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dmoser

Characters are objectively harder, even for Chinese

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ala
We as students also hated reading pinyin books, because we all thought it was much harder to read in pinyin.

You must've went to a very hardcore school, because we complained regularly about memorizing the damn characters. I never thought of the characters as having much of any point other than to make us memorize stuff at an early age, well and then being literate in Chinese society. I never handwrite in Chinese anymore. There's a reason for this: I can't very well. Not many Chinese I know after college can compose a page-long academic essay by hand without making at least four or five 错别字, not to mention the stroke mistakes. You might as well say, the Chinese IME's have sort of saved Chinese, or at least postponed its death.

Pinyin is nearly not used at all outside of the classrooms; there is only one system to write Chinese.

I'm curious, how do you type Chinese into the computer? I think 95% of the Chinese computing population use either pinyin or zhuyin fuhao. Pinyin is VERY MUCH used in Chinese society, it's just that there's also a very unnecessary stigma imposed on it. In Japanese though, the kana script is a very good fallback.

I'm for Chinese characters, but I disagree with the justification that pinyin is harder than the characters. And I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to write in pinyin for characters I've momentarily forgotten without being branded as an illiterate. The goal of the characters is to enrich my expressive capabilities in the Chinese language, not to obstruct them.

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Quest
I never thought of the characters as having much of any point other than to make us memorize stuff at an early age, well and then being literate in Chinese society.

You've said it, the point is to be literate. Every script can be streamlined and simplified or further standardized, but if the current script is not really that much of a trouble, why bother? I am sure English is not in its most efficient form either.

I never handwrite in Chinese anymore. There's a reason for this: I can't very well.

Could that be perhaps you've lived outside of China for a while? a long while? I'd be very impressed if you answer no.

Not many Chinese I know after college can compose a page-long academic essay by hand without making at least four or five 错别字, not to mention the stroke mistakes.

Well I see there's the "Grammar/ABC check" in word processors for most languages. It is OKAY to make four or five mistakes in a college essay :wall

You might as well say, the Chinese IME's have sort of saved Chinese, or at least postponed its death.

I think the reverse is true.

but I disagree with the justification that pinyin is harder than the characters.

It is not harder, but it does not work as well as the characters in a range of areas. I disagree with some posters' view that the written script of a language is merely a means to represent what one would say in the spoken language. Culture, language, and its script are interdepdent, simplification should only be considered if we can do it in a way that it does not upset the balance among the three. Going full blown PinYin is going too far.

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pazu

[Ala]: I think Quest is right to say that "pinyin is nearly not used at all outside of the classrooms", I think he meant to say you can't read it often outside the classroom. And the fact that you have to input pinyin to get the Chinese characters shows that pinyin is a help for wriitng Chinese only, while it doesn't mean that pinyin is a way for Chinese to read, at least not for now. Or you can say this is a lack of training, but when I read my Putonghua textbook in full pinyin, I got a headache, it's painfully slow process (when compared to reading Chinese characters), okay but then I was learning Mandarin...

[nnt]: The advantage of using Latinized Vietnamese is beyond any doubt, but the fact that reading Latinized Vietnamese can be quite slow is an obvious drawback of using Latinized Vietnamese (especially when they are written syllable by syllable). This may be subjective, but I've really asked my Vietnamese friends and family (Hoa Kieu, of Chinese origin) who could read Chinese and Vietnamese both fluently, but all of them agreed that reading Vietnamese can be much slower than Chinese, or even English. Nnt, do you agree?

[smith]: But you have ignored my example of ROOF, I really tried to search it now, it's so clear that if I want to search for the "roof" in Vietnamese, I can just pick up my Eng-Viet dictionary to check up the words ROOF; again, I tried to search it in my 華越學生詞典 (運載交通出版社), I tried to search "wū" first (屋), and they didn't have the word "wūdĭng"; then I tried "fáng" (房), I found "fángdĭng" now.

This is what I mean, and this is why I kept both Eng-Viet and Chi-Viet dictionaries with me. Both dictionaries I used were designed for students, (the Eng-Viet one is published by TP-HCM Publisher), both with similar sizes, but the English one works easier in many cases.

I think one reason is (of course) the design of the dictionaries, another reason is the freedom of coining new words in Chinese, that allows you to combine words quite freely, which enriches the language to a large extent, but while it's easy for human to understand, it can be difficult to be "databased", as in a dictionary.

[Ala] again, when you talked about the education of Chinese characters, I remembered one of my Chinese teachers in the secondary school (S3, when I was 14 years old). Her way of teaching Chinese to us was quite new, when we couldn't remember how to write a Chinese character, we could just write a homophone, and she wouldn't deduct marks if the sounds were really exactly the same. Though we couldn't write pīnyīn at that time (I was educated in the Hong Kong's Cantonese world), things were probably easier for us.

I remembered I wrote this in one composition:

一個靜「密」深「碎」的晚上,

(一個靜謐深邃的晚上,)

She deducted one mark from me only because "碎" wasn't a homophone of "邃".

When I think it back, this is a good way and may also encourage students to write what they have in mind even if the characters were difficult... but I remembered she suggested me to avoid using difficult words, and she said that this sentence sounded strange too...

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pazu

[smith] :

ti4.gif

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trevelyan

Nice to see David Moser lurking here -- count me in as someone who loved "Why Chinese is So Damn Hard". Anyone know where David's new article is posted/printed/available in its entirety?

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nnt

but the fact that reading Latinized Vietnamese can be quite slow is an obvious drawback of using Latinized Vietnamese (especially when they are written syllable by syllable).

Pazu:

I'm surprised. This is the first time I've ever heard this. :shock:

I think it's subjective or a matter of training: if you spell at each word' date=' or if you don't read many books, yes, but still I'm surprised. Not obvious for me.

Perhaps, (just a guess :wink: )as your friends are of Chinese origins and slightly more accustomed to [i']reading[/i] Chinese characters than to Vietnamese alphabet, they have the same reaction, perhaps to a much lesser degree, as your's facing Pinyin :

I read my Putonghua textbook in full pinyin' date=' I got a headache, it's painfully slow process [/quote']

IMHO it's just a question of habit. Chinese character reading is synthetic, while reading alphabet-based words is an analytic process (spelling for beginners). This could explain why.

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ala

1933年汉口世界语者焦风(方善境)从苏联世界语刊物、国际革命世界语作家协会机关刊《新阶段》1933年第二期翻译肖三写的《中国语书法拉丁化》一文,由上海世界语者叶籁士寄给中外出版公司的《国际每日文选》于8月12日出版。这篇译文是点燃起中国拉丁化新文字运动的第一支火炬。鲁迅在《门外文谈》一书中热烈支持。1935年陶行知发起成立了中国新文字研究会,他和邹韬奋等当选为理事。他们是热心推广新文字运动的文化界知名人士。北方话拉丁化新文字(简称北拉)从上海推广到全国许多城市,各种方言都搞拉丁化方案。上海有上海话方案,广州有广州话方案。形成了一个广泛的拉丁化运动。同时胡绳(世界语者)编了《上海话新文字概论》,陈原(中华全国世界语协会名誉会长)也编了《广州话新文字课本》,可见拉丁化新文字运动与世界语运动是多么密切。在《汉语拼音方案》公布后,以北拉为旗帜的中国拉丁化新文字运动结束了,而广州话拉丁化新文字(简称广拉)在港澳地区仍就沿用下来。

Everyone knows who Lu Xun is, but most do not know that he was a strong supporter for decentralized (dialect-based) Romanized scripts to replace Chinese characters (you wouldn't call Lu Xun a separatist, would you?). Hanyu Pinyin was the ultimate killer of the entire movement: 1. it was centralized (based on the Beijing dialect), 2. it was crippled at birth (incapable as a standalone script) and legislated as a much lower subordinate to the characters.

Here's excerpts of Lu Xun's 《门外文谈》

古人传文字给我们,原是一份重大的遗产,应该感谢的。但在成了不象形的象形字,不十分谐声的谐声字的现在,这感谢却只好踌蹰一下了。

因为文字是特权者的东西,所以它就有了尊严性,并且有了神秘性。中国的字,到现在还很尊严,我们在墙壁上,就常常看见挂着写上“敬惜字纸”的篓子;至于符的驱邪治病,那就靠了它的神秘性的。文字既然含着尊严性,那么,知道文字,这人也就连带的尊严起来了。新的尊严者日出不穷,对于旧的尊严者就不利,而且知道文字的人们一多,也会损伤神秘性的。符的威力,就因为这好像是字的东西,除道士以外,谁也不认识的缘故。所以,对于文字,他们一定要把持。欧洲中世,文章学问,都在道院里;克罗蒂亚(Kroatia)〔24〕,是到了十九世纪,识字的还只有教士的,人民的口语,退步到对于旧生活刚够用。他们革新的时候,就只好从外国借进许多新语来。

我们中国的文字,对于大众,除了身分,经济这些限制之外,却还要加上一条高门槛:难。单是这条门槛,倘不费他十来年工夫,就不容易跨过。跨过了的,就是士大夫,而这些士大夫,又竭力的要使文字更加难起来,因为这可以使他特别的尊严,超出别的一切平常的士大夫之上。汉朝的杨雄的喜欢奇字,就有这毛病的,刘歆想借他的《方言》稿子,他几乎要跳黄浦。〔25〕唐朝呢,樊宗师的文章做到别人点不断〔26〕,李贺的诗做到别人看不懂〔27〕,也都为了这缘故。还有一种方法是将字写得别人不认识,下焉者,是从《康熙字典》〔28〕上查出几个古字来,夹进文章里面去;上焉者是钱坫的用篆字来写刘熙的《释名》〔29〕,最近还有钱玄同先生的照《说文》字样给太炎先生抄《小学答问》。〔30〕。

七不识字的作家

  用那么艰难的文字写出来的古语摘要,我们先前也叫“文”,现在新派一点的叫“文学”,这不是从“文学子游子夏”〔32〕上割下来的,是从日本输入,他们的对于英文Literature的译名。会写写这样的“文”的,现在是写白话也可以了,就叫作“文学家”,或者叫“作家”。

 文学的存在条件首先要会写字,那么,不识字的文盲群里,当然不会有文学家的了。然而作家却有的。你们不要太早的笑我,我还有话说。我想,人类是在未有文字之前,就有了创作的,可惜没有人记下,也没有法子记下。我们的祖先的原始人,原是连话也不会说的,为了共同劳作,必需发表意见,才渐渐的练出复杂的声音来,假如那时大家抬木头,都觉得吃力了,却想不到发表,其中有一个叫道“杭育杭育”,那么,这就是创作;大家也要佩服,应用的,这就等于出版;倘若用什么记号留存了下来,这就是文学;他当然就是作家,也是文学家,是“杭育杭育派”〔33〕。不要笑,这作品确也幼稚得很,但古人不及今人的地方是很多的,这正是其一。就是周朝的什么“关关雎鸠,在河之洲,窈窕淑女,君子好逑”罢,它是《诗经》〔34〕里的头一篇,所以吓得我们只好磕头佩服,假如先前未曾有过这样的一篇诗,现在的新诗人用这意思做一首白话诗,到无论什么副刊上去投稿试试罢,我看十分之九是要被编辑者塞进字纸篓去的。“漂亮的好小姐呀,是少爷的好一对儿!”什么话呢?

九专化呢,普遍化呢?

到了这里,就又碰着了一个大问题:中国的言语,各处很不同,单给一个粗枝大叶的区别,就有北方话,江浙话,两湖川贵话,福建话,广东话这五种,而这五种中,还有小区别。现在用拉丁字来写,写普通话,还是写土话呢?要写普通话,人们不会;倘写土话,别处的人们就看不懂,反而隔阂起来,不及全国通行的汉字了。这是一个大弊病!

  我的意思是:在开首的启蒙时期,各地方各写它的土话,用不着顾到和别地方意思不相通。当未用拉丁写法之前,我们的不识字的人们,原没有用汉字互通着声气,所以新添的坏处是一点也没有的,倒有新的益处,至少是在同一语言的区域里,可以彼此交换意见,吸收智识了——那当然,一面也得有人写些有益的书。问题倒在这各处的大众语文,将来究竟要它专化呢,还是普通化?

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Ian_Lee

In the case of Korean, their alphabetization dated much earlier (15th Century) and unlike Vietnamese, the Hangul is native and suits more to the Korean language.

Even though the there are more variations in sound in Hangul than Hiragana in Japan, there are still many Chinese characters popping up occasionally in Korean books necessarily.

As I stated previously, Japan had been more eager in getting rid of Kanji during the Meiji Restoration but aborted because it didn't work.

So why would our fellow posters think that the getting away with Characters would work in Chinese if it didn't work in Japanese?

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Ian_Lee

IMHO Lu Xun's idea on latinization should not be paid too much attention.

In the early part of last century, a lot of hot-head youths in China had many radical ideas (Communism was one of them). Besides latinization, they also advocated the total eradication of Confucianism.

But did it work?

Of course, not only CCP, KMT also had its share of radical ideas. In early '30s, KMT had the "New Life Movement" which eliminated Chinese New Year as holiday.

Every government worker had to report to work on the 1st day of Chinese New Year.

But did it work? Of course NOT.

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ala
IMHO Lu Xun's idea on latinization should not be paid too much attention.

In the early part of last century' date=' a lot of hot-head youths in China had many radical ideas (Communism was one of them). Besides latinization, they also advocated the total eradication of Confucianism. [/quote']

These same hot-heads (Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Lao She, etc) enabled you to write somewhat similar to how you speak (白话). Do you see that as progress, or Communism and the eradication of Confucianism?

I'm curious, what is your stance on the Romanization of major Chinese dialects? I'm talking about the spoken forms not legitimized by the character-based standard of vernacular Mandarin Chinese, where the bulk of population do not know the character equivalents (if they exist at all). Is it going against tradition to Romanize them? If Romanization will bring legitimacy to them, and not bewilderingly subordinate to Mandarin, then should it be done? This isn't about communism, this is about a person's right to record things down in his native tongue, a freedom of expression in a manner not automatically self-demeaning (demeaning= using semantically gibberish Chinese characters, non-"standard" uses of characters, etc).

The difference between characters and Romanization for dialect scripts is that Romanization is more easily standardized (a couple of general rules that could fit on a single sheet of paper), while character-based dialect education would require considerable government support and standardization on a committee-level (assignment of readings to characters, new characters assigned to grammar particles, etc). Second, character-based dialect writing provide little hint to non-speakers of their pronounciation without an auxillary dialect phonetic script similar to pinyin's function (!!!). The lazy character alternative is to write the dialect using 普通话注音 but this subordinates the dialect to Mandarin meaninglessly, since you might as well just use an alphabet if you are going to use semantically gibberish characters (it is also impossible to standardize) that don't map well with the sounds of the dialect anyway. In a situation where the bulk of a dialect speaking population are not aware of the characters (or minimally aware), it is very easy to Romanize such a dialect with a fully functional and vernacular writing system. So I'm not sure what you mean by "it can't be done."

The real question is TO WHOM DO THESE CHARACTERS BELONG TO??? Obviously to Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean speakers. As a Shanghainese speaker, if I didn't speak Mandarin, how do I write down my thoughts and hope to be understood clearly by another Shanghainese speaker? 文言文? Latin? Must Europe communicate and record history ONLY in English? with the other alternatives being pidgin and dead Latin?

I seriously don't think the debate on Romanization for Chinese (or certain forms) is completely over.

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hparade

but is traditional always good? and the new ideas always "radical" and bad? we need to move on, and some old horrible traditional chinese customs/ views/ ideas really deserve their death. :roll:

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Ian_Lee

Ala:

You forgot to mention that the most staunch advocate of 白话 was Hu Shih. But Hu Shih never advocated to substitue character with romanization.

I don't understand why you say dialect must undergo romanization. In HK, everyone learns Chinese via a dialect. Nobody has ever suggested that Cantonese needs to be romanticized.

In fact, romanization like hanyu pinyin is just an auxiliary tool for non-Mandarin Chinese speakers to learn Mandarin.

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Quest
but is traditional always good? and the new ideas always "radical" and bad? we need to move on, and some old horrible traditional chinese customs/ views/ ideas really deserve their death.

Such as?

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pazu

The idea of Lu Xun was laughable, and again, Albert Einstein contributed to make the A-bomb but it didn't necessarily mean that he didn't love peace, so whoever Lu Xun was, his idea of romanization didn't make the idea more possible.

我的意思是:在开首的启蒙时期,各地方各写它的土话,用不着顾到和别地方意思不相通

This is especially a laughable point, but he was born in a period of difficult time, that at some of the lowest points in Chinese history. And some "scholars" even suggested China to use Esperanto as the new Common Language!

And ALA, you can't compare the abandon of Chinese characters with the abandon of Wenyanwen (Chinese written in ancient style), while Traditional Chinese characters and Simplified Chinese characters are still actively in use in the Chinese world (not just the "scholars"), Wenyanwen was used without a clearer purpose to retain them for daily writing.

Wenyanwen was a burden because many writings (including the Dream of the Red Chamber), were written in Baihuawen already. The Baihuawen (Chinese written in the modern form) at that period was different from now, but the point was, Baihuawen was actively in use already, while so far there's no serious attempt to actively use Pinyin to substitute Chinese characters.

The only successful attempt to fully romanize Chinese characters was happened in Vietnam only, and yet you can't compare Vietnamese with Chinese. Vietnamese has lesser homophones (they have more sounds) than Mandarin Chinese, they still retain the -m -t -p -c sounds etc, they have six tones, and all of these contribute to the lesser confusion of Vietnamese vocabularies.

ALA, give us some hard facts to prove that pinyin is better than Chinese characters, not just for learning (as this should be of no doubt in the sense of time and easiness), what I concern most is the effectiveness to pass a message in a passage, how is your reading speed? etc. It's hard to imagine a hardcore like you couldn't even put this into practice, however I dare not to try it myself, as I think it's just going to be a waste of my youth if I abandon the Chinese characters and use pinyin instead.

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skylee

I like this - "a waste of my youth". :D

I think one's youth is meant to be wasted. :mrgreen:

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Ian_Lee
As a Shanghainese speaker, if I didn't speak Mandarin, how do I write down my thoughts and hope to be understood clearly by another Shanghainese speaker? 文言文? Latin? Must Europe communicate and record history ONLY in English? with the other alternatives being pidgin and dead Latin?

I don't see why there is a problem.

When all the publication are written in Mandarin-style Chinese but pronounced in Shanghaiese, then it solves the problem.

When we study Chinese in Hong Kong , that is the way it is. In fact, those textbooks were almost 90% adopted from Taiwan's textbook and written in Mandarin-style Chinese (in my time).

When I was taught Chinese in Grade 1, the first sentence I learnt was "Father, Mother, Father and Mother come together!" -- written in Mandarin Chinese style.

I recalled my Chinese teacher said that "that" was the way how we wrote Chinese. As far as I remember every kid took it for granted.

Even during my dating many years afterwards, I wrote Mandarin Chinese love letter to my wife. But when we met, of course we chatted in Cantonese-style Chinese.

Such convertibility is easily adaptable for everyone I guess.

For those books record the old Cantonese tradition in HK, the authors usually put a bracket around those Chinese characters specifically for Cantonese words.

But I guess romanization will be more confusing.

Actually if you ask me to write a letter in Cantonese-style Chinese, I will scratch my head and wonder how to do it.

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Ian_Lee

For 错别字. there are many ways to go around it.

For non-scientific term, there are usually 3-4 ways to convey the same meaning in Chinese.

If you are unsure about that character in that expression, then use another word/phrase to convey that meaning.

Actually if you read popular novels like that of Jin Yong, hardly did he ever use (except some special cases like poem) any complicated characters.

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ala
I don't see why there is a problem. When all the publication are written in Mandarin-style Chinese but pronounced in Shanghaiese, then it solves the problem.

No. That is the PROBLEM. Reading Mandarin with a Shanghainese character pronunciation is NOT VERNACULAR Shanghainese. Wu dialects have 30% lexical overlap with Mandarin. The grammar is not identical; for example, Shanghainese has a -la PERFECT TENSE (完成体) suffix (as well as 4 other aspect particles, compared to Mandarin's 2). I've eaten in Shanghainese is properly said as: 我 饭 吃拉 了。Mandarin's 我吃了饭了 makes no sense in Shanghainese (我吃了饭了 actually means: "I'm getting annoyed while eating" when pronounced out loud in Shanghainese). Our plural suffix for people is -la (eg: 张先生拉 = Mr. Zhang et al; 阿拉 = we). In fact 100 years ago, Shanghainese had different sets of pronouns for the accusative and nominitive cases, but Mandarin influence have turned that into history. And onomatopoeia plays a much larger role in SH than in Mandarin. Word order is also quite different. Mandarin-style is not Wenyanwen nor Qing Dynasty Baihua. It is not a universal script for all as it is clearly biased towards the Mandarin vernacular. The only way it can be universal is if everyone speaks Mandarin or uses Mandarin vocabulary and grammar. Talk about communism.

This system of using a dialect's phonology to pronounce Mandarin writing and consider that the only acceptable method of writing wrongly subordinates dialects, it isn't vernacular dialect writing at all. The hypothetical analogy is using official written French and pronouncing it into Spanish (while retaining French grammar and vocabulary choice) after the decline of Latin. We never do this in Shanghai as it is considered very 勿二勿三, either you read Mandarin writing in Mandarin or you write in Shanghainese completely and read it in Shanghainese. There's no such distinction as 文 or 白, because it is misleading and establishes false elitism when in reality Mandarin is 白 period. In other words, a song in Shanghainese is going to be sung in vernacular Shanghainese; not Mandarin with Shanghainese pronunciation. Nevertheless, the richness of Shanghainese is continually being depleted due to the lack of a vernacular writing system.

The problem with Shanghainese is that we have characters, and people need to be told the readings for these characters to be able to know what to use, otherwise people substitute words with random characters that are pronounced similar in Mandarin. And this is demeaning because SHANGHAINESE CAN BE WRITTEN IN CHARACTERS (nearly all of its words have single character etymologies), but there isn't the education and resource. And it is in this situation that I feel Romanization has an advantage.

______

About Romanization advantages, please read as reference:

Asia's Orthographic Dilemma

The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity

- Wm. C. Hannas

And if I'm not mistaken, there ARE fully functional and alphabetized variants of Chinese that do not depend on characters at all and used by real people, one in Russia.

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sm_sung

ala: Is it really necessary to teach Chinese grammar? I think that comes naturally after reading Chinese texts for a while. As time goes by, grammatical rules are referred to less frequently and people start getting a feel for what’s right and what’s not...Heck, come to think of it, the same goes for English. :conf

In my opinion, characters shouldn't be abolished if the way Chinese is written is to be preserved. A person who learns Chinese without the respective characters would probably get the morphemes (ideas) mixed up, due to the extremely high level of homophony in modern mandarin.

Let’s assume Chinese is written in pinyin alone. Take yi4 (懿,意,易,溢,逸 etc) for example. There are more than 10 meanings for the sound! It would be extremely difficult for someone who doesn’t know characters to remember all the possible meanings for the sound. Thus, people would instead remember the meanings of 词 (ci2) instead of 字 (zi4). This might seem okay for a while but after a few generations, the morphemes (字) would be totally forgotten. The building blocks of Mandarin would become fully-fledged words instead of morphemes! Coining new words would become a major challenge due to the lack of understanding of morphemes from which to construct them.

Besides that, usage of pinyin would severely discourage the use of abbreviated forms. It’s no secret that written Chinese sometimes employs certain word and sentence constructions, usually abbreviations, that are normally absent in speech. Without characters, the meanings of such abbreviations would be difficult to understand, encouraging the use of lengthier terms and expressions. This problem is particularly acute when it comes to 成语 (cheng2yu2) or four-character idioms. Many of them would look like nonsense syllables when written in pinyin. How many people can understand the following 成语 written in pinyin: hu3 fu4 wu2 quan3 zi5,yi1 zhen1 jian4 xie3, fang1 xing1 wei4 ai4, yi1 chou2 mo4 zhan3, yi2 chou4 wan4 nian2? (Ans: 虎父无犬子, 刻舟求剑, 一针见血, 方兴未艾, 一筹莫展, 遗臭万年). The absence of characters of characters would probably lead to the demise of such expressions. :nono

The next point is slightly controversial but still worth pointing out. If pinyin were the written standard, don’t you think that foreign words would be imported phonetically the same way Japanese and Korean does? Many words in languages like English cannot be broken down into smaller basic units, in other words English has many word roots. Remember from the third paragraph that pinyin would make 字 (zi4) much less important than 词 (ci2). Over time, the influx of foreign words would change the nature of the language’s vocabulary from consisting almost solely of compound words to consisting of a mixture of compounds and phonetic loans! Chinese will probably become a totally different language altogether. Just look at the example of Japan, many older Japanese cannot understand the younger generation’s language nor can they comfortably read teenage magazines. The reason for this is simple: Phonetic loans (in the form of katakana) which are totally unrelated to traditional Japanese vocabulary.

Proponents of pinyin as the official writing system usually argue that people can understand each other in speech. True, but written language cannot be equated to spoken language. Speech contains many additional clues: more contextual clues (i.e. where you are at, the atmosphere at the scene), body language and facial expressions (part of the reason why we look at someone when they speak) as well as more elaborate and wordy expressions.

One other thing, using pinyin would make the language less transparent as words are presented as is. This would undoubtedly make academic and technical literature more difficult to understand. :cry:

That said, I don’t think that it is absolutely impossible to write Chinese phonetically, but that would mean large changes would have to be made to the written language. Question is, is it worth it? Are learning characters really so difficult as to warrant such drastic action? (Literacy rates are high in Taiwan and China is quickly catching up) The fact that the PRC government’s plan to adopt pinyin as the official written standard failed miserably speaks for itself. At present, it seems that characters are unlikely to disappear anytime soon (in fact, TRADITIONAL characters are still heavily used in Southern China and are slowly regaining popularity in the North). There must be something(s) other than tradition and the collective idiocy of a nation that keeps the system firmly in place.

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pazu

ALA: It must be pointed out that in Hong Kong we have many Cantonese-based Chinese website (especially forum), though written form of Cantonese Chinese is still actively discouraged in school (note: nothing to do with the handover, it's been always discouraged to write in Cantonese in school).

So what's the point? While if the people don't have the motivation to write their language, romanization won't help much.

In Hong Kong we have no problem writing Cantonese in Chinese character (with some little alphabets though), e.g.

呢啲嘢你問吓佢啦!

Variations are:

呢d 野 你問o下佢啦!

"D" is commonly written to replace "啲", but o下 is commonly written to replace 吓 , nobody will write it as "ha5" because it's difficult to understand. 野 and 嘢 are usually interchangable.

Some characters are written in another form just because they're not the standard BIG code, now it's getting better if you are using a unicode system (or BIG5 Chinese encoding system with Hong Kong fonts add-on), e.g. 啲, 嘢, 吓

With my personal experience, I think writing Cantonese in Chinese script didn't subordinate dialect (Cantonese), on the contrary, it helps to visualize Cantonese to its fullest extent.

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