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Motives for Chinese script simplification

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The Chinese script simplification movement originated from the debates about Chinese script (hànzì) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This movement was once the dominant part of language planning and language policy in China. The article describes the three major stages of Chinese script reform in the 20th century briefly, using Cooper’s ‘accounting scheme’ and its eight components as its organizing framework. In the case of Chinese script reform, two of the stages of the script reform movement — the first and third — failed, while the second was successful. In order to explain both the two failures and the success, this article focuses on the motives of the stages of the script reform movement. The discussions about the motives behind Chinese script reform in the literature generally focus on the contribution which the simplified hànzì has made to the improvement of China’s education; this article seeks to interpret the motives of the three stages of the script reform movement, rather, along the lines of the 7i model proposed by Ager. It concludes that there have been different motives present during different stages of the script reform movement, which in turn have had a powerful impact of the success or failure of particular reform efforts. Finally, it is suggested that the predominant trend in Chinese language planning and policy has now turned from script simplification to standardization.
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Keywords: 7i model; Chinese script simplification; accounting scheme; language planning; language policy; motives

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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