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m.ellison

China to issue new list of simplified Chinese characters

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renzhe

I'd be interested as well.

Sounds more like they are going to bring back a couple of traditional characters, rather than simplifying some more.

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Don_Horhe

This is what I found on the topic:

http://news.xinhuanet.com/focus/2009-04/09/content_11154357.htm

http://news.xinhuanet.com/edu/2009-04/09/content_11152862.htm

I personally support the idea of a gradual return to traditional characters. They could start by implementing characters and components that everybody already knows anyway, like 门 to 門, 贝 and 见 to 貝 and 見 respectively, 马 to 馬 and so on. Like this, over the course of 10-15 years, they could make a complete shift back to 繁体字, which I think will be more praised than criticized.

Edited by Don_Horhe

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m.ellison

Are they saying that traditional and simplifed characters will be 1:1? At the moment 干 corresponds to several different traditional characters; are they going to break out 干 into multiple simplified characters (幹亁)?

I was hoping that they could simplify characters like consistently (using 馬 → 马)

I cannot see them going back to traditional characters. About as likely as returning to pounds shillings and pence.

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Hofmann

There's nothing that says the characters will be 1:1 (although Wang Ning did say that he didn't like the many:1 simplifications), only making some characters "easier to learn."

However, I have to disagree with Wang Ning as he said "billions of Chinese would have to relearn their mother language." It took me about 3.14159265 days of passive reading to learn to read Simplified characters. It shouldn't take much longer going the other way,

Edited by Hofmann

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anonymoose
It took me about 3.14159265 days of passive reading to learn to read Simplified characters. It shouldn't take much longer going the other way,

Did it also take you π days to learn to write them?

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m.ellison

And how many can you remember? There's over 1000 characters that are different.

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Shadowdh
It took me about 3.14159265 days of passive reading to learn to read Simplified characters.

Are we talking like 2 or 3 characters or all of them...? oh and I just had a thought... you probably already knew traditional, is that correct...? In which case my previous question is meaningless...

Did it also take you π days to learn to write them?

:mrgreen::clap very clever... was my thought too... hmmmm pie...

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Hofmann
Did it also take you π days to learn to write them?

I've never learned to write them.

And how many can you remember?

A few.

Ohhh! Y'all thought I started out illiterate, didn't you?

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roddy

This is the actual money quote on what they're hoping to do.

“主要的改进是针对简化字的一些问题,我对三种简化是不认同的。”王宁说,一是“同音替代”,比如干犯、干净、干部、主干,都是用的同一个“干”,这过于简单了,不利于理解。二是“符号替代”,像是邓的又部,灯的丁部,澄的登部,在繁体字中都是登,简化之后,反而成了三个字,这就使简单问题复杂了,也不利于理解。三是“草书楷化”,一些简化字是用草书代替了正楷,草书与楷书之间很多是不协调的。“这些问题,要逐渐改正,这次的新规范汉字表作了一定的纠正,但还没有大规模地改。”王宁说。

I wouldn't expect any major changes, or any quick ones.

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Hofmann

I find that if they change everything that violates all that Wang Ning mentions, that would count as major change. A lot of what I find wrong about Simplified characters is listed there.

1. Homophones substituting for each other, like 只, 隻 becoming 只; 板, 闆 becoming 板; 後,后 becoming 后.

2. Inconsistency of radicals, like 言 in 信, 這, 語 being simplified differently.

3. Regular Script-izing Cursive, which includes characters such as 東/东, 車/车, 言 (on the left of stuff)/讠, 樂/乐, 專/专, etc.

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tooironic

The biggest question that comes to mind, for me, is: why?

I mean, the mainland has grown used to using simplified characters for the past half century or so what's the point of changing all of the sudden?

Unless of course the changes they are suggesting are only minor... but then, what would be the point of that too? Perhaps someone here can enlighten me.

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atitarev

Perhaps they are trying to win Taiwan and Hong Kong but I don't think either will make any concessions. The problem, IMHO, is not the difference between the jiantizi and fantizi but the existence of the two systems and that some users/advocates can't be reconciled and this difference is used as an argument of how China is different from the Taiwan.

This current development may create another version? Mixed jiantizi/fantizi? Hopefully not.

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chalimac

The best thing they could do is map the two characters set to a perfect 1 to 1 conversion. If they achieve this computers could make an instant conversion of any text without the ambiguities or the human supervision that is now necessary.

That would be a truly 21th century change.

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Jose

The Economist mentions this matter in this week's issue:

http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13528023

I agree with Hofmann that if they are consistent about the shortcomings described by Wang Ning, this would be a major reform indeed. The argument about 干 can be used to resurrect the likes of 裏 and 後, and the case of the 登 characters has a lot of analogies too. It makes me wonder if they will bring 让 back into line with all the other 'rang' characters.

But it is the third point mentioned by Wang which is particularly striking, as it could make the planned reform a return to traditional in all by name. The cursive forms uglily fossilised into a sort of 楷書 form, like 贝, 见 , 车 , 东 , 讠 and so on, do actually account for most of the differences between the two standards, and are probably the single aesthetic element which makes a lot of people, myself included, regard the simplified forms as less beautiful than the traditional counterparts. If they intend to be consistent and restore the clear distinction between cursive and regular characters, hundreds of characters would have to be reverted to their traditional form.

Anyhow, I fail to see the point in establishing a new standard half-way between the already-existing fantizi and jiantizi. Personally, I would prefer it if they just switched back to traditional completely, and I wouldn't be surprised if this actually ends up happening in a few years. During the last few years this opinion seems to be gaining momentum. In the last couple of years there have been some timid proposals at the National People's Congress to reintroduce a little bit of fantizi in the education system, and this year the Tianjin member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference mentioned in the Economist article went much farther by proposing the outright abolition of simplified characters. It is also significant that the online language forum of Peking University had to ban discussions about script reform one or two years ago after there were a number of threads and posts calling for the abolition of simplified characters. Whatever the long-term outcome, it seems that there will be more and more opinions and news about this sensitive issue in the coming years, as it begins to be openly discussed in China for the first time since the Hundred Flowers Movement.

In my opinion, the best solution would be to just get over the language laws that state the standard characters that are allowed in general use, and let society freely decide, rather than having the nanny state decree the official forms of characters according to the political mood of the day. In fact, since most of what people read these days is on computer screens, the particular style of character shapes could be just a matter of font choice, as chalimac pointed out above.

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character

I can't imagine the chaos of changing over to a new standard with any significant number of changes. Sure, software can be updated, but what about all the textbooks and ROM-based electronic dictionaries?

Switching to traditional gets my vote, but then that's the set I've been learning.

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renzhe

Since this is turning into another simplified-traditional discussion :mrgreen: ...

I don't think that the Chinese script has ever been truly unified. There were always variations, variants, shorthand versions, synonyms, etc. Many of these existing variants ended up in the simplified set, whereas people using traditional characters settled on more complex forms.

I don't think that substituting 訁 for 讠 would cause any trouble or be difficult to get across (ignoring the difficulty of reprinting all the books in China). But many people would still write 讠 informally and on notes, just like they were writing it before the official simplification took place. And everyone who uses 讠 knows that it can be written as 訁 already. So, short of reprinting a few billion books, what exactly would this accomplish in terms of standardisation or improving communication?

And if all of China switched to traditional characters, what would happen to characters like 无, 够 and 泪? Would they be replaced by 無, 夠 and 淚? What on Earth would that achieve? Why would you do this, considering that all three are already traditional characters used for centuries? Would you introduce 妳 for females? Isn't using 你 actually more traditional?

And if you allow all these legitimate variants to coexist next to each other, would this help standardisation or result in an even bigger mess and even more characters to learn in school? Would half the books write 无, 夠 and 泪, and the other half 無, 够 and 你? Or some other combination?

I know that there are strong feelings on this. As a learner, I have no strong ideological reasons to hate either simplified or traditional characters. IMHO, further standardisation efforts should have the goal to improve communication among Chinese people and make it easier to exchange information. but if done badly, it can result in an even greater mess than we have now.

I think chalimac's suggestion is probably the most promising. If perfect mapping between the sets were possible, the differences would probably be a non-issue. Unmerging the most common characters is probably the least invasive measure that would bring the most progress. It doesn't even matter if 才 gets written as 纔 again, or if it simply gains a radical of some sort, as long as it maps 1-1 to a traditional character.

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imron
but if done badly, it can result in an even greater mess than we have now.
I agree with this sentiment. One thing simplified has going for it in the modern age is that it is easier to read at smaller font sizes compared to traditional. If traditional was reverted I'd like to see a general increase in font size across the board!

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tooironic

Let's face it, Chinese people find it hard enough to write Chinese characters as it is (not to mention Chinese learners!). This, of course, wouldn't a big problem in this day and age if their education system didn't place so much importance on (written) exams. I don't see how making it more difficult for them is going to improve communication, not in the slightest. I love the aesthetic quality of fantizi just like the next person, but I hardly see it as a good enough reason to reform a language with a multi-millenia history.

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Hofmann

Difficulty is subjective. Their goal with un-hypersimplifying characters is to make it less difficult.

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