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Claw

Simplifed / Traditional

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xiaocai

He compelled all Chinese to use 大篆, a simplified writing system at that time.

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gato
But it is very uncomfortable for me to read them for a long anticle. I am only used to read simplied characters.

I find the best way to become comfortable in both forms is practice with "most frequently used Chinese characters" list. Such as here:

http://zhongwen.com/x/pinlu.htm

http://www.geocities.com/hao510/charfreq/

Direct link for download: http://technology.chtsai.org/charfreq/sorted.zip

I would load the list in a word processor and spend 30 minutes with a set of 100 unfamiliar characters everyday. Even 15 minutes is fine, if you don't have 30 minutes. The more important thing is to do it every day. You can edit the list, bring more unfamiliar characters forwards and push characters you already learned to the end. Since you already know the simplified form, you should become comfortable with the traditional form in no time at all, in a month tops.

I find this to be one of the most efficient ways to learn completely new characters, too.

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Claw
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.

Most likely it had no written representation until someone was forced to write it. I don't know the history of this specific word though, but for other words that had been in this situation, they usually borrowed characters with similar pronunciations. After a while, standardization would occur and radicals might be placed on either the new word or the original word in order to differentiate them. One example of a case where the radical was added to the old word is 莫, which was originally used to mean "dusk" or "sunset," but people started to use it as a phonetic loan to mean "not" as well. After a while, 莫 exclusively took on the meaning of "not" while the meaning of "dusk" and "sunset" was moved to a different character, 暮, by adding a 日 radical on the bottom.

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

地, 得, and 的 did not have the meanings that they currently have under modern Chinese. With the exception of 得, they were all phonetic loans that were taken to express what was spoken in Mandarin (before the 20th century, all written Chinese was Classical Chinese). 得 could be a phonetic loan as well, but I have a feeling that its meaning evolved from it's original meaning of "to attain" to it's current usage as a particle indicating the potential of a verb.

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nipponman

Interesting, my thoughts exactly.

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Jose
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.

Gougou, I think we live in a rapidly changing world, and social changes are indeed unavoidable. However, I don't think reforming language by decree is a good thing. You are from Germany, if I remember correctly, so you just need to look at the situation of your own language to see what I mean. After the introduction of the new spelling rules in the nineties, a number of newspapers, led by the Frankfurter Allgemeine, decided to go back to the old spelling. Many Germans must be asking themselves why there was any need to make those changes to the spelling rules, like replacing "radfahren" with "Rad fahren", and so on. The result, for the time being, has been confusion, controversy and the loss of a universally accepted spelling standard. And this has happened just because of a few minor changes in a language that uses our plain old Latin alphabet!

While I agree with xiaocai and carlo that language evolves and that powerful leaders have the resources to impose their whims on the populace, I think we still have the right to analyse whether such changes have been positive or not. Even if I accepted that simplified characters are here to stay, I can still pose the intellectual question of whether the Chinese language has benefitted at all from the reform. As I have repeatedly said in this forum, I don't think so.

One of the few good arguments in favour of simplified characters has been brought up by in_lab in the original thread from which this one has been split:

胡同 is much easier to read on the computer screen than 衚衕

That's a good point, and I have to agree that simplified characters are often easier to read on computer and mobile phone screens as well as in subtitles. But I think this usually happens when the font size is simply too small for the screen resolution. A lot of Chinese web sites, especially mainland ones, use a very tiny font size that turns the more complex characters into black boxes. On the other hand, most Hong Kong web sites use a rather large font size which makes reading Chinese much more comfortable.

So, in this case, rather than advocating script reform, I advocate larger font sizes :D

Besides, simplifying the characters to make them look less cluttered often makes them more difficult to learn. A good example is the pair of characters 虐 and 瘧 . These are the only two commonly used characters that are pronounced nüe (both of them with a fourth tone).

I can still remember the first time I looked up 虐 in a dictionary. I was actually looking for 虐待, and I found that this word means "ill-treat(ment)", while 虐 on its own has the meaning of "cruel". After glancing through the other compounds under this character entry, I took a look at the other nüè character. I found that 瘧疾 is the Chinese for "malaria". Since then, I have never forgotten this word. In its traditional form it is easy to remember how to write "malaria" if one thinks about it as "the cruel disease". You just need to remember that the "cruel" character has to be wrapped in the disease radical to clarify its meaning. It makes sense.

But then 瘧 must have looked too cluttered to the language reformers, who decided to get rid of a few strokes to "simplify" it. The nüè pair has become: 虐 and 疟.

Is it any easier to learn these two characters now? Maybe if you learn 疟 in isolation, but when you look at it in the context of the whole system, its obvious link to 虐 has been lost, and this makes it more difficult to learn the two of them together. There are many examples like this one: I find it easier to remember 般搬and 盤 together as a group rather than 般, 搬 and 盘 ; or 僱 and 顧, as opposed to 雇 and 顾.

Another example: Let's look at the following characters:

隋 隨 墮 惰 橢 髓

In traditional form all of them share the "左 on top of 月" part. Of course, our beloved language reformers must have thought that some of these characters looked too complicated, so SOME of them had the little 工 simplifed away. This is the result:

隋 随 堕 惰 椭 髓

Simpler, anyone?

Now maybe I don't know anything about the history of Chinese characters and there are profound etymological reasons why, after lengthy and well-researched discussions, the experts in the committee decided that it was natural for a few of these characters to lose its 工, while this was not the case for the others. I doubt it, though. In my opinion, it looks more like a bungled job and, at any rate, it hasn't made things any simpler.

Another problem with simplified characters that has already been mentioned in this thread is that of merged characters, where one simplified character stands for more than one original ones. This can lead to confusion about the meaning of compounds, and we have a good example in this thread.

Harpoon said:

胡同 (literally being something like "beard" + "similar" from what I looked up)

Actually, 胡 means beard... in simplified characters. The original character is 鬍, where you have the "hair" radical on top of 胡, which is used just as a phonetic part. Some of the "hair" characters have been victims to the zeal of the reformers. This is the traditional list of commonly used "hair" characters:

髮 鬍 鬚 鬆 髭 鬃 鬢 髻 鬈

After simplification:

发 胡 须 松 髭 鬃 鬓 髻 鬈

Now the first four characters may look neater on a computer screen, but this "simplification" has had some bad consequences: To begin with, the first four characters, probably the most common ones in this group, have been deprived of their "hair" identity, thus making it harder to identify them if the context is not too clear. Furthermore, they have all been merged with characters that have a completely unrelated meaning, even creating a new dreaded duoyinzi in the process (發 fa1, 髮 fa4 -> 发).

Well, I could go on and on: Why has 復 lost its radical while 覆 and 履 keep the original form? Why has 柬 been simplified in compounds like 拣but not on its own?

Of course, among so many changes one can find good examples of characters that have become undisputably easier: I agree that 宪 is easier than 憲, and a few complicated stroke patterns have completely disappeared, like 盧, which gato mentioned, or the phonetic part of 識 and 織, now replaced by 只. Still, the traditional forms have been used for ages, they're part of China's heritage, and I would like them to stay that way.

I think what the language reformers failed to see was that Chinese characters are not difficult because of the high numbers of strokes of individual characters, but rather because of the nature of the system. The Chinese script is a gigantic jigsaw puzzle in which hundreds of basic blocks can be combined to yield thousands of different forms. The main effect of simplification has been to cause a huge and chaotic rearrangement of the combination rules of this jigsaw puzzle, while the main traits of it that make it so difficult remain unchanged.

Sorry about the length of this post. I'm very opinionated on this subject (in case anyone hasn't noticed :D ), and I wanted to express my opinion as clearly as possible.

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wushijiao

Well argued, detailed post Jose! :D

The strange thing that I find, is that some many mainlanders say to me something along the lines of, "every language changes and evolves. This was just part of the the natural evolution". This seems to me, a slightly suspicious form of rationale. I can see the rationale for reform based on socio-economic reasons, but not on evolutionary ones.

For example, maybe sometime in the distant futrue it might be considered okay in English to spell "the" as "da", or "was" as "wuz", in order to better fit the actual pronounciation (again, this is an imaginary example). This would be a naturual evoltuion of the correcting the spelling in order to better suit the oral form.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but going from traditional to simplified in Chinese had nothing to do with trying to better replicate the sounds of Chinese. In other words, it wasn't a spelling reform. I don't even think this was the goal. So, why has the rationale for the arguement been changed after the fact? Why the bait and switch? :conf:help

I've posited that it was in fact an Orwellian plot to control and subdue all political reactionaries, but that doesn't seem fair.

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xiaocai

Sorry, it's 小篆.

大篆 was used in 夏、商、周. :oops:

And you can see why those changes had happened:

"秦始皇灭六国,统一华夏,其疆域广而国事多,文书日繁,甚感原有文字繁杂,不便应用;加之,原有秦、楚、齐、燕、赵、魏、韩七国,书不同文,写法各异,亦亟待统一。"

"小篆较之大篆,形体笔画均已省简,而字数日增,这是应时代的要求所致。"

Here gives an brief introduction of the development of characters.

http://www.kepu.net.cn/gb/civilization/printing/evolve/evl132.html

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florazheng

Hi Gato, thanks a lot for your kind advice. But ...(whisper)I am a little lazy :oops:

I wouldn't like to study traditional Chinese characters now because it is not very important for me.

If I have time, I prefer studying English or Japanese because it will be helpful to my work. Japanese language is fresh to me and but I always cannot keep on doing a thing .... :wall

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perjp
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.

This is the standard way to make characters for new vocabulary. First they're written using other characters as phonetic loans, then over time they acquire new radicals. If that practice is continued, foreign loan words that are written phonetically now will have specific characters invented for them in the future, just as Kafei, which is obviously a phonetic loan, is now written with its own characters, 咖啡.

This sort of thing seems to be in vouge in Japan nowadays, you'll see lots of coffeshops using 珈琲 to write koohii rather than the more recent katakana from コーヒー.

Oh, and Chinese speech is no more related to the way of writing than Japanese or English for that matter. It's just a means of representation for the language.

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nipponman
Oh, and Chinese speech is no more related to the way of writing than Japanese or English for that matter. It's just a means of representation for the language.

I think this point is debateable. I mean even from a purely technical point of view, in Chinese you can't learn a character without the tone associated with that word/character, and what is a tone? An implementaion of speech. English doesn't have tone per se and neither does Japanese (it does have pitch though which is associated with some words). All chinese words are linked to hanzi and all hanzi are linked to a tone, not so in Japanese. E.g. you can't learn 校 as just xiao, you have to learn it is xiao4. So you can't communicate by writing if you don't know the characters and you can't communicate by speaking if you don't know the tones, it is much more related than it seems.

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