Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I was typing a SQL statement and considered how SQL might be different if it was in Chinese. The computer just matches up the text prompt with the call name for the data column. In our database the columns titles are often multiple words with no spaces. I thought, "Well, that wouldn't even be a problem in Mandarin."

Then it struck me for the first time (somewhat depressingly, since I started learning Mandarin 7 years ago) that there are no spaces between characters in written Chinese.

I knew Chinese had very limited grammar rules, and nothing was lost by not having conjugations for verbs based on time, subject or object, as usually this is made redundant by context. I never realized that the language is also without spacing.

Each character is written in the same size square area, and the more simple characters have a lot of room around them, but since each character represents an idea, space is not required to distinguish words.

Sometimes multiple characters are used together to form a larger or more complete idea and sometimes it is confusing if you run into character combinations you do not know, or an idiom you do not know. But for characters that you already know, spaces are not needed. Each character has its own "built in" spaces.

1 comment:

  1. So is there no space bar on a Chinese keyboard?