April 23rd, 2009

I’m a traditionalist in maybe one sense of the word: I believe in the continued use of Traditional Chinese characters. This is mostly due to the fact that I grew up on Traditional Chinese media as well some some issues I have with the aesthetics of Simplified characters.

So I read with interest on Language Log that China is planning to reform some characters which are felt to have been oversimplified, thus actually making them harder to learn. This is quite petty, but it makes me happy. I don’t think we’ll ever see a full return to Traditional characters, but they’ll clearly never quite be wiped out, either. Between the groups that use Traditional nearly exclusively (Taiwan, Hong Kong, much of the overseas Chinese community) and scholarship of pre-1960’s literature, etc. there will always be a need/desire to read Traditional.

I think this article points out correctly that some nuances are lost in simplification. I think the 遊/游 distinction only exists in Traditional script, which is a bit unfortunate; for me, it always provided a clear delineation between compounds for travel/play and swimming. Of course, if you can actually read Chinese the difference is insignificant (if nothing else, context will make the meaning clear), but I just hate seeing subtle differences like this steamrolled.

The big one always hears about is the simplification of 愛 to 爱 and how the “heart” (心) has been taken out of love. My issue with this particular character is much simpler; I just tend to mix up 爱 (love) and 受 (endure, suffer). Again, I admit that this occurs because I can’t actually read Chinese. 😛

A friend once brought to my attention the (useless, and I’d argue confusing) simplification of 夠 to 够. One saves approximately zero strokes in this, and loses the phonetic hint provided by having 句 on the right side. (To be fair, 句 is not homophonic with 夠, but 狗 is pretty close to 夠 in Cantonese.)

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