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Chinese writing reform

Subject Linguistics

Place Eastern Asia » China

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


Attempts at reforming the Chinese script have been made periodically and since the 1890s there have been repeated calls for both Romanization and simplification, but in modern times effective reforms were first implemented in the People's Republic of China. The reform programme of the 1950s and 1960s defined three main tasks: (1) the standardization and simplification of Chinese characters, (2) the creation of a Romanized orthography, and (3) the promotion of the standard language. Under the direction of the officially appointed Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language, 2,238 Chinese characters have been simplified and 1,055 variants ruled out since 1956. Character simplification has been achieved on the basis of several principles. Some many-stroked characters were replaced by simpler ones. In other cases, complex characters were reduced to one of their compound parts. A very prolific principle has been the adoption of cursively handwritten characters as the standard form. Character simplification is a reform that caters more to the writer than to the reader. While characters become easier to write if the number of strokes is reduced, their distinctness for the reader is reduced by the same measure ( table 5 ). The advantage of simplified characters is thus hard to assess. The fact that in recent years old forms have reappeared in public life suggests that character ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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