iOS Users: Please click here for the latest information: (updated 5.10.2016)
Say It Right Series

(Part 2) Which has the longest language history, China or the West?

Posted by xiaophil August 9, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: language history, chinese characters, latin alphabet, Western language

Okay, for anybody who has been following along, I have been comparing the lengths of language history between China and the West.  I am taking the position that generally the West has a longer history, but it is just fun and games.  If I am wrong, I am wrong.  But if you think I am wrong, please tell me why (ideally in Chinese as well as English, but just English is fine too).




Now I will compare the modern written styles of China and the West. This is a continuation of my essay here.




Most Western languages use the Latin alphabet.  The original Latin alphabet was adopted as early as the 7th century BCE.  This alphabet is very similar to the modern alphabet; however, by the time of the Classical Latin period that started in the 1st century CE, the alphabet was only missing two letters usually found in the modern alphabet, J and W.  When the Chinese started using characters is debatable, but the date for the start of the modern script is placed at the 2nd century CE.  This is basically the script used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau today, and in a modified form it is used in the Chinese mainland.  In this way, we can see that the written form in the West predates the written form in China by at least one century.




But wait.  I can hear some people saying, "Two millennia ago, people in the West wrote Latin, which is largely in disuse today, whereas the Chinese wrote in Chinese then, and of course Chinese people still write in Chinese."  This is misleading.  It was not until the 20th century that a written system that closely follows oral Chinese, baihua, was adopted in China.  Therefore, for many, many years written and oral Chinese were two different languages.  Since Latin largely lost its lingua franca status in the 16th century, the old form of written Chinese did last longer.  However, both have largely been abandoned in the modern world except in some cultural and various other specialized functions.  Perhaps then, we can say when debating who has the longest language history, this is irrelevant.


Comments (80) RSS

loading... Updating ...

To comment, please login.

Not sure if your comment is appropriate? Check our Commenting Policy first.

New lesson idea? Please contact us.