Jump to content
  • Sign Up

How to Use Variant Characters


Recommended Posts

Reading opinion pieces in HK newspapers, you often see variant characters. Sometimes even both the standard character, and the variant, appear in the same article. The most common example is perhaps using 箇 instead of 個.

Are there any rules regarding the use of variant characters? I've never seen it mentioned in a textbook. And what kind of impression do they give the average Chinese reader?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With regard to mixing character variants (usually called 異體字, and much more applicable to traditional script as well as historical Chinese writing; in the official simplified script as used in the PRC, I believe all variants have been standardised so it's not an issue), I'd see it as slightly unprofessional, but otherwise inoffensive. No more jarring than single storey and double storey lower case "a". 



If one consistent version were used, I'm not sure I'd notice. The one I'm most familiar with is the versions of 兑 e.g. in 說 vs 説, 悅 vs 悦, but I'd barely notice those. The use of the former in 箇/個, 裏/裡, 羣/群, 滙/匯, even 臺/台 makes me do a double-take, and I'd probably think "oh, how quaint". A bit like reading American vs British (vs Canadian vs Australian...) spellings. 


For the record, no I do not know which ones of each of the pairs above are 正字 and which are 俗字. I mainly read in simplified, but the traditional I come into contact with is mainly HK-based. If I write in traditional, I consistently use the latter of each of the pairs above (even for the word 台湾), unless I'm quoting verbatim of course!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since nobody said it yet, I'll say this but. I think sometimes (classical) texts will use a variant character when two characters appear in a row, something about proving it is not a mistype. This isn't really done in modern texts at all though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Even in Ancient China people would make mistakes when copying a text. The mistake might end up being the new standard. Or both variants would be used at the same time. Or one of the variants would 'get' a new meaning.


I don't think there are any rules regarding the use of variant characters. It all depends on language use. Dictionaries are there to help us, not to force language upon us. Try this dictionary if you want to learn more about variant characters:  http://dict.variants.moe.edu.tw/main.htm


889 has a good point about stylistics. 


木/没 is a different phenomenon. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...