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Of emoji, Hanzi and alchemy (2015) (jealousmarkup.xyz)
26 points by mountainplus 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

I wonder how the visual density of Hanzi vs. Pinyin (or English) compares. On the one hand, each hanzi is approximately equivalent to about 4 letters of Pinyin, and Hanzi text uses no spacing (which would otherwise be needed approximately every 2 Hanzi). On the other hand, apparently Hanzi text should be approximately 1.3 times the vertical height of Roman text, according to the article, and Hanzi are square, so significantly wider than a Roman character. From my observations, it seems that Chinese text ends up slightly denser than the equivalent English text, but not overwhelmingly so, but surely there should be an actual comparison somewhere...

Random datapoint: when writing an Extended Essay for the International Baccalaureate, one word (not letter) of English is considered equivalent to 1.2 Chinese characters (all hanzi) or 2 Japanese ones (a mix of kanji/hanzi and kana syllabics).


Though varies by different kinds of content, but in reality Chinese is often noticeably denser, mainly because most Chinese "word"s are less than 2 characters, while much longer in English. Here is a good example:


It's high quality translation of Chinese Premier's speech.

So about twice as dense at the same line size, but it's using much finer details and shapes. If I want to make sure all the lines are clear, I need to zoom in to about 150% for the Chinese, while the English has clear lines at 70-80%.

Maybe you're just speaking theoretically, but if you're talking about practical reading, you certainly don't need all the details. Just like English (where you can basically read with no more than a rough outline of words), you can read hanzi with full fluency even with many strokes abbreviated, illegible, etc.

I'm not speaking theoretically at all.

Obviously you can shrink both. But my guess is you need to keep the Chinese bigger.

I don't know if it's 1:1. I can't read Chinese so I can't give exact legibility numbers. But when I shrink the text closer to the limits of legible English, with letters still basically intact, many of the Chinese characters are completely destroyed (while some are perfectly fine, but with more information per character losing any of them is much worse).

Sorry, replying very late, but I do read Japanese and you can go very small and still read it. There’s enough context and humans are incredibly good at seeing patterns and filling in details.

Early computer fonts, for example, couldn’t fit nearly all the strokes and could be read just fine.

Right, it only needs to be big enough to be recognisable, not to clearly see every stroke without effort.

Years ago I read in a translation journal that when localising video games the textboxes need to be able to support 16% more text for German translations vs English. So I'm sure you're right that it's been studied but I don't know of any actual stats.

The classic one that murders designed-for-english UIs every time is that [Add] becomes [Hinzufügen] :D

This is literally the only time I've heard anyone say anything good about Skype since they were bought by Microsoft.

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