[Fwd]: Response to Mark's message]

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Wed Apr 9 18:49:17 CEST 2003

Kenneth Whistler scripsit:

> "Traditional Chinese" and "Simplified Chinese" are distinct
> *orthographies* for written Chinese.
> They are *not* distinct scripts.

I was speaking solely in the ISO 15294 context.  Clause 3.7 of the DIS says:

# 3.7
# script
# A set of graphic characters used for the written
# form of one or more languages.  (ISO/IEC 10646-
# 1) (fr 3.6 écriture)
# NOTE 1:  A script, as opposed to an arbitrary subset of
# characters, is defined in distinction to other scripts; in
# general, readers of one script may be unable to read the
# glyphs of another script easily, even where there is a
# historic relation between them.

I submit that SC and TC stand in precisely this relation, despite the
substantial overlap in ideographs.  There is no algorithmic mapping from
one to the other, as there is in script variants like Fraktur vs. Antiqua.
The fact that they are both used (by and large) for the same language
and for no other is a historical oddity.

That does not mean that in a Unicode context they should be distinguished,
any more than the script variants should be.

> "Simplified Chinese" is a continuation of the millennia-long
> evolution of Chinese, with characters getting simplified and
> reformed. The difference from previous practice is that it
> was an officially sanctioned *revolutionary* reform of the
> Chinese orthography, enforced in practice and education by
> a modern totalitarian state.

But the *result* of that revolution has been a bifurcation of the script's
users into those who can read only SC and those who can read only TC.

> The PRC seems to be more open to use of traditional forms,
> where appropriate 

AFAIK this has always been true:  Mao's poetry was published in TC.

> Chinese
> is not *transliterated* from TC to SC or back, it is written
> in one orthography or the other. TC does not look stupid written
> in SC -- it is just Chinese written in SC. 

A good point, but it proves too much.  Mongolian can be written in
Cyrl or Mong, and transliteration is not possible (at least not as
the term "transliteration" is generally understood, as a more or less
mechanical and mechanizable process).  Yet nobody doubts that Mong and
Cyrl are distinct writing systems for Mongolian.

> That doesn't mean that labels in 15894 might not still be
> appropriate, for whatever purpose. This, because 15894 contains
> other things than scripts per se. And if use of 15894 codes
> is the only way to get off ground zero for tagging
> Chinese material for various information processing purposes,
> then so be it. 

Well, at least we seem to agree on the outcome.

My corporate data's a mess!                     John Cowan
It's all semi-structured, no less.              http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
    But I'll be carefree                        jcowan at reutershealth.com
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