How was it decided what aspects of Western language Mandarin would inherit and why?

Ex: Western punctuation (! . ?), left to right writing style (in the mainland at least), pinyin vs bopomofo, etc.

Why did they decide to overhaul the language to read left to right top to bottom instead of top to bottom right to left, but choose not to inherit something like spaces? It's not as if a native Mandarin speaker has any trouble reading top to bottom right to left. Was that change made to make it easier for foreigners? If so, why not add spaces as well? If not, why change it at all?

Just wondering the historical context for how these decisions were made.

  • I would like to take on just one aspect, i.e. writing "Right-to-Left" Since young, I've got drummed into me by my grandfather that "Right" is "Good", and "Left" is "Bad / Evil" Born left-handed, every time I used the left hand for the chopsticks, I got knocked on the knuckles. You guessed it, I am now a proficient right-hand chopstick, pen user. Still its my left for the "heavy" stuff, like playing ping pong, knives, slapping someone, etc. As for Top-to-Bottom, it is a no-brainer. I've yet to come across a culture that writes from "Bottom-to-Top" So, right-hand, right-side, right? Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 4:32
  • It should be noted that the official pinyin standard does specify when to use spaces, but where to add them is sometimes not completely clear. Additionally, I should note that Taiwan kept more traditional aspects. Bopomofo is still used in Taiwan, although I believe the official romanization system is now also pinyin to avoid pinyin (old standard apparently uses si for xi which is confusing). Also they kept vertical writing longer, so 行 often refers to columns instead of rows in Taiwan. Eg. the input method 行列输入法 is named after its column-row notation.
    – Max Xiong
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


This is a decent answer to your question:

History of Chinese Punctuation

The short and skinny of it was that Chinese really didn't require as much punctuation in old times, though it sometimes contained added punctuation like the 句号(。) and 逗号 (,). The Western conventions of punctuation didn't really catch on until the early 1900s when other Western conventions started becoming popular in the Republican era.

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