The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts

(Pathways to Advanced Skills Series, vol. 8)

by Zhou Youguang

translated by Zhang Liqing

Colombus, Ohio: Ohio State University National East Asian Language Resource Center, 2003.

Purchase this book through the publisher.

ISBN: 0-87415-349-2

This volume has the original Mandarin Chinese, along with an English translation presented en face.

View the contents in English, traditional Chinese characters, or simplified Chinese characters.


  • General Editor's Note
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword by John DeFrancis
  • Foreword by Ting Pang-Hsin
  • Author's Preface
  • General Discussion
    • Commonality of the (Chinese) Spoken Language
    • Writing in a Style Close to the Spoken Language
    • Simplification of Chinese Characters
    • The Romanization of the Chinese Phonetic System
      • Stabilizing the Shapes of Characters
      • Stabilizing the Number of Characters
      • Stabilizing the Pronunciation of Characters
      • Stabilizing the Serial Order of Characters
  1. Commonality of the (Chinese) Spoken Language
    1. The Topolects of the Han Language
      1. Northern Main Topolect (Mandarin)
        1. Northern Secondary Topolect
        2. Northwest Secondary Topolect
        3. Southwest Secondary Topolect
        4. Jiang-Huai Secondary Topolect
      2. Wu Main Topolect
      3. Yue Main Topolect
      4. Min Main Topolect
      5. Hakka Main Topolect
      6. Gan Main Topolect
      7. Xiang Main Toplect
    2. The Modern Common Chinese Language
    3. Promotion of a Common Chinese Language
    4. The International Position of the Chinese (Han) Language
  2. Writing in a Style Close to the Spoken Language
    1. Classical Chinese and Vernacular Chinese
      1. What Is So-Called Classical Chinese?
      2. What Is So-Called Vernacular Chinese?
    2. Composition and Writing Speech
    3. Vernacular (Writing) Movement
      1. Prelude to Writing in the Vernacular
      2. Literary Revolution and the Mass Spoken Language
      3. The Short-Lived Movement for Writing in Classical Chinese and Studying the Confucian Canon
    4. The Continuation of the Vernacular Movement
      1. Reform of Official Documents
      2. Newspaper Articles Written in Colloquial Language
      3. Modern Translation of Ancient Books
      4. The Question of Vernacular Poetry
      5. The Question of Telegrams
  3. Simplification of Chinese Characters
    1. Stabilizing the Shapes of Characters
      1. The Historical Changes of the Shapes of Characters
      2. Eradication of Variations of (Individual) Characters
      3. Simplification of Characters
        1. The Sources of Simplified Characters
          1. Ancient Characters
            1. Original Characters
            2. Characters That Signified the Same Word
            3. Interchangeable Characters
          2. Popular Characters
          3. Adopting the Cursive Characters
          4. Newly Created Simplified Characters
        2. The Methods of Simplification
          1. Omission
          2. Changing the Shape of a Character
          3. Using a Simpler Character to Substitute a More Complicated One
      4. Characters that Have Been Simplified Since Ancient Times
      5. Advantages of the Simplification of Characters
        1. Advantage One
        2. Advantage Two
        3. Advantage Three
      6. Disadvantages of the Simplification of Characters
        1. Disadvantage One
        2. Disadvantage Two
        3. Disadvantage Three
      7. The Second Scheme for Simplifying Characters and Why It Failed
        1. Reason One
        2. Reason Two
      8. The Standardization of Modern Chinese Characters
    2. Stabilizing the Number of Characters
      1. Number of Characters
      2. Why Are There So Many Characters?
        1. Reason One
        2. Reason Two
        3. Reason Three
        4. Reason Four
      3. Rate of Progressive Decrease in the Efficiency of Chinese Characters
      4. Stabilizing the Number of Characters Used at Different Levels
        1. Characters for Beginners
        2. Characters for Eradicating Illiterates
        3. Characters Used in Elementary Schools
        4. Characters Used in Junior High Schools
        5. Characters for General Usage
        6. Characters for Special Publications
    3. Stabilizing the Pronunciation of Characters
      1. Examination of Words with Variant Pronunciations in Modern Common Chinese Language
      2. Putting in Order Those Characters Having More Than One Pronunciation
        1. Eliminating Redundant Characters
        2. Changing Pronunciations
        3. Rewriting Characters
      3. The Function of Phonophores (sound-bearing elements of characters)
        1. Phonophoric Characters with the Same Consonants and Vowels But Not the Same Tones
        2. Phonophoric Characters with Variant Pronunciations
        3. Phonophoric Characters Pronounced Differently from the Characters That Contain Them
    4. Stabilizing the Sequence of Characters
      1. Method of Checking a Character
        1. Using Radicals
        2. Using the Shapes of Strokes
        3. Using "Four Corners"
        4. By Ordering Characters Phonetically
      2. Coding of Characters
        1. Coding by Strokes
        2. Coding by Components
  4. The Romanization of the Chinese Phonetic System
    1. Chinese Phonetic Systems Using Characters or a Character-Like Alphabet
      1. Fanqie (Double Spelling Phonetic Method)
      2. Characters for Annotating Other Characters' Pronunciation (Qieyinzi, Double Spelling)
        1. Linked Initial + Final
        2. Initial + Linked Final
      3. Sound-Notating Alphabet (Three-Part Spelling)
    2. Romanization of Topolects and (the System of) National Romanization
    3. Scheme for Romanized Spelling of the Han Language
      1. Type of Letters
      2. Spelling of Syllables
      3. Problems of Alphabetical Writing
        1. Writing of j, q, x
        2. When Should a Vowel Be Written?
        3. Tone Indication
        4. Biliteral
      4. The Three "NOTs" of Hanyu Pinyin
        1. Not for the Shapes of Characters
        2. Not for Other Topolects but Putonghua
        3. Not for Classical Chinese
    4. Orthography of Hanyu Pinyin
      1. The Orthography of Chinese Words (Zhengcifa) and the Misleading Term "Orthography of Characters (Zhengzifa)
      2. Content of Hanyu Pinyin Orthography
        1. Separating Words and Connecting Their Syllables (fenci-lianxie)
        2. Spelling of Transcriptions
        3. How to Handle the Classical Elements Modern Vernacular Chinese
        4. Handling of Acronyms and Abbreviations
        5. Usage of Tone Marks
        6. Usage of Capital Letters
        7. Punctuation and Hyphenation at the End of a Line
      3. Establishing Acceptance of Orthography Through Practical Usage
        1. Visual and Audio Abilities
        2. Disyllabism
        3. Function word "d/de"
        4. Disyllabic Words That Can Be Separated (liheci)
        5. Words Formed by Combining or Separating Syllables
        6. Word Characters (Cizi) and Morphemic Characters (Cisuzi)
      4. Problem of Homophones
        1. Dependent Morphemic Characters Pronounced the Same Are Not Homophones
        2. Classical Chinese and Vernacular Chinese or Putonghua and Other Topolects Pronounced the Same Are Not Homophones
        3. Words with the Same Pronunciation but Different Tones Are Not Homophones
        4. Words with the Same Pronunciation but Written in Different Characters Are Not Homophones
      5. Breakup of Homophones
        1. Changing the Pronunciations of Synonyms
        2. Selecting a Different Synonym
  5. The Languages and Scripts of the Chinese Minorities
    1. The Chinese Minorities and Their Ethnic Languages and Scripts
      1. The Distribution of the Chinese Minorities
      2. Languages of the Chinese Minorities
        1. The Sino-Tibetan Language Family
          1. Other Han Language Users--Hui Zu, Man Zu, She Zu
          2. Tibeto-Burman Language Group
          3. Miao-Yao Language Group
          4. Zhuang-Tong Language Group
        2. Altaic Language Family
          1. Mongolian Language Group
          2. Manchurian-Tungus Language Group
          3. Turkic Language Group
          4. Southern Islands, South Asian, and Indo-European Language Families
        3. The Bilingual Life of the Chinese Minorities
    2. The Scripts Currently Used by the Chinese Minorities
      1. The Scripts Currently Used in Schools
      2. The Historical Systems of the Current Scripts in China
        1. The Character System
          1. The Han Script
          2. Korean
          3. The Yi Script
        2. The Uighur Alphabetical System
          1. Mongolian
          2. Tod Mongolian
          3. The Xibe Script
        3. The Indic Alphabetic System
          1. Tibetan
          2. The Dai Script
        4. The Arabic Alphabetic System
          1. The Uighur Script
          2. The Kazakh
          3. The Kirgiz
        5. The Latin Alphabet
      3. Five Scripts Represent Five Cultural Traditions
    3. The Unofficial Scripts of the Chinese Minorities
      1. Characters among the Minorities
        1. The Stage of Learning
        2. The Stage of Borrowing
        3. The Stage of Imitation
        4. The Stage of Creation
      2. Scripts Created by Minorities Based on Imitating Chinese Characters
        1. Zhuang Characters
        2. Nom Characters
        3. Miao Characters
          1. Bantang Miao Characters
          2. Laozhai Miao Characters
          3. Guzhang Miao Characters
        4. Yao Characters
        5. Buyei Characters
        6. Dong Characters
        7. Bai Characters
        8. Hani Characters
        9. Sui Characters
        10. The Khitan (Qidan) Characters
        11. Nuzhen Characters
        12. The Western Xia Characters
    4. Character-Type Alphabetic Script
      1. Japanese Kana
      2. Korean Hangul
      3. (Chinese) Sound-Notating Alphabet
      4. Khitan Small Characters
      5. The Standardized Yi Script
      6. Lisu Graphic Script
      7. Geba Script
      8. Women's Characters from Jiangyong
    5. Family Tree of Chinese Characters
  6. Conclusion: Advancing Toward the Information Age
  • Endnotes
  • Appendix I
    • List of the Distribution of the Han Topolects
    • Linguistic Geography of China
    • Features of the Common Chinese Language (pǔtōnghuà)
    • List of the Grammatical Categories of Modern Chinese Vocabulary
    • Comparison of Vocabulary in Han Chinese Topolects
  • Appendix II
  • Appendix III
    • List of the Names of the Chinese Ethnic Groups and their Language Affiliations
    • Script Usage among Chinese Ethnic Groups
    • Samples of the Chinese Minorities' Chinese-character Type Scripts
  • Index of Names
  • Index of Dictionaries
  • Index of Titles of Books and Articles
  • Index of Special Terms
  • Index of Names of the Chinese Scripts