East Asian Writing Systems

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Mainland Chinese getting it wrong with traditional characters

(This is a side note to the page The Chinese Writing System)

With the revival of traditional characters in signboards, advertising titles, and some other commercial materials on the Mainland, the amalgamation of characters in the simplified script causes problems.

For example, the two traditional characters 準 zhǔn 'standard, accurate' and 准 zhǔn 'allow, grant' have been amalgamated into the single simplified character 准 zhǔn. The word 標準 biāozhǔn 'standard' is thus simplified as 标准 on the Mainland.

This leads to problems going the other way. To convert to traditional characters, Mainlanders generally rely on automated computer programs, which are not very sensitive. Mainland-generated traditional-character texts commonly come up with 標准 instead of the correct 標準. Not having learnt the traditional script, the typical Mainland Chinese has no way of knowing that this is the incorrect form unless he/she checks a dictionary.

As a result countless Mainland printed materials and websites have the incorrect form 標准 biāozhǔn. Many other similar errors can be found where traditional characters have been amalgamated into single simplified characters.

The opposite phenomenon also occurs, i.e., Taiwanese getting the Mainland characters wrong in Simplified character websites, although this is less common.

For a detailed treatment of this, see The Pitfalls and Complexities of Chinese to Chinese conversion.

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