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'NBA' condemned for Chinese dictionary

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 2:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

A group of Chinese academics has said English-language abbreviations that have become part of everyday life on the mainland should be struck from the country’s top dictionary.

A letter signed by more than 100 scholars condemned the inclusion of terms including NBA (National Basketball Association) and WTO (World Trade Organisation) in the latest edition of the mainland’s most authoritative dictionary, the Global Times daily reported on Wednesday.

Acronyms and other abbreviations derived from English are widely used on the mainland, where millions of basketball fans refer to their favourite league as the NBA, rather than mei zhi lan, the official Chinese translation.

English abbreviations for international bodies such as the WTO are also widely used, while PM2.5, a measure of air pollution, has become a familiar term among urban residents, who are increasingly concerned about air quality.

The latest edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, the country’s most authoritative linguistic reference book, included more than 239 terms containing Latin letters, up from 39 in 1996, the Global Times reported.

The academics say in their letter that the introduction of English abbreviations threatens the Chinese language, and their presence in the dictionary violates Chinese laws governing language usage.

“Replacing Chinese characters with letters in such a dictionary... deals the most severe damage to the Chinese language in a century,” Li Mingsheng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the paper.

“If we don’t make standards, more and more English expressions will become part of Chinese,” Fu Zhenguo, one of the scholars behind the protest letter, told The Beijing News.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV triggered a public outcry when it banned English language abbreviations in 2010.

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