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Re: chinese case in current languagechooser (was Re: Languagechooser changes)

On Wed, Feb 18, 2004 at 07:59:19AM +0100, Christian Perrier wrote:
> The problem with Chinese is?this duality Simplified/Traditional. 
> There is also this mandarin/cantonese duality.....Indeed I don't
> really understand how Simplified/Traditional and mandarin/cantonese
> are related?:
> Simplified is a simplified Chinese, yes. But which one?? Mandarin or
> Cantonese?
<Disclaimer - I am not Chinese but did spend a little while in HK :) >

China is a big country.  When Chinese characters evolved, they acquired
standard meanings across the whole country.  Political and military
control shifted around China - but the characters stayed the same.
"Mandarin" == Manchu dialect which came from the north of China.  The
dynasty established themselves in Beijing and Manchu became "court 
Chinese".  This never meant that it necessarily became widespread in 
Guangdong / Fujian / Shanghai - local people spoke local Chinese and 
still do :) So you can have "Chinese I write" and "Chinese I speak" :)

Traditional Chinese in written form is "standard characters" and also
potentially the base for Japanese/Korean (and also used/understood
elsewhere in SE Asia at various times for various purposes).

In 1949, as the People's Republic was founded, there were concerted 
efforts to establish a national dialect and to reduce illiteracy -
to attempt to bring the bulk of the people up to the level of the 
educated classes.  Part of that involved broadcasting / education
and Mandarin was chosen as the standard.  Part of that involved
perceived simplification of written language complex forms.  
[The Russian Govt. did something very similar in 1917/18 which is
why Cyrillic is a complex subject and you have "nearly similar" 
alphabets for various Slavic dialects and 
pre-Revolution/post-Revolution editions of the Russian classics :) ]

_Unfortunately_ part of that also now involves politics and geopolitical 
issues :( [The following does not assume any political bias, correctness
or predicate any viewpoint on which is the "right Chinese" :) ]

> Traditional Chinese is the "good old" Chinese language. But, again,
> which one? Madarin or Cantonese?

See above: "Simplified" for the mainland of China (unless you want to
read anything prior to 1949). "Simplified" for Singapore (which 
standardised on Mandarin as I understand it because Singapore Chinese 
had come from all over SE Asia and also standardised on Simplified for 
literacy purposes.)

"Traditional" for Taiwan and the rest of Asia. 

HK may choose either or a slightly extended HK variant.

> What will we do for people who speak
> Chinese in Hong-Kong (valid locale)? Carlos mentions they speak
> cantonese. So?

HK is now an SAR of China. In HK, as in Guangdong, the local population 
mostly _speak_ Cantonese.  HK educated Chinese probably see
more Traditional characters but will potentially understand Simplified
: cousins in Guangdong will probably see Simplified but understand 
Traditional (so there is potential for cross-border written confusion)
but its now also a political/attitudinal question. 

Many/most expatriate Chinese get round it by speaking English :)  
In the long term, its an open question whether HK gets to speak Mandarin 

What you do get, of course, is some Chinese who are tri/quadrilingual in
Chinese by necessity e.g. a Cantonese who goes to work in Shanghai (as
has happened to a friend of my family's) :(

Foreign diplomats get to learn Mandarin in training - but if they are
posted to Shanghai/Hong Kong they then have to learn the local language
to eat :)



> /me goes lurking on ISO 639 sites in order to get clearer ideas about
> all this.
> -- 
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