prospects for Chinese writing reform: important new work

John DeFrancis — whose name should be familiar to most readers of this site, especially for his essential work The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, which contains his refutation of the ideographic myth — has just published a new article: “The Prospects for Chinese Writing Reform.”

This article is the first in the new, electronic-format releases of Sino-Platonic Papers. Moreover, these new issues will be available free of charge.

I strongly recommend reading this.

2 thoughts on “prospects for Chinese writing reform: important new work

  1. It’s an informative piece. I must confess that what I’d really like to see, though, is a more detailed look at how increased sophistication in input methods has changed the debate – I recall that one factor in DeFrancis’s earlier conclusions on Romanization involved the relative difficulty in generating printed copy and in exchanging electronic information. His citation of the line “the PC is mightier than the Pen” seems to invert that reasoning, but it’d be interesting to see how that fits in to an overall analysis.

    Thanks for making this available.

  2. Thanks for the link to both the article and the online archive. One thing that it fails to capture is how fluid the issue of computer input of text in Chinese is. I can remember when no one used pinyin, because it involved typing in character by character and then selecting from a list, which made typing painful and distracting. Now, thanks to larger online dictionaries, you can just type away and let the computer figure out which character is meant from context, in most cases.

    But history hasn’t stopped, and I really wonder whether pen-based systems may come to be preferred in character-using societies. I have no evidence for this, as they certainly haven’t caught on to date. But someone looking at the relative popularity of Pinyin-based vs. Wubi input systems fifteen years ago would be very surprised, I think, at how that’s turned around in the meantime.

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