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Claw

Simplifed / Traditional

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Claw

I usually prefer writing in traditional, but am familiar with both so if someone posts in simplified, I usually will respond using simplified as well. I'm used to writing in traditional because that was what I was originally taught to use (my family came from Hong Kong, which uses traditional, though I hear they've been starting to switch since China took over).

When I started taking more rigorous Chinese classes while in college, the professor didn't care which script we used when writing, as long as we were able to recognize both when reading. I think that's the best attitude to take.

I found it really easy to learn simplified when I knew traditional. Some people say it's harder to go the other way around since simplified preserves less of the semantics and etymology of the characters. However, I think its worthwhile to learn how to at least recognize traditional characters.

BTW, a quick-and-dirty way to convert traditional words to simplified is to use Google. Just copy and paste the character(s) into Google and Google typically searches for both simplified and traditional web pages. Look for a simplfied page in the search results (it should have [ 簡體 ] written next to it), and click on the cached version of the file. You should see the simplified version of the word highlighted in the cached version of the file.

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gougou
Hong Kong, which uses traditional, though I hear they've been starting to switch since China took over

That's interesting, I read about the same effect taking place in Shenzhen in the opposite direction: the many people from Hong Kong that moved there are bringing traditional characters with them to the mainland...

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Jose
And BTW, how come you all use traditional? Are you all in non-mainland locations, or are there other reasons?

My reasons are of a more ideological nature.

I basically dislike simplified characters. When I started learning Chinese (in Madrid, 12 years ago), I was using simplified characters only, and, from what little I'd seen, I thought the traditional ones were hideously difficult to learn. Later, I took a course in London where they were using traditional characters. I had to relearn a lot of characters, but, to my amazement, I found that they were not necessarily more difficult. For example, writing the radicals in full may take a few more strokes but it is not more difficult (in fact, it is structurally simpler! In traditional you only have 言, whereas in simplified you have both 言 and 讠).

Since then, I prefer to write in traditional. I find the characters more beautiful and, besides, I have come to think that the script reform undertaken by the Chinese government under Mao was a big mistake. A mistake in terms of tradition (many, perhaps most, of the simplified characters were simply invented by a committee), and also in terms of the unity of the language (just think about the posts in this forum). Contrary to what its proponents thought at the time, simplified characters are not easier to learn, at least in my experience. I don't want to go on a rant here, but I could give you a lot of examples of characters that, in my opinion, are more difficult to learn in simplified than in traditional.

Funnily, the idea that characters were complex because of the high number of strokes (and not because there are thousands of them, or because of the lack of correspondence between characters and sounds) was quite widespread during the 20th century. Even the KMT government under Chiang Kai-shek himself embarked on a policy of simplification in the thirties, which was later abandoned. The Japanese have also reduced the number of strokes in a lot of characters.

I think these ideas are wrong. In fact, the fewer strokes you have in the characters the more difficult it becomes to tell them apart. That's one of the reasons why the extremely simplified characters introduced during Hua Guofeng's brief tenure of power were soon rejected. Characters had begun to look like hiragana, with the presence or absence of a dot here or there making a big difference.

In my experience, people who support simplification rarely come out with any good arguments for their cause. They will just say "of course, as everybody knows, simplified characters are much easier to learn, and much better suited for use in the current age". This is more or less what the language authorities in China say. By repeating sentences like that again and again as some sort of mantra, and calling the two systems "simple" and "complicated", they have managed to convince most Chinese people that jiantizi are really easier.

Is there a way back? Most people think that it is impossible for China to abolish the simplified characters after they have been used for nearly 50 years. After all, they have become the common written language for more than a billion people. Yet, I haven't given up all hope. Chinese people in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan adamantly continue to use traditional characters, and these places exert a big influence on the mainland through their pop culture. Not surprisingly, more and more people on the mainland are expressing their doubts about the merits of simplification (if you google for expressions like 恢复繁体字, 恢复正体字 or 废除简体字 you will find a few discussions about this).

As a learner of Chinese I have to learn the language as it is, so I use a lot of materials in simplified characters. However, the fact that there is a choice betwen two competing systems has made me take sides. Whenever I have the choice between simplifed and traditional, I always go for the latter. This way, I feel that I am contributing my little grain of sand to the continuity of the traditional Chinese writing system. My hope is that a future Chinese government will see the nature of the Emperor's new clothes, and stop the policy of imposing the simplified characters on everyone.

Hmm, and I said I didn't want to go on a rant... :wall

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Claw
For example, writing the radicals in full may take a few more strokes but it is not more difficult (in fact, it is structurally simpler! In traditional you only have 言, whereas in simplified you have both 言 and 讠).

I actually don't a problem with simplifications like 讠 (言), 饣 (食), 钅 (金), etc. Traditional script already has a lot of its own radical simplifications, such as 辶 (辵), 氵 (水), 忄 (心), etc.

The ones I do have a problem with are when they combined more than one character into a single simplification, many of which did not take into account the pronunciations of the characters in other dialects. For instance, 裏 and 里 are both pronounced li3 in Mandarin, but are pronounced differently, leoi5 and lei5, respectively, in Cantonese. However, both of these characters were combined to use just 里. Another instance is the combination of 隻 and 只 (zek3 and zi2 in Cantonese) into just 只.

There are other issues with simplified characters that I won't go into though.

(many, perhaps most, of the simplified characters were simply invented by a committee)

Actually many of them actually weren't invented, and existed before the simplification efforts. Many of the simplifications were already widely used by people (such as the radical simplifications I talked about above). The committees basically formalized and standardized these simplifications. They did however create new simplifications as well, and I think a lot of the inconsistencies with simplified script stem from the new inventions.

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gougou
I have come to think that the script reform undertaken by the Chinese government under Mao was a big mistake.

One of the main reasons for "simplifying" (after this discussion, I suppose this term is highly subjective...) characters, as far as I know, was an effort to increase literacy in China. I believe that towards this goal, the reform may have done some good.

I completely agree with Claw about the problem of overloading some characters (your avatar looks so wise, I wouldn't dare doubting anything you write anyway... :mrgreen: )

However, if you are not truly an intellectual and somebody reduces the number of frequently used characters by 10% or so, this might help you a lot...

Also, as Jose pointed out, they do look much less scary, which might have been one of the reasons keeping many peasants from dropping their plowshares and taking to writing brushes...

Nevertheless I agree that, concerning aesthetics, the reform didn't do much good. After having seen more of traditional characters here in the forum, I moved them up a few notches on my linguistic wishlist...

also in terms of the unity of the language

Unity of the language? In China? That's a joke, right? :wink:

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Jose
One of the main reasons for "simplifying" (after this discussion, I suppose this term is highly subjective...) characters, as far as I know, was an effort to increase literacy in China. I believe that towards this goal, the reform may have done some good.

Yes, they wanted to increase literacy. Nobody disputes that that was their intention. The revolutionaries in China believed in the idea that reducing the number of strokes would make the characters easier to learn. The fact that this idea was common at the time doesn't mean that it is correct, though. Mao also wanted to industrialise China (a good end in itself) by making his countrymen produce as much steel as Great Britain (a crazy notion from an economic viewpoint). Many mistakes were made at that time of revolutionary zeal. The ends may have been good, but the means adopted to achieve them were in many cases completely wrong.

It is interesting to note that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are not lagging behind the mainland as far as literacy rates are concerned, but rather the opposite. This proves that the use of traditional characters is not a hindrance to full literacy. The increase in literacy in mainland China in the seventies and eighties coincided with a general improvement in living standards and education. I think that was the real reason behind the decline in illiteracy.

However, if you are not truly an intellectual and somebody reduces the number of frequently used characters by 10% or so, this might help you a lot...

But that goes against the logic of characters, where different radicals often qualify the same phonetic part to further clarify the meaning. Even if two words have the same pronunciation, you expect them to be made up of different characters if their meanings are unrelated. That's why you write spider (zhizhu) as 蜘蛛, and not 知朱. You may think that it would be simpler to abolish the specific "spider" characters, and write it as 知朱, but I prefer to see the 虫 radical, which tells me that it is some sort of bug or small animal. This crazy logic of abolishing characters by decree led the language reformers to simplify 衚衕 (hutong, a small alley) to 胡同. I find the traditional form much clearer. Not only does it use the street radical (as in 街, street), but it shows that hutong is not related at all to either 胡 or 同. In fact, hutong is a two-syllable word of non-Chinese origin.

If you were to pursue that logic of merging characters with the same sound to its final consequences, you would end up with just one character per syllable, or in other words... a phonetic alphabet! That would have its advantages, but we wouldn't be talking about hanzi any more.

As for Claw's argument that simplified forms have always been widely used by people, this was true of the handwritten language, which is fine with me. I find it perfectly natural that people will reduce the strokes of characters when writing a quick note or a shopping list. What I object to is making such simplified forms official, thus interrupting a cultural tradition of at least two millennia. While it makes sense that the inner part of characters like 風 or 區 may end up looking like a scribble in quick handwriting or in caoshu calligraphy, nobody, before the adoption of simplified characters, would have expected to reduce those characters to four strokes in properly written kaishu characters. That's why I dislike this sort of simplification (like those of 讠, 车 or 东). They are said to be based on caoshu writing, but I find it quite unnatural to take one cursive form and reverse-engineer it into a new kaishu form. Doesn't that go against the logic of the different calligraphy styles?

I think language policy in Taiwan has been much more reasonable. In Taiwan people learn ways of simplifying the characters when they write by hand, but only traditional forms are used in print. I think this is much more in accordance with the history and nature of the Chinese writing system.

By the way, isn't it funny how we speakers of European languages have never accepted this kind of simplification logic? In the age of SMS we are used to writing things like "c u l8r", and stuff like that, but how would you feel if you went into a bookshop to buy a copy of, say, Milton's Paradise Lost, and they gave you a new edition that uses "EZ spelling". I would feel disgusted. What we find acceptable in handwritten notes or in our shopping list is not necessarily valid in a book or a newspaper.

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Harpoon

Jose:

1. Stalin also wanted to modernize Russia and catch up with the western powers. People thought he could never be done and was crazy, but he pulled it off (admittingly at the expense of millions of lives)

2. 蜘蛛 is spider... but 蜘 (zhi1) and 蛛 (zhu2) also both mean spider, is there a reason you had both characters together? Just another synonym?

3. 衚衕 does not show up on any dictionaries...? (I have zero knowledge of written Chinese, sorry)

3. I had no idea that Chinese was simplified in this manner. I thought all they did was simplify the strokes of many characters or made up new characters completely to reduce stroke complication if they had to. Replacing it with 胡同 (literally being something like "beard" + "similar" from what I looked up) simply because when the characters are pronounced together they make the compound word "hu2 tong2" (alley) [haven't been able to varify this] makes absolutely no sense. I thought the biggest reason that China is keeping a completely character-based written language is because they have so many different forms of mutually unintellegible Chinese-based languages spoken in the country and want a unifying written form? If hu2tong2 means "alley" in Mandarin, I doubt it means the same thing in Cantonese or Shanghaise or Fujianese or whatever... if they had that character on a road sign, all they would see is "Beard similar" and they'd be confused as hell :mrgreen:

4. I am positive that I can legibly write "spider" 10 times before even a native Chinese writer can write "衚衕". Simplified characters at least close the gap a little bit between characters and phonetic system.

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Claw
2. 蜘蛛 is spider... but 蜘 (zhi1) and 蛛 (zhu2) also both mean spider, is there a reason you had both characters together? Just another synonym?

You've got it backwards... 蜘蛛 doesn't mean spider because both 蜘 and 蛛 (BTW, this should be zhu1, not zhu2) mean spider. Rather, 蜘蛛 was already a word on its own and in order to represent it in characters, they invented both 蜘 and 蛛 by using the 虫 radical. The meanings of 蜘 and 蛛 became associated with spider by virtue of the fact that the compound 蜘蛛 means spider, not the other way around. 蜘 and 蛛 are not used alone or in any other compounds, which usually indicates that they were specially invented to represent an existing polysyllabic word (which is often a foreign loan). 衚衕 is another instance of this, which is a loan from Mongolian. 駱駝 (camel) is a much older example which dates back to the Tang dynasty.

3. 衚衕 does not show up on any dictionaries...? (I have zero knowledge of written Chinese, sorry)

http://www.zhongwen.com/d/231/x193.htm

I thought the biggest reason that China is keeping a completely character-based written language is because they have so many different forms of mutually unintellegible Chinese-based languages spoken in the country and want a unifying written form? If hu2tong2 means "alley" in Mandarin, I doubt it means the same thing in Cantonese or Shanghaise or Fujianese or whatever... if they had that character on a road sign, all they would see is "Beard similar" and they'd be confused as hell

I believe 衚衕 was only used in Mandarin since it was a loan word from Mongolian in the north. The southern dialects didn't really acquire this word but can understand what it means when it is seen written because of the 行 radical. However, because it's so popularly written as 胡同, people who speak one of the southern dialects probably know that it refers to 衚衕 by now.

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gougou

@ Jose: Nice example about the 衚衕. I just recently came across this word (in simplified, that is), and was quite surprised by the characters. It does make more sense in traditional. And in my opinion, 车 and 东 indeed belong to the ugliest Chinese characters.

It is interesting to note that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are not lagging behind the mainland as far as literacy rates are concerned, but rather the opposite.

I think this also has more to do with the level of development than with the style of writing used.

interrupting a cultural tradition of at least two millennia

I'm completely with you, it is sad to see such a tradition broken, especially when talking about the oldest written language still in use nowadays. But don't you think that, not only in this context, China's traditions and her current ambitions are not easily combinable? I mean, in many, many fields, China has to sacrifice what she treasured in the past to have a say in todays world.

And this is something that is not only occuring in China. Europe abandoning individual currencies for the sake of one common one is one example.

Half of the world picking up trends coming from the USA is another one. And while this, of course, does severe damage to traditions, it also brought us Coca-Cola... :mrgreen:

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gato
It is interesting to note that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are not lagging behind the mainland as far as literacy rates are concerned, but rather the opposite. This proves that the use of traditional characters is not a hindrance to full literacy.

How about compared to Singapore, where the simplified form is being taught in public schools?

I am fluent in spoken Chinese and read a newspaper comfortably in either traditional or simplified, but don't know the characters well enough to write with a pen and paper. I'm confident I can do it with some effort at memorization with the simplified form, but I'm not so sure I can do the same in the traditional form. There are some characters that are so complicated that it would take much too much effort to remember and write them accurately.

For example, lú (stove) is written 炉 in simplified form and 爐 in traditional. The 盧 stem in the traditional form is much harder to remember. There are many other everyday characters that exhibit a similar difference in complexity.

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bhchao
Since then, I prefer to write in traditional. I find the characters more beautiful and, besides, I have come to think that the script reform undertaken by the Chinese government under Mao was a big mistake. A mistake in terms of tradition (many, perhaps most, of the simplified characters were simply invented by a committee), and also in terms of the unity of the language (just think about the posts in this forum). Contrary to what its proponents thought at the time, simplified characters are not easier to learn, at least in my experience. I don't want to go on a rant here, but I could give you a lot of examples of characters that, in my opinion, are more difficult to learn in simplified than in traditional.

Yet, I haven't given up all hope. Chinese people in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan adamantly continue to use traditional characters, and these places exert a big influence on the mainland through their pop culture.

Bravo Jose! :clap8)

I dislike simplified characters and is a diehard supporter of the continued usage of traditional characters. Simplifying traditional characters is like vandalizing ancient Chinese temples and insulting one's ancestors.

So what if you had to learn a lot of strokes while learning to write traditional characters? Actually I find that as a compliment to Chinese traditions.

I think Chinese is one of the very few languages that uses ancient pictograms to depict characters. Sometimes when I first look at a complex, traditional Chinese character that is part of a word, I might say "Whoa!" But if I look closely at the character and try to form images in my mind of what the character tries to represent, or if the character also contains a helpful phonetic symbol, I can come close to correctly saying the character if I already know how to say the preceding character in Mandarin.

A character could represent a cooking pot or a brush being inserted into an ink jar. For example, 書 looks like a hand holding a brush and inserting it into an ink jar to write a book. The simplified character 书 looks ugly and loses much of the symbolic meaning.

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carlo

Setting 'standards' has always been a prerogative of rulers. Remember the film "Hero" and the twenty ways of writing the character 劍? For many characters in common use, if you count the handwritten forms, there are dozens of variants out there. The fact that all these forms have a common background and so are more or less mutually intelligible is I think quite neat, and no reform in history has ever managed to change this. Imperial dynasties even banned individual characters (Liu Bang outlawed the character 邦, the Taiping wrote 國 as 囗 plus 王, meaning the land of the Heavenly King etc): yet characters survived not only just reform, but even active persecution.

Still, considering the changes that have taken place in this century, I think we should count ourselves lucky we were left with characters at all.

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Claw

That's strange... I don't remember starting this topic. My post was supposed to be a reply to a post someone else started. What happened to all the posts that occurred before my post?

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roddy

I ate them :twisted:

Roddy

PS Actually, I split them from here

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Claw

Ah okay... you should put a note the next time you do that... that confused me for a while. :mrgreen:

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roddy

I usually try to, but forget / don't have time sometimes. Anyway, discuss away.

Roddy

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nipponman

Well, as many of you probably already know, I despise simplified ( :D )

it just doesn't look right to me, but what you said Claw was intersesting.

And I qoute,

You've got it backwards... 蜘蛛 doesn't mean spider because both 蜘 and 蛛 (BTW, this should be zhu1, not zhu2) mean spider. Rather, 蜘蛛 was already a word on its own and in order to represent it in characters, they invented both 蜘 and 蛛 by using the 虫 radical
.

So if the word zhi1zhu1(or however it was pronounced then) existed without 蜘蛛 how was it represented? This happens all the time in Japanese, but I never thought it possible in Chinese because of the fact that chinese speech is so related to the way of writing. Makes me wonder,

could the same thing have happened to all the de's (地得的) out there? Was "de" a word originally and then those three characters pronounciations were bent to match this word in writing? Interesting stuff

Nipponman

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florazheng

I hope I was taught by traditional Chinese Characters because all the excellent accient chinese literatural books were written in traditional Characters as well as Calligraphy. I think the accient literature is the real pearl comparing modern one. But unfortunately I only can read them but not writing by hand. Of course, some Chinese imput softwares can let me type traditional ones. But it is very uncomfortable for me to read them for a long anticle. :( I am only used to read simplied characters.

:(:(:(

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xiaocai

Both traditional and simplified Chinese are not the "original" one. The characters themselves have been developing for thousand years form 甲骨文. The simplification may be abitrary, but just think about what 秦始皇 did and who can say he made a mistake?

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nipponman

I don't know who 秦始皇 is, what did he do?

P.s do you mean "from 甲骨文?"

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