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china against writing


Pinyin helped access telephone and computer keyboards, key in recent years to escape government censorship

Among the obvious paradoxes generated by any dictatorial regime, there is the one that China has offered us in recent months: the symbol of protest of a society with an ancient writing has been precisely not using it.

The protest of the Chinese towards the anti-covid measures of their Government has consisted of going out into the street with a blank page in their hands.

That a protest in China is done without writing is a curious uprising.

Since the 20th century and, above all, since the communist stage, the Asian country deliberately undertook a process of language planning.

In a vast nation that speaks at least eight languages ​​that are unintelligible orally among themselves and with dozens of internal varieties, the communist regime tried to carry out its linguistic revolution by intervening in the domains of language use in social life, the type of writing and the language variety used.

The process is not very different from what has been experienced in other States of other political signs: a variety is chosen as the basis of the official language (in the case of China, Mandarin, which is the language spoken in the capital). and its use is promoted in the Administration and in school education.

What was unique in the case of China was the question of writing.

The inventoried Chinese characters reach the figure of 50,000.

Each of these characters is equivalent to one syllable within a language that usually has words of two or more syllables.

At least 3,000 of them appear in common use and are necessary to be literate.

They are many.

With different pronunciation according to provinces and regions, the characters are shared in the written use by the different Chinese languages, which is a factor of unity above internal linguistic diversity.

One of the linguistic reforms undertaken in the People's Republic of China was the simplification of the characters by reducing the number of strokes in each sign: while mainland China promoted the use of these simplified characters,

special administrative regions such as Hong Kong, under British dependency, continued to use the traditional script.

The political split became a graphic split.

On the other hand, the system that the People's Republic of China supported for the writing of Chinese sounds with our alphabet, the Latin, through a system called pinyin, achieved more unifying success.

Pinyin, officially introduced into schools in the People's Republic of China, was easier than the romanization systems used until the 20th century.

This pinyin system was devised to increase the degree of literacy of the population and also helped to consolidate Mandarin as a written language at school.

But pinyin had other advantages: its adoption made it easier for foreigners to learn Chinese, who would not have to study a new writing system, just a new language.

The pinyin also

In this process, it is worth highlighting the name of Zhou Youguang, creator of pinyin, whose long life (he died at the age of 111: this Friday is the anniversary of his birth in 1906 and this Saturday marks the sixth anniversary of his death) strives to be a mirror of Chinese history.

Zhou was working in New York and returned to China in 1949 at the communist call;

he led the gestation process of the pinyin, wrote numerous works but that did not free him from suffering two years of purging in rice fields.

Zhou aged like many of those grandparents we admire because they brazenly say what they want: age was shrinking the tape around the mouth of the Chinese universalizer.

Increasingly freer, he publicly declared against the repression and, himself, a widower and survivor of his two children, said that he did not care if they took him to prison.

The man who communicated in writing to China with the rest of the world, grew old without fear of speaking against his country.

Until then the official linguistic intervention did not arrive.

Writing is here an x-ray of the unplannability of the decisions of a regime without full freedoms.

Once a communication system has been invented, its use cannot be controlled: pinyin helped the Chinese access telephone and computer keyboards, a key in recent years to escape Chinese government censorship.

The strenuous linguistic planning of the communist regime has not been able to avoid two different images of protests based on silence: the recent one on the blank page and the now historic one of the man standing in front of the Tiananmen column of tanks in 1989 with his two supermarket bags.

It has not been necessary to use the pinyin for the Chinese complaint to reach the West.

How eloquent it can be not to speak.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-01-13

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