Scholars cry foul over inclusion of 'NBA' in Chinese dictionary

A group of 120 scholars have signed a letter of complaint over the inclusion of English words in a newly revised Chinese dictionary.

The scholars, including linguists and senior reporters, said the inclusion of words such as the basketball league "NBA" and "PM2.5", a measure of air pollution, violated regulations covering the Chinese language, including the Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language.

The 239 English words take up 15 pages in the latest Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, known as the authoritative Chinese-language dictionary.

Yu Dianli, general manager of The Commercial Press, publisher of the dictionary, said English words had already become part of daily language.

"A dictionary serves language use," he said.

"It also shows that the Chinese language is tolerant and willing to absorb and borrow words from other cultures," Yu said, adding that different languages will inevitably borrow from each other as languages develop and people mingle.

But Fu Zhenguo, one of the initiators of the letter and a senior reporter and editor at People's Daily, said during an online public chat on Wednesday that Chinese is increasingly absorbing English words and he is worried about it.

"The dictionary is not an ordinary Chinese publication, but a bible for people to learn from and to use standard Chinese," he said, adding it will endanger Chinese language and culture.

Wang Yongmin, developer of a popular Chinese computer input software, said during the online chat that the dictionary includes too many English words, which slyly opens a door for cultural immersion.

"The dictionary has taken words from English today. Will it take German and French in the future?" he questioned.

He raised concerns over the language fading out and called on people to pay attention to the dignity of the Chinese language.

The first time that the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary included English words was in 1996, when 39 were listed in an appendix.

Jiang Lansheng, chief editor of the latest sixth edition, told China Youth Daily that the new dictionary doesn't break the law.

According to Jiang, the dictionary provided the words as a resource in an appendix to bring convenience to readers.

The regulation prohibits the dictionary using alphabetized words but allows English in the appendix, Jiang added.

"It is hard to say it will threaten the Chinese language," said Xu Jiujiu, a researcher from the Institute of Linguistics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The listed English words, such as "FBI", are more commonly used than their Chinese counterparts in daily life, especially online, he said.

"The selection of new words is mostly a result of their function and use in daily life. Besides, it's language, not math, and no clear standard can be used," said Li Bing, a professor in linguistics at Nankai University in Tianjin.

"I think we should be cautious about promoting these words, because many people don't know them," he said, adding that words that are helpful for communication should be adopted.

The General Administration of Press and Publication, to whom the letter was addressed, didn't reply to China Daily's interview request on Wednesday.

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