The most important sentence in this book is the one regarding Chinese on pages 164-165: "(Women's liberators might point out the number of cases where words for unpleasant character-traits such as jealousy are written with the 'woman' signific [the word he uses for 'radical']; but the incidence of this sort of thing is no greater than that of comparable sexist assumptions in the spoken English language -- cf. bitch vs. dog, for instance.)"
Sampson is trying to suggest that Chinese is not inferior to English (a funny thought since Chinese has been around for 4,000 years) by pointing out that they both denigrate women (also ironic as a justification). When one finds a pervasive theme running through two disparate cultures, it would seem that this might be an orienting factor for all language: women are denigrated because they are the underpinning of written language. Written language was created to control women and other commodities.
P. 189: "The axiom of Western linguistics according to which a language is primarily a system of spoken forms, and writing is a subsidiary medium serving to render spoken language visible, is very difficult for an East Asian to accept."
This Californian has a hard time accepting it as well. Linguists is the study of SPOKEN language, yet written language is 5,000 years old. If the data is there, why would you not look at it? This refusal to consider the data of written language is a kind of denial.
Page 24: In regards to date nomenclature, and the use of "B.C." and "A.D.", Sampson writes, "Those of us who acknowledge Jesus as the Saviour have more substantial ways of demonstrating our allegiance."
I almost stopped reading the book after this sentence, but I'm glad his inappropriate statement of faith didn't deter me as this book is extremely informative considering how few books tackle an overview of all writing systems. Keep in mind it was written in 1985, and our current ability to compare all written languages via the computer will allow us to see that fertility and procreation were the dominant concerns at the time that Chinese Seal Script, Sumerian cuneiform, and the Egyptian hieroglyphs were created. Humans are animals, and we are driven by animalistic needs. For more info: www.OriginofAlphabet.com.