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realmayo

Very annoying simplification

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renzhe

If tongue twisters, classical Chinese, and Dr Zhao's famous 施氏食獅史 can be written in pinyin or zhuyin without putting the reader at a loss, that might say something. But I am afriad that even modern Chinese written in pinyin or zhuyin can often cause problems.

Surely you're familiar with arguments for phonetic writing. If phonetically written Chinese can put a reader at a loss, then so can spoken Chinese.

But this is a whole different (and just as tiring) discussion.

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ZhangJiang

A friend of mine told me in his visit to South Korea a tourist guide was bragging about a stone monument with history of "thousands of years" only with clear Chinese written '同治xx年‘ on it.

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Hofmann

On phonetic components,

 

邻 for 鄰, 宾 for 賓. I read an anecdote that one guy who contributed to Simplified Chinese had an accent that didn't differentiate alveolar and velar nasals.

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Su Haifeng

As a native Chinese born in 1980s, I was taught the simplified characters since elementary school and have been used to it.  But to be frank, the traditional characters are more beautiful and logical. You can get meanings of the characters and remember them more easily.  I would use the function of input methods to type traditional characters if I needed to do so.

 

Since my major in university is Chinese and Chinese literature and I learnt both modern Chinese and classic Chinese, I knew very clearly that many simplified characters have become pure symbols and that we used a lot of different methods in simplification.  Our professor admitted that the process of simplification was kind of "Da Yuejin".

 

You have no other choices but get used to it if you were in China. :shock: That is the truth. 

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Shelley

One other reason my Chinese teacher explained to us why some characters seem to bare no relationship to the components used is because of the mistakes made by scholars many years ago when copying court documents etc, It seems one wrongly written version of a character would then be copied unquestioningly till today there is no obvious reason for its composition.

 

I believe these mistakes were common and my teacher called them something along the lines of bi zi, its been awhile I may have got that wrong.

 

So when one of these characters was simplified things got even worse.

 

I learn simplified but also use full form as a means to understand and remember characters better. For every new character I come across if it is simplified, I look at the full form for more information.

 

Purist may want full form back but as others have said, I think simplified is here to stay so I take a pragmatic view and deal with it. I suppose if you want to live in a full form universe there is always Taiwan to fulfill this requirement.

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Kenny同志
Surely you're familiar with arguments for phonetic writing. If phonetically written Chinese can put a reader at a loss, then so can spoken Chinese.

But this is a whole different (and just as tiring) discussion. 

 

We were not talking about whether spoken Chinese can be confusing sometimes, but which writing system is more logical/better.

 

But yes, spoken Chinese can sometimes put people at a loss. For example, if someone say wo xing gu, the listener would have no idea what exactly his/her family name is, so in real life, the person would add an explanation to avoid confusion, i.e. 我姓古,「古代」的「古」, or

我姓谷,「山谷」的「谷」. This is normal in spoken Chinese, however, it would be ridiculous if someone writes this way.

 

Also you should note that just like English, written Chinese uses a far larger vocabulary than spoken Chinese, which greatly increases the frequency of homophones that are used. Therefore, using a phonetic writing system would cause even more confusion.

 

A third thing I would like to mention – though it is off the topic we are talking about, is that China has a huge variety of dialects. Despite decades of efforts of the government to prompt 國語, there are still hundreds of millions of people who cannot use it competently. Even among those who can use it to communicate effectively, many people’s pronunciation is not standard.

 

This means if China adopts a phonetic writing system, it may gradually disintegrate into many smaller countries, each one using their own written language.

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imron
Despite decades of efforts of the government to prompt 國語

Surely though it is not decades of efforts to promote 國語, but decades of effort to promote 普通话.  I don't think I've ever seen any sign or slogan saying 请讲国语, but ones saying 请讲普通话 are very common.

 

This means if China adopts a phonetic writing system, it may gradually disintegrate into many smaller countries, each one using their own written language.

Or like Canada, or Switzerland, it will just have different regions of the country that speak different languages.

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xiaokaka

A third thing I would like to mention – though it is off the topic we are talking about, is that China has a huge variety of dialects. Despite decades of efforts of the government to prompt 國語, there are still hundreds of millions of people who cannot use it competently. Even among those who can use it to communicate effectively, many people’s pronunciation is not standard.

This means if China adopts a phonetic writing system, it may gradually disintegrate into many smaller countries, each one using their own written language.

Why would it be more difficult to learn to write Modern Standard Mandarin with pinyin or with another phonetic script than with characters? Writing with characters is still like writing a foreign language for them (that don't speak MSM).

Chinese does not share a common writing system across all topolects, it's just that most topolects don't have a written form and that school children learn to read and write MSM. Wouldn't this be a faster learning process without characters?

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Kenny同志

Imron:

 

Surely though it is not decades of efforts to promote 國語, but decades of effort to promote 普通话.  I don't think I've ever seen any sign or slogan saying 请讲国语, but ones saying 请讲普通话 are very common.

 

 

國語 is my preferred term. It was how people used to call the now 普通話 on the Mainland.

 

 

Or like Canada, or Switzerland, it will just have different regions of the country that speak different languages.

 

I don't think it's a good idea to set language barriers by converting an ideographic writing system into phonetic.

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Kenny同志
Why would it be more difficult to learn to write Modern Standard Mandarin with pinyin or with another phonetic script than with characters? 

 

I did not claim writing characters was easier. But anyway, whether a language is easy to write or not cannot be used to judge it. If the easier to write the better a language, then all countries over the world should use shorthand symbols.

 

Writing with characters is still like writing a foreign language for them (that don't speak MSM). 

 

Can you name a specific people? 

 

If you are referring to those ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs, that's normal because Chinese is a foreign language to them.

 

There  are hundreds of millions of Chinese people who don't speak standard Mandarin, but writing characters is certainly not like writing a foreign language!

 

Chinese does not share a common writing system across all topolects,

 

 

 Nor does any other language, if by your logic.

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陳德聰
Nor does any other language, if by your logic.

Uh, that statement definitely does not follow from the assertion xiaokaka made. Perhaps stick to your knowledge of Chinese rather than involving other languages/regions for analogy.

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Kenny同志

Thanks for the reminder, Chen Decong.

 

I should have said that most Chinese dialects share a common writing system - basically same grammar, all using Chinese characters, except that the vocabulary of each has some unique words.

 

Edit:

 

Must add that most dialects exist only in a verbal form because in them, many words 有音無字. Another reason is that if the author chooses to use homophones or near homophones to represent the actual words, inconsistencies among different authors could make part of the writing incomprehensible even to those who speak the same dialect.

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xiaokaka

“I should have said that most Chinese dialects share a common writing system”

Yes, which is based on MSM, although has a lot of loan words from other topolects. But if the "dialects" would be written with their proper grammar and non-mandarin vocabulary as they are actually spoken, it would be really hard for speakers of other topolects to understand it (although easier than the spoken form).

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AdamD
In my opinion, increasing literacy among Chinese people was merely a pretext used by the then government to ultimately wipe out Chinese characters.

 

Eliminating a character set by creating thousands of new ones? As others have said, phonetic systems have existed for ages and they're not in principal use outside schools.

 

Anyway, if ever there were a serious attempt to kill characters, it's gone now, and they'd be in for a Newspeak level of destruction if they were to embark on a change of that magnitude. Can you imagine? Thousands of years of books, libraries, signs, documents, subtitles, internet archives and tattoos being rewritten, and in a potentially more ambiguous form. At least loads of literate Chinese people can make out common traditional as well as simplified. And don't start me on how depressing Chinese homonyms would be without characters.

 

Back on topic (sorry): Some of the simplifications are baffling and frankly annoying, but when I see learners of English trying to remember how to say 'through', 'trough', 'bough' and 'enough', I shut my face and press on. One of the beautiful things about language is how bonkers it all is.

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MPhillips

My vote for world lingua franca goes to Turkish--a highly phonemic orthography (at least on a par with Spanish) & only one irregular verb (can't say that about Spanish!).

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li3wei1
This means if China adopts a phonetic writing system, it may gradually disintegrate into many smaller countries, each one using their own written language.

 

 

Or alternatively, many regions sharing a common written language but pronouncing it differently.

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Kenny同志
Or alternatively, many regions sharing a common written language but pronouncing it differently.

 

That's impossible. The dialects are too different from each other phonetically.

 

My vote for world lingua franca goes to Turkish

 

My vote goes to classical Chinese and Latin. If the West continues to use Latin as the written language and Asia classical Chinese, there wouldn't be so many language barriers. Once a person has mastered the two languages, he/she will be able to read almost any book in the world. Nothing could be more thrilling!

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MPhillips

I can't deny I'm far more interested in reading classical Chinese literature than Turkish literature--but it's so hard!

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Kenny同志

Where are you reading?

 

I can't give you much advice as I am still learning but if you are at a beginner level, it might help to start with something this is not so difficult, say 聊齋誌異, 酉陽雜俎, 浮生六記 and even 史記.

 

I bought an annotated version of 聊齋誌異 by 朱其鎧 two or three years ago, and found it pretty good. The annotations were thorough and very useful and many of the stories were very engaging. The only two things I don't like about it are the Simplified Chinese and ugly cover.

 

酉陽雜俎 is a miscellaneous collection of treasures, with some fantastic 神仙故事 I particularly like. It's not very hard and you can't miss it.

 

浮生六記, one of my favourite books, is probably the easiest among the three. You should be able to read it even without annotations. 

 

讀古文入門, by 鮑善淳 is an excellent introductory book to classical Chinese, but like some people have said in the reviews, it is spoiled to some extent by slipshod editing and proofing.

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