enter image description here I have check the A Chinese-English dictionary which doesn’t have the translation to English in register content and I come across 文言 and 书面. what is the different between 文言 and 书面?

3 Answers 3


文言 refers to the written language commonly used before 4th May 1919. (文言: 指五四以前通用的以古汉语为基础的书面语。)

In the dictionary you cited, 书面 thus refers to the modern written language.

  • And what is the difference between 古语 vs 旧称? Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 13:20
  • 古语 an old saying; 旧称 what something used to be called.
    – monalisa
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 14:31
  • @monalisa Do you mean in Classical Chinese? I am confusing Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 0:05
  • However, I am still confused with the different between 书面, 文言,古语 and 旧称. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 0:07
  • @IEatMyPizza not sure about your confusion. It's pretty clear that 书面 is written language and 文言 is the old ancient language. The words have expressed themselves. It's pretty literal. 古语 is 古代用语 and 旧称 is 旧时的称谓.
    – dan
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 1:14



书面语 -> words you write down, like words in articles, magazines, etc.

口语 -> words you say, like words you use when chatting with your friends.

Just think about English. English also has written language (书面语) and Spoken language (口语). 书面语 is more accurate than 口语,because you take lots of time to write it and you also check it out several times after finishing it.

文言文 -> words ancient people write down

古语 -> words ancient people write down and say

旧称 -> the way ancient people call a thing. The same thing can have different names in ancient and modern.

These are some simple definitions I can think of. Hope it can help you.

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