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Honwenese (漢苑話) Conlect


ParkeNYU
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It's hard to say whether the system is closest to Mandarin, Cantonese, or Hakka (not even I can tell). Keep in mind that I didn't design this system specifically to be a combination of the three; it just turned out that way by chance. For example, the readings of 'huǎi' for 畫 and 'diáu' for 鳥 were extracted directly from the pre-Mongol rime tables, whereas most modern Chinese topolects obscure them in order to avoid undesirable homophones (i.e. 壞 and 屌, respectively). I'm equally as gauche about spellings with undesirable homographs in English, such as 'fukshit' (副室), an old word meaning 'concubine', oddly enough.

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There are just too many instances in which you'd have to favour one over the other. It's possible to create such a system that is well balanced, but my familiarity with the languages isn't nearly deep enough; I would need a native-speaking team of linguists to undertake such a project.

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Someone tried something like that before.

Yeah, Mr. 'Tangent'. I've been discussing this stuff with him on Facebook and other forums for years. The main difference is that he takes Y. R. Chao's top-down approach by collecting modern readings from a selection of topolects and merging them into compromise concoctions. I take the bottom-up approach, like most Middle Chinese scholars. His system might resemble actual living languages more closely, but my system is more consistent in terms of preserving the rhyming structure and overall logic of syllable relationships for each character, since each value can be converted directly from the rime tables (and thus, similarity to modern topolects is somewhat incidental). This makes Wényîn readings far more reliable and easy to generate, with minimum bias and judgement calls. I could take a list of Middle Chinese values and write an algorithm to convert every character into Wényîm instantaneously.

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Fascinating project! I like the aesthetic: Not as vowel-crazy as Cantonese, not as radically re-toned as Wu, not as consonant-impoverished as Mandarin.

 

And Hakka is a very nice source for reducing non-Chinese influence: Starts out without much non-Chinese substrate, hangs around Chang'an when it's the capital, and then gets out of town before non-Chinese superstrate influences get too intense.

 

I'd enjoy hearing which real-world varieties of Mandarin and Hakka you drew from, and why you made the particular decisions you did. For example, why didn't you split the shang tone, or why did you sweep the ru syllables into other tones? 

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@anonymoose Because if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. Rather than complain that the existing topolects don't satisfy my craving for Sinolect conservatism, it's more fruitful to just make my own.

 

@eritain Thank you! Yes, it is said that Hakka is the most 'generically Chinese' of all the branches, Cantonese having Baiyue influence, Mandarin having Jurchen influence, Wu and Min going nuts in their own ways, etc. Hakkas traveled around from the north to south and their language thus demonstrates a healthy mix. Actually, my ParseRime pronunciation system has some finals that are even more like Hakka, for example Honwenese [-jaw] and [-jəw] are ParseRime [-ɛw] and [-iw], respectively.

 

Half of the 陽上 tones were sent to 陽去 due to 濁上變去 (aka 濁上歸去), which allowed me to reunify 上聲 with minimal loss (the sonorants could only exist in the lower register anyway). The 入聲 were originally parallel short versions of 去聲 with the nasal codas transforming into their Homorganic stop forms, so I am continuing that tradition, as they are in perfect complementary distribution (evidence lies in the order of the tones, their names, the oblique classification, an early description of the tones' pronunciations, and four rime groups that formerly ended in voiced stops in Old Chinese but only occurred in the departing tone in Middle Chinese, being placed in the 入聲 cells of the rime tables). Therefore, I can have five tones instead of eight, yet remove the original voiced obstruent initials of Middle Chinese.

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I've just finished translating all twenty-one reading passages of Practical Chinese Reading & Writing (實用中文讀寫) into Honwenese. Each page has the Standard Chinese version in traditional characters (華語中文) with Honwenese pinyin ruby text, the Honwenese version in traditional characters (苑語中文), and a Romanised Honwenese transliteration of that Honwenese version (苑語拼音). Even if you haven't studied Honwenese before, I think some of you polyglots might find it interesting to see how much you understand and how similar it is to other Han Chinese topolects.

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tvyjlrw7u8y1qr4/PCRW_Honwenese.pdf?dl=0

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Unofficially, there are two categories of 'lazy sound' in Honwenese that encourage the fluidity of speech:

1) Ternary Tone Reduction (TTR): the even and departing tones, each within its own register, converge into a non-contour-specific short tone (one higher and one lower). Otherwise stated, the phonetic realisations of tones 1 and 4 merge, as do those of tones 2 and 5. The rising tone (tone 3) flattens into a non-contour-specific short tone as well, sitting between the other two. The result is a non-contour-specific short-duration three-tone system with phonetic values [˦(4)] for high, [˧(3)] for middle, and [˨(2)] for low.

2) Homorganic Coda Assimilation (HCA): the nasal and stop codas of a given syllable mutate to homorganically agree with the initial of the following syllable. For example, the nasal codas /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/ all converge into /m/ preceding /m/ or /p/, into /n/ preceding /n/ or /t/, and into /ŋ/ preceding /ŋ/ or /k/. Accordingly, the stop codas /p/, /t/, and /k/ all converge into /p/ preceding /m/ or /p/, into /t/ preceding /n/ or /t/, and into /k/ preceding /ŋ/ or /k/.

It is important to note that neither category of 'lazy sound' is permissible in citation, whether of a single morpheme or compound thereof (i.e. any words or set phrases uttered in isolation); these instances must be pronounced fully and appropriately. Orthography is unaffected.

 
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