A SAGE Journal


Short traditional and long simplified: The paradox of contemporary traditional Taiwanese characters that consist of fewer strokes than their equivalent simplified forms

Edwin B Messchendorp

发布时间:2023-02-03    点击次数:


Traditional Chinese characters are usually written with at least as many strokes as simplified characters, but there are Chinese characters with fewer strokes in their Taiwanese traditional forms than in their Mainland Chinese simplified forms. This study lists these characters and gives the reasons for the differences between their traditional and simplified forms. These reasons will lead to the conclusion that there are motivations for orthographic choices in Mainland China and Taiwan that extend beyond the desire for standardization or simplification. These motivations have been explicitly expressed in texts dictating the rules for standard character forms, but are little known and rarely discussed. This study brings these motivations to the forefront and shows the effects they have had on orthographic policy, in particular where differing motivations between Mainland China and Taiwan have caused Taiwanese traditional characters to consist of fewer strokes than their simplified equivalents. The root cause underlying the different choices made by the Mainland Chinese script authorities and their Taiwanese counterparts post-1949 is a difference in ideology. In Mainland China, the script was a tool to be employed in such a way as to achieve a practical goal, namely mass literacy. Since achieving this goal was thought to require or at least be facilitated by simplifying the script, that course of action was taken. In Taiwan, however, the goal of script policy is to preserve the traditional way of writing characters. In practice, this means that unlike simplified characters, Taiwanese traditional characters are preferably made to structurally conform to their seal script forms in the Shuoˉwén Jieˇzì, leaving certain Taiwanese traditional characters with lower stroke counts than their equivalent simplified forms. Thus, Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese character forms are different because the Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese script authorities ultimately want different things from their scripts. 

【关键词】Character simplification, number of strokes, simplified Chinese characters, stroke count, Traditional Chinese characters

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