About the simplified Chinese character system

About the simplified Chinese character system

Postby taiwan » Tue Jun 07, 2011 4:58 pm

At Yahoo! Answers, the following issue was discussed.

Question: What was the reasons for launching the simplified Chinese character system in China in 1960s?


1. from Taihou,
Initially, China had been writing with a system known today as "Classical Chinese", which you may look up on wikipedia. From the beginning of Chinese civilization, Classical Chinese had been used, until some decades ago when the new Chinese government decided that it had to go. The reason? They believed that the Chinese culture and traditional ways were obstacles that block their way to modernization. With that, they adopted the Beijing dialect as the official language of China.

Modern Beijing dialect, aka Mandarin, is known by linguist to be a highly Manchurian-influenced language that was put into widespread use during the past several centuries, when China was under Manchurian occupation. The new government designed a writing system to complement the Mandarin dialect so that whatever is written is how it would be spoken in Mandarin. Prior to that, all the different Chinese languages speak in different ways, but write using "Classical Chinese".

Here's the problem now; by adopting the new Mandarin language, they have made their language evne more complicated. Reason is that in a regular Mandarin sentence or text of about 20 words, Classical Chinese could have expressed the same in just 10. It didn't help that Mandarin is one of the most homophones of all Chinese languages.

Obviously not a moment later the new government realized this and thought that perhaps simplifying characters may be the way to go. Some words now have less strokes to write, but in a way you're still writing 20 words or so for everyone 10 words that could be written in Classical Chinese. It still remained mostly inefficient. To add insult to injury, now many words in Chinese (simplified) no longer make sense. In many older Chinese languages such as Cantonese where there are considerably less homophones, certain words have been simplified to look the same in Mandarin was also applied in Cantonese, which caused a lot of confusion on how certain words should be pronounced.

So does the simplified system helped in any way at all? So far there's nothing that can prove it did, except for the recent statisitc that showed the rise of the literacy rate in China's mainland, but Mandarin was a pretty new language, certainly it's expected to rise given time during modernization. But the most obvious results of the simplification and "Mandarin-ization" of China are the problems that it has caused for various other Chinese languages.
For that question, you'll only be getting opinions. Mine would be that 魯 迅 and 錢 玄 同 are simply ignorant. Chinese characters have been used for several thousands of years, and throughout those years the Chinese civilization was one of the most advanced places on earth for their time, along with Rome and others. Japan has been using Kanji for so long now, yet today they're still one of the leading countries in the economic and technology sector. If a several thousand year old evidence and a modern today example of an advanced nation that uses Chinese characters isn't enough to prove that Chinese characters have nothing to do with China's downfall, then probably nothing will. It's the bad governance that will bring down a nation, not language. Seriously... how in the world can a language cause a country to fall behind? Not only is that an ubsurd statement, but they give me the impression that they're covering up their own failure with something that's totally unrelated.

Answer 2, from Boy,
Mainland China adopted Simplified Chinese in to increase literacy rates. There are considerably less strokes to remember in Simplified Chinese than there are in Traditional Chinese.

Traditional characters are still used in Hong Kong, where Cantonese is the norm, and in Taiwanese Mandarin.

Answer 3, from David,
Currently, Pinyin is used to input it into simplified form on keyboards and in the form of text. Much far back however, traditional Chinese was very difficult to learn and had many, many, many homophones. To fix this, the Pinyin syllabary was formed. This is my understanding of it.

Answer 4, from Elena S,
for -- logically -- simplicity,clarity and speed:
為 => 为
龍 => 龙
言 => 讠
漢語 => 汉语
電視機 => 电视机

What is your answer?
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