United Nations bans traditional Chinese fonts—serif fonts next?
The headline is not totally playful. 莫維平 in the Republic of China (I am sorry, I can’t Latinize his name) blogged today that the United Nations is taking steps to give ofﬁcial recognition to simpliﬁed Chinese type. And removing recognition from traditional Chinese. (An English-language blog post is here; a news article here.) The western equivalent would be like saying that any Latin script with a lowercase g like the one in Times or Georgia would no longer be UN-sanctioned, but that the g in Helvetica or Verdana would be.
Simpliﬁed Chinese is a form of type that is a “formalization” of Chinese script, a bit like how the Futura typeface can trace its forms back to humanistic hand-lettering. Traditional Chinese may best be equated to traditional roman type that traces its roots to the Trajan column in Rome.
After 1949, the Communists favoured simpliﬁed script, perhaps in an effort to break with the past. The free Republic based in Taiwan, and Hong Kong and Macau, retained the traditional styles.
I am unsure of the way the United Nations presents its argument, but it is evident that pressure has been brought to bear by the Politburo in Beijing. The UN, ignorant about Chinese affairs as usual, acceded to the demand.
One argument is that 90 per cent of Chinese use simpliﬁed anyway, but this argument does not really wash when placed into a typographic context. Equally, most people writing in the Latin alphabet adopt single-storey as and gs, although double-storey ones are retained in formal typography.
維平 wrote (my translation), ‘Abolishing traditional characters, without doubt, is another kind of cultural persecution.’ He is correct: all this does is weaken the cultural base of Chinese hand-lettering and typography.
If westerners were told that they could no longer use serif fonts, for fear they would not be recognized at the UN, then you can begin to understand what 維平 means on his blog and why many Chinese are upset.
Del.icio.tags: Chinese | typography | script | calligraphy | lettering | United Nations | UN | Politburo | Red China | China | freedom Posted by Jack Yan, 10:28
There is too much helplessness on politics .......
Chinese should not be simplified..
Shouldn't politicise either
I often wonder how Chinese and other lanages that have characters beyond the 26 that the keyboard have work.
莫維平, thank you for your kind comments and for bringing this matter to my attention. The UN needs to understand this issue in terms that affect them and effectively abolishing one style of type, which what this is when politics is taken out, is ridiculous. I will be writing to the UN myself to explain it, and will highlight it further in a magazine I write for in Australia.
Ryan: I think they might do it via Pinyin, which is a Latinization of Chinese. I am not sure myself.
I saw a system years ago where you could add strokes to a character and the computer would present a menu of what you were trying to type (e.g. like predictive texting on a cellphone—not sure if you guys do much texting in the US). But that system was on DOS.
I cheated when entering 莫維平’s name because I copied and pasted.
Ryan, this link in the Google cache explains it—looks like I was right.
The UN has been using simplifed (and not traditional) Chinese characters since the 1970s. That's when the official Chinese representation here switched from Taipei to Beijing.
Since Beijing used simplified characters in its official communications, that's the form that was adopted by the UN.
The UN never used both forms simultaneously. So these reports about a switch to simplified characters that will happen in 2008 are not correct. We already use simplified characters.
Thank you for writing to the United Nations.
Public Inquiries Unit
Public Relations Section
Department of Public Information
This is interesting, thank you. The news could well have emanated from the mainland as a means of disinformation. But in any case, you and I are right to be on alert. Actually giving recognition to one form over the other is still a form of cultural persecution as you said. I am going to follow your links to see if I can ﬁnd out more.
Latinization of Chinese just sounds wrong to me.
Texting in the US. LMAO! My friend ran a charge of $150 on texts alone. On my plan that's like 1,500 texts...
On my home system, I don't have East-Asian fonts loaded, so commentor's name looks like ??? to me.
Yes, but if I could Latinize his name it would come out in A–Z rather than question marks for those who don’t have the fonts installed.
All I know is I sent a text once from a friend’s cell. Took me half an hour. I could have made the phone call in two minutes. I have yet to see why the use of a technology vaguely above Morse code has so much appeal! (Especially to work up $150!)
That is understandable why it would be A-Z.
I have sort of big fingers so I often have to type the thing twice.
riiiiiiiiight(Dr Evil). So how did this mention of texting come into place? :P
Hi Jack! Hi Ryan and hi ???. His ame comes up as ??? on my laptop too. Actually, make that just two ??. Let's be PC here. :P
Anyway... it's cute to think of jack taking up half an hour to text... Uhm, really? I must be a text queen then! Just ask Rene! fastest in the West!
Good on you Jack, for putting action
onto things by writing to the UN and not just sitting and wondering. *thumbs up*
# posted by Amanda AKA Purpletomato: 4/13/2006 11:45:00 AM
Amanda, I can’t take credit for the UN letter. The comment was posted by 莫維平. Welcome to my blog!
We type either by using the Chinese phonetic alphabet or using individual characters to construct words. SMS uses either phonetics or simplified strokes; the latter is very accurate and can be faster too. Texting in Asian characters is faster than the Western alphabet by a long shot!Post a Comment
# posted by spacedunce-5: 4/11/2008 01:23:00 PM
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