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Language purity row resumes after English enters Chinese dictionary

(Xinhua)

08:29, August 30, 2012

BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Over 100 Chinese scholars have signed a petition calling for the removal of English words from an authoritative Chinese dictionary, reigniting a debate on language purity.

The petitioners, most of them linguists, said the newly published sixth edition of the Modern Chinese Dictionary includes 239 English words and acronyms, which they believe constitutes a violation of the country's Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language.

Fu Zhenguo, a senior journalist with the state-run People's Daily and one of the organizers of the petition, said that if the Chinese people ignore the inclusion of words like "NBA" and "GDP" in their language and do nothing to exclude them from the dictionary, the language they use will end up as a bizarre mixture of Chinese and English.

"It will become a combination of Chinese characters and English words and acronyms," he grumbled.

Fu said the petition has been submitted to the General Administration of Press and Publication, China's publishing watchdog.

But an official with the administration who declined to be named said the petition has not been received, although she did admit to hearing about the controversy elsewhere.

The 40-year-old Modern Chinese Dictionary, one of China's best-selling dictionaries, became the target of linguists like Fu after 239 entries ranging from "WTO" to "CPI" were included in this year's edition.

However, this year's edition was not the first to include English acronyms. There were 39 English acronyms in its third edition in the 1990s and more than 120 in the fifth edition.

"If they keep growing, we could have over 10,000 English entries in 100 years," said Fu, who has instead proposed translating English words into their Chinese equivalents before including them in the dictionary.

"When the English language absorbed the Chinese vocabulary, it used pinyin, the phonetic system that romanizes Chinese characters, instead of the Chinese characters themselves," he said.

"So why do we take in these English acronyms and words without translating them into Chinese characters?" he asked.


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