other in speaking, but sometimes can in writing.


  • Hannas, William. C. 1997. Asia's Orthographic Dilemma. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 082481892X (paperback); ISBN 0824818423 (hardcover)
  • DeFrancis, John. 1990. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824810686

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