文字 / 文本

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by nic456, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. nic456 Senior Member


    It looks like I have discovered a difference between Chinese written in different regions that has taken me aback. I saw a note and searched the results for text editor 文字編輯器/文本编辑器 and an old interchange format called Rich Text Format RTF 富文字格式/富文本格式.
    There is a huge discrepancy between one and the other for a) 台湾 b) 简体字 web sites. I find it hard to believe that text, an important word, is written differently though in both regions it only comprises characters that are not affected by the simplification.

    Can you confirm that you use one and not the other or do you use both but for particular purposes? How do you explain this as 字 is used for characters? Most curious!

    If I search the dictionary, I get for text 文字;文本 is not mentioned and when searching for it you only get a machine translation.
    Of course, whoever did the original translation of the format and the application could have messed it up.:confused:

    Last edited: Nov 14, 2012
  2. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    The usages of different words is somehow like the difference between AE and BE.
    Although people pick different words to use, but they usually can "guess" correctly what another expression mean.
    This happens whenever you have two political states with a same origion.

    Think of those important English words... "Centre" is spelled "center" in US, "can't" is pronounced "cant", "subway/metro/underpass", "football/soccer"...
    So, believe it.
    In Mainland China, text=文字; in Taiwan, text=文本. That's it.

    Yes, the local people only go with the local usage.
    What do you mean by 字 is used for characters? Explain what...?

    After all, 文字 and 文本 are both related to 文 and 编辑器 is an universal technology term. Few people would misunderstand them in the context.
    Also, they are new terms translated from English. Actually, not all people prefer these two terms. The common editors in Windows are called 记事本, 写字板, Word in Simplified version. If you are a Mainlander, you actually have little chance to say 文字编辑器 to a Taiwanese person. Even you do, they'll understand.
    RTF is even more rare. Not every English speaker knows it means "Rich Text Format". For Chinese IT workers, they'll mostly stick with the abbreviation "RTF", few would bother to say "富文字格式/富文本格式". Most of them actually have no idea what it stands for.

    Why they picked up different words in the first place? Come on, they are two rival regions. They don't consult each other on these...
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  3. schur Member

    Chinese - Mandarin
    Honestly, when I hear "軟體", I feel uncomfortable.
  4. nic456 Senior Member

    Hi SuperXW,
    Actually, it is the other way round: PRC/TW using 文本/文字. And the very fact that you confused the usage is my case in point. 字 is an important character meaning character, so why use 本 for a multitude or collection of characters instead?

    I do not have to tell you that alphabets are based on pronunciation, so spelling is invariably subject to change, or at least under pressure. Your examples are easy to explain. In the UK there is rugby and football. In the US they called their version of rugby football for reasons unknown to me, so they had to come up with a different word for football proper. The endings -re/-ce are indicative of French influence and not really reflected in the pronunciation of words. I would guess non-English immigrants were a major factor. [There is a parallelism with Spanish and French influence.]

    In Chinese, there are different ways of pronunciating a character, so I expect that the words are really identical. The great thing is even if 2 Chinese cannot communicate orally, the only have to resort to writing. At least that has been my idea.
  5. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Hi! 文字 has several meanings, and one of which is "writing"; for example, when one works as an editor or a writer or a translator, he may say "我從事文字工作". It's an everyday word.

    On the other hand, 文本 belongs to the register of jargon, and is not a word one uses in everyday life. Actually it was coined as an equivalent for the modern idea of "text", and you won't find that in old writings.

    In the context of computer science, one may consider 文字~文本 as regional variations for "text". However, in other contexts one can easily see 文本 used in Taiwan or Hong Kong (in literary criticism, for example).
  6. phill84 Member

    Amsterdam, NL
    Mandarin - China
    honestly, when I hear people calling waiter/waitress 服務員, I feel it is hilarious
  7. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Yes, SuperXW is wrong, it's the other way around.
    文本 is used in Mainland software, which is just stupid, because we would never use that in real life, except for maybe jargon as Ghabi said.
    I've seen 文本 only in software. It's so rarely used that SuperXW thought it was a Taiwanese usage...

    Hi phill84!
    How do you call the waiter/waitress?
    For Chinese people in Italy it's 跑堂。
  8. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Yeah how do you call 服务员 in Taiwan...? 0_0

    I think it's normal that people from both side feel some of each other's usages are funny... For us, I think we are reasonable enough to make fun of it.
    Hm, 跑堂 is funnier...
  9. phill84 Member

    Amsterdam, NL
    Mandarin - China
    I call waiter/waitress 先生/小姐/帥哥/美女 depending on age/sex/location

    I am from mainland
  10. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    OK, that's when calling directly the waiter/-ess.
    But how do you say the job name in Chinese?
    Maybe you haven't lived in Mainland China for a long time, but you should avoid using caling women 小姐... of course among oversea Chinese communities it's OK to use it.
    There is already a thread about 跑堂
    Some words that we Chinese in Italy use are also common among Chinese people in other countries in Europe. Phill84, can you confirm if 跑堂 is also used in Netherlands?
    In Italy 跑堂 is also used in written language, for example in local Chinese language newspapers and in job advertisements, it's just the normal word for waiter/waitress.
  11. phill84 Member

    Amsterdam, NL
    Mandarin - China
    The job title is "威打" (or "女威打" in case of a female) here in NL becoz the majority of Chinese community here speak Cantonese.

    I am from south of China so I never had any problem calling females work in service industries "小姐", it could be indeed an insult in the north, but to my knowledge more and more people are getting used to it. Correct me if I am wrong :)
  12. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    威打 seems like that derives from English "waiter"
    10 years ago, 小姐 was already an insult in Hainan. To my experience, the Shanghainese people may still call stranger women 小姐。
    In Wenzhou we just shout: 喂喂!:D
  13. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    5年前,我回北京,叫服务员「小姐」,完全没问题。后来再回去,就有问题了,越来越有问题…… My feeling was that more and more people are not used to it...
  14. phill84 Member

    Amsterdam, NL
    Mandarin - China
    maybe I always got away with my Fujian accent which to the ears of most people in the North sounds like Taiwanese accent :D
  15. nic456 Senior Member


    Thanks for your contributions. It seems like a software and operating system giant's choice of words has had a powerful impact.
    I can confirm this with further examples:
    Mainland preference for 对齐文本, 文本格式, 格式文本 versus 文字格式 for text format on TW. The resultfor 格式文字, format text, is less conclusive as there are many results where the two consecutive words do not form a phrase. And there are no hits at all for 校準文字, align text!
  16. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    For me 文本 is a computer-only word, as I never see it outside of the PC. :D
    Though I don't know what you mean by 格式文本/格式文字. If you mean the verb "format" when you say "format text", it's 格式化(文本/文字)。

    校準 means "align, adjust, sync or calibrate". Maybe it's used in Taiwan version of Office.
    For me, it's better 对齐文字, but Mainland software use 对齐文本。

    This blog makes nice comparations of technical terms in China and Taiwan.
  17. nic456 Senior Member

    So it is a technical term for something basic like text. Thanks for the clarification and the link.

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