Phonetic orthographies

Doug Ewell dewell at
Mon Nov 27 06:17:57 CET 2006

Gerard Meijssen <gerardm at wiktionaryz dot org> wrote:

> When people discuss Hant and Hans, they are NOT talking about an
> orthography of one language.

"Traditional" and "Simplified" Chinese are something more than two 
different orthographies (e.g. Dutch pre-2005 vs. post-2005), and 
something less than two different scripts (e.g. Latin vs. Cyrillic).

> Chinese is not a language, it is a written system that is shared by 
> people speaking many languages.

I think we have pretty much said all that needs to be said about 
"Chinese is not a language."  There are certain contexts, having nothing 
to do with coding or language tags, in which "Chinese" is thought of as 
a single language.  There are other contexts, also having nothing to do 
with coding or language tags, in which "Chinese" is thought of as a 
family of languages encompassing Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Min, Hakka, 
Xiang, and so forth.  Both of these perspectives are a fact of life and 
neither ISO nor the language tagging groups made them up.

> Even the name of the script implies as much "Han".

How does the name "Han" imply that "Chinese" is only a written tradition 
and not a spoken language?  Would you say the same about the writing 
systems called "Greek" and "Georgian" and "Armenian" and "Mongolian"?

> The standard Chinese characters that were in UNICODE in the first 
> place, did not even cover all the characters needed to write all the 
> languages that are implied when people talk about Chinese. Extra 
> characters have been added for Cantonese in later versions of UNICODE.

I don't see what this has to do with whether Chinese is a single 
language or many, or whether Traditional and Simplified Chinese are one 
script or two.  Extra characters have been added to Unicode over the 
years in all sorts of scripts, including Latin.

Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14

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