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Punctuation Marks in Ancient Written Chinese


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#1 wuTao

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 08:58 AM

Did ancient (as in before Western contact) written Chinese have punctuation marks such as period's, comma's, quotation mark's, question mark's, etc.? If not, how did writers indicate end of sentences, quotations of other individuals, sentences that are questions, etc.? It seems today, Chinese uses Western symbols of punctuation. If the Chinese had there own system of punctuation symbols, why are they not used today?

#2 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 10:27 AM

No, ancient chinese texts do not use any punctuation marks.. you should check out the ancient writings on tablets, books and they all do not have any punctuation marks such as comma.
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#3 Yun

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 10:03 PM

The lack of punctuation marks in ancient Chinese writing has given rise to quite alot of confusion and misinterpretation among modern readers, in the days before the country's experts and editors finished inserting the punctuation marks one by one.

But the scholars of ancient times had no real problem reading their stuff without punctuation marks, because the prose was usually quite standard in metre and structure, like Shakespearean poetry. But by the Qing dynasty, the classical Chinese of the Qin and Han was getting more and more unfamiliar, and scholars frequently quoted incomplete sentences and thus distorted their meaning. The Tongcheng 桐城 School of literary scholarship in the Qing, which included Fang Bao 方苞 (1668-1749) and later Zeng Guofan 曾国藩 (1811-1872), actually pioneered a rudimentary system of adding punctuation to ancient texts called pingdian 评点 (commentary and punctuation). This included dots, circles and lines of different colours.

Two interesting links to read regarding this:
http://charm.gd.sina...-28/903913.html (in simplified Chinese)
http://www.arts.cuhk...es/ph106-19.htm (in traditional Chinese)
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#4 qrasy

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:47 AM

IIRC, even Old Latin didn't have punctuation or spaces.
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#5 jwrevak

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 09:13 PM

Did ancient (as in before Western contact) written Chinese have punctuation marks such as period's, comma's, quotation mark's, question mark's, etc.?

As others have already said, no.

If not, how did writers indicate end of sentences, quotations of other individuals, sentences that are questions, etc.? It seems today, Chinese uses Western symbols of punctuation. If the Chinese had there own system of punctuation symbols, why are they not used today?

Specifically with regard to quotations, the classical literature is frequently fairly clear. Quotes usually begin with the name of someone (unless this is understood from context) followed by yue1 曰 (= "say"). Sometimes they end with yun2 云 (= "close quote").
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#6 nishishei

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 11:35 PM

Didn't a lot of classical texts end with the 〇 character, hence the inspiration for the modern Chinese/Japanese period?
吴稚晖说:“浊音字甚雄壮,乃中国之元气。德文浊音字多,故其国强;我国官话不用浊音,故弱。”

#7 qrasy

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 01:46 AM

Yeah, I know Chinese uses '。'and ',' derived from old times, probably they are not very ancient, as others wrote.
I have seen an old writing with letters from above to bottom, and there are some marks close to some characters to mean 'spacing'/'stop'. Not put after (in line with) the characters, though.
No punctuation marks or space made many jokes by different cutting.
like:
行人等不得在此小便
Can be changed from 行人等 不得在此小便
to 行人等不得 在此小便

I don't know Old Latin, but I think although it was not spaced the confusion would have much less probability than ancient Chinese.
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#8 qrasy

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 02:08 AM

I thought giving names of book is using marks like 〈〉 《》 「」 『』 【】 〔〕 〖〗 〘〙〚〛.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the liedeliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. - JFK

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#9 jwrevak

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 07:36 PM

Didn't a lot of classical texts end with the  〇 character, hence the inspiration for the modern Chinese/Japanese period?

These and similar marks are relatively modern.
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子張曰君子尊賢而容眾嘉善而矜不能
Zizhang said, The superior man honors the wise and tolerates the
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#10 nishishei

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 04:50 PM

I don't know Old Latin, but I think although it was not spaced the confusion would have much less probability than ancient Chinese.

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Old Latin used a centered dot (interpunct) as a space. For example: CRESCAT·SCIENTIA·VITA·EXCOLATVR. It was later abandoned because the Romans had a Greek fad, and ancient Greek didn't space, so it was seen as unfashionable to space also. So: CRESCATSCIENTIAVITAEXCOLATVR
吴稚晖说:“浊音字甚雄壮,乃中国之元气。德文浊音字多,故其国强;我国官话不用浊音,故弱。”




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