This article offers the definition of abbreviated words and the definition of the media language, substantiates the origin of abbreviated words in the media, analyses their use in the Chinese media. The purpose of the study is to analyse the characteristics of shortened words and their original combinations of words, to offer all types of abbreviated words in the Chinese language, to consider the use of abbreviated words in the Chinese media, to give examples from the major news sites («News of China», «People's network», «Chinese military network», «China Central television»), to identify principles for the use of abbreviated words in the Chinese media. As a result, the functions of abbreviated words in improving the efficiency of media information transmission and the functions of the media in the development of abbreviated words are identified, and the rules of correctly using different types of abbreviated words in the Chinese media language are highlighted. This article is addressed to researchers-philologists, postgraduates, students who are interested in learning Chinese and identifying trends in the development of abbreviated words in the Chinese language.
Abbreviated words have existed from ancient times to the present day and are used both in China and abroad. It is a common feature of human language. In order to better serve the process of communication, two aspects of the norm should be considered: the own norms of abbreviated words (the necessity and rationality) and the norms of use (Zhou, 2015).
Modern society is developing faster and faster, the pace of life is accelerating. The exchange of information becomes more intensive, and the content is constantly enriched and complicated. People strive to get the most information in the shortest possible time. In this way, abbreviated words develop rapidly, especially in news reports, which play an important role in spreading information. Whether it is radio or television, newspapers or the Internet, we can access various forms of abbreviated words anytime and anywhere (Yao, 2005).
In Russian, the abbreviation (ital. abbreviatura, from lat. abbreviio ‘abbreviate’) is a noun consisting of truncated words included in the original phrase, or of truncated components of the original compound word. The last component of an abbreviation can also be an entire (uncut) word. (Linguistic encyclopediс dictionary: (online resource). ‒ URL: http://tapemark.narod.ru/les/009b.html; (Date of access: 02.03.2020))
In Chinese, abbreviated words are analogs of abbreviations in Russian: as a rule, they are simplified forms of long and complex initial phrases. From already fairly stable Chinese complex phrases, their main components (morphemes, words) are taken and formed into short words that express the same meaning as their original phrases (Yao, 2005).
The original complex combinations contain more characters and have a more complex structure, but abbreviated words, respectively, have fewer characters and a more compact structure. Although abbreviated words and original combinations may replace each other in expressions of the same meaning, their style and effect of expression are different. As a rule, the original combination is more formal and detailed, and the abbreviated word is simpler and more literal (Yu et al., 2003). Thus, after formation, abbreviated words are usually used more actively than their corresponding original combinations, to some extent even replace them and become stable expressions.
Abbreviated words are wildly used in the media, to avoid abusing them it is necessary to pay attention to the rules for their correct use.
- Why abbreviated words are wildly used in the media?
- How many types of abbreviated words in the Chinese language?
- How to correctly use different types of abbreviated words in the Chinese media?
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to analyse the characteristics of shortened words and their original combinations of words, to offer all types of abbreviated words in the Chinese language, to consider the use of abbreviated words in the Chinese media, to give examples from the major news sites («News of China», «People's network», «Chinese military network», «China Central television»), to identify principles for the use of abbreviated words in the Chinese media.
Summarize all types of abbreviated words, analyze the use of each type in the media, illustrate with examples from the major news sites («News of China», «People's network», «Chinese military network», «China Central television»).
The use of abbreviated words in the media
Media language is a functional type of literary language that was formed with the beginning of mass media distribution. Mass media usually include television, radio, the press, documentaries, electronic newspapers and magazines (New dictionary of methodological terms and concepts (theory and practice of language teaching), 2020) ((online resource). ‒ URL: https://methodological_terms.academic.ru/2429; (Date of access: 06.03.2020)).
As a common language phenomenon in recent years, abbreviated words are increasingly used in the language of Chinese media, which is becoming a necessary and regular method and has a linguistic, pragmatic basis (Yao, 2005).
The language of mass media quickly and actively reacts to social phenomena. A compact and compressed text is able to convey to the mass audience the maximum amount of information in the shortest possible time. This is especially true for the design of headlines: the press has specific requirements for headlines, since they must both generalize the main content of the message, and meet the requirements for the design of a newspaper strip or electronic page, and also take into account the aesthetic effect of language expressiveness. For example, now (in March 2020) China is fighting the epidemic, the new abbreviated word‘pneumonia caused by a new type of coronavirus’ (from the phrase ‘pneumonia caused by a new type of coronavirus’) can be found every day in news reports, newspapers, radio and the Internet. Instead of eight characters, the same meaning is expressed by four characters. This new shortened word speeds up the transfer of information.
The possibility of abbreviated words appearing in the media is due to their peculiarities. On the one hand, the abbreviated word has a simple form, more economical than the original phrase; on the other hand, it can generalize a rich content. For example, the abbreviated word ‘firmly adhere to the four basic principles’，the content of which is as follows:‘firmly adhere to the Communist path, the democratic dictatorship of the people, the leadership of the Communist party, Marxism-Leninism, the idea of Mao Zedong’. By expressing rich content in simplified text, the abbreviated word saves space and increases the volume of media information, which coincides with the requirement of news reporting. As a result, on the one hand, the media displays all the latest language abbreviations, and on the other hand, the media also affects language changes and their development. The media introduces new abbreviated words to the audience. People quickly accept and master them. On the contrary, abbreviated words that are widely used are again reinforced in the media. This is the process of appearing and fixing abbreviated words in the media (Yao, 2005).
The appearance of abbreviated words has a linguistic basis. The Chinese language is characterized by the absence of morphological changes, so usually for the formation of phrases or sentences, the components are syntactically ordered according to their meaning. Compared to inflectional languages, Chinese focuses on semantic logic and word order, meaning the form follows the set meaning (Li, 2013). In this regard, some components in combinations of words or sentences can be omitted, without interfering with the expression and understanding of the general meaning. In the language of mass media, due to the limitations of space and time, certain elements are often omitted: this can be both the definition and the subject of behavior and action (Yao, 2005). For example, the abbreviated word ‘The 18th Congress’, in its original phrase ‘The 18th national Congress of the Communist party of China’ definitions are omitted.
The occurrence of abbreviated words also has a pragmatic basis. From the point of view of cognitive linguistics, it is difficult for people to remember long sentences or too much information, so linguistic strategies are needed to increase the volume of received information and communication efficiency. When using language, people prefer to get the most cognitive effects with the least effort. The use of abbreviated words satisfies a person's natural inertia (Yao, 2005).
Especially the use of abbreviations with letters is inevitable, due to the fact that, firstly, political, economic, and cultural communications have become more and more frequent, according to international practice, international organizations and agencies mostly use foreign names; secondly, the Chinese media have become more international (Zhang, 2016). Words with letters have become one of the important forms for borrowing foreign words and producing new words in the Chinese vocabulary system (Wang, 2016). Words with letters are gradually included in the modern Chinese dictionary, which shows the state of the social language, while not weakening the purity of the Chinese language (Feng, 2017).
So, under the influence of the factors considered, abbreviated words continuously arise and develop.
Rules for using abbreviated words in the media
As we have already suggested in another paper (Krasina & Li, 2017), according to the methods of formation in Chinese there are seven main types of abbreviated words:
- Compound type, when parts of the original phrase that express the original meaning of the word or phrase are selected and combined again according to grammatical rules, and other parts are omitted (参观展览 ‘visit the exhibition’ → 观展 ‘visit the exhibition’);
- Truncated type, when the original phrases are truncated and either the initial components or the final ones are omitted (复旦大学 ‘Fudan University’ → 复旦 ‘Fudan University’);
- Generalized type, when a common part remains from the original phrase, or new words are selected to generalize the common part or common feature of the original phrase («大学» «论语» «中庸» «孟子» ‘«The Analects of Confucius» «The Great Learning» «The Doctrine of the Mean» «Mencius (Chinese philosopher, representative of the Confucian tradition)»’ → 四书 ‘The Four Books’);
- Abbreviated words with numbers, in which numbers indicate the number of parallel components and are combined with one (or more) character from the original phrase that expresses the common feature of parallel components (陆军 ‘The army’、海军 ‘The navy’、空军 ‘The air force’ → 三军 ‘three types of troops’);
- Letter abbreviations, which are usually loanwords. In Chinese, both words that mean foreign realities (National Basketball Association → NBA), and words that mean national realities (China Basketball Association → СBA) are used. Here abbreviated words that consist of numbers and letters at the same time (5th generation mobile networks → 5G) can be included, too;
- Abbreviated words consisting of letters and hieroglyphs (B型超声诊断 ‘Type B ultrasound diagnosis’ → B超 ‘Type B ultrasound diagnosis’). This includes abbreviated words that made up of numbers, letters, and hieroglyphs at the same time (汽车销售服务店：销售 (Sale)，零配件 (Spare parts)，售后服务 (Service)，信息反馈 (Survey) ‘4-in-1 car sales service store: sale, spare parts, service, customer feedback support’ → 4S店 ‘4-in-1 car sales service store: sale, spare parts, service, customer feedback support’);
- Transliteration of borrowed letter abbreviations for their transmission in Chinese (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome → AIDS (edz) → 艾滋 (ai zi)).
People can easily associate common abbreviations with their original word combinations and understand their meanings based on the justification of Chinese word formation (Chen & Li, 2016).
Among them, the number of abbreviated words of the first type is the maximum, respectively, they are found most often in the media, almost in every report can be found. For example, in the report «9 provinces, Autonomous regions and cities jointly supply the market of the Wuhan city in Hubei province» from the «People's network» from March 08, 2020. («People's network» (online resource). ‒ URL: http://society.people.com.cn/n1/2020/0308/c1008-31622158.html; (Date of access: 08.03.2020)) we found 19 abbreviated words of compound type:
- 首先保障 ‘first of all to ensure’ → 首保 ‘first of all to ensure’:首保武汉市场供应，9省区市快速响应。‘First of all to ensure the market supply of Wuhan city, 9 provinces and cities rapidly responded’.
- 联合保障 ‘joint guarantee’ → 联保 ‘joint guarantee’;
- 联合供应 ‘together to provide’ → 联供 ‘together to provide’;
- 协同合作 ‘to work collaboratively’ → 协作 ‘to work collaboratively’: 9省联保联供协作机制的建立，既是责任担当，更是手足之情。‘The establishment of the mechanism for the joint cooperation and collaborative work of the 9 provinces shows not only the responsibility but also brotherhood’.
- 货物来源 ‘source of goods’ → 货源 ‘source of goods’;
- 跨越区域 ‘interregional’ → 跨区 ‘interregional’;
- 调拨和运输 ‘allocation and transport’ → 调运 ‘allocation and transport’: 协调组织货源，跨区调运湖北。‘The organization of source of goods is coordinated, interregional transportation to Hubei is carried out’.
- 瓜果蔬菜 ‘fruits and vegetables’ → 果蔬 ‘fruits and vegetables’;
- 大米白面 ‘rice and flour’ → 米面 ‘rice and flour’: 1月23日以来，已累计向湖北调运生活必需品4.4万吨，其中果蔬近3.6万吨、米面5468吨、方便食品537吨。‘Since January 23, 44,000 tons of basic necessities have been transported to Hubei, including nearly 36,000 tons of fruits and vegetables, 5,468 tons of rice and flour, and 537 tons of fast-food products’.
- 保障供应战役 ‘the battle to ensure the supply’ → 保供战 ‘the battle to ensure the supply’:疫情突发，生活必需品“保供战”打响。‘The epidemic broke out, and the battle to ensure the supply of basic necessities began’.
- 预防控制 ‘prevention and control’ → 防控 ‘prevention and control’;
- 离开武汉 ‘to leave Wuhan’ → 离汉 ‘to leave Wuhan’: 1月23日，湖北省武汉市因疫情防控需要采取“关闭离汉通道”措施。‘On January 23, due to the need to prevent and control the epidemic, the Wuhan city in Hubei province took measures to close the channels for leaving the city’.
- 每日汇报 ‘daily reporting’ → 日报 ‘daily reporting’: 商务部同时启动了生活必需品市场日报监测制度。‘The Ministry of Commerce has also launched a daily reporting system to monitor the market for basic necessities’.
- 恢复工作 ‘restoration of work’ → 复工 ‘restoration of work’;
- 恢复生产 ‘restoration of production’ → 复产 ‘restoration of production’: 随着疫情管控成效显现，各地企业复工复产有序推进。‘As the effectiveness of the fight against the epidemic becomes apparent, the restoration of work and production throughout the country is proceeding in an orderly manner’.
- 商业和贸易 ‘commerce and trade’ → 商贸 ‘commerce and trade’: 商贸流通企业复工率不断上升。‘The proportion of restoration of work at trade and commerce enterprises and the enterprises of goods circulation continues to rise’.
- 电子商务 ‘electronic commerce’ → 电商 ‘electronic commerce’;
- 快速递送 ‘express delivery’ → 快递 ‘express delivery’: 电商平台、快递企业复工率进一步提升。‘The proportion of work recovery in e-Commerce and Express delivery companies has moved further’.
- 生产销售 ‘production and sales’ → 产销 ‘production and sales’: 产销对接进一步顺畅，为增强生活必需品市场供应提供有力保障。‘The system of production and sales has improved further, which reliably ensures an increase in the supply of basic necessities’.
Among them abbreviated words‘first of all to ensure’,‘the battle to ensure the supply’,‘to leave Wuhan’ are not stable, but only temporarily used in this and other reports with similar content, but the context makes it easy for people to associate them with full forms, which justifies their use.
The number of abbreviated words of the truncated type is much smaller, but still widely used. For example,
- 中国人民解放军 ‘the people's liberation army of China’ → 解放军 ‘the people's liberation army’:整个国家立即动员起来，政府官员、解放军、平民等全员参与，这非常不易。(«Chinese military network» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.81.cn/jfjbmap/content/2020-03/05/content_255636.htm; (Date of access: 09.03.2020)). ‘The entire country was immediately mobilized, government officials, the people's liberation army of China (PLA), the peoples, etc., were fully involved, which was very difficult’.
- 中华人民共和国商务部 ‘Ministry of Commerce of the people's Republic of China’ → 商务部 ‘Ministry of Commerce’: 疫情发生以来，商务部也从未发布过有关口罩及其生产原材料出口的禁令，企业可以按照市场化原则开展相关贸易。(China central television, 2020) ((Online resource).
URL:; (Date of access: 10.03.2020)).
‘Since the outbreak, the Ministry of Commerce has also never issued a ban on the export of masks and raw materials for their production, and businesses have been able to trade in accordance with the principles of marketization’.
Meanwhile, we have noticed that although some abbreviated words of the truncated type are already fairly stable expressions and perfectly clear and understandable, most official reports still use their original forms. We believe that this is because by omitting the definition, some abbreviated words of the truncated type need to be understood within the context. For example:
- 复旦大学 ‘Fudan University’ → 复旦 ‘Fudan University’: 1月30日，国家卫健委正式批准复旦大学三级生物安全防护实验室（简称“P3实验室”）开展新型冠状病毒实验活动。(«China central television» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://news.cctv.com/2020/02/05/ARTIJ0bY9CHwGpzNRINjSlfm200205.shtml; (Date of access: 10.03.2020))
‘On January 30, the national health Committee officially approved the tertiary biosafety laboratory of Fudan University ("P3 Laboratory") to conduct experimental activities on the new coronavirus’.
- 清华大学 ‘Tsinghua University’ → 清华 ‘Tsinghua University’: 11月17日，沪剧《雷雨》在清华大学上演，这是上海沪剧院与清华大学的首次合作。(«China central television» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://news.cctv.com/2019/11/22/ARTIypzqlOpWw4YTTA9ZHcmM191122.shtml; (Date of access: 10.03.2020))
‘The Shanghai Opera was held at Tsinghua University on November 17, which is the first collaboration between the Shanghai drama theater and Tsinghua University’.
In the language of mass media, it is preferred to use abbreviated words of generalized type and abbreviated words with numbers, since usually their original phrases have much more hieroglyphs than abbreviated forms. For example,
- 有理想，有道德，有文化，有纪律 ‘have revolutionary ideals, sound morals, good education and a strong sense of discipline’ → 四有 ‘Four Haves’ (A word for word translation):
(News of China, 2020) ((Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2019/07-11/8891221.shtml; (Date of access: 05.03.2020)).
‘In the new period of policy reform and openness, from cultivating purposeful, highly moral, cultural and disciplined citizens, building civic ethics to building a system of basic values of socialism, cultural business and cultural industry are developing in parallel. The development of a culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics was fruitful’.
- 互相尊重主权和领土完整，互不侵犯，互不干涉内政，平等互利，和平共处 ‘Respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence’ → 和平共处五项原则 ‘The Five Principles of peaceful coexistence’:
(«China central television» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2020/02-15/9092667.shtml; (Date of access: 10.03.2020))
‘China is always ready to follow the five principles of peaceful coexistence with the American side, establish and develop long-term and stable relations of friendship and cooperation’.
We support the point of view of researcher Zhang (2013) in the article «New features and rules for using abbreviated words with letters». When using them, we must adhere to three principles: the principle of necessity, clarity, and targeting of the audience.
Abbreviated words with letters are mostly loanwords. Even if some of them mean concepts or objects typical of the Chinese tradition, but they are written in letters of foreign alphabets. The audience does not always understand and perceive their meaning. Moreover, according to the rules of the Chinese language, such words do not correspond to any common language or pronunciation norms. So, while recognizing their brevity and high efficiency of communication, it is necessary to pay attention to the rules for their correct use. Abuse of such words will not only lead to the fact that the information being distributed will not be understood and will not achieve the communication goals but also violate the normalization of the Chinese language. (Liao, 2006). Accepting a large number of words with letters, news should be easy to understand and should take the responsibility to standardize the language at the same time (Shu & Zhang, 2018).
About the principle of necessity for example we can take the abbreviated word‘4-in-1 car sales service store: sale, spare parts, service, customer feedback support’: the form is much simpler and shorter than the original phrase((((‘4-in-1 car sales service store: sale, spare parts, service, customer feedback support’. With the increase in the standard of living of the people, the car and its related concepts have become available to people, so that this abbreviated word is clear to almost everyone. In this case, it is absolutely possible and necessary to use this abbreviated word in the language of mass media for effective communication of information.
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/auto/2020/03-09/9118976.shtml; (Date of access: 11.03.2020))
‘Considering their own safety, consumers are not so willing to go to a 4- in- 1 store to buy and maintain vehicles’.
Some abbreviated words with letters correspond to more than one original word combination. For example, can match two combinations: and. Even if they are already well known to people, for differentiation and clarity, they are better used together with hieroglyphs that can explain what category they belong to ( ‘3C certification’); or with hieroglyphs that show the generic meaning ( ‘3C equipment’ or‘3C products’); if necessary, we can even assign their original forms.
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/sh/2020/02-27/9106620.shtml; (Date of access: 11.03.2020))
‘Accreditation and inspection bodies prioritize 3C certifications related to health safety, while simultaneously accepting online services, deferred on-site audits, and other ways to meet business needs’.
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL:; (Date of access: 11.03.2020))
‘3C products, household items, auto parts, tools, goods for mother and child from China are popular among the population of the Russian-speaking region’.
)(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL:; (Date of access: 11.03.2020))
‘Is there a 3C hardware (comment: common name for computers, communications, and household electrical goods.) for families in remote villages; families where education is carried out through a generation and low-income families, the Taichung city should take this opportunity to check’.
In this case, the form of writing abbreviated words with letters should be uniform: letters are written in large letters; numbers - in Arabic numerals; between numbers, letters and hieroglyphs, signs should not be used.
In addition, when using abbreviated words, it is necessary to take into account the level of culture and education of the recipients and the needs in different communication circumstances. For example, in a popular science report, professional scientific terms can be used in abbreviated form, since usually the audience of such reports has a reserve of relevant knowledge. In one of the reports about the introduction of new mobile phones the following abbreviated letters are used::;:;;:→:
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/it/2020/03-04/9113495.shtml; (Date of access: 12.03.2020))
‘Not only in the aspects of CPU, GPU, and RAM, the application of 5G technology has also become an important innovation in these new products’.
As for the transliteration of alphabetic abbreviations, it is not necessary to restore the original borrowed form in order to transmit them in Chinese, if transliterations are already widely available. But, of course, you can also use the original form and transliteration at the same time. For example,
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome → AIDS (edz) → 艾滋 (ai zi):
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/gj/2020/03-07/9116731.shtml; (Date of access: 12.03.2020))
‘WHO focuses on the supply of the most essential medicines that are critical for primary health care and emergencies, including antibiotics, painkillers and medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria’.
- International English Language Testing System → IELTS (ˈaɪ.ɛlts) → 雅思 (ya si);
- Test of English as a foreign language → TOEFL ('təufəl) → 托福 (tuo fu):
(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL: http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2020/03-01/9109515.shtml; (Date of access: 12.03.2020))
‘As a result of the epidemic, TOEFL, IELTS and GRE exams were canceled in the continental region in March’.
有道词典笔2.0内置了网易有道词典的全套词库，汉英大词典以及美国研究生入学考试(GRE)、考试()、考试()、美国中学/大学入学考试(SSAT/SAT)等专业词库。(«News of China» (Online resource). ‒ URL:; (Date of access: 12.03.2020))
‘Dictionary-pen 2.0 includes a full set of NetEase dictionaries, Chinese and English dictionaries, as well as professional thesauri such as GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, SSAT/ SAT and other exams’.
So, all types of abbreviated words can be used in the media language. Abbreviated words with a high degree of stability are usually used independently. At the same time, those that are not stable enough, or that are only specific to a certain group of people or a certain area, can be used together with their original forms.
Based on the above analysis, we can conclude that the widespread use of abbreviated words in the media language is regular and necessary, with strong linguistic and pragmatic foundations. Abbreviated words increase the communication efficiency of the media, on the contrary, the media constantly stimulate their birth, development and consolidation in the language. In the media language, we can use all types of abbreviated words, among which words of the compound type are the most common and are used more freely than other types. Abbreviated words with letters should be used according to the principle of necessity, clarity and targeting of the audience.
It is likely that in the future there will still be numerous new abbreviated words in the media, which will be increasingly used and gradually become stable abbreviated words.
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24 November 2020
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Education, educational psychology, pedagogy, positive pedagogy, special education, second language teaching
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Li, X. (2020). The Use of Abbreviated Words in the Chinese Media. In P. Besedová, N. Heinrichová, & J. Ondráková (Eds.), ICEEPSY 2020: Education and Educational Psychology, vol 1. European Proceedings of International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology (pp. 54-64). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epiceepsy.20111.5