Chinese Punctuation Guide

2011 July 18
by Alena

Chinese punctuation marks and symbols fulfill the same functions as in any other language. They indicate the structure and organization of the written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud. In my judgment, there are two peculiarities about Chinese punctuation that should be mentioned.

First of all, the rules of Chinese punctuation are relatively simple. As a native Russian, I know from my own experience how complex and confusing those rules can be. In Russian high schools a great deal of grammatical textbooks are devoted to just punctuation. The Chinese writing system is logographic, and it does not necessarily require punctuation, especially spacing. In fact, texts in Chinese were left unpunctuated until the modern era. Congratulations! You have finally found something in this language that is actually easy to learn.

However, the punctuation marks in modern Chinese often look different and have different customary rules. All Chinese characters are written to a uniform size, and this size also extends to punctuation marks, so they usually take up more space than their English counterparts. Here are the most commonly used Chinese punctuation marks:

Here is the Chinese punctuation guide taken from About.com, please see their site for further details:

http://mandarin.about.com/od/writingmandarin/a/chinese_punctuation_marks.htm

Full Stop (句號)

The Chinese full stop is a small circle that takes the space of one Chinese character. The Mandarin name of the full stop is 句號 (jù hào). It is used at the end of simple or complex sentence, as in this example:

請你幫我買一份報紙。
Qǐng nǐ bāng wǒ mǎi yī fèn bàozhǐ.
Please help me buy a newspaper.

Comma (逗号)

The Mandarin name of the Chinese comma is 逗號(dòu hào). It is the same as the English comma, except it takes the space of one full character and is positioned in the middle of the line. It is used to separate clauses within a sentence, and to indicate pauses. Here are some examples:

如果颱風不來,我們就出國旅行。
Rúguǒ táifēng bù lái, wǒmen jiù chū guó lǚxíng.
If the typhoon does not come, we will take a trip abroad.

現在的電腦,真是無所不能。
Xiànzài de diànnǎo, zhēnshì wú suǒ bù néng.
Modern computers, they are truly essential.

Enumeration Comma (顿号)

The enumeration comma is used to separate list items. It is a short dash going from top left to bottom right. The Mandarin name of the enumeration comma is 頓號 (dùn hào). The difference between the enumeration comma and the regular comma can be seen in the following example:

喜、怒、哀、樂、愛、惡、欲,叫做七情。
Xǐ, nù, āi, lè, ài, è, yù, jiàozuò qī qíng.
Happiness, anger, sadness, joy, love, hate, and desire are known as the seven passions.

Colon, Semicolon, Question Mark & Exclamation Mark

These four Chinese punctuation marks are the same as their English counterparts and have the same usage as in English. Their names are as follows:

Colon – 冒號 (mào hào) – :
Semicolon – 分號 (fēnhào) – ;
Question Mark – 問號 (wènhào) – ?
Exclamation Mark – 驚嘆號 (jīng tàn hào) – !

Quotation Marks (引号)

Quotation marks are called 引號/ (yǐn hào) in Mandarin Chinese. There are both single and double quote marks, with the double quotes used within the single quotes:

「…『…』…」

Western-style quotation marks are used in simplified Chinese, but traditional Chinese refers to the symbols as shown above. They are meant for quoted speech, emphasis and sometimes for proper nouns and titles.

老師說:「你們要記住 國父說的『青年要立志做大事,不要做大官』這句話。」
老师说:“你们要记住 国父说的‘青年要立志做大事,不要做大官’这句话。”
Lǎoshī shuō: “Nǐmen yào jìzhu Guófù shuō de ‘qīngnián yào lì zhì zuò dàshì, bú yào zuò dà guān’ zhè jù huà.”
The teacher said: “You must remember the words of Sun Yat-sen – ‘Youth should be committed to do big things, not to make big government.’”

End from About.com.

 

Do not forget that Chinese characters can be written either vertically or horizontally. The punctuation marks change position depending on the direction of the text.  When written vertically parentheses and quotation marks are rotated 90 degrees, and the full stop mark is placed below and to the right of the last character.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS