Getting out of Hand? Examining the discourse of 'character amnesia'

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The ability to handwrite Chinese characters in East Asia appears to be in sharp decline, most likely due to an increasing reliance upon digital technology and phonetic input systems. This so-called 'character amnesia' has provoked a heated debate, leading some to argue that Chinese characters - and even the Chinese and Japanese languages and cultures themselves - are facing a serious crisis. This article aims to examine the scope of this (predominantly alarmist) discourse and assess the coherence and validity of its arguments. In addition, it seeks to make sense of the possible forces and motives behind this upsurge in 'verbal hygiene' by answering such questions as: what led to the formation of such a discourse in the first place? What social functions might it serve, and what kinds of deep-rooted beliefs and anxieties does such a discourse reveal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-717
Number of pages28
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 Cambridge University Press.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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