The legacy and future of the Chinese language

It’s the title of an article on

Contains some of the usual generalizations like “perhaps even thousands of different Chinese dialects can all read the same script”, and it also honors the long tradition of Communist states of attributing famous inventions to one of their own obscure comrades: “Fang Shizeng, now retired, was once at the heart of the effort … to develop the first really practical pinyin-based input program”. Never mind that most of the work on computerized input of Chinese characters was done in Taiwan.

However, the article also gives voice to DeFrancis and his theory on the inevitable demise of characters, and it concludes “spoken Chinese, after all, can be more or less perfectly represented by pinyin and the four tones”.

Wow, you’ll never hear that from a Taiwanese.

I wanted to say that “If spoken Chinese can be accurately represented by the four tones then we should try to do it,” but the closest I could get was “Ruguo pinyin hui biaoda pupian de hua, women zai zheli yinggai yong pinyin bici goutong.”

wo3 xian4 jiu4 shi4 quan2 yong4 pin1 yin1 lai2 xie3 zhong1 wen2, xiang3 xiang3 ruo4 xiang4 zhe4 yang4 du2 chang2 pian1 wen2 zhang1 kan4 hui4 you3 duo2 me chi1 li4.

If you couldn’t understand that then really we shouldn’t be replacin characters with pinyin.

Oh, and bob “會表達普遍的話” doesn’t make sense.

And “bici goutong” is very Englishy.

archangel - qing FENKAI ninde* Zi. Ironladyde FANGfa bi ShuZi hao Kan de.

qing Kan YIdian…


hao KunaN YuedU ma?

qing FENKAI ninde* Zi, haIshi* Qing fenkai ninde zi, dou Bu KunaN YuedU ba?

Dui bu qi wo kan bu dong zhongwen chicken scratches.

FeiRen - Xie xie ni jiuzheng wo de cuo. Wo shi chuji de suoyi wode zhongwen bu hao. Dui bu qi.

As I see it, replacing the Chinese characters by this stupid roman Pinyin could only be imposed under some very authoritarian regime.
The clock is ticking and the window of opportunity will probably be missed.
So perhaps better to learn those damn chicken scratches now.


I have little doubt that characters will be around a lot longer than I will be but I really can’t bring myself to study them. I am at about my limit with what I can learn now. I have to learn to speak Chinese, use a computer, and I am developing a fairly unique system for learning English. It is all just too much for my bald little head to handle I am afraid. Besides, that chicken scratch system just looks so goddam dumb to me. I love and respect quite a few things Chinese but the writing system just isn’t one of them. My loss I know.