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Encyclopedia > Chinese written language
Various styles of Chinese calligraphy.
Various styles of Chinese calligraphy.

The Chinese written language consists of a writing system stretching back more than 3,600 years (from Erligang). Its logographic writing system employs a large number of symbols, known as characters, to represent individual words or morphemes. The writing system is considered to have also been a unifying force for much of Chinese history, transcending differences in spoken language. From the time of the Qín Dynasty onwards, a standard written language (at first Classical Chinese and later Vernacular Chinese) has always been in place to bridge the divergent spoken variants of Chinese. Image File history File links Shodo. ... Image File history File links Shodo. ... Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. ... A Chinese logogram A logogram, or logograph, is a single written character which represents a word or a morpheme (a meaningful unit of language). ... A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes. ... In Linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a given language. ... The Qin Dynasty (Chinese: 秦朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Chin Chao) (221 BC - 206 BC) was preceded by the Zhou Dynasty and followed by the Han Dynasty in China. ... Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of very old forms of Chinese , making it very different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. ... Vernacular Chinese (pinyin: báihuà; Wade-Giles: paihua) is a style or register of the written Chinese language essentially modeled after the spoken language and associated with Standard Mandarin. ... Spoken Chinese The Chinese spoken language(s) comprise(s) many regional variants. ...

Contents


Written standards

One can classify Chinese writing into the following basic types:

The relationship between the Chinese spoken and written languages is complex. This complexity is compounded by the fact that the numerous variations of spoken Chinese have gone through centuries of evolution since at least the late Hàn Dynasty. However, written Chinese has changed much less than the spoken language. Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of very old forms of Chinese , making it very different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. ... Chinese poetry can be divided into three main periods: the early period, characterised by folk songs in simple, repetitive forms; the classical period from the Han dynasty to the fall of the Qing dynasty, in which a number of different forms were developed; and the modern period of Westernised free... Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. ... The Han Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 漢朝; Simplified Chinese: 汉朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Han Chau; 206 BC–AD 220) followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. ...


Until the 20th century, most formal Chinese writing was done in wényán, translated as Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese, which was very different from any of the spoken varieties of Chinese in much the same way that Classical Latin is different from modern Romance languages. Chinese characters that are closer to the spoken language were used to write informal works such as colloquial novels. Classical Latin is the language used by the principal exponents of that language in what is usually regarded as classical Latin literature. ... The Romance languages, also called Romanic languages, are a subfamily of the Italic languages, specifically the descendants of the Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people evolving in different areas after the break-up of the Roman Empire. ...


Since the May Fourth Movement of 1919, the formal standard for written Chinese was changed to báihuà , or Vernacular Chinese, which, while not completely identical to the grammar and vocabulary of Standard Mandarin, was based mostly on the dialects of modern spoken Mandarin. The term standard written Chinese now refers to Vernacular Chinese. Although few new works are now written in classical Chinese, it is still taught in middle and high school and forms part of college entrance examinations. Classical Chinese forms are also sometimes included in written works to give them a highly formal or archaic flavor. This article is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia and Singapore. ... Mandarin, or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally official speech), or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方方言; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally Northern Dialect(s)) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ...


Transcending intelligibility of speech

Chinese characters are understood as morphemes that are independent of phonetic change. Thus, although the number one is read as "yī" in Mandarin, "yat" in Cantonese and "tsit" in Hokkien, they derive from a common ancient Chinese word and still share an identical character: 一. Nevertheless, the orthographies of Chinese dialects are not identical. The vocabularies used in the different dialects have also diverged. In addition, while literary vocabulary is often shared among all dialects (at least in orthography), colloquial vocabularies vary widely. Colloquially written Chinese usually involves the use of "dialectal characters" which may not be understood in other dialects or characters that are considered archaic in báihuà. In Morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest language unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... Mandarin, or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally official speech), or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方方言; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally Northern Dialect(s)) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語; Simplified Chinese: 粤语, Cantonese: Yuet6yue5; Mandarin pinyin: Yueyu, Yụet (Guangdong) language) is one of the major dialect groups or languages of the Chinese language or language family. ... Min Nan, Minnan, or Min-nan (Simplified Chinese: 闽南语; Traditional Chinese: 閩南語; Hanyu Pinyin: ; POJ: Bân-lâm-gú; Southern Min or Southern Fujian language) is the Chinese language/dialect spoken in southern Fujian province, China and neighboring areas, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora. ...


The complex interaction between the Chinese written and spoken languages can be illustrated with Cantonese, and Cantonese in the following illustration can be replaced with any spoken language of Chinese. Cantonese speakers are all taught standard written Chinese in school even though its grammar and vocabulary are based on Mandarin. In most written communication, Cantonese speakers will write in standard written Chinese, so Mandarin speakers typically can read such communication without much difficulty. In addition, every character in standard written Chinese has a Cantonese pronunciation so all writing can be read aloud using Cantonese pronunciation, despite it not being the same as spoken Cantonese. Colloquially spoken Cantonese features different grammar and vocabulary, which, if written down, can be largely unreadable by an untrained Mandarin speaker. Standard written Chinese essentially functions as a different register for Cantonese speakers, because they do not write in the way they usually speak. Standard written Chinese spoken aloud using Cantonese pronunciation (usually with some colloquial words substituted in) serves as an acrolect used in newscasts and other formal contexts. In linguistics, a register is a subset of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. ... An acrolect is a register of a spoken language that is considered formal and high-style. ... A newscast typically consists of the coverage of various news events and other information, either produced locally by a radio or television station, or by a broadcast network. ...


Written colloquial Cantonese does exist however, and Cantonese is unique among non-Mandarin regional languages in having a widely used written colloquial standard. This is due in part to the fact that Hong Kong, a large Cantonese speaking city, was outside of Chinese control for over a hundred years before the British returned it to the People's Republic of China in 1997. In contrast, the other regional languages do not have such widely used alternative written standards. Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in certain tabloids, online chat rooms, and instant messaging. Even so, Cantonese speakers will use standard written Chinese in most formal written communications. Written Cantonese refers to the written language used to write colloquial standard Cantonese using Chinese characters. ... A regional language is a language spoken in a part of a country - it may be a small area, a federal state or province, or a wider area. ... 1997 (MCMXCVII in Roman) is a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Newspaper sizes in August 2005. ... A chat room is an online forum where people can chat online (talk by broadcasting messages to people on the same forum in real time). ... A screenshot of PowWow, one of the first instant messengers with a graphical user interface Instant messaging is the act of instantly communicating between two or more people over a network such as the Internet. ...


As with other aspects of the Chinese language, the contrast between different written standards is not sharp and there can be a socially accepted continuum between the written standards. For example, in writing an informal love letter, one may use informal báihuà . In writing a newspaper article, the language used is different and begins to include aspects of wényán. In writing a ceremonial document, one would use even more wényán. The language used in the ceremonial document may be completely different from that of the love letter, but there is a socially accepted continuum existing between the two. Pure wényán, however, is rarely used in modern times.


Chinese characters

Main articles: Chinese character, Punctuation: East Asian punctuation 漢字 hànzì, hanja, kanji… in Traditional Chinese and other languages. ... The term punctuation has two different linguistic meanings: in general, the act and the effect of punctuating, i. ...


The Chinese written language employs the Hàn characters (漢字/汉字 pinyin hànzì), which are named after the Hàn culture to which they are largely attributed. Many Chinese characters appear to have originated as depicting concrete objects. The first examples we have of Chinese characters are Shāng dynasty inscriptions on oracle bones, which are animal bones used in osteomancy (divination using bones). The materials used were, with very few exceptions, the scapulas of oxen (leading to the term scapulimancy), and turtle plastrons (lower shells; thus the term plastromancy). From these shells and bones is derived the modern Chinese term for the earliest Chinese writing: 甲骨文 jiǎgǔwén (lit. "shell-bone-script", see Oracle bone script). Han Chinese (Simplified Chinese: 汉族; Traditional Chinese: 漢族; Pinyin: hànzú) is a term which refers to the majority ethnic group within China and the largest single human ethnic group in the world. ... Hanyu Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; Traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; Hanyu Pinyin: , lit. ... Shang Dynasty (Chinese: 商朝) or Yin Dynasty (殷代) (1600 BC - 1046 BC) is the first historic Chinese dynasty and ruled in the northeastern region of China proper. ... Categories: Stub ... Left scapula - front view () Left scapula - rear view () In anatomy, the scapula, or shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus (arm bone) with the clavicle (collar bone). ... Binomial name Bos taurus Linnaeus, 1758 Cattle are domesticated ungulates, a member of the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae. ... Scapulimancy (also spelled scapulomancy and scapulamancy, and also termed omoplatoscopy ) is the practice of divination by use of scapulae (shoulder blades). ... Suborders Cryptodira Pleurodira See text for families. ... The plastron is the nearly flat part of the shell structure of a tortoise, what we would call the belly, similar in composition to the carapace; with an external layer of horny material divided into plates called scutes and an underlying layer of interlocking bones. ... Plastromancy is a form of divination using the plastron, or undershell of a turtle. ... Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally shell bone writing) refers to incised (or, rarely, brush-written) ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in ancient China. ...


Over the course of the Zhōu and Hàn dynasties, the characters became more and more stylized. Abstract symbols, such as those indicating up and down, combined characters and phonetic loans were already fully developed in even the earliest known oracle bones. For example, 人 rén, meaning "person", originated from a pictogram (象形字 xiàngxíngzì, lit. "like-shape-words") of a man; the concepts "trust", "trustworthiness" etc. are represented by 信, a combination of "man" and "speech/word"; and 九, the pictogram of a hand with the arm bent at the elbow, thus representing zhǒu "elbow", had already been borrowed for jiǔ "nine", which had the same or similar pronunciation. Also, additional components were added so that many characters contain one element that gives (or at least once gave) a fairly good indication of the pronunciation (the "phonetic component"), and another component (the "semantic" component) gives an indication of the general meaning of the character. Such 形聲字 xíngshēngzì, lit. "shape-sound-words" are termed picto-phonetic, phono-semantic, phonetic compounds, etc.. In the modern Chinese languages, the majority of characters are thusly phono-semantically based rather than logographically based. An example would be the character for the word 按 àn that means "to press down". It contains 安 ān (peace), which serves as its phonetic component, and 手 shǒu (hand), that indicates that the action is frequently one that is done using one's hand. The Zhou Dynasty (Chinese: 周朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: chou chao; 11th century BC to 256 BC) followed the Shang (Yin) Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty in China. ... The Han Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 漢朝; Simplified Chinese: 汉朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Han Chau; 206 BC–AD 220) followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. ...


A number of Chinese characters are derived out of each other; as a result some classical dictionaries contain circular references of words having identical radicals and meanings. However, new meanings have been injected into these redundant words through popular usage. Some words were also "borrowed" (ie. additional meanings were attributed thereto) because they bore phonetic resemblance with a concept that had no assigned written character.


Many styles of Chinese calligraphic writing developed over the centuries, such as seal script (篆書, seal-script), cursive script (草書), clerical script (隸書) and regular script (楷書, aka kǎishū or standard script). Calligraphy is an art dating back to the earliest day of history, and widely practiced throughout China to this day. ... 《尋隱者不遇》—賈島 松下問童子 言師採藥去 隻在此山中 雲深不知處 Seeking the Master but not Meeting by Jia Dao Beneath a pine I asked a little child. ... Cursive is a style of handwriting in which all the letters in a word are connected, making a word one single (complicated) stroke. ... The Clerical script is a style of Chinese calligraphy that is still being used. ... Sheng Jiao Xu by Chu Suiliang: calligraphy of the Kaishu style The Regular Script, or in Chinese Kaishu (楷書 Pinyin: kÇŽishÅ«) and Japanese Kaisho, also commonly known as Standard Regular (正楷), is the newest of the Chinese calligraphy styles (peaked at the 7th century), hence most common in modern writings and...


In Japan and Korea, Hàn characters were adopted and integrated into their languages and became Kanji and Hanja respectively, the names being Japanised and Koreanised pronunciations of 漢字. Japan still uses Kanji as an integral part of its writing system, while Korea's use of Hanja has diminished considerably: it was abolished in North Korea in the 1950s, but revived in the 1960's as cultural continuation proved inadequate without Chinese characters; South Korea has entirely deprecated Hanja use outside of obscure academic, medical or other jargon. Korea (한국, Hanguk, or ì¡°ì„ , Choseon) is a civilization and geographical area situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, bordering China to the northwest and Russia to the northeast, with Japan situated to the southeast across the Korea Strait. ... Japanese writing Kanji 漢字 Kana 仮名 Hiragana 平仮名 Katakana 片仮名 Uses Furigana 振り仮名 Okurigana 送り仮名 Rōmaji ローマ字 Kanji ( (help· info)) are the Chinese characters (Hanzi) that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system along with hiragana (平仮名), katakana (片仮名) and the Roman alphabet. ... It has been suggested that Sino-Korean be merged into this article or section. ... // Events and trends This map shows two essential global spheres during the Cold War in 1959. ...


In the field of software and communications internationalization, CJK is a collective term for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and the rarer CJKV for the same plus Vietnamese, all of which are double-byte languages, as they have more than 256 characters in their "alphabet". The computerized processing of Chinese characters involves some special issues both in input and character encoding schemes, as the standard 100+ key keyboards of today's computers do not allow input of that many characters with a single key-press. CJK is a collective term for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, which comprise the main East Asian languages. ... CJK can also stand for Centre Jeunes Kamenge. ... Since the Chinese language uses a logographic script—that is a script where one or two character corresponds roughly to one word or meaning—there are vastly more characters, or glyphs, than there are keys on a standard computer keyboard. ... In computing, Chinese character encodings can be used to represent text written in the CJK languages — Chinese, Japanese, Korean — and (rarely) Vietnamese, all of which use Chinese characters. ...


The Chinese writing system is mostly logographic, i.e., each character expresses a monosyllabic word part, also known as a morpheme. This is helped by the fact that over 90% of Chinese morphemes are monosyllabic. The majority of modern words, however, are multisyllable and multigraphic. Multisyllabic words have a separate logogram for each syllable. Most Han Chinese characters have forms that were based on their pronunciation plus meaning combined, rather than their meanings alone, and they do not directly express ideas. A Chinese logogram A logogram, or logograph, is a single written character which represents a word or a morpheme (a meaningful unit of language). ... This article discusses the unit of speech. ... A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes which are linked more or less tightly together. ... In Morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest language unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ...


Character forms

There are currently two standards for printed Chinese characters. One is the Traditional Chinese characters (繁體字 fántǐzì), used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Mainland China and Singapore use the Simplified Chinese characters (简体字 jiǎntǐzì) developed by the PRC government in the 1950s and finalised in the 1964 list. Many simplified versions were derived from historically-established, albeit sometimes obscure, simplifications, mostly calligraphic simplifications (through cursive script), others through the replacement of a complex part of a character with a phonetically-similar glyph. In Taiwan, some simplifications are used when characters are handwritten, for the sake of speed and convenience, but in printing traditional characters are the norm. In addition, most Chinese use some personal simplifications. 漢字 hànzì, hanja, kanji… in Traditional Chinese and other languages. ... Traditional Chinese characters are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... The highlighted area in the map is what is commonly known as mainland China. Mainland China (Simplified Chinese: 中国大陆; Traditional Chinese: 中國大陸; Hanyu Pinyin: , lit. ... Simplified Chinese characters (Simplified Chinese: 简体字; Traditional Chinese: 簡體字; pinyin: jiÇŽntǐzì; also called 简化字/簡化字, jiÇŽnhuàzì) are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... For the Nintendo 64 emulator, see 1964 (Emulator). ... Cursive is a style of handwriting in which all the letters in a word are connected, making a word one single (complicated) stroke. ...


The simplification process is actually not restricted to the Simplified system. In order to computerize Chinese, the authorities in Taiwan have tried to "standardize" the glyphs of characters being used, in order to eliminate unnecessary variations. As a result, several characters are combined into one, and some characters have their written form altered to ease the glyph generation process by computing technologies at that time. However, these simplification processes are rather minor as compared to those done by the Mainland government.


Writing direction

Due to their unique block, square nature and the morphologically inactive nature of the language, Chinese characters are generally written without spaces at word boundaries, and can be written either horizontally or vertically. Traditionally, writing was done vertically, going from top to bottom and arranged in columns going from right to left; on signboards etc. which were horizontal, the columns were reduced to a character each, effectively resulting in horizontal right-to-left writing. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, television subtitles still ran from right to left. Chinese calligraphy by Song Dynasty scholar Su Shi. ...


After the modernisation efforts of the PRC government in those same decades took a stronger hold there, however, horizontal left-to-right writing à la Latin has become usual practice. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, a parallel process developed with increased exposure to the West, especially the United States, and especially with the advent of technology. Singapore, for its part, has been dually influenced by both its tradition of adopting PRC guidelines with regard to Chinese writing, and by its predominantly Anglophone society. Despite the rise of horizontal writing (which facilitates inclusion of Hindu-Arabic numerals and Roman-lettered acronyms, inter alia), vertical right-to-left writing has persisted in Taiwan and Hong Kong especially in literature, due to the absence of government official policy on adopting horizontal writing. Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ... An anglophone is someone who speaks English natively or by adoption. ... Hindu-Arabic numerals also known as Arabic Numerals, Hindu numerals, European numerals, and Western numerals are the most common set of symbols used to represent numbers around the world. ...


External links

  • History of Chinese Writing System An Article about Chinese Writing History


[edit] Chinese: spoken varieties  
Categories:

Gan | Hakka | Hui | Jin | Mandarin | Min | Ping | Xiang | Wu | Cantonese
Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua Spoken Chinese The Chinese spoken language(s) comprise(s) many regional variants. ... Gan (赣) is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese, concentrated in and typical of Jiangxi Province. ... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a Chinese dialect/language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ... The Hui (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Hui (回) ethnic group of China. ... Jin (simplified: 晋语; traditional: 晉語; pinyin: jìnyǔ), or Jin-yu, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Mandarin, or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally official speech), or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方方言; Hanyu Pinyin: ; literally Northern Dialect(s)) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... Min (閩方言 in pinyin: min3 fang1 yan2) is a general term for a group of dialects of the Chinese language spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong (around Chaozhou-Swatou, and Leizhou peninsula), Hainan, three counties in southern Zhejiang... Pinghua (平話/平话), also Guangxi Nanning, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Xiang (湘語/湘语), also Hunan, Hunanese, or Hsiang, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Wu (吳方言 pinyin wú fāng yán; 吳語 pinyin wú yÇ” lumazi wu niu(nyu)) is one of the major divisions of the Chinese language. ... Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語; Simplified Chinese: 粤语, Cantonese: Yuet6yue5; Mandarin pinyin: Yueyu, Yụet (Guangdong) language) is one of the major dialect groups or languages of the Chinese language or language family. ... Danzhouhua (hua = language) 儋州話 / 儋州话 is an unclassified Chinese dialect spoken in the area of Danzhou on the island Hainan. ... Shaozhou Tuhua ( 韶州土話 / 韶州土话 ) is an unclassified Chinese language spoken in the border region of the provinces Guangdong, Hunan and Guangxi. ...

Subcategories of Min: Min Bei | Min Dong | Min Nan | Min Zhong | Puxian | Qiongwen | Shaojiang
Subcategories of Mandarin: Northeastern | Beijing | Ji-Lu | Jiao-Liao | Zhongyuan | Lan-Yin | Southwestern | Jianghuai | Dungan
Note: The above is only one classification scheme among many.
The categories in italics are not universally acknowledged to be independent categories.
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
Official spoken varieties: Standard Mandarin | Standard Cantonese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Chinese: written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese
Other varieties: Written Vernacular Cantonese

  Results from FactBites:
 
Chinese written language - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1901 words)
Chinese characters that are closer to the spoken language were used to write informal works such as colloquial novels.
Nevertheless, the orthographies of Chinese dialects are not identical.
Written colloquial Cantonese does exist however, and Cantonese is unique among non-Mandarin regional languages in having a widely used written colloquial standard.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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