Are there any characters which are considered simplified in some contexts (where there would be a corresponding traditional character), and traditional in other contexts?
To answer your question, we need to clearly understand how Traditional Chinese characters got simplified, which I bet 99.999999% of the whole Chinese population don't even know about.
This is a very big topic that I am not able to discuss about it in detail. So I will give a much simplified explanation.
Consider these 2 sets: Traditional Characters vs Simplified Characters
Of cause there is a mapping between the 2 sets. Most of the mapping (78%) is for "non-simplification at all", like 人 口 手 大 小 天 地 etc. Those characters are NOT simplified.
While the rest of the mapping (22%) is the "real simplification".
In the set of Simplified Characters, there are only 2235 "real simplified characters" in total.
Among the most used 3500 Chinese characters, there are only 1116 "real simplified characters", so the percentage is 32%, less than 1/3.
A medium-sized Chinese dictionary roughly covers 10 thousand "head charcters", among which there are 2235 "real simplified characters", so the percentage is 22%, less than 1/4.
Now we can see the real simplified characters are only a small portion of the whole Chinese charaters.
All the following discussion is on the "real simplification" part of the mapping.
Most people believe the Simplification was done at the character level, meaning one traditional character will be replaced by its simplified counterpart in all circumstances, which of cause is wrong.
Actually the Simplification was done at the sense level, so it means a traditional character will be replaced by a simplified version only for a certain senses, but for other senses of the same traditional character, it is not simplified.
However there are quite some characters appear in both sets of Simplified Characters and Traditional Characters.
Simplification was done in the following 8 ways:
The "newly" created simple characters are less than 100.
Well, it is a separate topic regarding traditional characters used in proper names (or signs, symbols), or some careless writers mix-use simplified and traditional characters in their articles.
So back to your question, using of simplified/traditional characters is NOT based on the context. Ideally if an article is written in simplified Chinese, then it should only use simplified characters, vice versa, unless for some special purposes (like an article written in simplified Chinese talking about simplification of traditional characters).
I can think of the following reasons why you might encounter them (in order of appropriateness):
Do you have any specific case they could apply to?
Consider traditional and simplified characters as two sets with a mapping between them. I'll refer to to simplified as
One obvious question: Are
Similarly for simplified. So, yes, it can depend on context what one means. That context is often the surrounding text or what is considered "normal" to the speaker (i.e., they preferentially read and write in one script).
One question the astute reader may have noticed is the distinction I made between 2. and 3.--shouldn't those be the same? Indeed that would be the case if the mapping were a bijection... but sadly it isn't. In fact, it it's neither one-to-one nor onto. Once upon a time when I was parsing the unihan files, I had a rather rude awakening. Turns out there are lots of weird cases:
Edit: fixed union vs intersection
One example is the character 么. This is pronounced me in simplified Chinese (traditional: 麼), and pronounced yāo in traditional Chinese (simplified: 幺).
So for example: 「那是什么？」 would be a sentence in simplified Chinese (nà shì shénme? What is that?, traditional: 「那是什麼？」).
While: 「我的妹妹是老么」 would be a sentence in traditional Chinese (wǒde mèimei shì lǎoyāo My sister is the youngest in the family, simplified: 「我的妹妹是老幺」).
anyone an idea where to get the mapping from? I'm talking traditional -> simplified
I have found this utftable.txt from this page: http://simplify.codeplex.com/ but it does not seem to be perfect and the author does not tell where the file is coming from.
also where do the numbers come from? eg 2235 real simp characters in total (quote from above) thanks for help!