Chinese and full stops (periods)

So I’ve noticed that Chinese sentences are sometimes extremely lengthy. Why are Chinese writers so afraid of using full stops? Right now I feel like punctuation was an afterthought in this language.

I’ll give you the sentence that caused me much frustration:


A full stop after “男女” would, in my opinion, break this up nicely. Upon reading “由于种种原因” for the first time, I lost my way. This clause belongs to the second part of the sentence, so dangling it there, mid sentence, is misleading.

In English we could add a “who” in there, so we know that there are two lovers WHO, for many reasons, could only see each other once a year.

/rant over.

Chinese punctuation is an afterthought - the concept was borrowed from the West according to

Can reading the following sentences change you mind on how to punctuate that long one?





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Any idea why they decided to add punctuation in the first place? To make the language easier for foreigners to read??

Why punctuation? Because in modern Chinese, a sentence can denote different meanings by punctuating it differently. An example is this notorious sentence, 下雨天留客天留我不留.


With language I don’t think there really is ever any “why”! Explanations are only just-so stories… ◠‿◠

It’s kind of fun… if I don’t practice big long sentences, how am I ever going to write like a native? Here’s one that’s a favorite in my Anki queue.

味道上,其實沒有什麼太大的改變,不過份量變得比較小而且水餃也包得很醜,嚐起來口感軟綿的風格有打些折扣;不過微鹹的鮮美肉汁還是保留著,個人偏愛白菜多於韭菜,搭配自家的調味醬汁還是挺好吃的。 talks a bit more about this. It seems there was some punctuation, just less of it before the 20th century.

Also some characters somewhat take the place of punctuation, like 吗 or 了 which often mark the effective end of the sentence, or 说/曰 to mark quotations.

And in classical Chinese, the meaning is made clear by the use of the “結構助詞” 之、乎、者、也、然、矣、哉、焉、等、且 …, which to a great extent alleviates the necessity of punctuation marks. has some photos showing the punctuation marks used in ancient publications.

One of the writers asserts that, 中国古代不但不是没有标点,反而是有大量的有标点书籍存在的。问题在于标点的系统不统一,几乎每家各用一套系统,你用圆我用方,你用实心的我用空心的,你 标注在文字左边我标注在文字下面……和其他各种学问一样,问题也是出在没有系统上。没有系统,所以不能流传,进而就会失传。