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Iriya

白话文 specific characters

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Iriya

When the switch from 文言文 to 白话文 was made, how many new characters had to be made up? So far, I can think of 们、妈、爸 and all the numerous ending particles and interjections with 口字旁. But some characters also shifted their meanings, e.g. 是、也. Anything else?

I wonder how was this all standardized?

If anyone's wondering, I started pondering on this topic after I got into an argument with a Shanghainese person whether Shanghainese could be written down or not. Their argument was that it can't be written down because there are no characters for many words. My argument was that the northern dialects (普通话) and 粤语 also had to go through the same process, new characters had to be made up for some colloquial words and grammar particles.

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jkhsu

If anyone's wondering, I started pondering on this topic after I got into an argument with a Shanghainese person whether Shanghainese could be written down or not. Their argument was that it can't be written down because there are no characters for many words.

Wait, I just want to make sure I understand this correctly. You got into an argument with a Shanghainese person (who is a native speaker I presume?) and you are a learner over whether Shanghainese can be written down?

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Iriya

Shanghainese CAN be written down. 吴语 even has its own dictionaries. You can find numerous example sentences for example here. Of course 99% of the Shanghainese don't know this because they don't give a damn. Being a native speaker doesn't make one a linguist.

It saddens me that so many Shanghainese don't care at all about their native language. At this rate it will die out eventually.

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creamyhorror

Most (all?) words of Sinitic origin will have associated characters from long ago. It's the words from non-Sinitic sources that won't (unless they were introduced into written Chinese at some point). I don't know about Shanghainese in particular, but over at China History Forum, folks have been researching the original characters for many Minnan/Hokkien words. Min descended directly from Old Chinese (unlike all other dialects, which descended from Middle Chinese) and so many of the characters unearthed are Old Chinese usages I believe (e.g. 汝 for "you").

Anyway, anything can be written down in Chinese, even non-Chinese languages, if you simply coin characters for words. That's how words like 葡萄 came about.

I am a cow ==> 我是哦牛

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Daan

I shouldn't think a lot of characters had to be invented for the switch to 白話文 in the early 20th century. I would imagine almost all the characters were already previously in use, as the vernacular had given birth to an entirely new written language long before the switch from 文言文 to 白話文 took place. That said, I'm not sure how many new characters were invented to write this vernacular-based written language in the first place, either.

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jkhsu

Shanghainese CAN be written down. 吴语 even has its own dictionaries. You can find numerous example sentences for example here. Of course 99% of the Shanghainese don't know this because they don't give a damn. Being a native speaker doesn't make one a linguist.

I surprises me that 99% of Shanghainese don't know that their own dialect can be written down? Does one need to be linguist to know this? What were their reactions when you showed them the link? Where they just completely surprised? I know a lot of Shanghainese people, but it's late here (in the USA). Tomorrow, I'll ask the people I know the same question and see what responses I get.

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jkhsu

For the discussion on whether Shanghainese can be written or not, I've posted the topic on this thread. That will keep the current thread about 白话文 specific characters.

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Hofmann

您. A few 女-radical characters 妳, 她. 哪.

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Lu

From what I know, there was already a lot of writing in the vernacular, for example for plays. It just wasn't considered real literature and therefore didn't count, but the characters were available.

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Iriya
over at China History Forum, folks have been researching the original characters for many Minnan/Hokkien words

Very interesting link, thanks.

I always wondered what was the deal with 吃 and 喝 (Classical Chinese words for 'eat' and 'drink' are 食 and 饮). Turns out they had very different meanings originally. 吃 meant 'stammer', while 喝 meant 'shout loudly'. Japanese dictionaries also list these meanings. Also, it seems that the choice of 喝 for 'drink' was a mistake, as there's another character, 欱, with this very meaning and reading.

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renzhe

The early vernacular (Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh) was not THAT different from modern vernacular, so I'm guessing that most characters were very much in place already.

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