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The Written Chinese Language

January 7th, 2013 - by sheryl


Traditional and simplified writing

In mainland China a simplified writing system is used, whereas in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas regions the traditional Chinese script is being used. Starting from the second half of the nineteenth century, there was a growing consensus that the writing system constituted an obstacle to the achievement of a higher literacy rate. The simplified writing system differs in two ways from the traditional writing system: (1) a reduction of the number of strokes per character and (2) the reduction of the number of characters in common use (two originally different characters are now written with the same character). A large-scale reform was continued after the founding of the PRC. In 1955 1,053 variant characters were eliminated. In 1956, the Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters, known later as the First Scheme, was promulgated by the PRC government. It was composed of 525 simplified characters and 54 simplified basic components of characters. The Second Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters was promulgated in 1977 but was repealed in 1986 amid general disapproval.

The fate of traditional writing

The use of the simplified script has also given rise to some problems. When some simplified characters become easier to learn and write, they may not necessarily be easier to recognize. Characters may become less differentiated from each other as a result of simplification of their shape (e.g. ‘phoenix’ vs , ‘wind’). There is no balance between the legibility and distinctiveness of its basic symbols. Furthermore, simplified characters offer even fewer clues to their pronunciation than their traditional counterparts, making them more prone to mispronunciation. Finally, it is argued that the simplified script hinders access to writings before 1956, as well as those from outside mainland China.

In mainland China were simplified writing is used, traditional writing is still everywhere to be seen on signboards of streets, stores, schools, companies, and government institutions, as well as in book titles, advertisements, slogans, and televisions subtitles. More than 50% of the universities in Beijing use traditional characters in their signs, as is the case for 85% of the restaurants in Beijing.

In the southern parts of China neighbouring Hong Kong and Taiwan were traditional writing is used, these rates are even higher. E.g. in the ShenZhen area traditional script is required to understand writings and contracts from the neighoring Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan.Five thousand years of Chinese history has recorded in traditional writing. It is clear that traditional writing will not disappear quickly and forms an essential link to the history and cultural heritage of the Chinese people.

(Article from Chineselanguage.org)

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