[Wikipedia-l] Re: One Chinese Wikipedia

Delirium delirium at hackish.org
Fri Sep 10 15:19:47 UTC 2004

Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales wrote:

>Within a fairly wide range, though, such differences can be avoided in
>an encyclopedia.  It depends on how extreme the differences might be,
>of course, but mutual intelligibility is the standard that I would
Mutual intelligibility is sort of a gray area though, and in this 
particular case seems to be even more problematized by the political 
issues---some people have a vested interest in making Chinese appear 
more like one language than it really is, and other people have a vested 
interest in making Chinese appear less like one language than it really is.

To take just one data point, many of the Chinese I know who emigrated to 
the US 50+ years ago find it very hard to understand contemporary 
Chinese written in mainland China, but generally have little trouble 
understanding contemporary Chinese written on Taiwan.  One of them even 
compares the two languages by saying Traditional Chinese with Taiwanese 
vocabulary is analogous to Latin, and Simplified with Beijing vocabulary 
is analogous to Italian --- they share a common origin and many 
similarities, and educated people can understand both, but they're 
different languages.  Obviously, this is a minority viewpoint (although 
many linguists do dispute the claim that there is a single language 
called "Chinese", and assume non-linguists claim that there is 
exclusively for political reasons).


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