In Chinese writing full width versions of Western question marks and commas are used.


I've read that:

[...] the concept of modern standard punctuation was adapted in the written language during the 20th century from Western punctuation marks. Before that, the concept of punctuation in Chinese literature existed mainly in the form of Judou, a system of punctuation marks denoting stops and pauses, though many works of poetry and prose, as well as nearly all calligraphic works, omitted Judou marks, for in most occasions, it was not necessary to understanding meaning.


But why then was the Western way of writing punctuation imported to Chinese writing?

It must have worked perfectly good without them? or was there some gain in starting to use Western punctuation in Chinese?


Is the usage of European punctuation acceptable in Chinese writing?

When writing pin yin, should you use a question mark in sentences using "ma"?

  • 也许值得指出的是,电影和电视剧的中文字幕么什标点符号都没有(只有比较小的空白分开不同人的句话)
    – user6065
    Feb 7, 2017 at 21:27
  • Does Western punctuation have 。 or 、? Does the West use 《》? Does the West still write these punctuation marks on parchment, or does it use a Chinese invention? If an idea is useful, adopt it. Ideas have no nation.
    – Gangosa
    Feb 8, 2017 at 2:00
  • @Gangosa, Of course, but the question is about why this punctuation was considered useful in Chinese when there where already question particles, and as of what I know there was also a functioning system for pauses and such? Was it in any way more practical with dots, commas and question marks? Feb 9, 2017 at 16:02
  • 3
    Ultimately, they use it for the same reason Western languages use it—because it makes things easier to read. If you read some old Latin inscriptions on buildings, in many cases you'll find that the words just run one right after the other. Sometimes even the word spaces are omitted. This can give a pleasing, uniform appearance to the inscription, but it makes parsing difficult. I suspect it's the same thing in Chinese.
    – Brian Tung
    Feb 10, 2017 at 21:29
  • @BrianTung I came across this question today. Some Classical Chinese text do use punctuation, but my question was really "why is modern Chinese using "," (Western comma) instead of "、" (Ideographic comma) for the comma, which is still used by Japanese and Korean for the same purpose. Chinese has however kept "。", which is still used by Korean and Japanese. But then the Chinese "、" is only used for listing items. Apr 30, 2023 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


I have found answers in Chinese Wikipedia:

  1. Classical Chinese has a punctuation system of its own. However, this system is rarely used. The method to read Classical Chinese without punctuation was taught in elementary schools in the past, but it was still too difficult for common people to understand. You may know that Chinese is an isolating language, which means morphemes are quite sequence-sensitive. Even a simple phrase can have quite a few different meanings. In Modern Chinese, this appears even more often.
    是你 (It) is you
    是你。 It is you.
    是你? Is it you?
    哼!是你? Hmph! Is it you? (contempt)
  2. During the late 1910s, there is a movement called New Culture Movement, and a major goal of it is to teach everyone to read and write. The Classical Chinese was too hard for people to read, and lacking punctuation is one of the difficulties. On 29 November, 1919, Ma Yuzao and other 5 person submitted a proposal of calling for using modern punctuation system, which mixed classical and Western punctuations (according to Guan Xihua, 2002). Outline of History of Chinese Philosophy by Hu Shi is the first work applying this punctuation system.
  3. The reason of adapting a "Western" punctuation system is to make reading texts easier, especially for those who is learning reading for the first time. Since the using of new punctuation system, Baihuawen, or Modern Chinese was popularized quite rapidly.
  • Very good answer! Do you have a link to punctuation in Classical Chinese?
    – Gangosa
    Feb 19, 2017 at 5:00
  • Sorry for being late. Please check "Judou". This is what ancient punctuation method is called today. Nov 7, 2017 at 9:46

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