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dmoser

Characters are objectively harder, even for Chinese

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hparade
Such as?

such as the ignorant and arrogant view of the world as inferior to China, and China as the centre of the world and requiring foreign officials to koutou as someone reminded me at other thread (but I don't propose it, I'm against it! :roll: ), and the discrimination on women, requiring them to 三從四德, feet bonding etc, and the inefficient education system and the civil examanination requiring student to recite all old essays; all this are horrible and disgusting imo; and luckily most are gone nowadays (if not all), but I'm not for complete abolition of characters, but I'm for good reforms if possible.

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Quest

sm_sung, well organized, well said. :clap

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nnt

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)' date=' 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 (!!!).

[/quote']

Ala:

I find this discussion quite interesting, because it was exactly the case with Vietnamese.

Vietnamese chữ Nôm [字字] 喃 was character-based. The word chữ is Vietnamese, while tự 字 is Hán Việt, and has the same meaning.

An important flaw of chữ Nôm [字字] 喃 was its lack of standardization: anyone could invent his own characters, so for each word, there were many variants.

For example, châu chấu (grasshopper) could be written 蛛蛛 (Chinese characters "used as") or [虫周][虫周] or [虫奏][虫奏] (invented new characters) in chữ Nôm, and there are more variants for the same word. You must know what 虫 (as word and radical) is, and the pronounciation of 蛛, 朱, 周, 奏 to guess the meaning of the variants of châu chấu .

Conclusion: chữ Nôm was even harder for Vietnamese people than Standard Sino-Vietnamese (Hán Việt) itself. The worse of both languages...

Vietnamese latinization not only latinized Vietnamese language, but also latinized Hán Việt. And modern Vietnamese is now standardized, although some minor variations still exist.

I think a latinization of Shanghainese dialect would simultaneously help latinize the Shanghaien way of pronouncing standard Chinese characters. So, as you say, the debate may not be closed for Chinese dialects.

I've seen latinized forms of Cantonese pronunciation of Standard Chinese characters, but I don't know if it has been standardized or not.

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pazu

NNT:

But I think the comparison between latinization of Chinese characters in China and Chu Nom in Vietnam aren't parallel. There're variations in Chinese characters (ti4 maybe an example). But Chu Nom had never been popular, those who wrote in Chu Nom were reformers themselves, in a word, Chu Nom in Vietnam had never gained the popularity (and thus, "standard") of Chinese characters in China and moreover in China, in Hong Kong/Taiwan, efforts had already done here to standardize the Chinese characters. Take the case of Taiwan and Hong Kong, while the two governments didn't collaborate to standardize the script, the scripts of the two regions are not of any difference.

There're some variants (or heterographs) out there, it doesn't mean that standard inexists. You may find in a dictionary of various heterographs to write 南, the standard form of writing Nan2 is already 南 without any doubt. This concept applies to most other characters, to deny the existence of a loose boundary or standard of Chinese characters is obviously not sensible.

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pazu

hparade:

I found it hard to follow you, while we're talking the Chinese characters, you're talking the old tradition of feet-bounding... are you merely wanting to discuss the many inhumane old Chinese customs, or saying that Chinese characters are comparable to the old traditions too? You post just contributes to confusion.

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nnt

But Chu Nom had never been popular, those who wrote in Chu Nom were reformers themselves

Pazu:

This is clearly untrue.

Chữ Nôm, although non-standard, has been used under every Vietnamese dynasty (and the kings were the first one to use them, even the most conservative ones) since it was invented.

But it had always been officially considered as a means to record popular language, not official language. It lack of standardization meant anyone (i.e. you and I) could create his own variant, and no official dictionary (as Kangxi dictionary for Chinese language) had been published.

Chữ Nôm dictionaries are recent.

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Quest
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.

Ala, first of all, if every group writes their own dialect in the roman alphabet, I can't imagine what is to become of China.

Second of all, you are absolutely right that dialects can be written in characters when there's a need. I do not see how this cannot be done today or in the future, as long as we are still using the characters.

A standard written form has to be agreed upon by the whole country, and of course we can adopt a "neutral" form that favors no one. In order for it to be neutral, it has to have NO grammar. Wait, we are back to wenyanwen :wink:

I understand that you get pissed every once in a while when there's some idiot telling you "your dialect is not Chinese, it cannot be fully written in Han Chinese". But these people will find other ways to demean you anyways, if they can't do it with the language. But to us dialect speakers, we all understand mandarin is just another dialect, so don't worry to much.

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sm_sung

ala wrote:

Chinese characters are a pain in the arse. What a waste of my youth, time that could be spent doing something else--like learning and nurturing creativity. Add that to the fact there's no spacing; and foreign words are rendered from an incredibly large and rather arbitrary set of characters and mixed right into the regular text (and trying to memorize the arbitrary conventions). It is almost impossible trying to skim through text that have a lot of foreign proper names rendered in Chinese. The muddy distinction between ci and zi in Mandarin, also explains why the majority of Chinese have very poor expressivity in writing without resorting to chengyu and idioms. Chinese is one big set of idioms that people memorize and recycle over and over again. I rarely see original expressive sentences in Chinese that test the boundaries of acceptable usages and enrich Chinese grammar. Lack of formal grammar education might have something to do with it. Most Chinese can probably only tell me about 的、地、得 if I asked about Chinese grammar on the spot (and the majority of Chinese disregard 地 anyway). Still, I'm a traditionalist and feel that Chinese characters should be maintained, but there ought to be better and more enlightening methods of teaching them. Clearer distinction of zi and ci is also a reform that desperately needs to be made, as well as grammar formalization.

(Please read my earlier post first.)

ala you seem to be contradictiong yourself here. You claim that Chinese characters are a waste of your youth and a pain the arse, yet you claim to be a traditionalist who feels characters should be maintained! :conf

My question is: Why would you want to keep a writing system which you claim to be "a waste of your youth" and allow the next generation of Chinese to face the same predicament? It just doesn't make much sense to me.

Oh and btw, I think it is okay to use pinyin when you forget how to write certain characters, but DELIBARATELY writing the language entirely in pinyin would not be a good idea.

I agree with Quest, how is it possible that Chinese not having spaces between characters impedes your understanding of written text? For beginners this might be a problem but personally I have never heard such complains from intermediate or advanced learners. (Feel free to include your own personal experiences if they are different from mine)

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pazu

nnt:

I would be much surprised to hear that indeed (about the popularity of Chu Nom). It seems to me those ancient prestigious writings in Vietnam were almost all written in Chinese characters instead of Chu Nom, even for the frequently quoted Diaries in Prison written by Bac Ho Chi Minh, it's in Hanzi rather than Chu Nom. I may be wrong however, I couldn't find the original print of 大越史記 on paper, but when I checked it (and some other famous writings) on the internet (excerpts only), they were all displayed in Hanzi only, or maybe it's just because the unicode font didn't include Chu Nom? And most Vietnamese I talked to, I asked them to give me some insights on Chu Nom literature, most could say nothing (maybe it was long forgotten...), at best they told me "祭鱷魚文" only, maybe you can give me some other ideas as it seems to me you have a good knowledge in Vietnamese history and literature. Chu Nom was said to be used by monks too, but all temples I went in Vietnam, preserved no document written in Chu Nom at all.

See this here:

越南的傳統書寫系統是以漢字書寫的文言文為正統地位。之後民間雖有「字字喃」(Chu Nom)出現,但均未能成功挑戰並取代漢字的地位。

(The official and traditional form of writing Vietnamese was Hanzi written in archaic prose style. Chu Nom [Vietnamese-created Chinese characters] emerged later but could never challenge and replace the prestigious position of Hanzi.)

http://www.de-han.org/vietnam/chuliau/lunsoat/gkaikip/gkaikip-3.htm

(They also have some interesting discussion on the idea of writing Taiyu in alphabets.)

Abolishing Chinese characters is not only for practical reasons in Vietnam, but also for political reason with a sense of strong national identity.

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hparade

pazu:

If you read a bit more carefully, you should be able (I think) to find/ follow that my post is merely referring to Ian Lee's post about eradication of certain Chinese traditions and the proposal of some "radical ideas", and "feet bounding" is only one of the example I gave in response to someone's "such as" question, so don't try to make it the whole theme of my post and then find it hard to follow; if you find it distracting to your hot debates, I feel sorry then, though I think they are related (not comparable though, but did I compare!??) and I also stated my very own view on the characters topic too in the post. :roll:

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nnt

Pazu:

In the past, neither Hán tự (Hanzi) nor Chữ Nôm were "popular" in Vietnam for the simple reason only a few (the scholars) could read/write Chinese characters.

Hán tự was the official language, and every Vietnamese scholar knew both Chinese/Hán tự and Vietnamese/Chữ Nôm, because they were Vietnamese (for the Vietnamese/Chữ Nôm part) scholars (for the Chinese/Hán part). In this sense, both Hán and Chữ Nôm were "popular" among Vietnamese scholars.

For example Nguyễn Du (阮攸 1766-1820) wrote poems in both Classical Chinese (Hán tự) and in Chữ Nôm. I would be surprised if you haven't heard about his famous "Truyện Kiều" ( title in Chữ Nôm: Truyện Kiều 傳翹 , title in Hán Việt : Kim Vân Kiều truyện 金雲翹傳) written in Chữ Nôm. Now that Vietnamese is latinized, most people only know it under its present form. This poem was (and still is) so popular that in the past even illiterate peasants would know by heart large parts of it.

Most present day Vietnamese often confuse Chữ Nôm and Hán tự texts just because to differenciate them, they would have to know Chinese language first - and not all Vietnamese now know Chinese characters, either with Chinese pronunciation or with Hán Việt pronunciation.

In Vietnam's History, Chữ Nôm had only been the official language only twice, and very briefly, under the Hồ 胡 dynasty (1400-1407) and the Tây Sơn 西山 dynasty (1788-1802). This doesn't mean Chữ Nôm wasn't "popular" : for a scholar who already knew Hán tự, Chữ Nôm would come out "naturally", and he would create his own variants of Chữ Nôm, because there was no standard.

All official documents were written in Hán tự. The Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư 大越史記 as an official History book was written in Hán tự, not in Chữ Nôm.

There are plenty of Vietnamese books/articles about Hán/Nôm studies. It is not difficult to find them in Vietnam.

The replacement of characters by latin alphabet in Vietnamese language played a great part in Vietnamese struggle for independence against French colonialism: a latinized language vs a latin language :wink: . Btw that was fifty years ago...

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Ian_Lee

Pazu:

As you wrote, writing in Cantonese only happens in some chatrooms or forums and some websites (i.e. your travel journal) in Hong Kong. In every major newspaper, all pages are published in Mandarin Chinese with the exception of entertainment and tabloid columns. Every government and commercial correspondence/announcement has to be written in Mandarin Chinese.

Actually I wonder how come people in HK are so adamant in guarding Cantonese as their

spoken language, but everybody takes it for granted to accept their written language in Mandarin Chinese.

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pazu

nnt: thanks for your input.

Ian: You raised an interesting question, let me think about why...

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pazu

Here's something for the hardcore pinyin supporter:

qíngtiān yībì,wànlǐ wúyún,zhōnggǔ chángxīn de jiǎorì,yījiù zài tā de guǐdàoshàng,yīchéng yīchéng de zài nǎlǐ xíngzǒu。 cóng nánfāng chuīlái de wéifēng,tóng xǐngjiǔ de qióngjiāng yībān,dàizhe yīzhǒng xiāngqì,yīzhènzhèn de fúshàng miàn lái。 zài huángcāng wèishóu de dàotián zhōngjiān,zài wānqū tóng báixiàn sì de xiāngjiān de guāndào shàngmiàn,tā yīgèrén shǒulǐ pěng le yī běn liùcùncháng de Wordsworth de shījí,jìn zài náli huǎnhuǎn de dú bù。zài zhè dàpíngyuán nèi,sìmiàn bìng wú rényǐng;bùzhī cóng héchǔ fēilái de yīshēng liǎngshēng de yuǎnfèi shēng。yōuyōu yángyáng de chuándào tā ěrmó shàng lái。tā yǎnjīng líkāi le shū,tóng zuòmèngsì de xiàng yǒu quǎnfèi shēng de dìfāng kàn qù,dàn kànjiàn le yī cóng záshù,jīchǔ rénjiā,tóng yúlín sì de wūwǎshàng, yǒu yīcéng bóbó de shènqìlóu,tóng qīngshāsì de,zài náli piāodàng。

=============================

qing2tian1 yi1 bi4,wan4li3 wu2yun2,zhong1gu3 chang2xin1 de jiao3ri4,yi1jiu4

zai4 ta1 de gui3dao4shang4,yi1cheng2 yi1cheng2 de zai4 na3li3 xing2zou3。

cong2 nan2fang1 chui1lai2 de wei2feng1,tong2 xing3jiu3 de qiong2jiang1

yi1ban1,dai4zhe yi1zhong3 xiang1qi4,yi1zhen4zhen4 de fu2shang4 mian4 lai2。

zai4 huang2cang1 wei4shou2 de dao4tian2 zhong1jian1,zai4 wan1qu1 tong2

bai2xian4 si4 de xiang1jian1 de guan1dao4 shang4mian4,ta1 yi1ge4ren2 shou3li3

peng3 le yi1 ben3 liu4cun4chang2 de Wordsworth de shi1ji2,jin4 zai4 na2li

huan3huan3 de du2 bu4。zai4 zhe4 da4ping2yuan2 nei4,si4mian4 bing4 wu2

ren2ying3;bu4zhi1 cong2 he2chu3 fei1lai2 de yi1sheng1 liang3sheng1 de yuan3fei4

sheng1。you1you1 yang2yang2 de chuan2dao4 ta1 er3mo2 shang4 lai2。ta1 yan3jing1

li2kai1 le shu1,tong2 zuo4meng4si4 de xiang4 you3 quan3fei4 sheng1 de di4fang1

kan4 qu4,dan4 kan4jian4 le yi1 cong2 za2shu4,ji1chu3 ren2jia1,tong2 yu2lin2

si4 de wu1wa3shang4, you3 yi1ceng2 bo2bo2 de shen4qi4lou2,tong2 qing1sha1si4

de,zai4 na2li piao1dang4。

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dmoser

I'm not sure of Pazu's point with the pinyin exercise. What is this trying to prove? I had a hard time getting the meaning out of it, of course, but I read it over the phone to a Chinese friend, and she could understand it all (though I had to repeat a lot to compensate for my clumsy intonation). There were just a couple of syllables she had to guess at. Was I/she missing something?

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pazu

My poiint is, there're some infrequent usages of vocabularies in this prose, written by Yu Dafu (郁達夫), while it's beautifully written, you'll have a harder chance to get them right by using pinyin only. Dmoser, and this was why your friend had to GUESS. If you have to guess in a passage, it's not an effective way of written communication.

What I wanted to say is that Chinese characters are the best way to visualize Chinese language on paper, latinized alphabet works in other languages, but because of the characteristics in Chinese, pinyin will ruin Chinese forever, making it a dull language. The characteristics include freedom of coining new words, and the lack of phonemes.

Remember, written language can never be exactly the same as spoken language, this is the same as English too. If I talk to you in written form of English, people will find it weired. This is much more obvious for Chinese (with lesser sounds in the Chinese).

Let me give you some more examples, note that I don't use any idioms or expressions refering to any classics (用典) in the examples, I emphasize the use of coined words:

1a. 微微昕雨, 刷洗了昨天的屈鬱。

1b. 微微昕雨, 刷洗了昨天的屈郁。

1c. Wei2wei2 xin1yu3 shua1xi3 le zuo2tian1 de qu1yu4.

The coined word here is: 昕雨, which means the rain during sunrise, with only one word in front of "rain" (yu3), you can tell the time already. But using pinyin, most people will guess them as "新雨" only and thus part of the meaning was lost.

Another example, and this time it's quoted from 沉淪 by 郁達夫 (Yu Dafu).

2a. 這樣的叫了一聲,他的眼睛裡就湧出了兩行清淚來,他自己也不知道是什麼緣故。

2b. 这样的叫了一声,他的眼睛里就涌出了两行清泪来,他自己也不知道是什么缘故。

2c. zhe4 yang4 de jiao4 le yi1 sheng1,ta1 de yan3 jing1 li3 jiu4 yong3 chu1 le liang3 xing2 qing1 lei4 lai2,ta1 zi4 ji3 ye3 bu4 zhi1 dao4 shi4 shen2 me yuan2 gu4。

The coined word here by Yu Dafu is 清淚 (qing1lei4), which can be translated as clear tear. I think if you print them as pinyin, people will think it's only a typo mistake of qing2lei4 (情淚).

N

o

t

e to my previous post:

The Yu's prose was 沉淪 by 郁達夫 (Yu Dafu).

In Traditional Chinese:

晴天一碧,萬里無雲,終古常新的皎日,依舊在她的軌道上,一程一 程的在那裡行走。從南方吹來的微風,同醒酒的瓊漿一般,帶著一種香氣,一陣陣的拂上面來。在黃蒼未熟的稻田中間,在彎曲同白線似的鄉間的 官道上面,他一個人手裡捧了一本六寸長的Wordsworth的詩集,盡在那裡緩緩的獨步。在這大平原內,四面並無人影;不知從何處飛來的一聲兩聲 的遠吠聲。悠悠揚揚的傳到他耳膜上來。他眼睛離開了書,同做夢似的向有犬吠聲的地方看去,但看見了一叢雜樹,幾處人家,同魚鱗似的屋瓦上, 有一層薄薄的蜃氣樓,同輕紗似的,在那裡飄蕩。

In Simplified Chinese:

晴天一碧,万里无云,终古常新的皎日,依旧在她的轨道上,一程一 程的在那里行走。从南方吹来的微风,同醒酒的琼浆一般,带着一种香气,一阵阵的拂上面来。在黄苍未熟的稻田中间,在弯曲同白线似的乡间的 官道上面,他一个人手里捧了一本六寸长的Wordsworth的诗集,尽在那里缓缓的独步。在这大平原内,四面并无人影;不知从何处飞来的一声两声 的远吠声。悠悠扬扬的传到他耳膜上来。他眼睛离开了书,同做梦似的向有犬吠声的地方看去,但看见了一丛杂树,几处人家,同鱼鳞似的屋瓦上, 有一层薄薄的蜃气楼,同轻纱似的,在那里飘荡。

I think 蜃氣樓 (shen4 qi4 lou2 ) is pretty difficult to be guessed. Some other words can be tricky too, like 黃蒼未熟.

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nnt

The coined word here by Yu Dafu is 清淚 (qing1lei4), which can be translated as clear tear. I think if you print them as pinyin, people will think it's only a typo mistake of qing2lei4 (情淚).

What about typo mistakes using characters?

Some are very funny. This one I'm copying/pasting from an e-book edition of the "Three Kingdoms" :

週末七國分爭

meaning : the 7 warring states of the week-end ...

Surely a poor automatic conversion from CHS to CHT for 周 is the simplified form for both 周 and 週 , but that's another debate...

Another question: How much time would you take to type Yu Dafu's text in CHS or CHT ? (I suppose you just copy/pasted them :wink: )

If dmoser's friend got 90% of the meaning of the text through the phone with pinyin text alone, I think adding some precisions in pinyin about the actual character would have been sufficient to clear misunderstandings. Result: you can perhaps save some time being a "hardcore" pinyiner.

What's the use of saving time? To learn new characters to decipher/enjoy old poems , perhaps :wink: ...

( btw Pazu:

Ho Chi Minh never used chữ Nôm in his writings because latinized Vietnamese already existed. He wrote Vietnamese poems in latinized form to be easily understood by everybody without having to waste "one's youth" to be able to reach the first word...

Imagine a political tract written in chữ Nôm for the masses :help ...)

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beirne
What I wanted to say is that Chinese characters are the best way to visualize Chinese language on paper, latinized alphabet works in other languages, but because of the characteristics in Chinese, pinyin will ruin Chinese forever, making it a dull language. The characteristics include freedom of coining new words, and the lack of phonemes.

Remember, written language can never be exactly the same as spoken language, this is the same as English too. If I talk to you in written form of English, people will find it weired. This is much more obvious for Chinese (with lesser sounds in the Chinese).

One might say that the Chinese characters provide the best way to read Chinese characters on paper. One can use the characters to write using very few syllables, but it is unclear that this is a benefit when considering the overall requirements of a written language. If the language were written with a phonetic alphabet one would just use more syllables or words to provide understanding, just like in spoken Chinese.

There is a big difference between written Chinese and written English when spoken. Written English may sound stilted when used in speech, but the spoken form can always be understood as well as the written. This is not the case with written Chinese when it depends on the characters rather than the sounds to convey meaning.

I don't see how a phonetic writing system will limit the creation of new words in Chinese. Browsing through Wenlin with its 200,000 entry Chinese-English dictionary I am constantly reminded of the richness of the Chinese vocabulary. These words and phrases were created under the character system, but they get used in spoken Chinese without the benefit of those characters. Somehow people understand what is being said.

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dmoser

To Pazu,

What you are saying is that the nature of Chinese characters allows for extreme economy in the written language, to such an extent that the passage is hard to understand or meaningless when read outloud, but perfectly comprehensible on the page. This is well known and nothing new. There is a continuum from wenyan to Yu Dafu to modern colloquial baihua, with varying degrees of comprehensibility. And I agree that this is something really beautiful and wonderful about the Chinese written language. I really dig this aspect, I really do. It's wonderful how terse and economical written Chinese can be, and it has allowed for some very powerful and evocative poetry and prose. No one denies this. The question is the TRADE OFF of advantages and disadvantages. This aspect of the written language is aesthetically very pleasing, but is it worth low literacy rates, years of extra effort learning 5,000 or 6,000 characters, inconvenient word processing and cyberspace communication, a general lack of indexing and cataloguing, an incommensurability with the rest of the alphabetic globe, a constant struggle with forgetting how to write common lexical items, the hassle of dictionary lookup, and the silly burden of having to learn an alphabetic script anyway (pinyin) in addition to the indigenous script, etc.? Maybe you think all this is worth it for the benefit of appreciating poetic passages such as those of Yu Dafu, and you're entitled to your o-pinyin. But there are other pragmatic considerations that others also consider important. And, more importantly, I think everyone is clear on the fact that a switch to pinyin (or whatever) would indeed entail some changes in the very morphology of Chinese itself. Authors could not go on writing in quite the same terse way that they do now. Yu Dafu would still be appreciated, but would be relegated to the museum along with Shakespeare. (And by the way, Shakespeare read outloud is not 100% comprehensible to most native speakers of English. I remember watching a movie version of "Othello" with Sir Lawrence Olivier, and I was struck by the fact that I could only understand about 80% of what he was saying. "My god, this is like listening to French!" I thought to myself. And so Yu Dafu, writing in a kind of hybrid of colloquial and wenyan forms, is not 100% understandable to native speakers of Chinese when read outloud, either.) So your point is well-taken, but it is not a new point, and one can agree with you and not necessarily agree that Chinese must retain its character set.

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dmoser

Pazu,

A few additional thoughts:

If you have to guess in a passage, it's not an effective way of written communication.

What I wanted to say is that Chinese characters are the best way to visualize Chinese language on paper, latinized alphabet works in other languages, but because of the characteristics in Chinese, pinyin will ruin Chinese forever, making it a dull language.

Let's clear some things up: Pinyin cannot be blamed for the misunderstanding here. Yu Daful was writing in a style that takes advantage of the morphologically transparent nature of the characters. Note that reading the characters outloud to a listener would also result in incomprehensibility for most Chinese speakers. So the problem is not pinyin vs. characters here, it's the terse written language vs. the spoken language. The fact is that the way Yu Dafu wrote that passage is not easily comprehensible to Chinese speakers when read outloud, regardless of whether it is written in pinyin or characters. (You chose a weak example, actually. Why not just quote some Zhuangzi?)

As for pinyin "ruining" Chinese, or making it a "dull" language, note that 99.9% of modern texts, from Mao's little red book to Wang Shuo's novels, are perfectly comprehensible when read outloud. This means that they could just as well have been written in pinyin, with no loss of comprehension at all. Is Wang Shuo "dull" Chinese? Does 100% comprehension of Chinese when read outloud "ruin" the language? Nobody writes in wenyan anymore (well, except maybe Qian Zhongshu), and most texts now stress clarity. It's hard to see how this makes Chinese dull. You are right that something has been lost, but what is lost is a kind of aesthetic principle that values extreme economy of means. That principle is almost -- ALMOST -- dead in modern Chinese expository writing, anyway. For virtually all contemporary language usage -- letters, notes, essays, textbooks, emails, official notices, bank statements, etc -- pinyin would serve just as well as characters. There is still a tendency to exploit the semantic transparency of characters to make things very terse, but that tendency is already dissipating, and one could easily imagine a Chinese language that functioned without it. 有失有得.

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