Chinese punctuation

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Chinese punctuation uses a different set of punctuation marks from European languages, although the concept of punctuation was adapted in the written language during the 20th century from Western punctuation marks. Before that, the concept of punctuation in Eastern Asian cultures did not exist at all.[1] The first book to be printed with modern punctuation was Outline of the History of Chinese Philosophy (中國哲學史大綱) by Hu Shi (胡適), published in 1919. Scholars did,[2] however, annotate texts with symbols resembling the modern '。' and '、' (see below) to indicate full-stops and pauses, respectively.[citation needed] Traditional poetry and calligraphy maintains the punctuation-free style.[citation needed] The usage of punctuation is regulated by the Chinese national standard GB/T 15834–2011 “General rules for punctuation” Chinese: 标点符号用法; pinyin: biāodiǎn fúhào yòngfǎ.[3]

Shape of punctuation marks[edit]

China never invented punctuation, nor the concept of paragraph. Ancient Chinese books contain thousands of words with no spaces between them. In Chinese writing, each character conforms to a roughly square frame so that the text as a whole can fit into a grid. Because of this, East Asian punctuation marks are larger than their European counterparts, as they should occupy a square area that is the same size as the characters around them. These punctuation marks are called fullwidth to contrast them from halfwidth European punctuation marks.

Chinese characters can be written horizontally or vertically. Some punctuation marks adapt to this change in direction: the parentheses, square brackets, square quotation marks, book title marks, ellipsis marks, and dashes all rotate 90° clockwise when used in vertical text. The three underline-like punctuation marks in Chinese (proper noun mark, wavy book title mark, and emphasis mark) rotate and shift to the left side of the text in vertical script (shifting to the right side of the text is also possible, but this is outmoded and can clash with the placement of other punctuation marks).

Marks similar to European punctuation[edit]

Marks imported from Europe are fullwidth instead of halfwidth like their original European counterparts, thus incorporate more space, and no longer need to be followed by additional space in typesetting:

Other punctuation marks[edit]

Other punctuation marks are more different, in shape or usage:

Punctuations[edit]

Full stop ( 。 )
The Chinese full stop is a fullwidth small circle (traditional Chinese: 句號; simplified Chinese: 句号; pinyin: jùhào). In horizontal writing, the full stop is placed in the middle (bottom right in China); in vertical writing, it is placed below and to the right of the last character in China, and in the middle in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Quotation marks ( 「...」 , ﹁...﹂ , “...” )
  • In Traditional Chinese, the double and single quotation marks are fullwidth 『 』 and 「 」. The double quotation marks are used when embedded within single quotation marks: 「...『...』...」. In vertical text, quotation marks are rotated 90° clockwise (﹁﹂).[4]
  • In Simplified Chinese, the European-style quotation marks are always used in horizontal text. Here, single quotation marks are used when embedded within double quotation marks: “…‘…’…”. These quotation marks are fullwidth in printed matter but share the same codepoints as the European quotation marks in Unicode, so they require a Chinese-language font to be displayed correctly. In vertical text, corner brackets rotated 90° clockwise (﹁﹂) are used as in Traditional Chinese. Although Simplified Chinese is usually written horizontally, corner brackets are commonly encountered in vertically-printed newspaper headlines.[5]
A sign in a Zhuhai park, which, if we reproduce enumeration commas in English, can be rendered nearly word-for-word as: "It is strictly forbidden to pick flowers、 leaves、fruit, [or to] dig out roots、 medicinal plants!"
Enumeration comma ( 、 )
The enumeration comma, known as the "pause mark" in Chinese (traditional Chinese: 頓號; simplified Chinese: 顿号; pinyin: dùnhào; literally "pause mark"), must be used instead of the regular comma when separating words constituting a list. Chinese language does not traditionally observe the English custom of a serial comma (the comma before and or or in a list), although the issue is of little consequence in Chinese at any rate, as the English "A, B, and C" is more likely to be rendered in Chinese as "A、 B 及 C" or more often as "A、B、C", without any word for "and", see picture to the right.
Middle dot (‧)
Chinese uses a middle dot to separate words in a foreign name, since native surname and given names in Chinese are not separated using any punctuation or spaces. For example, "Leonardo da Vinci" in simplified Chinese: "列奥纳多‧达‧芬奇" (a Mandarin translation) and traditional Chinese: "李奧納多‧達‧文西" (a Cantonese translation). In Chinese, the middle dot is also fullwidth in printed matter, while the halfwidth middle dot (·) is also used in computer input, which is then rendered as fullwidth in Chinese-language fonts.
In Taiwan, the hyphenation point () (U+2027 HYPHENATION POINT) is used instead for the same purpose.
Title marks ( 《... 》, ﹏﹏﹏ )
For titles of books, films, and so on, Chinese uses fullwidth double angle brackets[6] 《...》, and fullwidth single angle brackets, 〈...〉. The latter is used when embedded within the former: 《...〈...〉...》. In Traditional Chinese, single title marks are also used for articles in or sections of a book whereas Simplified Chinese used double title marks for all titles. ﹏﹏﹏ (wavy underline) is also used as title marks.
Ellipsis ( …… )
In Chinese, the ellipsis is written with six dots (not three) occupying the same space as two characters in the center of the line.
Em dash ( —— )
Similarly, the em dash is written so that it occupies the space of two characters in the center of the line. There should be no breaking in the line. Chinese dash is 破折号 (pinyin: pòzhéhào).
En dash ( )
When connecting two words to signify a range, Chinese generally uses a fullwidth en dash occupying the space of one character (e.g. 1月—7月 "January to July").
Wavy dash ( )
The wavy dash can also signify a range in Chinese (e.g. 5~20个字 "5 to 20 words"). It is more commonly but not exclusively used when the numbers are estimates (e.g. circa dates and temperatures in weather forecasts). For the most part, however, the en dash and wavy dash are interchangeable; usage is largely a matter of personal taste or institutional style. Two wavy dashes indicate a prolonged vowel in quoted speech (e.g. 哇~~ "waaah").
Spacing
Similarly to the space between each letter in European languages, Chinese writing uses a narrow space between characters, though it does not observe the equivalent to the wider space between words, except in rare occasions. (In this respect, it may somewhat resemble a form of scriptio continua.)
When space is used, it is also fullwidth. One instance of its usage is as an honorific marker. A modern example in Taiwan, is found in the reference to Chiang Kai-shek as 先總統 蔣公 (Former President, Lord Chiang), in which the preceding space serves as an honorific marker for 蔣公. This use is also still current in very formal letters or other old-style documents.
When Chinese is written in transliterated form (as in Hanyu Pinyin), spaces are used to assist in reading.

Typographic styles[edit]

The following are commonly suggested typographical styles; however, they are rarely carried out in practice, often only used when necessary.

Proper name mark ( __ )
A proper name mark (an underline) is occasionally used, especially in teaching materials and some movie subtitles. For consistency in style, a wavy underline (﹏﹏) is used instead of the regular book title marks whenever the proper noun mark is used in the same text. When the text runs vertically, the proper name mark is written as a line to the left of the characters (to the right in some older books).
Emphasis mark
For emphasis, Chinese uses emphasis marks instead of italic type. Each emphasis mark is a single dot placed under each character to be emphasized (for vertical text, the dot is placed to the right hand side of each character). Although frequent in printed matter, emphasis marks are rare online, as they cannot be represented as plain text, are not supported by HTML and most word processors, and otherwise inconvenient to input.

Other notes[edit]

There is no equivalent of the apostrophe in Chinese. It is omitted in translated foreign names such as "O'Neill". The hyphen is only used when writing translated foreign names with hyphens. Otherwise, it is not used in Chinese and omitted when translating compound words.

Use of punctuation marks[edit]

Several punctuation marks have ranges of use that differ from the way they are used in English, though some functions may overlap.

  • , The comma is used to join together clauses that deal with a certain topic or line of thinking. As such, what would appear to an English speaker to be a comma splice is very commonly seen in Chinese writing. Often, the entirety of a long paragraph can consist of clauses joined by commas, with the sole period coming only at the end. Unlike in English, a comma is allowed between a subject and its predicate.
  • ? The question mark is used as in English, with the additional function of being used with indirect questions. Examples: "Whether he was of legal age? was the key question." "I was wondering where you went?"
  • ; The semicolon is frequently used to demarcate parallel structures in a paragraph.
  • 「...」 Quotation marks, in addition to being used around quotations, are also commonly used for emphasis and to indicate proper nouns and titles.
  • —— The use of a second em dash to close a parenthetical thought is rare. Instead, a comma is usually used, or sometimes no punctuation at all.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 燦爛的中國文明 - 標點符號的用法
  2. ^ The History of the Song Dynasty (1346) states 「凡所讀書,無不加標點」 (Among those who read texts, there are none who do not add punctuation).
  3. ^ 《中华人民共和国国家标准 GB/T 15834–2011〈标点符号用法〉》 [General rules for punctuation], 中华人民共和国国家质量监督检验检疫总局中国国家标准化管理委员会, 2011-12-30, retrieved 2014-01-24 
  4. ^ 中華民國教育部國語推行委員會,《重訂標點符號手冊》,中華民國八十六年三月台灣學術網路三版。
  5. ^ 中華人民共和國國家標準,《標點符號用法》,1995年12月13日發布,1996年6月1日實施。
  6. ^ "CJK Symbols and Punctuation". The Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 6 November 2009. 

External links[edit]