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Quest

The Chinese script has been misunderstood.

Read Quest's post and give you opinion:  

  1. 1. Read Quest's post and give you opinion:

    • I absolutely agree with Quest!
      7
    • I somewhat agree with Quest.
      4
    • I agree with Quest on some points and disagree on others.
      6
    • I see where Quest is coming from, but he is wrong.
      5
    • I totally disagree.
      2


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Quest

Another thing is, the vocabulary used in speaking is much less than in writing. Some ideas and concepts are better conveyed through writing. I think the same thing is true in English.

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skylee
On the other side of the coin' date=' however, there is quite a lot of written Chinese that has become 'addicted' to this aspect of characters. That is, the characters are needed because the meaning would not be clear simply from the pronunciation.

Now this is where the controversy begins. People, especially literate people, are not happy if this particular tool is taken away from them. They have the 'right' to this great 'richness' of the writing system, and depriving them of it is a great loss to Chinese culture. Abolishing characters amounts to the 'dumbing down' of Chinese.

The opposite view is, if you need such a complicated writing system to support your habit, maybe you should change your habit. In other words, face the discipline of the language as it is pronounced and stop relying on the written word to make your meaning clear. This would be better for all concerned.[/quote']

Hmmm ... "addiction" and "habit" of literate people ... perhaps we could call it "culture"? 8)

no native speakers find it hard to learn/use Chinese characters...

Exactly.

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Quest
Hmmm ... "addiction" and "habit" of literate people ... perhaps we could call it "culture"?

exactly.

sure it's not lost, it's just in that messy corner somewhere in your garage, until everyone in the house forgets that that something's ever existed.

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bathrobe
If a student sees a question like this (without context):

"Use the word "xiao3" to make a sentence."

Well, does it make much more sense to say 'Use 小 to make a sentence?' After all, 小 in 小说 is not a word, it's part of a word (the word 小说, literally 'little speak', which only makes sense if you know that 'little speak' means 'novel' in Chinese). In other words, 小 is not used to 'make a sentence', it's used to make a word.

The correct question should be, 'Use xiao3shuo1 to make a sentence'.

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Quest
Well, does it make much more sense to say 'Use 小 to make a sentence?'

If you learned 小, it makes sense.

If you learned xiao3, what xiao3?which xiao3?

小说 creates no confusion. 小, no confusion.

xiao3..... what xiao3?

The correct question should be, 'Use xiao3shuo1 to make a sentence'.

The question is not use " xiao3shuo1", but use "xiao3".

no context provided:

"yong4 'xiao3' zao4 yi1ge4 ju4zi"

用"小"造一个句子。

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Quest
小 in 小说 is not a word, it's part of a word

小 is a word meaning little/small.

Xiao3 is a word meaning.....^n

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ala

This is slightly exaggerated. There are many cases where the meaning is clear enough -- there is no need to add 'semantic content' for the text to be intelligible.

Of course. I was pointing out that if you wished to preserve Chinese as used today, you will need a phonetic system that incorporates some semantics as opposed to a pure phonetic script like Hanyu Pinyin, because you WILL FIND CASES WHERE THE AMBIGUITIES DO EXIST. On the other hand if you are a socialist, as I wrote before: "The other choice is the existing pinyin system compounded with gradual language transitions (encouraging more polysyllabic words that lack ambiguity, etc), kind of like Korea." I would think the first method of semantic adoption into the phonetic script would cause less changes to the literary tradition than the latter, although both will in the long-term be changed.

Two paths for Romanization of Chinese:

1. pseudo-phonetic script initiation (the actual implementation can test and determine the most suitable degree of semantics incorporation to maximize both ease of use and literary considerations).

2. pure phonetic script initiation

All Romanizations of Chinese have been pure phonetic scripts (with the exception of Gwoyeu Romatzyh on foreign loan words).

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bathrobe
Hmmm ... "addiction" and "habit" of literate people ... perhaps we could call it "culture"?

Once you start appealing to 'culture' you have a bottomless pit.

For a start, cultures change... indeed, there are some aspects of 'culture' that are better changed. One man's culture may be another man's poison.

In my earlier posting (which I have since edited) I noted: 'But of course, a small minority culture without its own script (like that of the Li) isn't much of a loss, is it?'

I was being ironic, of course, but I think that most Han Chinese, in their heart of hearts, really think this way. Talk about the loss of this great heritage of Chinese characters and great emotions are unleashed. On the other hand, only small value is attached to such 'insignificant' minority cultures within China.

Would you be too upset if I suggested that attachment to Chinese characters goes hand in hand with great Han chauvinism?

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ala
小 in 小说 is not a word, it's part of a word

小 is a word meaning little/small.

Xiao3 is a word meaning.....^n

No, bathrobe is right. 小 in 小说 is just a part of the word. The equivalent is the root micro- in microphone.

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bathrobe

This is slightly exaggerated. There are many cases where the meaning is clear enough -- there is no need to add 'semantic content' for the text to be intelligible.

Of course. I was pointing out that if you wished to preserve Chinese as used today' date=' you will need a phonetic system that incorporates some semantics as opposed to a pure phonetic script like Hanyu Pinyin, because you WILL FIND CASES WHERE THE AMBIGUITIES DO EXIST.[/quote']

ala, I wish you would not quote me out of context. In my very next sentence I agreed with what you said!

On the other side of the coin, however, there is quite a lot of written Chinese that has become 'addicted' to this aspect of characters. That is, the characters are needed because the meaning would not be clear simply from the pronunciation. ....

Which ever position you take, abolishing Chinese characters and switching to an alphabet system of some sorts would force the language to change. There is no doubt that there would be loss, as the traditionalists point out, and they would be considerably more than the reformers suspect.

That is, unless a system like the one you suggest is adopted, the language itself would be forced to change as a result of changing the writing system.

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Quest
小 in 小说 is not a word' date=' it's part of a word [/quote']

小 is a word meaning little/small.

Xiao3 is a word meaning.....^n

No, bathrobe is right. 小 in 小说 is just a part of the word. The equivalent is the root micro- in microphone.

I guess I didn't make it clear that I was talking about "xiao3" not "xiao3shuo1".

so let me make it clear:

bathrobe gave an example "xiao3shuo1".

I gave another example "xiao3", by itself, not in the context of xiao3shuo1.

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skylee
Hmmm ... "addiction" and "habit" of literate people ... perhaps we could call it "culture"?

Once you start appealing to 'culture' you have a bottomless pit.

Yeah I guess I am in such a pit and 甘之若飴. Not everyone falls in, though.

In my earlier posting (which I have since edited) I noted: 'But of course' date=' a small minority culture without its own script (like that of the Li) isn't much of a loss, is it?'

I was being ironic, of course, but I think that most Han Chinese, in their heart of hearts, really think this way. Talk about the loss of this great heritage of Chinese characters and great emotions are unleashed. On the other hand, only small value is attached to such 'insignificant' minority cultures within China.

Would you be too upset if I suggested that attachment to Chinese characters goes hand in hand with great Han chauvinism? [/quote']

Is it very different in other countries?

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bathrobe
so let me make it clear:

bathrobe gave an example "xiao3shuo1".

I gave another example "xiao3", by itself, not in the context of xiao3shuo1.

Your point is valid in the way you have put it. There is ambiguity that is resolved by the writing system.

If the script purely represented the pronunciation of the language, a new way would have to be found to make the meaning clear, just as in the spoken language (Use 'xiao3', 'da4xiao3 de xiao3', to make a sentence).

But this does not invalidate the fact that 'xiao3shuo1' would, in time, be identified by Chinese speakers from its graphic shape, just as 小说 is now.

Rather than English, you should look at languages like Spanish, Italian, or Polish, where the language represents the pronunciation almost perfectly. Even in languages like these, I think you will find that speakers recognise words from their written 'shape'.

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bathrobe

Is it very different in other countries?

Probably not. And I would take the same point of view with regard to other countries.

When I know that such vandalism is being wrought on other cultures, however, it kind of spoils my admiration for 'high cultures', whether you are talking about Chinese characters, Shakespeare, or whatever.

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ala

I guess I didn't make it clear that I was talking about "xiao3" not "xiao3shuo1".

so let me make it clear:

bathrobe gave an example "xiao3shuo1".

I gave another example "xiao3"' date=' by itself, not in the context of xiao3shuo1.[/quote']

I thought your original example was because of going pinyin we have to clarify our questions like:

"yong4 xiaoshuo de xiao, zuo4 yige ju4zi."

(用小说的小,作一个句子。)

If that is the case, then your example is flawed because if we had spelt novel as xiaoshuo, then "xiaoshuo de xiao" would be nonsensical since characters in this hypothetical reform would be irrelevant already. As result, people no longer associate xiaoshuo de xiao as 小, and no longer see characters as "the base" of the phonetic script. And suppose we reach the consensus that xiao3 = small. Then the question "yong4 xiao3, zuo4 yige ju4zi" would be easily understood. Certainly using xiaoshuo de xiao would make little sense. Perhaps da4xiao3 de xiao3.

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Quest
As result, people no longer associate xiaoshuo de xiao as 小, and no longer see characters as "the base" of the phonetic script. And suppose we reach the consensus that xiao3 = small. Then the question "yong4 xiao3, zuo4 yige ju4zi" would be easily understood.

Ala, are you a native speaker of Chinese?

I see what you mean, but well.. at least me and people I know would not interpret

"yong4 xiaoshuo de xiao, zuo4 yige ju4zi."

the way you do :P

so I don't know.

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bathrobe
...your example is flawed because if we had spelt novel as xiaoshuo, then "xiaoshuo de xiao" would be nonsensical since characters in this hypothetical reform would be irrelevant already. As result, people no longer associate xiaoshuo de xiao as 小, and no longer see characters as "the base" of the phonetic script.

Actually, a consciousness of these bases does not really disappear, although it may get a little fuzzy.

Just look at Vietnamese. Just because they no longer have the characters doesn't mean that they are completely oblivious of the meanings of roots borrowed from Chinese. (In fact, Vietnamese is quite interesting in this regard. It shows that you can people can be conscious of the meaning of such roots without knowing the characters -- although knowing the characters helps a lot, especially where the same root has several meanings).

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ala

In Shanghainese 小 (little/small) is timed with one extra measure. sho-o. 小说 is pronounced shosok without the extra measure. Before going to grade school, I never thought that "shosok" contained a 小, it was just "novel" to me. It's not intuitive that a novel is called 小说, maybe a short story. At least not to me....

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ala

Actually' date=' a consciousness of these bases does not really disappear, although it may get a little fuzzy.

Just look at Vietnamese.[/quote']

Oh no no, I'm aware of that. It's that for certain words like xiaoshuo = novel. The xiao there, I really don't see how it can be made aware unless the characters 小说 is still floating around all the time. For all I know, if I were character illiterate, the xiao could be 晓. But, I agree, in examples such as 大小 daxiao, 小学 xiaoxue... of course, the xiao is still understood.

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Ian_Lee

I agree with Quest somewhat that Chinese and other romanized languages like English is hard to compare since they are two entirely different systems.

First of all, which one is easier to learn?

For Chinese, they need to learn about 3,000 characters in their 12-year education. (Japanese students 1,945 characters in 12 years.) So if averaged out, it is 250 characters a school year -- that is only about one character every school day.

That is not a heavy load at all.

English seems easier to learn since it just got 26 alphabets which can be learnt in 10 days.

But there is a big difference -- each of the 3,000 Chinese characters carries meaning but individual alphabet is meaningless. The latter has to form in whatever combination to make a word to have meaning.

So how many English words are there? Read:

http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/JohnnyLing.shtml

An estimate from 450,000 -- 750,000 words.

Of course, normally we don't leatn that many English words. But I guess students in Law, Medical, Pharmacy,...etc probably needs to learn over 200,000 words in their profession.

Moreover, English is comparatively easy as compared with other phonetic languages. Lanuages like German or Greek would have more variation or richer vocabulary.

So which is easier to handle?

3,000 characters or 30,000 English words (my guess on normal daily English usage)?

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