Simplified characters defeat traditional characters in Ireland

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Article by Colm Keena in The Irish Times (8/2/21):

"Decision on Mandarin Leaving Cert exam ‘outrages’ Chinese communities:
Exam subject that students can sit from 2022 will only allow for simplified Chinese script"

Here are the first four paragraphs of the article:

Chinese communities in Ireland are “outraged” by the decision of the Department of Education to use only a simplified script in the new Leaving Certificate exam in Mandarin Chinese, according to a group set up to campaign on the issue.

The new exam subject, which students can sit from 2022, will not allow for the use of the traditional or heritage Chinese script, which is used by most people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other, mostly non-mainland-China locations.

The decision by the department is a “discrimination against the heritage Chinese learners in Ireland,” according to Isabella Jackson, an assistant professor of Chinese history in Trinity College, Dublin, who is a member of the Leaving Cert Mandarin Chinese Group.

“It is wrong for our Irish Government to deny children of a Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau background the right to sit an examination using the Chinese script that is part of their heritage.”

A government spokesperson gave the rationale for excluding traditional characters:

However, in response to a question about the matter on July 8th from People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, Minister for Education Norma Foley said subject specifications for the Leaving Cert are developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and involve extensive consultation.

She said the new Mandarin exam was designed “as an ab initio course” with the targeted students being Irish or international students who had no previous knowledge of the language.

“While heritage speakers are certainly allowed to study the course and sit the exam, the specification is not designed for them,” she said in her written reply.

“The inclusion of traditional characters is not suitable for a specification pitched at ab initio level.”

The decision not to include traditional characters was a considered one, and to do so would have had implications for “vocabulary, syntax, language use and potentially culture as well,” the Minister said.

An EU project called the European Benchmarking Chinese Language does not incorporate traditional characters, she said, adding that she had no plans to ask the State Examinations Commission to review the requirement that simplified characters be used in the exam.

This is purely a political decision, and demonstrates the clout of the PRC throughout the world.  Given the tremendous changes that have taken place in Hong Kong during the past year since the imposition of the draconian National Security Law, one wonders how long the traditional characters will last there, despite their being much loved by the people of the quondam "Fragrant Harbor".  If China occupies Taiwan, the traditional characters will not have much of a future there either.  The fate of the traditional characters hinges on how long the CCP juggernaut continues to roll over the world.

An interesting aside gleaned from the photograph accompanying the article in The Irish Times is that the official document from the State Examination Commission listing the examination subjects is written entirely in Irish, with English translations for each item following the Irish.


Selected readings


[Thanks to Ciaran]


  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 12:12 pm

    I'm certainly not suggesting it's that close an analogy, but I wonder how standardized tests of fluency in English administered by the educational systems of non-Anglophone nations deal with variations between AmEng and BrEng standard orthography. Does a given country say that, for purposes of the exam, proficiency in one of those two standards is part of what's being tested and if you spell a word "correctly" under the other standard you will be penalized for a misspelling? Or do they treat both as acceptable? Obviously a given country will probably consistently favor one of the two standards in its dominant ESL textbooks, but you would have the same potential issue of some test-takers being "heritage speakers" or otherwise having developed their proficiency via means other than those locally-dominant textbooks.

  2. wanda said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 12:31 pm

    I don't understand. What is the purpose of this Irish exam? Is it tied to a specific course, and is it the only official way for a heritage student in Ireland to document their language skills? In the States, the AP Chinese Exam and the SAT Chinese exams may be taken by anyone. In my experience, many heritage students who, for example, only studied Chinese in non-certified weekend language schools took these exams to document their Mandarin proficiency for college admissions. If you can only take this Mandarin Leaving Cert exam after taking a particular course in school- if the purpose of this exam is only to document that you learned the material in that particular course- I can see why it would be practical to only have simplified characters. For one, it's much simpler to print one version of the teaching materials. On the other hand, if the exam is supposed to serve as a way for any student to take a test to document their Mandarin ability, then a test that only uses simplified characters *doesn't do that*. It would not accurately measure the Chinese knowledge of students who are only familiar with traditional characters.
    Also, I'm confused by what they mean by "allows for" simplified script. At minimum, I believe this would mean that the exam is only printed in simplified characters, so students who are mostly familiar with traditional characters would have to learn how to read simplified characters. OK, that's work, but it isn't too bad, and an argument could be made that the mainland produces so much content nowadays that being able to read simplified characters is a useful skill. But is there a written portion? Will a student be penalized for writing correct traditional characters? If so, that's just plain wrong, in that even in the mainland, traditional characters are not considered "incorrect."

  3. Jerry Packard said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 1:58 pm

    "If China occupies Taiwan, the traditional characters will not have much of a future there either. The fate of the traditional characters hinges on how long the CCP juggernaut continues to roll over the world."

    This is putting the cart before the horse: If China occupies Taiwan, they will have more to worry about than the future of traditional Chinese characters there.

  4. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 2:06 pm

    Motives for Chinese script simplification

    Structural Complexity of Simplified Characters chinese

    Stroke systems in Chinese characters

    The Battle between Simplified and Traditional Chinese

  5. Neil Kubler said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 2:34 pm

    Ironically, traditional characters have been making a limited come-back in China since the 1980s, so that in more formal circumstances, writers have the option of employing–and not infrequently do employ–traditional characters, e.g., on signs for certain formal establishments (hotels, restaurants, stores, universities, buildings), name cards, titles of pieces of writing (with body of text in simplified), names of commercial products as printed on the item or its container, recent official stone or metal inscriptions, inscriptions on painting or embroidery, writing on funerary wreaths, "wishes" on ribbons hung on 許願樹 at Buddhist temples, some personal blogs and texts sent on social media websites, even some local government-produced political posters (esp. in connection with Xi Jinping's espousal of traditional Chinese values like 愛國 "patriotism" and 和諧 "harmony"). It's really much more complex than "China/Singapore use simplified, Taiwan/Hong Kong use traditional"! Rather, depending on factors such as register, style, topic, writer's mood, etc., writers have OPTIONS that affect the message their readers receive, beyond simply vocabulary and grammar. And while beginners may begin with simplified or traditional characters, if they wish to attain the level of a Chinese high school graduate, they're going to have to be able to recognize (but not necessarily write) most traditional characters.

  6. Christian Weisgerber said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 3:09 pm

    @J.W. Brewer
    When I was in school in Germany (more than thirty years ago), the standard that was taught was BrE and tests would require BrE orthography. However, at our school, students who had spent a study year in the U.S. were given the option of using AmE instead. But you had to pick one or the other and couldn't mix them.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 3:10 pm

    "…they will have more to worry about than the future of traditional Chinese characters there."

    Antecedent of "they"?

  8. ohwilleke said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 3:47 pm

    Does anyone have any sense of how much work would be involved in a heritage user of traditional Chinese characters learning to use simplified Chinese characters well enough to get a top score on the Irish exam in some sort of cram school styled prep course?

    Certainly, it would be much less difficult than learning Mandarin Chinese with simplified characters from scratch. The phonetics, spoken language, usage, grammar, familiarity with famous literary passages, and basic concept of how characters are constructed and modified to change concepts would all be there already.

    On the other hand, given how many there are and how much content they carry, I assume that it would be far more difficult than, for example, requiring an English speaker who had only encountered printing to take an exam in cursive calligraphy or the Cyrillic alphabet. It would be more than a mere cipher.

    Would it be more like something that might take a month (some of which would brush up on fine points people tend to forget, and language exam taking techniques generally as well), or would it be more like something that would set you back a full year or so?

  9. David Morris said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 3:49 pm

    (Total non-Sinologist) You have written a number of times about the learning, memory and recall burden of characters for students of Chinese. Surely the this burden is more for the traditional characters than for the simplified?

  10. Jerry Packard said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 4:15 pm

    Hi Victor,

    "…they will have more to worry about than the future of traditional Chinese characters there."

    Antecedent of "they"? = the people of Taiwan.

  11. wanda said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 4:21 pm

    "If China occupies Taiwan, they will have more to worry about than the future of traditional Chinese characters there."
    I would have said that *everyone* would have more to worry about, if China comes to occupy Taiwan. But then I saw the world's response to Russia taking over a good chunk of Ukraine and China trampling Hong Kong. I now think that the rest of the world will do nothing more than wring its hands.

  12. Jerry Packard said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 4:51 pm

    "Does anyone have any sense of how much work would be involved in a heritage user of traditional Chinese characters learning to use simplified Chinese characters well enough to get a top score on the Irish exam in some sort of cram school styled prep course?"

    It would depend on the background of the heritage speaker. If the speaker spoke at a native level (e.g., ACTFL Superior) and was fully literate (in traditional) then my sense is it would be your ‘one month’ scenario (or less); if the speaker spoke at a lower level (e.g., ACTFL Intermediate High-Advanced Low) and was literate (in traditional) at about their spoken level proficiency, then my sense is it would take a couple of years or more, mostly the cost of raising proficiency from, e.g., Advanced Low to Superior.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 5:42 pm

    @David Morris

    "Surely the this burden is more for the traditional characters than for the simplified?"

    No, not necessarily so. In some ways the simplified characters require more mental effort to command fully and accurately than traditional characters. Here are some reasons:

    1. the simplified characters often collapse a number of completely different morphemes into a single grapheme

    2. simplified characters often completely lose the precious phonophoric data of the equivalent traditional characters

    3. simplified characters often completely lose the precious semantic content of the equivalent traditional characters

    These are few of the reasons why — despite my half a century of intimate involvement with language and script reform in China — I have never supported simplified characters as a rational, efficient, workable solution to the problem of the complexity of the Chinese script. Instead, I studied and supported the efforts of those who advocated and created alphabetization schemes, men like Lu Xun, Y R Chao, Zhou Youguang, Yin Binyong, and many others whom I've often written about on Language Log. Ultimately, this is how Mandarin (and perhaps other Sinitic languages) will "zǒu shàng shìjiè 走上世界" ("step into the world").

    In response to several other comments above, my learned graduate students in Chinese humanities who hail from the PRC do not come to the traditional characters effortlessly. They are far more comfortable with the simplified characters and much prefer them to the traditional ones. Many of them think that the simplified characters are the real Chinese characters for the modern age. In any event, most of them still struggle with the simplified characters for years. It is not just a matter of months for them to command traditional characters. Vice versa for graduate students who are versed in traditional characters (e.g., those from Taiwan).

  14. alex said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 6:27 pm

    "The new exam subject, which students can sit from 2022, will not allow for the use of the traditional or heritage Chinese script, which is used by most people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other, mostly non-mainland-China locations."

    I was wondering about how the script is to be used on the exam.

    My view for my sons have always been if you can read and type then Id rather you'd not waste the time to learn how to handwrite all those characters.

    I'm a realist and it will take some time before people realize characters become too unwieldy to keep up with the need to absorb foreign/new words.

    A compromise would be to reverse tingxie and give the character and ask the person to type the correct input.

    Reading about who the exam is for it seems they have made learning Chinese to be akin to learning the piano. Practice your scales. My son has memorized many long piano pieces complete sonatas and a concerto. From those experiences it seems like Chinese there is muscle memory and some mental and visualization memory.

    By testing people on handwriting characters it really seems like they are testing devotion to an art rather than language and usage.

    Why not have options and use computer input for the exam and then on the certificate put which character set was used.

  15. Colin Watson said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 8:02 pm

    @wanda: I'm not sure that the State Examinations Commission has released precise criteria yet (if so, I couldn't find them), but in general the Leaving Cert is a set of end-of-secondary school exams that you take at the conclusion of corresponding courses of study. In that respect it's closer to the UK's model where you normally take a small number of A-levels at the end of corresponding courses (although Irish students typically take 6-8 LC subjects where UK students normally take 3-4 A-level subjects). It's possible to enter as an external candidate where you haven't gone through the usual school system – if nothing else, Ireland's constitution guarantees the right to home education – but I think it would be fair to say that that's not the usual case.

    The most detailed description I've been able to find of the planned curriculum is the material at, but that doesn't seem to go into enough detail to answer questions such as "will students be penalized for writing answers using traditional characters". The closest it seems to get is the sentence "In addition, learners will be exposed to, and supported in their comprehension of texts, written in
    simplified characters in clear and standard handwriting and familiar digital scripts presented in the fonts that are most commonly used for Mandarin Chinese." There may be something more I haven't found.

    The Junior Cert course ( appears to include at least some minimal comparative exposure to traditional characters, but I can't say whether it's more than a token.

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 9:08 pm

    Of course, when it comes to romanization of Mandarin, the history of the last 40-odd years is all about Western scholars and non-scholars capitulating (kow-towing, you might say) to the PRC's preferred romanization system (hanyu pinyin) as the PRC's political and financial leverage over Western sinologists and Westerners in general grew, and thus abandoning their prior preference for various alternative romanization systems previously dominant in parts of the world not occupied by the bandit regime that currently rules the PRC. I personally think the moral case for refusing to acquiesce to hanyu pinyin is more or less the same as the moral case for refusing to acquiesce to the Communist revision of the characters, but obviously not everyone acts as if the situations are parallel. (One should of course in both cases be charitable and understanding toward those with the personal misfortune of having grown up under Communist rule and thus been taught to write the way the Communists dictated.)

  17. WGJ said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 11:33 pm

    Following the logic of giving proper consideration to "heritage learners", if I were a child of migrant parents from Guangdong and learned only the Cantonese dialect in my household, I shall demand to sit for a Cantonese test. Same for Fujianese, Shanghainese, or any dialect of Chinese really – lest we accede to the CCP's sole authority to define what dialect of Chinese constitute a language (gasp). Then we'd need more than a hundred different versions of the Chinese test – quod est absurdum.

  18. Alex said,

    August 9, 2021 @ 11:45 pm

    J.W. Brewer, do you take issue with all the character simplifications (the most common of which are centuries old), or just the ones put in place by the Communists?

  19. Peter Grubtal said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 2:50 am

    J.W. Brewer asks very aptly, how did it happen that pinyin was foisted on the anglophone world?

    As mother-tongue English, I frequently have no idea how vocalise pinyin names. One obvious case is the pinyin version of the lost city of Canton.

  20. John Swindle said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 3:57 am

    Seems to me that simplified characters are easier to distinguish for aging eyes, for whatever that’s worth.

    As for Hanyu Pinyin, if it had been intended primarily for Yale students it would have looked just like Yale romanization. Somehow it wasn’t and didn’t. (Although it still does look a lot like Yale romanization, with a few un-English exceptions.) Must be a Communist plot.

  21. John Swindle said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 4:23 am

    And am I the only one who expected a discussion of traditional Irish characters versus the dastardly English (and allegedly international) upstarts?

  22. WGJ said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 4:29 am

    The Republic of Korean (South Korea) has changed its official romantization of Korean many times since WWII, including several changes to the romantization and hyphenation of proper names (persons, places) since 2000 – to the point that it became difficult for non-Korean speaking journalists and scholars to keep track of the names of people (I speak from personal experience). Yet I don't see nearly as much as complaint as on Hanyu Pinyin (which has remained stable for decades). Tell me again how the objection isn't political?

    Oh, and of course the DPRK (North Korea) has its own romantization scheme. Do you know Lee (SK) = Ri (NK) = Li (China)?

  23. Peter Grubtal said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 5:29 am

    "Tell me again how the objection isn't political?"
    You've been told once already: it's very difficult for non-sinologist English speakers to know how it should be pronounced.

  24. Peter Grubtal said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 5:50 am

    ..and I should have added: not acknowledging that point makes it look as though you're the one who's politically motivated.

    The comparison with Korean, which has much lower impact is not helpful. And come to that, I was not aware that the usual English rendering of the names of the towns of Korea has changed in the recent past.

  25. Michael Watts said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 6:48 am

    Peter Grubtal, why aren't you objecting to using French spelling for the English names of French things? English speakers can't understand that either.

    One obvious case is the pinyin version of the lost city of Canton.

    This is a weird example in several ways. The pinyin spelling of Canton is guangdong. This presents no difficulties to an English speaker. Of course, it's not the name of a city, so it wouldn't really make sense to start calling 广州 "Guangdong".

    Then again, that's just as true of the shift from calling 长江 "the Yangtze River" to calling it "the Yangzi River", and that's happened. Sure, you've updated the Chinese word to a more current Chinese spelling. It's not the name of the river. Given that it isn't the Chinese name of the river, was it necessary to update it to follow Chinese spelling conventions?

  26. Andreas Johansson said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 7:44 am

    @J. W. Brewer

    When I learnt English in school (in Sweden in the 1990s), we were allowed to use either British or American spellings, or even to mix them within the same sentence, withour having either marked as wrong. Whether that was a national or local policy I don't know.

    The textbooks taught BE, assigned reading could be either.


    I do feel a lot of the criticism of pinyin is unfair. W-G is hardly intuitive for anglophones either, and I've met rather too many W-G champions who clearly had only the vaguest understanding of their favoured system. One might think that "Peking" is better than "Beijing", but one can't sensibly claim it as an advantage of W-G when "Peking" isn't W-G in the first place.

  27. John Swindle said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 8:01 am

    @Peter Grubtal: Hanyu Pinyin is an alphabetic system for writing Mandarin Chinese. Like the systems used for writing, say, French or Hmong, it doesn’t always reflect the sounds of English. Nor need it do so. The question of how we decide whether to anglicize foreign names is I think separate and interesting.

  28. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 8:13 am

    It is obviously possible to believe that hanyu pinyin is superior to its rivals "on the merits" while the PRC simplified characters are inferior to the traditional characters "on the merits." But the question is whether hanyu pinyin became the standard used by Western institutions strictly on its merits or in substantial part because of the various ways (some involving carrots, some sticks) those institutions desired to accommodate the preferences of a brutal and illiberal (but increasingly wealthy) regime. One difference (and there are certainly others) between the characters and romanization systems is that there was not one single alternative (even Wade-Giles) used overwhelmingly by everyone outside the PRC, but already a multiplicity of alternatives.

    The pathway of kanji reform in post-WW2 Japan is maybe an instructive parallel. Reform (including but not limited to "simplification" of certain characters) started out in a somewhat heavy-handed top-down fashion, but the society could and did push back against the no-longer-authoritarian government when the details of the reform were too irksome or impractical in the opinion of enough citizens, so over time the system evolved to take into account and accommodate that feedback.

  29. Michael Watts said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 8:53 am

    the question is whether hanyu pinyin became the standard used by Western institutions strictly on its merits or in substantial part because of the various ways (some involving carrots, some sticks) those institutions desired to accommodate the preferences of a brutal and illiberal (but increasingly wealthy) regime.

    This is pretty much the opposite of my take; I see the desire of Western institutions to follow local Chinese spelling as an example of the solicitousness they desire to be seen showing to "underprivileged" countries, where they feel no need to extend the same treatment to "privileged" European countries.

    Personally, I'd rather see them use zhuyin than pinyin.

  30. Michael Watts said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 8:54 am

    (For example, there is no movement to start spelling Taipei as Taibei, though that is what you would predict if the goal of the Western institutions was to use pinyin for Chinese names. That isn't their goal; the goal is to use local spelling, whatever that might be.)

  31. wanda said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 9:16 am

    @Colin Watson: Thanks, that is helpful. I suppose what I care the most about here is that students who are primarily familiar with traditional characters get equitable access to whatever benefits earning the certification is supposed to bring. One of the purposes of standardized exams to serve as a gatekeeper for further opportunities, for example in higher education or for employment. I would want to make sure that there are other non-burdensome methods for users of traditional characters to accurately demonstrate their knowledge and access those opportunities.

  32. Rodger C said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 9:32 am

    As a non-Sinologist who taught world literature, I can say that I didn't have a whole lot of trouble learning to pronounce Guangdong, or even Cao Xueqin.

  33. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 9:43 am

    @Michael Watts: that's probably part of it as well (because you see the same pattern with regard to romanization changes preferred by new governments in other non-Western nations), but I don't think it's the only factor where the PRC is concerned.

    Without getting too far off track, my favorite example of ill-advised kow-towing in this regard is Anglophone institutions playing along with the new spelling "Kyrgyz" to replace former Kirgiz or Kirghiz per the preferences of the post-USSR independent government. As best as I can tell, that government had pushed to favor the Cyrillic spelling Кыргыз over Киргиз, which was meaningful to someone who reads Cyrillic, i.e. would cue a change of vowel to produce a less Russified pronunciation. But then someone had the bright idea to make a parallel change in the romanized spelling, which for Anglophones does nothing to tell you how to change the pronunciation other than suggesting "be exotic." (Based on the evidence of wikipedia, other European languages did not all get on the i -> y bandwagon, however.)

  34. alex said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 10:12 am

    I just noticed there are two alex. I posted just the first alex post the lowercase alex.

  35. WGJ said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 11:07 am

    I've been listening to Word Matters, a podcast on the English language by lexicographers at Merriam-Webster. It's highly educational and highly entertaining at the same time – I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

    One of the things I learned from listening to Word Matters is that, contrary to common belief, languages are not defined by lexicons and grammar books, but by its active use. If the majority (or even a significant minority) of speakers/writers of a language choose to use a certain word (or spelling, or sentence structure, or phrase, or figure of speech) in a new (hitherto "wrong") way, that act of (conscious or unconscious) defiance automatically redefines the language over time – turning wrong into right, eventually. I knew this before, but not nearly as clearly as I do now, because this is a common theme of many discussions in the podcast.

    The reason people choose (again, consciously or not) to use language in a new way can be varied and complex: Political/legal mandate might be the unnatural extreme, laziness and ignorance the most natural (inevitable?), with playfulness and creativity somewhere inbetween. But in the end the reason does matter to the result of language drift.

    Same principle applies here – fully – in regard to Simplified Chinese and Hanyu Pinyin. The fact that they came from a CCP mandate (actually I would even contest that oversimplication of history) doesn't change the result that they are how the vast majority (>95% of native speakers and of overall users) today choose (yes, choose) to write their Chinese. That makes it right (as in correct and justified – while neither good nor bad). To ignore this – or even dispute it – is worse than tilting at windmills. For language learners, scholars and the general public outside China to follow suit is not political/ideological acquiescence, but mere acceptance of reality.

    Of course, since Traditional Chinese and Bopomofo have their own active userbase, they're right as well. There's always more than one right way to use language – Word Matters taught me that.

  36. Twill said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 2:25 am

    Pinyin is really rather a different conversation as some commentators have said. It is certainly a better general-use system than Wade-Giles or Gwoyeu and comparable to Yale, which it not coincidentally resembles. That the one abortive attempt at a romanization scheme after the rise of Hanyu Pinyin was an abortive piecemeal effort that didn't really succeed at improving it (Tongyong) goes to show that Hanyu is a very solid system that is not worth the effort tinkering with until the underlying phonology changes.

    I really hope the discourse on simplified vs traditional characters eventually manages to get over the ridiculous hyperbolic nonsense whereby Mao personally reached back in time to sow such subversive character forms as 体 or 听 to destroy hanzi or where printing 見 with an actual eye is ideologically suspect. It strikes me that nobody before the civil war who wrote 见 and 体 in most contexts and read 見 and 體 in others were weighed down by the great ideological import of this system.

  37. Peter Taylor said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 5:00 am

    @Wanda, I suspect that people who are perceived as being of Chinese heritage are unlikely to get the benefits of the certification regardless of the script used, because admissions staff and employers will predominantly assume that no effort was required.

  38. dw said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 10:59 am

    If we're talking about ill-advised changes to official Romanizations, "Orissa" to "Odisha" takes the cake. It was made in order to conform the English spelling to the **historical** significance of the characters used in the Oriya/Odiya name of the Indian state, even though there is no "sh" sound in the modern pronunciation.

  39. cliff arroyo said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 12:06 pm

    " "Orissa" to "Odisha" takes the cake"

    I thought it was Utkal in Hindi (or is that very old-fashioned and/or offensive now?)

  40. Victor Mair said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 7:09 pm

    More on 2nd level teaching and a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government

    3rd level

  41. Jake said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 7:27 am

    Why is "x is sh and q is ch and c is ts" any harder for non-Sinologists than "j is h and ll is y and ñ is ny" for non-Espanologists?

  42. Rodger C said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 9:48 am

    Jake, an excellent question. Unlike most previous romanizations of Mandarin, Pinyin was designed by and for native speakers, not for the convenience of missionaries or even scholars.

  43. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 6:56 pm

    Although "designed by and for native speakers" has really nothing to do with whether the rest of the world should feel morally obligated to play along. We say (or write) "Yugoslavia" (or did so in former times) rather than "Jugoslaviya," even though the latter is/was plausibly more sensible for native speakers of FYLOSC. They do what makes sense for them, and then we do what makes sense for us. Capeesh?

  44. Twill said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 7:37 pm

    @J.W. Brewer I still don't see where the moral angle is, especially when at this point Hanyu Pinyin is used everywhere Mandarin is, including the ROC. The principle that every nation-state is entitled to dictate the spelling and pronunciation of anything they can plausible lay claim over is indeed absurd yet afforded to everyone from the PRC to, uh, eSwatini. This of course also extends to names, where parents and adults apparently enjoy a near-unassailable privilege to choose any name whatsoever, the thought of a bureaucrat knocking back names tyrannical at best without any racial angle. As long as English is the global lingua franca and the prestige language of the world, we accept the aforementioned principle, we continue to use the same script as a great chunk of other languages, and we continue to accept that English orthography defies even the most fundamental of rules, "making sense" to hapless native speakers will be thrown out the windoe every time.

  45. John Swindle said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 9:07 pm

    Isn't there always some push and pull between endonyms and exonyms? As I recall "Peking" lived on in Peking Review and Radio Peking for a little while after Hanyu Pinyin was adopted, until the outside world started calling the city Beijing anyway.

  46. Coby said,

    August 13, 2021 @ 7:58 am

    It's still Peking University.

  47. Rodger C said,

    August 13, 2021 @ 9:49 am

    "Jugoslavia" can indeed be found on interwar maps in English, but this no doubt led to people starting it with the word "jug." At any rate, not all South Slav languages use the Roman alphabet.

  48. Jake said,

    August 13, 2021 @ 11:06 am

    Also it's "romanization" not "anglicisation".

    If you're going to say "Pinyin is bad because it uses 'c' for /t͡s/" you also have to say, for example, "Czech orthography is bad because it uses 'c' for /t͡s/".

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