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Law on the Use of Chinese Language and Script Called for

The Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee of the National People’s Congress has drafted a law on the use of the Chinese language and script in order to correct the problem of increasing misuse and abuse of the language and characters during recent years, to legalize mandarin and standard characters’ legal stations.

Wang Jiaqiu, vice chair with the Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee of the NPC, introduced the drafted law. She pointed out that such phenomena as over-use of dialects and out-of-date, complicated form of the characters and randomly creating characters, are very common in some areas. She said that some enterprises over-enthusiastically use foreign names and a certain number of publications, advertisements, signboards and product packages excessively use foreign words. These phenomena need urgent correction. She said that the draft law, which aims at legalizing mandarin and standard characters as the national language and characters is conducive to the use of language and characters by the whole society, facilitating communications and strengthening unity among different ethnic groups, and maintaining national unit at large.

It is reported there are 73 languages and 55 types of existing scripts (of which 26 are used today) in China, a country of multi-ethnic groups and multi-languages. Wang Jiaqiu said the languages and scripts now used in China exist into two levels: on one level are is the language and script commonly used throughout China, and at the other, languages and scripts used in ethnic minority regions.

Mandarin and the standard Chinese characters are the national language and script which are used all over China, including ethnic minority regions. The law is not aimed at languages and scripts used by individuals but those used publicly for social communication. In other words, the draft law will regulate languages and scripts used in governmental conduct, media and public places including governmental institutions, schools, publications, broadcasting and television stations, theatres and cinemas, public facilities and their signboards, advertisements, product packages and introductions, names of enterprises and institutions, public services, and information-technology products.

As far as individually used languages and scripts are concerned, the law will just offer guidance, but makes no intervention. Mrs. Wang pointed that there were two confusions with regard to socially used languages and scripts. One is that the languages and scripts carry the influence of colonialism, feudalism, pornography, vulgarism and other unhealthy trends, which are detrimental to cultural progress. The other is that random changing of set phrases and idioms with homonyms mislead young students.

Standardizing socially used languages and scripts is a pressing task. Given the fact that the drafted law only stipulates when and where mandarin and standard characters are to be used, it doesn’t regulate what is being expressed with the languages and scripts.

As far as dialects and the complicated form of characters are concerned, Mrs. Wang expressed the view that dialects, as an important part of the Chinese language, have their reasons to exist and have their values. The fact that mandarin is advocated throughout China doesn’t mean there is any plan to eliminate dialects, which shall exist in long-term in certain fields and areas. Similarly, the draft law doesn’t mean the complicated form of characters and variant forms of characters are banned altogether when standard characters are promoted. The idea is to limit the complicated form of characters and variant forms of characters within certain scope.

Mrs. Wang said persuading and education should play a major role in popularizing mandarin and standard characters. Transgressors of the law will be given a deadline to correct their behavior, and those who refuse to change or cause serious consequences should be fined. The problem concerning languages and scripts is different form others。The purpose of the law is not to impose fines or mete out punishment, but to make everyone abide by standards, norms and regulations concerning the nationally-used languages and scripts.

(Guangming Daily, July 4, 2000)

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