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During the history, new ethnic groups with their own languages are (or were) incorporated into China.

After that they need to write their own language with the Chinese characters. (At least this is what we are told about the characters: they suppose to glue together the country linguistically).

It is untrivial in case the language is flective, the grammar is different, the phonetics differs etc.

Do we have written accounts of how this happened in the past? What is the proper transition procedure?

How would the modern China approach such a task? Which authority would make the linguistic decisions? Based on what principles?

Compare that with the transitions to the latin, or cyrillic, or arabic graphics. There are many examples in the recent history. But the transition between alphabets seems to be much simpler.

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  • That's not how it worked. Chinese characters were adopted in 2 situations: (1) The adopting culture already used some form of Chinese (Zhou and Shang tribes were ethnically related; many of the Warring States were culturally and linguistically Chinese, just with different regional influences), so there isn't a barrier to adopting characters. (2) The adopting culture wasn't Chinese, but used Classical Chinese themselves for administration, then absorbed Chinese vocabulary and subsequently Chinese characters.
    – dROOOze
    Jan 21 at 19:11
  • In the modern age, Latin-based writing systems were created for Zhuang, despite some local insistence on using a Chinese-character-based system; Dungan uses Cyrillic, the Hui and Uyghurs continue using Perso-Arabic scripts, Tibetans use the Tibetan script, Mongols use the traditional Mongolian script. The government has no track record of forcing these languages to use Chinese characters.
    – dROOOze
    Jan 21 at 19:15
  • All 56 ethnic groups retain their own language in addition to using Chinese. Jan 26 at 7:54

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After that they need to write their own language with the Chinese characters. (At least this is what we are told about the characters: they suppose to glue together the country linguistically).

No. Even if they suddenly adopted Chinese characters as the script to write their language, it would not serve the purpose of "[gluing] together the country linguistically." To the Chinese speaking people it would still be an unintelligible mess.

As a well-known example, the following sentence was recorded in 《说苑》, purported to be a phonetic transcription of a poem in Old Yue language:

濫兮抃草濫予昌枑澤予昌州州𩜱州焉乎秦胥胥縵予乎昭澶秦踰滲惿隨河湖。

And even Chinese people at that time could not understand it. 吾不知越歌,子試為我楚說之。

Do we have written accounts of how this happened in the past? What is the proper transition procedure?

I think you can take a look at the historical documents of the Yuan dynasty. The Yuan officials spoke Mongolian, but they had to rule Han people, so they tried to study Chinese and translate Mongolian documents into Chinese. This resulted in a language that uses a mixture of Chinese/Mongolian vocabulary and grammar.

亦邻真 has a paper 《元代硬译公牍文体》 that describes this phenomenon in detail. This paper has been collected in the book 《亦邻真蒙古学文集》 which is available on z-lib.

硬译文体公牍译自蒙古语。从元代蒙汉对照的圣旨、令旨碑文看,硬译文体的蒙古语原文多是庄重的雅语,用辞简练,往往有十分固定的格式。但是一翻译成汉文,就变成了完全令一种模样,在今天看来,简直文理不通。

(The "hard-translated" documents were originally written in elegant Mongolian, but once translated into Chinese they became completely different.)

硬译文体的词汇采自元代汉语口语,而语法却是蒙古式的。一篇典型的硬译公牍,等于一份死死遵循蒙古语词法和句法,用汉语作的记录文字。

("Hard-translated" documents used vocabulary from Yuan colloquial language, but Mongolian grammar.)

The paper goes on to describe linguistic characteristics of these documents. I will cite some examples here.

由于径直硬译蒙古语,常常不用汉语正式术语。例如:勾当——公务、事情。勾当里交出去——黜免。肚皮——贿赂、赃。吃肚皮——受贿、贪赃。要肚皮——勒索、取受。

蒙古语人称代词有内部屈折格变,属格人称代词可以作物主小词用。物主小词放在静词后面,表示静词所属。这在硬译文体中常有反映:圣旨俺的——我们的圣旨。合纳的钱粮他每的——他们应纳的钱粮。

“金银是钞的本有。”(《元典章》)

这里,很容易误断句。“是钞的本有”(乃钞之本),“有”是静词谓语的系词,放在句末,与汉语系词“是”重复并存。

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