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About Chinese (simplified) Language

Simplified Chinese Characters (simplified Chinese: 简体字; traditional Chinese: 簡體字; pinyin: Jiǎntizì) are one of two standard sets of Chinese characters of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China has promoted them for use in printing in an attempt to increase literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China (Mainland China) and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese is currently used in the Republic of China or Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Overseas Chinese communities generally use traditional characters, but simplified characters are often used among mainland Chinese immigrants.

Simplified character forms were created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional Chinese characters. Some simplifications are based on popular cursive forms embodying graphic or phonetic simplifications of the traditional forms. Some characters were simplified by applying regular rules; for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simpler variant. Some characters were simplified irregularly, however, and some simplified characters are very dissimilar to and unpredictable from traditional characters. Finally, many characters were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified Chinese orthographies.

In August 2009, the PRC began collecting public comments for a modified list of simplified characters.

Extent

Jianhuazi zong biao (简化字总表), "Complete List of Simplified Characters" or the final list of simplified characters announced in 1986, contains the following:

  • Chart 1, which contains 350 singly simplified characters, whose simplifications cannot be generalized to other characters
  • Chart 2, which contains 132 simplified characters and 14 simplified radicals, which can all be generalized to other characters
  • Chart 3, a list of 1,753 characters which are simplified in accordance with Chart 2. This list is non-exhaustive, so a character that can be simplified in accordance with Chart 2 should be simplified, even if it does not appear in Chart 3.

Appendix, which contains:

  • 39 characters that are officially considered to be cases where a complicated variant character has been abolished in favour of a simpler variant character, rather than where a complicated character is replaced by a newly-created simpler character. However, these characters are commonly considered to have been simplifications, so they are included here for reference purposes.
  • 35 place names that have been modified to replace rare characters with more common ones. These are not character simplifications, because it is the place names that were being modified, not the characters themselves. One place name has since been reverted to its original version.
Di yi pi yitizi zhengli biao ("Series One Organization List of Variant Characters") also accounts for some of the orthography difference between Mainland China on the one hand, and Hong Kong and Taiwan on the other.

Although these are not technically "simplifications", they are often regarded as such, because the end effect is the same. It contains 1,027 variant characters deemed obsolete as of the final revision in 1993. Some of these are obsolete in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well, but others remain in use.

Origins and history

Although most of the simplified Chinese characters in use today are the result of the works moderated by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the 1950s and 60s, character simplification predates the PRC's formation in 1949. Cursive written text almost always includes character simplification. Simplified forms used in print have always existed (they date back to as early as the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC), though early attempts at simplification actually resulted in more characters being added to the lexicon).

One of the earliest proponents of character simplification was Lufei Kui, who proposed in 1909 that simplified characters should be used in education. In the years following the May Fourth Movement in 1919, many anti-imperialist Chinese intellectuals sought ways to modernise China. Traditional culture and values such as Confucianism were challenged. Soon, people in the Movement started to cite the traditional Chinese writing system as an obstacle in modernising China and therefore proposed that a reform be initiated. It was suggested that the Chinese writing system should be either simplified or completely abolished. Fu Sinian, a leader of the May Fourth Movement, called Chinese characters the “writing of ox-demons and snake-gods” niúguǐ shéshén de wénzì (牛鬼蛇神的文字). Lu Xun, a renowned Chinese author in the 20th century, stated that, “If Chinese characters are not destroyed, then China will die.” (漢字不滅,中國必亡。) Recent commentators have claimed that Chinese characters were blamed for the economic problems in China during that time.

In the 1930s and 1940s, discussions on character simplification took place within the Kuomintang government, and a large number of Chinese intellectuals and writers have long maintained that character simplification would help boost literacy in China. Three-hundred and twenty-four simplified characters collected by Qian Xuantong are officially introduced in 1935 as the table of 1st batch simplified character (第一批簡體字表) and suspended in 1936. In many world languages, literacy has been promoted as a justification for spelling reforms.

Within the PRC, further character simplification became associated with the leftists of the Cultural Revolution, culminating in a second round of character simplifications (known as erjian 二简), or "Second-round simplified characters", which were promulgated in 1977. Intellectuals like Chen Mengjia, who opposed the reform, was labeled a rightist and committed suicide. In part due to the shock and unease felt in the wake of the Cultural Revolution and Mao's death, the second-round of simplifications was poorly received. In 1986 the authorities retracted the second round completely. Later in the same year, the authorities promulgated a final list of simplifications, which is identical to the 1964 list except for six changes (including the restoration of three characters that had been simplified in the First Round: 叠, 覆, 像; note that the form 疊 is used instead of 叠 in regions using Traditional Chinese). Although no longer recognized officially, some second-round characters appear in informal contexts, as many people learned second-round simplified characters in school.

Simplification initiatives have been aimed at eradicating characters entirely and establishing the Hanyu Pinyin romanization as the official written system of the PRC, but the reform never gained quite as much popularity as the leftists had hoped. After the retraction of the second round of simplification, the PRC stated that it wished to keep Chinese orthography stable. Years later in 2009, the Chinese government released a major revision list which included 8300 characters. No new simplifications were introduced. However, six characters previously listed as "traditional" characters that have been simplified, as well as 51 other "variant" characters were restored to the standard list. In addition, orthographies (e.g., stroke shape) for 44 characters were modified slightly. Also, the practice of simplifying obscure characters by analogy of their radicals is now discouraged. A State Language Commission official cited "over-simplification" as the reason for restoring some characters. The language authority declared an open comment period until August 31, 2009 for feedback from the public.

Distribution and use

Simplified Chinese characters on a sign in ChinaThe People's Republic of China, Singapore and Malaysia generally use simplified characters. They appear very sparingly in printed text produced in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities, although they are becoming more prevalent as China opens to the world. Conversely, the mainland is seeing an increase in the use of traditional forms, where they are often used on signs and in logos.

Mainland China

The Law of the People's Republic of China on the National Common Language and Characters implies simplified Chinese as the standard script, and relegates Traditional Chinese to certain aspects and purposes such as ceremonies, cultural purposes (e.g. calligraphy), decoration, publications and books on ancient literature and poetry, and research purposes. Traditional Chinese remains ubiquitous on buildings predating the promotion of simplified characters, such as former government buildings, religious buildings, educational institutions, and historical monuments. Traditional Chinese is also often used for commercial purposes, such as shopfront displays and advertisements, though this is officially discouraged.

The PRC also tends to print material intended for people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and overseas Chinese in traditional characters. For example, the PRC prints versions of the People's Daily in traditional characters and both the People's Daily and Xinhua websites have versions in traditional characters using Big5 encoding. Mainland companies selling products in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan use Traditional characters on its displays and packaging to communicate with consumers (the reverse is true as well). Also, as part of the one country, two systems model, the PRC has not attempted to force Hong Kong or Macau into using simplified characters.

Dictionaries published in mainland China generally show both simplified and their traditional counterparts. In digital media, many cultural phenomena imported from Hong Kong and Taiwan into mainland China, such as music videos, karaoke videos, subtitled movies, and subtitled dramas, use traditional Chinese characters, thereby exposing mainlanders to the use of traditional characters.

More about Chinese language

Chinese or the Sinitic language(s) (汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ; 华语/華語 Huáyǔ; 中国话/中國話 Zhōngguóhuà; 中文 Zhōngwén) is a language family consisting of languages mutually intelligible to varying degrees.[3] Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the two branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one billion people, speak some form of Chinese as their native language. Internal divisions of Chinese are usually perceived by their native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, rather than separate languages, although this identification is considered inappropriate by some linguists and Sinologists.

Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (Yue) (70 million) and Min (70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue.

The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin (Putonghua / Guoyu / Huayu), based on the Beijing dialect, which is part of a larger group of North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, often taken as a separate language (see Mandarin Chinese for more), this language can be referred to as 官话/官話 Guānhuà or 北方话/北方話 Běifānghuà in Chinese. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portuguese). Hokkien, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (where it dominates in Singapore and Malaysia).

 

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