writing reform movements


writing reform movements
Movements in the twentieth century aiming to modernize China and to increase literacy have frequently focused their attention on China’s writing system. There have been three principal means by which writing reform has been approached: closer approximation of writing to the spoken language (in the May Fourth Movement of 1919), replacement of characters by roman letters (pinyin), and simplification of the existing script. Replacement has died away as a plausible mechanism, and simplification is less politically significant in the early twenty-first century than it was in the mid twentieth. Two lists of simplified characters were instituted in the PRC, one in 1955 and one in 1977. These often involved using popular handwritten abbreviations for characters, replacing complex components with simpler forms, or mandating a simplification. These simpler forms have become standard in the PRC and Singapore. Hong Kong and Taiwan do not use them.
(Some forms are recognizable in Japan, though not most.) Even in the PRC in the 1990s some traditional characters have been brought back in, used on signs, on name cards and in books published in classical Chinese. Computers can easily use characters, though input is often in roman script. Support for eradication of characters has slipped quietly away.
DeFrancis, John (1950). Nationalism and Language Reform in China. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
——(1984). The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Seybolt, Peter J. and Chiang, Gregory Kuei-ke (eds) (1979). Language Reform in China: Documents and Commentary. White Plains, New York: M.E.Sharpe.
SUSAN D.BLUM

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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