Linda wrote:
> Here's a page that actually shows the difference between traditional and
> simplified Chinese characters:
> I personally prefer the traditional characters, but obviously the
> simplified character are...simpler. :)

No, they aren't. Only a few hundred characters have official simplified
forms, and that means that characters incorporating the same components
(historically) have lost their resemblance to each other, so characteres
that were formerly similar in sound or meaning now aren't.

> It's like the difference in English between "light" and "lite".

No, it isn't. Those are both spellings that point to the same
pronunciation, but simplification was done without regard to whether the
phonetic portions of the characters would still relate to characters
with the relevant pronunciations.

> Most characters are made up of 2 or more "radicals", which are basically
> picture-thoughts which, when combined, make up a descriptive word or thought.

No, they aren't.

Most characters are made up of exactly two components, one, the
"radical," giving a more or less good indication of the meaning (the
semantic field); the other, the "phonetic," giving an indication of the
pronunciation (2000 years ago, when they were standardized, the phonetic
portion gave an exact or nearly exact representation of the
pronunciation, but naturally the Chinese languages have changed while
the script remained the same).

> If you look at the first character listed for "hua" (speech) on the website
> I gave above, the left-hand part of the character means "word", and is a
> pictograph of words flowing out of a mouth (3 lines and a dot coming out of
> a square box). The right hand part of the character means "tongue", and is
> a picture of a tongue sticking out of a mouth. Put the two together, and
> voila! word + tongue = speech. :)

Only a very tiny proportion of all the characters are constructed that

> The traditional character listed for jian (see) is a huge eye with legs.

Actually it's 'eye' + 'man'; but it's likely that the "man" component is
actually a phonetic, /jen/. (But 'eye' itself is now considered one of
the 214 radicals and not usually decomposed.)

> It's really interesting to look at the original Chinese characters some
> 2000 years ago, they look more like the words they describe. If anyone is
> interested, I can post some examples of early scripts.

No, by 1 A.D. the characters pretty much had their modern shapes
(depending on calligraphic style). For shapes that vaguely resemble
their pictographic origins, you need to look at the earliest known
examples, the oracle bones from the late Shang dynasty (ca. 1250 B.C.).
Even then, if you didn't know what they were supposed to represent, you
wouldn't be able to figure out the pictures.

> If you are interested in writing Chinese and pictograph origins, I
> recommend "Reading and Writing Chinese", by William McNaughton. It goes
> into detail on many common pictographs, including strokes. Unfortunately,
> it does not use the more widely used pinyin system for English
> pronounciation, but I can understand because the pinyin pronounciations
> rarely make sense to English speakers.
> (i.e. "Xue" [study] is pronounced shooay, "Chi" [to eat] is pronounced
> churr, and "Qi" [breath] is pronounced chee. You get the idea.)

Anyone studying Chinese seriously will need to know both pinyin (to
understand anything published in China) and Wade-Giles (the former
standard; to understand anything published in Taiwan, and anything
published between the 1890s and the 1960s).
Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...