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Various assorted questions a university student of Chinese has to ask....


Xi'Er Dun

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I have quite a few questions about various aspects of Chinese language, that maybe an expert of native speaker can answer for me.... I warn you reading them all will be time consuming...

My first group of questions are "what is the proper (native speaker) grammatical order of Chinese (PuTongHua普通話), to construct a sentence?"

I've been told many times in Chinese class that the subject--whether it be "I", "you", a time, or a location comes at the very beginning of a sentence.

At where exactly in a Chinese sentece does an interrogative noun like "what" or "where", etc. placed in a sentence?

Do various Han Chinese dialects 漢語 or languages vary in grammatical order?

I know that there is no future tense or per se in PuTongHua but I've read that it exists in spoken Cantonese....

My next group of questions are when did Modern Chinese (Mandarin) stop using the female second person pronoun [妳 ni3, er3]?

When did Modern Chinese stop using the polite third person pronoun [怹tan1]?

I've read that somewhere in Ancient Chinese 古文 (I'm not sure what period exactly),

[烏 wu1] which means "crow" and sometimes "black" served as an interrogative particle?

How was it used exacly?

Another particle used was [巴 ba1], what its function?

This Hanzi 漢字 now is known to mean Guangdong [粵 yue4], but I read somewhere that it was once used as an initial particle, possible with the same function as [曰 yue1], Classical: to speak. This is interesting because in a Japanese Kanji dictionary it says that [粵 etsu エツ] had a meaning of "alas".

When did the great change in the pronounciation of Modern Mandarin or Late Chinese take place? I am referring to the syllables todays "qing" was once pronounced like "ts'ing", and "qi" was "ki". "Wo (o)" was once "ngo", "an" was "ngan", "er" was "gni/nyi", "ma" was possibly "va" (I'm not sure), "yü" was "ng(y)ü", "jing" was "ging" (not fully voiced), "ni" was "gni/nyi"" too I think. (I know I should be using the International Phonetic Alphabet for transcription but it takes a lot of time to input). These sound changes are noticable in the original Wade-Giles orthography and the revised versions later on.

Now yes I know... maybe I should lay of the questions for a while, but my last major question is "Do the later editions of the Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary have more Hanzi entries and references?" I have already mentioned this dictionary of this forum but I have the 1963 publication, do the say 1975 or later publications have more more Hanzi 汉字 entries?

Well.... that's about it for now....

I hope some experts can answer at least most of my questions...

Thankyou for your reading time.

谢谢您

Xi ' Er Dun 希尔顿 from 澳洲 Australia

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hey there fellow Australian,

firstly, I think you are reading too much. Far too conscientious. Where did you learn to read in Australia? The government has been discouraging that sort of activity for decades. Must have had hippy parents. So like your parents would say... let it flow little dude/dudette.

Secondly, and you will have to forgive me if I am wrong but I have had a couple of wines, it seems everything you have read about Putonghua is incorrect. Everything. That's to be expected; that's how learning Chinese works.

Thirdly... your questions.

1) at the end of the sentence or somewhere near it. In English it goes like "you are who?" "you at what time went to sleep?" "Your phone number is how many?" "you drank cider with whom?" "You, when you go to the city centre, want to do what?".

2) someone smart will have to help you with the next question. But 乌 is one part of the word for 'crow' meaning 'black'. But don't worry about those things now. Why are you reading a Japanese dictionary to understand Chinese? Stop it!

3) There were other systems used to romanise Chinese. The spelling is different but the pronunciation hasn't changed. Spellings such as 'Peking' and 'Yangtse Kiang' led to Western mispronunciations, but the intended pronunciations were the same as Beijing and Yangzi Jiang.

4) As for the later Matthews dictionary. You can have my copy. Stop reading so much (and do what the government tells you). You don't need more hanzi. Just enough to start, then a couple more, then a few more. And please don't tatoo any damned hanzi on yourself until you have been studying for a few years.

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Hi Hilton,

Your questions are truely complicated.

Well, interrogative nouns like "what" or "where" are always placed at the end of sentences.

The female you is Traditional Chinese. Traditional Chinese was officially stopped to use at the end of 1860s. wu(1) in ancient chinese means "where, what" as an interrogative particle. Does it make sense?

I'm so sorry that I can't answer your other questions.

Joyce

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Again, I echo the fact that your questions are complicated, and I don't have time right now to answer all of them, but the felt I HAD to answer the one about where the interrogative particle goes in the sentence, because it is NOT ALWAYS at the end of the sentence.

The basic rule is that the interrogative particle goes exactly where the answer to the that question would go. Sentence order in questions is the same as sentence order in the answers. The interrogative particle goes wherever the unknown variable in the sentence is. For instance you can say shei xihuan gou 谁喜欢狗? and gou xihuan shei 狗喜欢谁? The difference between the two sentences (awkward though they are - no imagination this early in the morning) is the subject of the sentence is the unknown part of the sentence in the first one, whereas the object of the second sentence is the unknown variable. To answer the questions, you simply replace the unknown variable (the question word) with the answer. Basic Chinese sentence structure is S-V-O or S-Predicate, where any modifiers will precede the thing it modifies (so you generally get STPVO = S-Time when the verb occurs-Place where the verb occurs-V-O).

And for classical - check out Pullyblank's Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar for a quick and informative reference on many different particles, words, etc. and how they are used in classical. two things to keep in mind when looking at both classical and modern Chinese: for the longest time, for most people it was a spoken language, without the the "luxury" of changing word order or tone/pitch to reflect inquisition, so they had to come up with other ways to represent these things. With the limited sounds in Chinese and the complicated nature of the written language (all those darn characters), many words would be borrowed for the phonetic properties in order to represent another word, and words were often mis-written (thus all those darn variants in classical texts). Plus, they didn't really have punctuation, and represented sentence pauses with little circles. Probably (this is a guess - I am not a historical linguist) because there weren't different punctuations for things like questions, exclamations, etc., they ended up with words/sentence-final particles that represented different kinds of punctuation.

As for Matthews - actually don't think there is any difference between old versions and newer editions. It was written/published pre-word processing and even in brand new books, there are words out of order (though there is an index of these at the beginning). In his defense as far as pronunciation - his sources were most likely cantonese speakers. He did great work very early in the study of Chinese, and made the effort to learn about traditional Chinese culture.

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when did Modern Chinese (Mandarin) stop using the female second person pronoun [妳 ni3, er3]?
They didn't. Well, I've never heard er3, but 妳 is very common. You can't hear the difference with 你, of course, but it's written often enough to know its usage is still alive & kicking. There's another interesting thread on this word, you can try searching for it.
"what is the proper (native speaker) grammatical order of Chinese (PuTongHua普通話), to construct a sentence?" I've been told many times in Chinese class that the subject--whether it be "I", "you", a time, or a location comes at the very beginning of a sentence.
That's a fine rule of thumb, but when you start listening to Chinese speaking Chinese you'll soon find that the right word order is not so straightforward. Consider the line above roddy's avatar: 他啊?放假了,好像 which means 他好像放假了 or He seems to be on holiday.
Do various Han Chinese dialects 漢語 or languages vary in grammatical order?
They do, but I'm afraid I can't tell you many details about this. But since you're learning Mandarin, not other dialects, you don't need to worry about this.
know that there is no future tense or per se in PuTongHua but I've read that it exists in spoken Cantonese....
There are no tenses in Putonghua in the western-language sense of the world, future nor past. To indicate future, you can say stuff like 'tomorrow, I go to the movies' or 'next year I go to China', or use 會 or 要.
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