China to regulate use of simplified characters
www.chinaview.cn 2009-08-12 22:12:03   Print

    by Xinhua writers Wu Jing and Guo Likun

    BEIJING, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- China started to collect public opinions Wednesday on a modified list of simplified characters of the Chinese written language to further standardize a language used by billions around the world.

    The list includes 8,300 simplified Chinese characters, according to Li Yuming, deputy director of the State Language Commission.

    "In principal, all social sectors on the mainland should use Chinese characters in accordance with the list," Li said.

    About 5,200 characters are most frequently used by the Chinese, and they account for 99.99 percent of the characters people use in written form, according to Li.

    It was the first time in about 20 years that the Chinese government planned to issue a list of simplified Chinese characters.

    In 1988, the State Language Commission issued a list of 7,000 simplified Chinese characters as a way to standardize the written form of the language.

    "Life changes so fast and so does the use of language, so we made the changes to regulate the use of characters for the convenience of work and life," said Wang Ning, vice director with the Institute of Linguistics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    "One of the problems we are trying to address here is over-simplification of some characters. They actually made themselves even harder to be understand in some cases," Wang said.

    The Chinese mainland first introduced simplified characters in 1956. But Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao retained the traditional characters. Many overseas Chinese people also use traditional characters.

    Simplified characters were created by decreasing the number of strokes it takes to write a character to make the writing easier.

    Only three new traditional characters were added to the list this time, adding the total number to six, according to Li.

    Both Wang Ning and Li Yuming said the latest character modification had nothing to do with restoring traditional characters.

    "Switching back to traditional Chinese characters means billions of Chinese would have to relearn their mother language," Wang Ning said.

    "I don't think there is any need to switch back to traditional Chinese characters, nor to make the current ones even simpler. Our top priority is to improve and standardize the simplified Chinese characters," she said.

    Some Chinese people on the mainland have recently called for the restoration of traditional characters for the purpose of "cultural preservation."

    Pan Qinglin, a political advisor from north China's Tianjin Municipality, submitted a proposal to the annual session of China's top political advisory body in March this year. Pan urged the country to abolish the use of simplified characters within ten years, saying they sacrificed too much "artistic quality."

    The public could submit suggestions on the modified list of simplified characters to an email address gfhzb@moe.edu.cn before Aug. 31.

Editor: Yan
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