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Language Reference Guide For Traditional Chinese
Posted on Saturday, October 13 @ 03:52:16 EDT
Topic: Lingustics

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1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

Section One - Grammar and Spelling

1. Gender: Only two genders refer to human and animals in Chinese and they can be easily recognised by the characters, e.g. for human, 她= she, 他 = he; if for animals: 雌=female and 雄=male. This is something similar in English. As for other things. All of them are of neutral gender.

2. Plurals: The plural form is usually recognised by the numbers and units before the noun, e.g. 3個人= three persons, here “3” is number and “個”is the unit for man; again, 2條魚,here “2” is number and “條”is the unit for fish. But for human, we have a special character to show the plural form, e.g. 他們= they (men), 她們= they (women), 孩子們= children.

This is different with that in English and sometimes difficult, particularly for the units of things because different things have their different units. For example, in English we say “a piece of paper” or “a piece of bread”, while in Chinese we say “一張紙” or “一片面包” etc.
We have many one character words, such as: 天= sky, 我= I, 茶= tea etc.

Section Two - Punctuation

1. Listing: When listing something like A, B, C, and D. In Chinese, we do it in this way: 甲、乙、丙和丁。Chinese do not use comma to list things.

2. Full stops: Full stops are larger than those used in English and can sometimes appear hollow. They appear at a central height on the line as a hyphen would in English.
In most cases, the full stop is used when a sentence is completed. At the end of headings, titles, subtitles, bullet points, addresses, dates, no. of pages etc, we normally do not use any punctuation. Sometimes we just use a point ”.”

3. Commas: There are two types of comma in Chinese. The one similar to the English one is used for separating clauses (i.e. a similar usage to the English comma). The other one, which is backwards, is for separating items in a list.

4. Dashes: Dashes in Chinese text are longer than those used in English so that they are not confused with the character for the number 1 which is similar to a dash.

5. Speech marks: These are used in a similar way to English, e.g.

1. “Give me more work!”, shouted Chloe. “給我更多的工作!” Chloe 叫道。
2. “Would anyone like some tea?” asked George. “有人要茶嗎?” George 問道。
3. “I’m bored – can I go home now?”, Michala said. “我感到厭煩-我現在能回家嗎?” Michala說。
6. Ellipsis: For ellipsis, it is six “……” instead of “…” in English.

7. Brackets: These are used in a similar way to English.

8. Capitalisation: We don’t have capitalisation. If we want to highlight something, we can use bold fonts/characters.

Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: In most cases we use metric systems. But for the size of computer monitors, TV screens, computer disks we use imperial measurements.

There are some measurements which are specific to Chinese, i.e.

“Chi (尺)” for length,one meter = 3尺; It is usually used for garment making. And we also have “MU(畝)” for land area, one hectare = 15 畝. It is usually used in the countryside.

Time: The times 10.30 am / noon / 4.30 pm / midnight would be written in the following way:


Date: For the date formats for 20 February 2004, 20th February 2004 and 20/02/2004, both 2004年2月20日and 二00四年二月二十日are applicable. But if it is on a commercial invoice or a check it will be like this: 貳零零肆年貳月貳拾日

For February 20, use: 2月20日, or 二月二十日

In Chinese, we just use a point to indicate decimals like π = 3.14156. and we use a comma for 4-digit numbers and numbers of more than 4 digits, such as: 1,000; 1,258,740 etc.

Currency: For Chinese yuan, we have CNY that stands for Chinese Yuan, and RMB that stands for (Ren Min Bi that means People’s money) and symbol is ¥. e.g. ¥50.00 per piece etc.

Spacing before measurements is not always necessary, i.e. 30°C will do.

2. Abbreviations:

No. (nos.)
1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th
Mr. / Mrs.
Dear Sir / Madam
m (for metre)
cm (for centimetre)
lb (for pound weight)
g (for gram)
km (for kilometre)
yr (for year)
k (for 1000)
EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Asia)
Days of the week: Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun.

Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter (not normally abbreviated in

As a matter of fact, in Chinese we usually do not have abbreviations for the above. As for weight, length and measurements we sometimes use English, such as: m, cm, kg, g etc.

3. Numerals: Chinese has native numerals (i.e. not recognisable in Roman terms!) but also uses Western numbering, either instead of, or in combination with its own numbering system.

In Chinese, we have two systems of native numerals, they are:

1. 一,二,三,四,五,六,七,八,九,十
2. 壹,贰,叁,肆,伍,陆,柒,捌,玖,拾
The second system here is normally used in bank notes, commercial invoices, bills etc very formal situation as they are more difficult to be changed. The above are in simplified Chinese. If in traditional Chinese, they are:

1. 一,二,三,四,五,六,七,八,九,十
2. 壹,貳,叁,肆,伍,陸,柒,捌,玖,拾
As you can see they are a little different..
Section Four - Hyphenation

Hyphenation is not really used. An English word is represented by either one, two or sometimes more Chinese characters, and there are no spaces left between words. Characters are therefore not like letters, so it does not matter where the line break comes.

Please note that at the beginning of each sentence, a hyphen for punctuation is usually not allowed except in cases where something has to be listed like:

- A
- B
- C
- …..
then the “-“ can be used at the beginning.

When we use dashes, we normally use the longer ‘M’ dashes (—).

Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities

Fancy fonts are not used to stress things; instead calligraphy is occasionally used to indicate special significance.

Surnames normally given before the first name.

Section Six - Geographic Distribution

Chinese is spoken by more people than any other language in the world. Since estimates of the current population of China are only approximate, figures for the number of speakers of Chinese must likewise be approximate.
An educated guess would be about 1.1 billion in the People's Republic of China, to which must be added another 20 million on Taiwan, 5 million in Hong Kong, 4 million in Malaysia, 1¾ million in Singapore, one million in Vietnam, and lesser numbers in other countries including the United States and United Kingdom. Thus Chinese has more than twice the number of speakers of English, though of course it lacks the universality of English and is spoken by few people not of Chinese origin.

Chinese has been an official language of the United Nations since the founding of the organization in 1945. Though Chinese has many dialects, Mandarin, based on the pronunciation of Beijing[H1], is considered the standard and is spoken by about two-thirds of the population. The other major dialects are (1) Wu (50 million speakers), (2) Cantonese (45 million speakers), (3) Fukienese, or Min (45 million speakers - generally subdivided into Northern Fukienese or Foochow - 15 million, and Southern Fukienese or Amoy - 30 million), (4) Hakka (20 million speakers), (5) Ilsiang (15 million speakers). In addition the Fukienese dialects are widely spoken in Malaysia and Singapore, while Cantonese is also spoken in Hong Kong and on the Southeast Asia mainland. Nearly all Chinese in the United States speak Cantonese.

Chinese is spoken/used in the following countries:

Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, Guam (U.S.), Hawaii (U.S. State), Hong Kong, Laos, Macao (Portuguese), Malaysia, Mauritius, Paracel Islands, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States of America, Vietnam.

Language Family
Family: Sinitic

Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Chinese - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Section Seven – Character Set Comparison

Simplified Chinese


Traditional Chinese

存 片,其他地方則可用來提供遊客服務。
[H1]Peking is the old spelling, nowadays on newspapers etc, Beijing is more widely and formally used, particularly in mainland China.

By Wordbank Ltd,
TEL: +44 (0) 20 7903 8800, FAX: +44 (0) 20 7903 8888,

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