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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!
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    • 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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nnt

Even if the figures in the link provided above are impressive, we can also read:

An average educated person knows about 20,000 words and uses about 2,000 words in a week.

So the figures are not so different from Chinese concerning common usage...

We can also notice that the structure of words in European languages (by the notion of roots, prefixes, suffices, inflexions...) greatly reduces the effort to learn those 20000 "words" (many of which are just variations of a same "root") as we can see at this web page:

http://learning.ricr.ac.th/Efcass/chapter2.htm

In any language the number of words for everyday usage do not exceed 3000 (humain brain and human needs are the same everywhere)

The problem is those 3000 basic words are more or less difficult to learn depending on the language.

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Quest
In any language the number of words for everyday usage do not exceed 3000 (humain brain and human needs are the same everywhere)

Not true, 3000 is the character count, not vocab/word count.

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bathrobe
So which is easier to handle?

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

Just to support the two previous posts, Chinese may or may not have 3,000 characters, but it certainly has more than 3,000 words!

Again, why keep comparing Chinese with English. English is far from ideal as an example of a language using an alphabet. Use German, Spanish, Czech, or even Vietnamese -- not English!

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smithsgj

The only one of those I know is Spanish. As in English, there's nothing countable that corresponds to the Chinese character at all. Chinese characters are not words, as has been pointed out, nor are they like letters, Ian Lee.

As minimal units of the writing system, one could compare letters of the alphabet to Chinese radicals. Except that there are nine times as many radicals, their appearance can vary wildly within the same font, they are configured within the character in a seemingly limitless variety of ways, and unlike Spanish (or even English) letters, cannot be relied upon for a consistent phonetic contribution.

More than ten days work there, methinks.

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bathrobe

My point relates to this part:

In a sense, you are really remembering the order and shape of a set of basic units, much like remembering spelling order in English

English spelling is complex and hard to remember, which is why Quest might want to compare it to the complexity of Chinese characters. It is much easier in more 'phonetic' languages.

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Ian_Lee
Chinese characters are not words

Chinese words are normally formed by a compound of two Chinese characters. But such words usually are self-explanatory since each character carries its own meaning and the compound's meaning is a derivation of these two meanings.

But in English, it is different. Most words are not self-explanatory. Unless you check it out in the dictionary, you may not understand the meaning.

But that is not the case with Chinese compound words.

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skylee
Chinese characters are not words, as has been pointed out

I do not agree. (I declare again I am no linguist, am a complete layman, but a native speaker.) What is the definition of "word"? My Longman dictionary says, "one or more sounds which can be spoken (together) to represent an idea, object, action, etc". My Collins Cobuild dictionary says, "a single unit of language that can be represented in writing or speech".

I think each Chinese character is a word, because each of them is a unit and has its own meaning. There is of course another form of word "詞", which are compound words/terms built up by more than one character.

I hope I am not very wrong. (Alas, I remember someone here once said, "but people are usually wrong", implying that linguists are often right. Alas.)

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smithsgj

Ian that's not always true, as the 小說 example shows. There are plenty of "idiomatic" compounds, where the compound does not equal the sum of the parts.

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Ian_Lee

Actually I don't understand why so many people think that every Chinese will have an easier life if its language is phonetic.

That is a purely preconceived notion based on their own learning experience.

I never encountered any problem in learning Chinese the way it is taught now.

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smithsgj

Skylee your definitions are fine (they were probably written by linguists) :wink:

The idea that a Chinese character represents a word or wordlike unit went out with the ark, sorry.

If we're going to discuss this we probably need a thread for it.

Just to get it rolling, how many words in 玻璃 would you say?

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Quest
Actually I don't understand why so many people think that every Chinese will have an easier life if its language is phonetic.

That is a purely preconceived notion based on their own learning experience.

I never encountered any problem in learning Chinese the way it is taught now.

:lol::lol::lol:

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bathrobe
Actually I don't understand why so many people think that every Chinese will have an easier life if its language is phonetic.

That is a purely preconceived notion based on their own learning experience.

I never encountered any problem in learning Chinese the way it is taught now.

Well, well, you've finally realised the topic of this thread. Now that you've made this statement, perhaps you can start supporting it...

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bathrobe
The idea that a Chinese character represents a word or wordlike unit went out with the ark, sorry.

But still widely held.

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bathrobe

The 玻璃 example is a good one. It is one of a relatively small set of truly multisyllabic morphemes. Others are 玫瑰, 轱辘, 葡萄, etc.

Even without these examples, it is clear that you have to 'know' Chinese words in order to speak the language. What is a 电梯? An 'electric ladder'? Yes, we know it's a lift, but that's because we know, not because we can tell from the characters. Which character in 经济 tells you that this word means 'economy'?

When dealing with their own language, speakers of Chinese are constantly making judgements about what is a word and what is not. Take this sentence, which initially looks like it might have something to do with Japan, but doesn't.

单程票当日本站有效

I don't think this needs an extra thread because it is integral to arguments about the 'ease of learning' the Chinese writing system.

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Quest
When dealing with their own language, speakers of Chinese are constantly making judgements about what is a word and what is not.

No, 字, 词, 成语 have very definite and clear meanings. They do not make judgements. They only do it when they try to explain their language to foreigners, because foreigners can't distinguish between those 3.

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bathrobe
When dealing with their own language, speakers of Chinese are constantly making judgements about what is a word and what is not.

No, 字, 词, 成语 have very definite and clear meanings. They do not make judgements. They only do it when they try to explain their language to foreigners, because foreigners can't distinguish between those 3.

You still make a judgement, even if it is an effortless or unconscious judgement. Explaining to someone who doesn't understand is the first step to understanding your own unspoken assumptions.

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smithsgj

Well in the example given by bathrobe they are called upon to make just such a judgement aren't they Quest? Surely it's obvious that without whitespace separating words, establishing where the word boundaries are is non-trivial?

To do any kind of processing of Chinese text, you need to know where the word boundaries are. There are some sophisticated algorithms that do this automatically, but they often get it wrong.

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nnt
In any language the number of words for everyday usage do not exceed 3000 (humain brain and human needs are the same everywhere)

Not true, 3000 is the character count, not vocab/word count.

Well, let's change the ... words :wink: . 3000 "concepts" or "ideas" or "things" or "objects" (for computer-oriented minds) are all that's necessary for a human being for his daily interactions with his fellows.

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smithsgj

> "concepts" or "ideas" or "things" or "objects" ??

How many of those are there? How many concepts exist?

There's absolutely no way to quantify it, it's meaningless to even try. There are computational ontologies, but they don't attempt to cover all possible domains.

One thing is for certain: more than the number of *words* in English or Chinese or any other language.

edited bit starts here:

The number of Chinese characters = (more or less) the number of morphemes, meaningful components of words. Like micro/phone, green/house, 小/說. All of these can act as additionally as words, in other contexts, with the (possible) exception of micro, so they are called "free morphemes". This is not a requirement: 朋友 and geography, for example, consist of two bound morphemes each. Chinese has loads of examples of words containnig one free and one bound morpheme; these are extremely rare in English (but an example is "cranberry", so these morphemes are sometimes know as "cranberry morphs").

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nnt
Chinese characters are not words

Chinese words are normally formed by a compound of two Chinese characters. But such words usually are self-explanatory since each character carries its own meaning and the compound's meaning is a derivation of these two meanings.

But in English, it is different. Most words are not self-explanatory. Unless you check it out in the dictionary, you may not understand the meaning.

But that is not the case with Chinese compound words.

In classic Chinese, each character had a meaning of its own.

Not all compound words are self explanatory, that's why such dictionaries as 辞源 ci2 yuan2 (Chinese etymology dictionary)

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