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shibo77

Chinese in purely phonetic script

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fenlan

The question is one of the style of language. Although even in speech Chinese people do not necessarily understand every character, it is clear that colloquial Chinese is understandable, due to contextual information and the low usage of rare characters in speech. If Chinese people wanted to develop a baihuawen that was just on the colloquial level, I expect they could. But if they want to have an educated, refined, high culture as well, there need s to be more levels to write on, eg shumianyu. And that requires characters owing to the use of rare characters, chengyu etc. The Dongan people in Central Asia are mandarin speaking Hui's in the former Sovieit Union - they write in a phonetic Cyrillic script, and manage just fine. But chengyu, any rarer lexical items etc are just impossible in that sort of script. It exists solely on the level of everyday colloquial language.

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nipponman

I still don't think that a purely phonetic script would work. When I say "work", I mean it wouldn't be effective, feasable, easier, etc. I.e it would have no benefits. Characters, convey meaning. You can use less disyllabic words, but you cannot use less disyllabic words with just pinyin and documents will be longer. Also,

Y'know, if a phonetic system is such a bad idea, how do all the Chinese people understand each other when speaking :conf

This is one of my problems. Some words can be used monosyllabically. Like 街 or 借. But which ones can and cannot must be memorized. Also, pinyin is much, much harder to read in the long run. Why? Because characters convey meaning directly to your mind (at least, it does that to my mind, I think it is the same for everyone) so that when you see a character, there is no question about which word you are using, if you see 街 then you don't think of 皆. But when you see jie1, which one is it?:conf I can't tell without maybe another word in pinyin and some context, but why spend the precious seconds to search my mind through all the jie1's that I know making reading a great pain instead of the joy that it should be (most of the time :). And though I may get through this fix of not knowing which jie1 is which, those precious seconds add up, and if I'm doing that every other word, then it might take me half an hour just to read 2 pages, which would kinda suck.

nipponman

P.s. I've never seen the word 旖旎 before, does it mean "the fluttering of flags?" And is it common?

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atitarev
I still don't think that a purely phonetic script would work. When I say "work"' date=' I mean it wouldn't be effective, feasable, easier, etc. I.e it would have no benefits. Characters, convey meaning. You can use less disyllabic words, but you cannot use less disyllabic words with just pinyin and documents will be longer. Also,

This is one of my problems. Some words can be used monosyllabically. Like 街 or 借. But which ones can and cannot must be memorized. Also, pinyin is much, much harder to read in the long run. Why? Because characters convey meaning directly to your mind (at least, it does that to my mind, I think it is the same for everyone) so that when you see a character, there is no question about which word you are using, if you see 街 then you don't think of 皆. But when you see jie1, which one is it?:conf I can't tell without maybe another word in pinyin and some context, but why spend the precious seconds to search my mind through all the jie1's that I know making reading a great pain instead of the joy that it should be (most of the time :). And though I may get through this fix of not knowing which jie1 is which, those precious seconds add up, and if I'm doing that every other word, then it might take me half an hour just to read 2 pages, which would kinda suck.

nipponman

P.s. I've never seen the word 旖旎 before, does it mean "the fluttering of flags?" And is it common?[/quote']

It's because you are trying to convert pinyin back to characters in your mind but do you care if you just Latin script? You just use 街道 jiēdào and 街头 jiētóu. It's the emotional attachment to characters and habit, phonetical script is still much more practical not only for writing but for reading as well. Of course, Chinese will be sorry for their first names because they will lose their meaning (or the meaning will not be obvious) - they have to explain, which characters are used for their names anyway on the phone, you can't tell just by hearing. That's why South Koreans still use characters for names (on business cards and signs) - to make the meaning of their name clear - but only for clarification. North Koreans abandoned the use of Chinese characters altogether.

So, a person called Yǒngshòu will have to explain that his first name is 永寿 , not 永瘦 :)

(寿命的寿) A Long living Yongshou, not for ever skinny. :) Names are close to classical Chinese (Wenyan) in that respect. In your case of jiē - it's all clear form the context.

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gato
If Chinese people wanted to develop a baihuawen that was just on the colloquial level, I expect they could. But if they want to have an educated, refined, high culture as well, there need s to be more levels to write on, eg shumianyu.
You've pretty much summed up the whole situation. A phonetic system can work effectively for spoken Chinese, but it doesn't work for those Chinese phrases inherited from classical literary Chinese, which is more or less a strictly written language. If everyone spoke Wenyanwen on a daily basis, then pinyin would work for wenyanwen as well.

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skylee
I've never seen the word 旖旎 before, does it mean "the fluttering of flags?" And is it common?

It is usually used to describe beautiful scenery/women, as in 風光旖旎.

Take a look -> http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/cgi-bin/agrep-lindict?query=%ba%59&category=wholerecord

旖旎 [yi3ni3], adj., charming, graceful (female figure); charming, enticing, glorious (landscape).

And this -> http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/cgi-bin/agrep-lindict?query=%b1%dd&category=wholerecord

(1) Pliant, easily bent: 旖旎從風 fluttering with the wind.

(2) Beautiful, lovely: 旖旎風光 an exquisite scenery, lovely scenes.

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geraldc

So if characters are required to understand Classical chinese, how do blind people understand classical poetry?

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nipponman

It's because you are trying to convert pinyin back to characters in your mind but do you care if you just Latin script? You just use 街道 jiēdào and 街头 jiētóu. It's the emotional attachment to characters and habit, phonetical script is still much more practical not only for writing but for reading as well.

It's much more than emotional attachment, believe me. I am not natively asian, so I don't think I would care one way or the other had I not began learning kanji over 7 years ago.

This problem exists in Chinese, but can be magnified ten times in Japanese.

高声 【こうしょう】 (adj-na,n) loud or high-pitched voice

咬傷 【こうしょう】 (n) a bite (wound)

工廠 【こうしょう】 (n) arsenal

工匠 【こうしょう】 (n) artisan, mechanic

公証 【こうしょう】 (n) authentication, notarization

行賞 【こうしょう】 (n) conferring of an award

公娼 【こうしょう】 (n) licensed prostitution, registered prostitute

哄笑 【こうしょう】 (n) loud laughter

these are all pronounced kou shou. Now, in Chinese, these have different pronunciations.

gao1 sheng1, yao3 shang1, gong1 chang3, gong1 jiang4 etc. But the point remains the same. If you take away the characters here, you just get kou shou. And the only one of these words that is distinguished by morphology is 高声 (notice if I were to say "the only one of these words that is distinguished by morphology is kou shou...", you would probably have no clue of what I am talking about, and therefore much more context would be necessary.) So, leaving out that word, you have 7 different nouns, all of which need to be nexed by the context to show which word is what is intended.

Back to Chinese, the same thing happens in chinese since Chinese is much more monosyllabic than is Japanese. And therefore, there is much more room for confusion when you're only dealing with pinyin. As I said, it is just not practical to convert to pinyin, it isn't something that would help anyone, it would definitely, however, cause lots of confusion. Because there isn't much of a way to distinguish between words besides the tone numbers. Also, the correlation between written vocabulary and spoken language that makes learning Chinese bareable would be lost. When you think of "Street", you wouldn't think of 街, but of just jie1. That hinders memorization of words and makes Chinese like a European language. So, I guess what I am trying to say is, yes, you could possibly convert from characters to pinyin, but you could also convert to audible words to a system of clicks and finger-snaps, but that doesn't mean that it is a plausible, helpful, or even smart thing to do.

nipponman

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atitarev
It's much more than emotional attachment' date=' believe me. I am not natively asian, so I don't think I would care one way or the other had I not began learning kanji over 7 years ago.

This problem exists in Chinese, but can be magnified ten times in Japanese.

高声 【こうしょう】 (adj-na,n) loud or high-pitched voice

咬傷 【こうしょう】 (n) a bite (wound)

工廠 【こうしょう】 (n) arsenal

工匠 【こうしょう】 (n) artisan, mechanic

公証 【こうしょう】 (n) authentication, notarization

行賞 【こうしょう】 (n) conferring of an award

公娼 【こうしょう】 (n) licensed prostitution, registered prostitute

哄笑 【こうしょう】 (n) loud laughter

these are all pronounced kou shou. Now, in Chinese, these have different pronunciations.

gao1 sheng1, yao3 shang1, gong1 chang3, gong1 jiang4 etc. But the point remains the same. If you take away the characters here, you just get kou shou. And the only one of these words that is distinguished by morphology is 高声 (notice if I were to say "the only one of these words that is distinguished by morphology is kou shou...", you would probably have no clue of what I am talking about, and therefore much more context would be necessary.) So, leaving out that word, you have 7 different nouns, all of which need to be nexed by the context to show which word is what is intended.

Back to Chinese, the same thing happens in chinese since Chinese is much more monosyllabic than is Japanese. And therefore, there is much more room for confusion when you're only dealing with pinyin. As I said, it is just not practical to convert to pinyin, it isn't something that would help anyone, it would definitely, however, cause lots of confusion. Because there isn't much of a way to distinguish between words besides the tone numbers. Also, the correlation between written vocabulary and spoken language that makes learning Chinese bareable would be lost. When you think of "Street", you wouldn't think of 街, but of just jie1. That hinders memorization of words and makes Chinese like a European language. So, I guess what I am trying to say is, yes, you could possibly convert from characters to pinyin, but you could also convert to audible words to a system of clicks and finger-snaps, but that doesn't mean that it is a plausible, helpful, or even smart thing to do.

nipponman[/quote']

Thanks, Nipponman. Everyone who is learning Chinese or Japanese is aware of these homophones - it's sufficient to open a dictionary based on phonetics to see the situation or to type in common syllables in an input program and try to convert to characters - then you have to choose. The words you produced are normally used in context and are often used as abbreviations or nouns used with verbs, then the context is clear. I will ask Japanese about homophones and "kōshō".

The written language should be as clear as the spoken, otherwise you have to to explain every homophone what you read out to another person who just listens to what reading aloud. How long does a Chinese person take to realize, which yìshì is meant if one of those is used in the context - in a spoken language. Too long? Then they don't know enough Chinese or the word is rare and shouldn't be used. If the word, as a separate unit is clear then it doesn't matter which Yì and Shì they are composed of, it's no longer zì (or rather: Hànzì) but cí (or better dāncí - disambiguating a bit) is important.

Some yìshì:

议事

逸事

义士

艺事

易事

异事

逸士

异士

译释

Korean language has a lot of homophones but they don't use hanja (=hanzi) in their daily life but dictionaries have a lot of homophone entries, see below. Looks like they found a way to deal with a large number of ambiguities. The same can be said about Vietnamese. Maybe the answer is to use both scripts for such cases, especially for names, Wenyan, abbreviations - because there's no tradition to abbreviate to initial letters - Beijing Daxue is Beida, not BD.

All Sino-Korean characters below are pronounced SUDO (in Hangul as 수도).

1. 修道 "spiritual discipline"

2. 受渡 "receipt and delivery"

3. 囚徒 "prisoner"

4. 水都 "'city of water'" (e.g. Hong Kong and Naples)

5. 水稻 "rice"

6. 水道 "drain"

7. 隧道 "tunnel"

8. 首都 "capital (city)"

9. 手刀 "hand-knife"

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nipponman

Too long? Then they don't know enough Chinese or the word is rare and shouldn't be used. If the word, as a separate unit is clear then it doesn't matter which Yì and Shì they are composed of, it's no longer zì (or rather: Hànzì) but cí (or better dāncí - disambiguating a bit) is important.

So, you're saying Quest and Skylee don't know enough chinese? They tried to read a pinyin thingy and found it difficult. Not because pinyin is more practical, but because it is just harder to read. You have to admit, you lose the benefit of instant recognition as far as characters go.

You can't instantly tell which yi4 shi4 someone is talking about. It is a cold, uninviting system. Sure it is 100x eaiser not having to learn han zi, until you realize you have to realize 3000 different words which sound the same. There are so many homonyms in Chinese that is isn't funny. De. The three de's would be hard to tell apart. It is again, not feasible. Give me one good reason why converting to pinyin would help, and not hinder, the learning and use of Chinese.

nipponman

P.s. here's how a native described a pinyin passage--imagine a whole book!--

Shibo, did you mean that passage in pinyin was easy to read? I sure had a hard time understanding it, and I seriously doubt anyone can skim that romanized text and make out any meaning of it.

He had a hard time understanding it! That tells me more than mere rationales ever could.

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fenlan

Also the native speaker said no one could "skim" a pinyin passage. That's true. It would take careful reading to get anything out of a pinyin passage.

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nipponman
Also the native speaker said no one could "skim" a pinyin passage. That's true. It would take careful reading to get anything out of a pinyin passage.

Good point. I notice that when I read something to see if it is useful or not, I just skim through it catching the characters and seeing what is going on.

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shiaosan

Chinese characters are soooo unique. It's a pity to see (if ever) it changing just yet one more phonetic script. It appears to be an abstacle at first, but it actually has its advantage over purely phoneticly originated languages. I see it's a pity that Korean changed the language. Japanese has done a much better job in retaining the Chinese characters.

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gato

Quest and skylee are native Cantonese speakers. Perhaps a native Mandarin would be able to read pinyin more easily. I myself was able to read the pinyin passage without too much difficulty, though admittedly slower than characters. The hardest parts were the Wenyanwen-like (classical Chinese) elements (highlighted in red below). These words in red are much less commonly heard in spoken Chinese. I'd expect that the higher percentage of wenyanwen in the text, the more difficult it would be read in pinyin.

今天上午,中国国民党,亲民党大陆访问纪念章一套三枚在人民大会堂西厅正式与市民见面。据中华全国集邮联合会专家介绍,此次发行的一枚金章,两枚银章均为足金足银制作而成。金章正面图案和平鸽,橄榄枝,寓意国民党大陆访问团的“和平之旅”;

Reading, however, is only one half of any romanization project. Writing might be an even bigger challenge. Having to think about the correct tones would surely slow one down, not to mention that many non-native Mandarin speakers aren't sure of the standard pinyin of many words, as defined by the dictionaries. This task is made much easier on the computer where the pinyin entry program can show you the list of characters corresponding to the pinyin you entered. You can correct yourself if necessary. A good pinyin entry program also has a large builtin vocabulary and is good at guessing the words you're typing, so that you can enter the pinyin continuously without the tones.

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gato

We have to remember modern vernacular written Chinese is still a very young language, only about 100 years old, if you don't count The Dream of Red Chambers and other still wenyanwen-heavy literature. It took many years for writing style in English to simplify enough to be readable by the average bloke, too. Many writers used to be fond of adding sprinkles of Latin and French to their writing, no doubt making it difficult for those who haven't learned Latin and French.

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Quest
or the word is rare and shouldn't be used.

That's not very convincing.

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nipponman

Thanks skylee for the info. I got so caught up that I forgot to thank you.

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Quest
though admittedly slower than characters.

How much slower? I can solve 2x2 right away, I can solve 22222 x 22222 / 123454321 too though slower...

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nipponman
Quest and skylee are native Cantonese speakers. Perhaps a native Mandarin would be able to read pinyin more easily. I myself was able to read the pinyin passage without too much difficulty, though admittedly slower than characters.
I hope you don't mind me asking then, are you a native speaker gato?

You'd thnk that native Cantonese would be able to read a phonetic script a little better than would a mandarin speaker. This a little off topic but, Cantonese (as I understand it) has less homonyms than mandarin. Thus, making for less ambiguity. Probably still isn't easily readable though. Now, what effect Quest and Skylee's native Cantonese status has on this argument, I am not sure. I just assumed it would be the same all across the board. Maybe xiaocai is reading this...

nipponman

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gato

Here's a piece of dialogue from the movie "The Blue Kite." Try it and see if romanized spoken Mandarin is easier to read. I'd expect that the phrase "jièjiāojièzào" would be the most difficult to dicipher.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~dporter/sampler/bluekite.html

Tuánzhǎng: jiù nǐ yìjian duō, láosāo dà. Nǐ bié wàngle nǐ shì jūnrén.

Zhū yīng: Tuánzhǎng, wǒ jiù shì bù xǐhuan péi shǒuzhǎng tiàowǔ. Yǒu zhè diǎn shíjiān yònglái xuéxí nà bu shì gèng hǎo ma?

tuánzhǎng: Zhè shì yī xiàng zhèngzhi rènwu. Rúguǒ bu shì zhèngzhì shang kěkào de tóngzhì gēnběn jiù bu néng cānjiā.

Zhū yīng: Yě bù yīnggāi měi cì dōu shì wǒ qù ya. Zài shuō wǒ yě méi kànchū tiàowǔ yǒu shénme zhèngzhì yìyì.

Tuánzhǎng: Nǐ yào hǎohāo xiǎngxiang, nǐ shì jùtuán de péiyǎng zhòngdiǎn. Dǎng zǔzhi yòu zài kǎolǜ nǐ de rùdǎng wèntí, nǐ kě

yào jièjiāojièzào a.

Zhū yīng: Tuánzhǎng, wǒ.

Tuánzhǎng: Jù tóngzhì men fǎnyìng nǐ zài tán liàn'ài. Zhème dà de shìqing wèishénme bù huìbào ne?

zhū yīng: Kě shì wǒmen hái méiyǒu zuìhòu quèdìng guānxi ya?

tuánzhǎng: Bù guǎn quèdìng méiyǒu wǒ dōu yào tíxǐng nǐ, yī gè rén de zhèngzhì shēngmìng shì fēicháng zhòngyào de. Wǒ de huà nǐ yīnggāi míngbai. Bù yào gūfù shàngjí shǒuzhǎng de qīwàng a.

[Highlight below for the characters corresponding to the above]

团长:就你意见多,牢骚大。你别忘了你是军人。

朱英:团长,我就是不喜欢陪首长跳舞。有这点时间用来学习那不是更好吗?

团长:这是一项整治任务。如果不是政治上可靠的同志根本就不能参加。

朱英:也不应该每次都是我去呀。再说我也没看出跳舞有什么政治意义。

团长:你要好好想想,你是剧团的培养重点。党组织又在考虑你的入党问题,你可

要戒骄戒躁啊。

朱英:团长,我。

团长:据同志们反应你在谈恋爱。这么大的事情为什么不汇报呢?

朱英:可是我们还没有最后确定关系呀?

团长:不管确定没有我都要提醒你,一个人的政治生命是非常重要的。我的话你应

该明白。不要辜负上级首长的期望啊。

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Quest
Now, what effect Quest and Skylee's native Cantonese status has on this argument, I am not sure.

Neither am I. Perhaps there's something Skylee or I should not be able to understand in that passage?

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