Date: Tue Jan 23 2007 - 17:09:51 CST
Here I used "Chinese" languages in it's widest sense. Most enthnic
groups in the region of China have used Chinese type characters to
write things down, in the same way that in Europe Roman/Greek letters
have been used to write different languages. Ideograph but not Han
Chinese characters include Yi (encoded), Tangut (draft proposal), and
Jurchen (not even a draft proposal).
On top of this there are the Han Characters, @75 thousand approved by
Unicode (I am including Extension C). The Han Characters have also
been used widely -- these include Chunom (Vietnamese written using the
parts of Chinese charcters, 5-10 thousand in unicode at present and
others to be prosessed), Zhuang sawndip (Zhuang written usng "Han"
characters etc), and much the same for Yao, Miao, Dong, etc. Before
computers everyone just wrote things the way they wrote them, and
printing books as a matter of course included making print blocks for
a "few" more characters. The problems come when one wishes count them
all and give them code points.
Yes in one sense "the accumulated cruft" of thousands of years. To
this day people are creating new Chinese characters are the time, both
intentional and by mistake.
Quoting "John H. Jenkins" <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
> On Jan 23, 2007, at 7:03 AM, Michael Maxwell wrote:
>> Help me understand something here. I thought that all the
>> "Chinese" languages in China (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka etc.) used
>> the standard Chinese characters, rather than having characters
>> unique to them. And the other languages of China--Tibeto-Burman,
>> Hmong, etc. used either alphabetic scripts or the standard Chinese
> It's possible to write dialects of Chinese other than standard written
> Mandarin. It just isn't done much. Cantonese is the most commonly
> written dialect (after standard written Mandarin), and it adds fewer
> than a thousand characters to the repertoire. (It would add even fewer
> if there were a standard way of writing it.) Written Cantonese is
> found in advertising, some newspapers and magazines, and the occasional
> There are some efforts underway to develop an ideographic repertoire
> for Min, but they haven't progressed far enough to be in general use in
> any way, so far as I understand.
> Otherwise, your understanding is basically correct. OTOH, the number
> of characters needed to write all the modern dialects of Chinese is
> dwarfed by toponyms, personal names, ad hoc forms (like taboo
> variants), editorial mistakes, misprints, nonce forms, and the
> accumulated cruft of thousands of years.
> John H. Jenkins
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