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Traditional & Simplified Characters

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atitarev

Thanks Chenpv, and thanks for your audio posts in another thread. Can you paste the accompanying text, please?

I quoted you just to show how emotional people are about such discussions, not only you many users here and other forums, be it Chinese characters vs pinyin/other phonetic systems or TC vs SC.

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fenlan

Chenpv, I saw some years ago that Shanghai's 西藏路(I nearly wrote 西藏露 because my stupid software always suggests the wrong character) had a street sign where the 藏 was written as 上 with a 草字头 - I just found out there is a Unicode character for this: 䒙, so it was 西䒙路. This was the official street sign. But I think this is one of the characters from the proposed list that the government tried to introduce during the cultural revolution and had to withdraw. Another interesting one is 氿. Some Chinese use 氿 instead of 酒, but I found out that there is actually a character 氿 which is pronounced gui3, not jiu3, meaning "mountain spring".

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nipponman

Basically, SC are way too simple. You might as well switch to pinyin if your gonna butcher the characters like that. After I learned TC even in Japanese I don't use simplified. I always use 學,靜 etc. SC are just too ugly looking for me. I think it is because they remove the radical elements in most of them. There for it looks like crap because it isn't based off of anything logical, just cursive simplifications.

nipponman

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skylee
most foreign learners prefer to learn simplified characters if they learn Chinese for practical reasons (for communication), because it's used by the overwhelming majority of Chinese (nearly 1.3 bln vs (probably greatly exaggerated) 200,000 people)

Sorry, but who are the 200,000 people?

Neither mainland Chinese or Japanese don't seem to be too worried about not being able to read ancient/archaic texts. Useful texts have all been republished anyway, if not, but there's interest, they will be.

I bought this 成語熟語詞典 published in Traditional Chinese by the Beijing Commercial Press in 2002 (ISBN 7100000742). It says, "本書多徵引古籍,故仍照辭源之例,用繁體字排印。" How should I interpret this vis-a-vis your statement? :help (My interpretation is that using simplified characters in classical literature might lead to confusion.)

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wushijiao
I use Wenlin to study, and time after time, when I read the etymologies of the characters that have been simplified, I think to myself: well, that simplification makes a lot of sense. In a few cases, I'll admit, I've noticed that the semantic part of a xingshengzi gets clobbered, which makes the character harder to remember, but those are the exceptions.

This is a good point.

One could also argue that the whole TC/ SC debate isn't all that important. Most people serious learners of Chinese can recognize both when reading a text, say, movie subtitles (or at least they can know enough so that meaning isn't lost).

I think it's a bit ironic that pinyin is now the most common entry code. This means that the former role of characters, uniting the upper classes of Chinese speaking people through a common written language, has now been reversed. All over China, young people are forgetting how to write characters by hand. But they are getting good and fast at texting in pinyin on their cell phones. This, perhaps, will further consolidate Mandarin's grip on the spoken form because people constantly must remember that Qingdao is in Shandong, not Sandong....etc.

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bhchao

Since much of the pictograph meanings found in traditional characters are lost by simplifying then, I don't see how one can write simplified characters and understand the logical meaning behind those characters. It's basically memorizing simplified strokes without knowing the traditional symbolic meanings.

I think if you understand the logical meaning as how you're writing characters stroke by stroke, you will know quicky what the characters mean when you come across them in, say, a magazine or a newspaper. If you can creatively decipher the meaning behind traditional characters, and already have fairly good Mandarin speaking skills, the right pronunciation sound for that character can pop into your mind.

Take 讓 for example:

Picture two mouths (口), a man and a woman under a bedroom ceiling, yielding to each other in bed by allowing themselves to take each other's clothes off and baring themselves (a double 表), while speaking to each other (言).

It is hard to creatively find a suitable meaning of 讓 in the simplified version.

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atitarev
Sorry' date=' but who are the 200,000 people?

I bought this 成語熟語詞典 published in Traditional Chinese by the Beijing Commercial Press in 2002 (ISBN 7100000742). It says, "本書多徵引古籍,古仍照辭源之例,用繁體字排印。" How should I interpret this vis-a-vis your statement? :help (My interpretation is that using simplified characters in classical literature might lead to confusion.)[/quote']

Oops, big mistake. I meant 200 mln, sorry. I will correctmy post.

As for your second, I only quoted my Chinese friends - more people, more opinions.

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Ian_Lee

My gut feeling is that in the long term, traditional and simplified scripts will be learnt by both groups of Chinese living outside and inside of PRC. And some simplified characters which are less than perfect will be reverted to its original form while some cumbersome traditional characters will be used everywhere as it should be.

And actually now many traditional script users know simplified script while simplified script users also know traditional script.

Take Hong Kong as an example.

Now there are over 10 million tourists arriving from Mainland annually. And the number may double after Disneyland opens. Everywhere Hong Kong is using traditional script for signs etc.

But is there any one single case that any Mainland tourist gets lost because he/she doesn't understand traditional script over the years?

Not even one.

And in Hong Kong, there are many bookstores that specialize in selling simplified script books which are full of customers.

So simplified and traditional scripts are gradually acceptable to all users. And in the long run, without political interference, I believe that "good characters will gradually crowd out bad characters". (That is how Chinese script evolved over the last 4,000 years.)

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Ian_Lee

Regarding youngsters use pinyin to replace character writing in Mainland, fortunately it does not happen in Hong Kong.

Since students in HK don't learn Chinese (not Mandarin) by pinyin but by memorizing the characters in mind and writing them for hundreds of times each, the characters are deeply embedded and cannot be replaced by some Roman letters.

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fenlan
Take 讓 for example:

Picture two mouths (口), a man and a woman under a bedroom ceiling, yielding to each other in bed by allowing themselves to take each other's clothes off and baring themselves (a double 表), while speaking to each other (言).

Bhchao, surely that is not the derivation of the character? Did you just make that explanation up as a mnemonic?

Ian Lee, I heard that there are a few examples in mainland China where some individual traditional characters have become re-established again. I mean just a small number, a handful, of traditional characters became commonly written once again. Do you know anything about that, and can you tell me what characters are involved?

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atitarev

More likely that Hong Kong will start using more of the simplified characters - for tourists, when learning Mandarin, than mainland changing back to traditional, IMHO.

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bhchao
Bhchao, surely that is not the derivation of the character? Did you just make that explanation up as a mnemonic?

Fenlan, of course that is not the derivation of the character. 8) I was illustrating that traditional characters allows one to use creativity to decipher the pictograph in a way that makes sense with the character's meaning.

And actually now many traditional script users know simplified script while simplified script users also know traditional script.

A lot of authentic Chinese restaurants in LA owned and operated by Mainland Chinese use traditional script for their menus. I have yet to see a restaurant using simplified characters on their menus. Perhaps that is because the overseas Chinese communities in North America predominantly use traditional characters.

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chenpv

䒙, so it was 西䒙路.-------- sorry, fenlan, my computer wont show the character but i have never met a '上 with a 草字头' though. :) .

Another interesting one is 氿. Some Chinese use 氿 instead of 酒, but I found out that there is actually a character 氿 which is pronounced gui3, not jiu3, meaning "mountain spring".
Thats right. I lookep it up.
Picture two mouths (口), a man and a woman under a bedroom ceiling, yielding to each other in bed by allowing themselves to take each other's clothes off and baring themselves (a double 表), while speaking to each other (言).
thats interesting. so how do you explain :壤,嚷,攘, 禳, 瓤,穰? :mrgreen:

壤: doing it in the field? 嚷: doing it with mouths? 攘: doing it with hands? 禳: doing it with clothes 瓤 doing it while eating watermelons? 穰: doing it while cultivating crops? LOL :)

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fenlan
壤: doing in a field? 嚷: doing with mouths? 攘: doing with hands? 禳: doing with clothes 瓤 doing while eating watermelon? 穰: doing while cultivating crops? LOL

I am also LOL, but can I tell you that you need to put "it" in after "doing" in each of these sentences, eg "doing it in the field", "doing it while eating watermelons"? Everyone knows what the "it" stands for!

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Ian_Lee

Even though now Chinese from Mainland gradually outnumbers the Chinese from TW/HK/SE Asia in the overseas Chinese community, I still think that traditional script will dominate outside PRC for a very considerable long time.

Why? Very simple.

Beijing doesn't encourage the use of simplified script in overseas Chinese community (including HK/Macau).

In all mouthpiece newspaper published in those places, traditional script is used. (And very interestingly those anti-CCP media like Epoch Times also adopts traditional script.)

In HK, every PRC-related institution, including PRC Liasion Office, PLA Headquarter, all China-based companies, absolutely use traditional script in all signs and news announced to the public.

When Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao came, all their writings (i.e. handwritten scroll as gift) are in traditional script.

Even HK government adamantly sticks to traditional script. All the forms and signs are strictly in traditional script. Only those businesses that catered to tourist business provide both scripts.

Actually Beijing is somwhat engaged in three-tier script policy:

(1) Demand use of SC in international arena like UN;

(2) Provide low-cost teaching material in SC to foreign learners to counter Taiwan (But Taiwan under DPP has long lost the zeal to promote Chinese culture overseas);

(3) "United Fronting" overseas Chinese community by promoting use of traditional script there.

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fenlan

Ian Lee, you forgot to say that Singapore and Malaysia use the Simplified characters. This probably reflects a decision in Singapore by Lee Kuan Yew rather than the urging of Beijing.

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Ian_Lee

Fenlan:

Even though Singapore and Malaysia use simplified script, traditional script is really common there due to the pervasive influence of HK/Taiwan pop culture.

Just last month I dropped by the huge Japanese bookstore inside the Petona Towers in Kuala Lumpur. A whole section is devoted to Chinese books. 9 out of 10 books are in traditional script which are printed in Taiwan or HK.

And interestingly some Malaysian newspapers adopt mixed xcript -- the news headline in TC while details in SC.

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skylee
And interestingly some Malaysian newspapers adopt mixed xcript -- the news headline in TC while details in SC.

I have also noticed that. But IMHO that is confusing, not interesting.

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Ian_Lee

Actually I am not sure if Malaysia only allows the use of simplified script.

Unlike Singapore that implements authoritarian rule which mandates the use of simplified script (actually for Singapore government SC is used sheer for utilitarian purpose), the UMNO of Malaysia most likely don't care what script of Chinese language is used in the Chinese schools.

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Jose

I had a similar experience to the one described by Ian Lee when I went into the Kinokuniya bookshop on Orchard Road in Singapore last year. The vast majority of Chinese books on sale there were traditional Chinese editions from Hong Kong and Taiwan. While I was in Singapore, I also remembering seeing a notice board with handwritten announcements in Chinese, and all the notes were in traditional characters. And of course the shop signs in Chinese always use traditional characters. So, while the Singapore government has adopted an official policy of supporting the simplified characters, traditional characters are still widely used there.

In Malaysia, there are some newspapers that use SC, others that stick to TC, and at least a couple of them use TC in headlines and SC in the body of articles. I agree with skylee that such a practice is very confusing indeed. You need to be proficient in the two systems to read the newspaper! This is one of the problems of simplification: Since it hasn't been accepted by all users of the language, we now have to learn even more characters if we want to become literate in the language. A learner of Chinese in 1950 had to learn that "book" was 書 or that "head" was 頭, while we have to learn that book can be both 書 and 书, and head can be both 頭 and 头... and so on. Things have got more complicated, rather than simpler, in my opinion.

By the way, how come those who support that reduction of strokes is the natural evolution of characters, and that fewer strokes make characters better, don't enthusiastically support the use of the second batch of simplified characters? After all, the current simplifed system is the result of an unfinished process that was meant to be continued. See this transcript of a 1958 speech by a member of the reform committee: http://www.people.com.cn/GB/33831/33836/34143/34230/2553895.html

Among other things, it says:

还有很多比较常用的字,例如赛,霸、警、爆、整、翻、藏、疆,徽、,舞、感、影、鼻、鼠等等,应该简化,但是没有简化

The idea was that all those characters should also be simplified. At least some of them were simplified in the abandoned 1977 list. Contrary to what some have claimed here, there is no indication that the Chinese authorities want to continue the simplification process. In fact, the 1977 characters, the so-called second batch of simplified characters, were officially abandoned in 1986, and a handful of abolished characters were actually reinstated (像 and 覆 come to mind). Some people say that the 1977 characters were not accepted because they were largely invented. However, there are also lots of invented or marginal characters in the 1964 list. I think the change in political climate was the main reason why the new characters were not accepted. The zeal to do away with China's old culture had died away, Mao's successor Hua Guofeng was being ousted from power by Deng Xiaoping, and the economy became the main preoccupation of the new Chinese leaders.

For those who are interested in seeing what the 1977 characters look like, you can check these two links:

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%BA%8C%E7%AE%80%E5%AD%97

http://leoboard.cpatch.org/cgi-bin/usr/20/20_100.jpg

In my opinion, the simplified characters are the sad result of an absurd and unfinished experiment in language reform. The fact that it was not carried to an end explains why there are so many inconsistencies in the current system: 复 has lost its radical, but the full form reappears in 覆 and 履; 異 has become 异, but the original form is kept in 翼. There are many similar examples. Sometimes a certain regular pattern has been broken by simplification. An example I mentioned in a similar thread a few months ago is the group of characters 隋 隨 墮 惰 橢 髓. Three of these characters have lost the little 工, while the others have kept it. This makes the simplified group more dificult to learn than the original characters.

In any case, the whole idea is based on a misconception: The notion that the difficulty of a character is proportional to the number of strokes it has. This misconception is clearly reflected in the 1958 speech above, where statistics about average numbers of strokes are provided as if to prove the point that Chinese characters have become easier. In fact, the reduced number of strokes makes characters apparently simpler in the early stages of learning, but after a few hundred characters, the apparent simplicity becomes diluted in the multiplicity of basic stroke patterns and their combinations, and the difficulty becomes practically the same as in the traditional system. That's why I think it was pointless. Contrary to the usual PRC propaganda (see this article http://english.people.com.cn/200507/22/eng20050722_197636.html , for example), I don't think the traditional characters are too complex or cumbersome.

The reduction of strokes was an idea that became fashionable at a certain moment in the 20th century. In fact, as has been said here, the Japanese have simplified many characters and even the Chinag Kai-shek government tried to introduce some simplified characters, like 个 and 会, in the 30s. The idea was popular at a moment when there was a feeling that Chinese culture needed a radical break with the past. Even a writer like Lu Xun was, at those times of turmoil, a firm believer in the need to romanise the language. However, time hasn't proved the reformers right. Simplified characters have barely made any inroads in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and the mainland government has to keep laws in place to enforce the use of simplified characters in all printed material and advertising, except for calligraphy and the odd books about art or ancient culture.

Attitudes in Beijing might be changing, though. On the one hand, the Chinese authorities have not tried to impose the use of simplified characters in Macao and Hong Kong. Besides, some voices have recently been heard in the mainland asking for the reintroduction of traditional characters. It seems as if the PRC is starting to allow some debate on the issue. See, for example, this post in a forum: http://www.china-language.gov.cn/webforum/msg.asp?MsgID=286&Page=29 There are other similar posts in other Internet forums, but the funny thing about this one is that it is in an official government website about language issues.

I like Chinese characters because there is a magnificent cultural tradition and history behind them. I don't like these attempts at "improving" them. If tradition does not count, and it is just a matter of reading small fonts on a computer, why not dump the characters altogether and adopt pinyin? Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I also hope the Chinese government will reestablish the traditional script as the standard written form of Chinese at some point in the future. At the very least, they could at least leave it to the people to freely decide which system to use. That could give rise to a competition between the two systems, as in the Malaysian newspapers. It would be interesting to see which system would prevail.

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