Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

shibo77

Chinese in purely phonetic script

Recommended Posts

atitarev

>>Harder but is the same as the other person read it out for you? You don't have to convert the words to characters when you speak/listen?

I mean that pinyin is the sound only - if you read it out and listen to your voice - you get the same effect as someone else is reading it a Chinese text aloud to you - and you don't see the actual characters the other person is reading, you just hear it. You just use your listening comprehension skills, not reading skills. Pinyin serves the same purpose if used as designed and teaches correct Putonghua pronunciation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

gato

Two articles in Chinese

An article on various issues in pinyin-ization

http://fhpi.yingkou.net.cn/bbs/1951/messages%2030/25938.html

An interview with "the father of pinyin," Zhou Youguang, who's now 99 years old. He says that pinyin was a way to teach standard Mandarin. He said that many colleagues he worked with at the founding PRC to promote literacy couldn't speaking Mandarin and were frustrated that they had easier time making themselves understood in English than in Chinese.

http://yywz.ntsf.edu.cn/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=47

《时代人物周报》:你如何看待自己这份语言文字推广工作者的新职业?按照常理,你应当继承曾祖父,成为一名手握万金融家才对啊。

  周有光:很多事情可能并非是自己可以掌控的,原来,我也以为自己能在金融领域大展宏图,同时,当时我也一直在金融部门工作。解放后,组织上看到我同时懂得中、英、法、日四门语言,可能是这个原因所以让我干起了语言文字工作。在建国初期,有一次我与老科学家朱可桢在政协开会时,被分到了同一小组,他的普通话很不标准,所以,他每次讲完之后,我就帮他做翻译,会后,他感叹第说,我讲英文大家都能听得懂,怎么讲中国话大家反而听不懂呢?我说,你的英语是通过正规训练,而你的普通话却没有经过正规学习。1955年,当我加入国家成立国家语言文字推广委员会时,很多人调侃说,“自己连标准普通话都不能说,还怎么搞语言文字推广呢?”语文本身就是语文工具,语文生活就是语文应用。民国初年制定国语发音标准,就是最早对汉语本身的现代化加工。文体从文言文改为白话文,是书面语本身的现代化。汉字从繁体改为简体,是汉字形体本身的现代化。注音方式从反切改为字母,从汉字形式字母改为国家通用字母,是注音工具本身的现代化。语文本身在不断现代化。

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

This article makes a good point that one of the biggest reason why reading pinyin is so slow is the presence of tone marks. He writes that Vietnamese had eight tones when they first adopted the Latin alphabet. They have at times experimented with writing without tone marks and have found that most words can be recognized without them. One Hanoi newspaper published articles without tone marks for four, five years in the 1940s, but later abandoned the practice. Many people writing without tone marks in personal communications.

http://www.hpw-wzm.com/YuiceYuXsoxva/Ywxx13/Bqadqo.htm

50年代中国制订汉语拼音方案时,有人曾对越南文的标调问题进行过详细的考察。越南语与汉语同属一个语系,也是声调语言,曾长期使用汉字的,受汉字文化影响深远。一百年前开始使用拉丁字母拼音文字。越南文有8 个声调,也是使用附加的符号标调的,大部份越南词汇不标声调也可以了解意义。1945年河内报纸曾试行用字母标调,先后达4-5年,未获成功而放弃。越南在战争期间,大部份机关文件不标声调,平常私人信件也不标声调。当时的结论是:用符号标调对于正音教学有好处,但是,作为一个国家的正式文字,符号太多,不美观,不方便;用字母标调除了能适应机械化的要求之外,并不比用符号标调有多大的优越性,而且不利于词儿连写和阅读。对于声调语言的文字来说,根本的问题不是如何标调,而是要不要标调。如果使用词儿连写,用定型方法分化部份同音词,越南文的大部份的词是完全可以不标调的。如今已经进入计算机文字处理时代多年,越南文在计算机化过程中,对于标调问题一定有更多的经验,希望深谙越南语的同仁提供有关信息,供汉语拼音化参考

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Glenn

いじょうのようれいにおいて「ば」と「たら」がおきかえかのうですが、どちらをつかってもおなじようにいえるのかというと、そんなことないだろうとおもいます。ぜったいなにかニュアンスのちがいがあるとおもうのですが、にほんじんはこのふたつのけいしきをたかうとき、どうかんじますか?

Just out of curiosity, where did you get that? It's interesting that something like that would be written entirely in kana.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
shibo77

Wow, so much replies in so short a time. Sorry if I didn't explain myself well. I started this post to explain the obvious fact that it is possible to write Chinese in a purely phonetic script. I am not advocating changing to a purely phonetic script, nor do I think Hanyu Pinyin is a purely phonetic script, it may be a phonetic script, but it is far from pure and perfect. Also I tried to explain that it is not because phonetic scripts like Hanyu Pinyin is difficult to read, it is because the average Chinese is not educated to read in Hanyu Pinyin. But if a modified version of Hanyu Pinyin were to replace characters, and the average Chinese was educated with only Hanyu Pinyin from an early age, then of course the average Chinese could read the modified Hanyu Pinyin perfectly well!

The average Chinese, or any speaker of any other natural human language can communicate with each other perfectly well by simply listening and speaking.

If the average Chinese weren't taught with a writing system, one can understand another person either taught with or not taught with the writing system perfectly well.

A language is mostly spoken, you use your language function parts of your brain mostly in your life for speaking and listening, not writing and reading, you could do very well without them altogether.

语言LANGUAGE(morpheme+grammar):

When the language skill is acquired, that means you have associated meanings(semantics) to sounds(phonemes). This is a semantic-sound association (morpheme), which is the smallest block of a language. With morphemes in hand, you begin to gain rules about how to use morphemes together in order to achieve something, these are the rules of the language (grammar). At this point you could be considered fluent in that language.

文字SCRIPT(grapheme+orthography):

However human invented writing as an advantage. This is also taught to many with access to education. You begin to associate the morphemes you already know to basic units of a script (grapheme). With graphemes at hand, you acquire a knowleadge of how graphemes work together to form an accurate transcription of spoken language(morpheme+grammar) unto a writing medium, usually with your hand(s), these are the rules governing graphemes in a script. In English the rules governing the graphemes would be spelling.

A sole group of people doesn't equal a sole language, a sole language doesn't equal a sole script.

The average Chinese today reading Hanyu Pinyin altogether would find it very difficult, because when the person received one's education, one associated morphemes with a script of characters and not a script based on phonemes such as Hanyu Pinyin. If taught with Hanyu Pinyin, it could be equally efficient as Chinese characters.

When you read "Beijing", you immediately recognise its associated morpheme. This is because you are used to it, in other words you were taught to associate this particular morpheme with a phonetic script. Beijing, you didn't even need the accent marks, and you only need skim it to know it's meaning, you don't need to try to pronounce the alphabets, (Bō-ěi>>Běi; jī-īng>>jīng, Běijīng, 奥! 北京,是地名呀!) No, you immediately recognise Beijing. How about Nanjing, Taiwan, Anhui, Dalian, Shanghai, Guangdong, Qingdao, Shenyang, Harbin, Qiqihar, Hohhot, easy right? Alot of them are exactly the Hanyu Pinyin spellings without the tonal marks. This is because you are used to seeing them with a phonetic script. You can recognise their character script equally fast as well: 南京,台湾,安徽,大连,上海,广东,青岛,沈阳,哈尔滨,齐齐哈尔,呼和浩特.

In conclusion, all the languages of the world can be written with a phonetic script, with any script. If I decided to write Beijing as :mrgreen:, and I were taught in a smiley face language from childhood, then I would recognise and communicate with :mrgreen: perfectly and equally well if I wrote it as Beijing, 北京, Peking, or Běijīng!

When you see AIDS, or when you see 艾滋病,or when you see that red ribbon, you immediately understand what it means, equally fast and equally efficient, it is simply because you were taught that way and now you are used to them. If I write àizībìng, you would have to pronounce each lettre and form a phoneme and then remember the meaning(semantics) to which it is associated, you would slow down and you would then say that Hanyu Pinyin is inefficient. No! It is because you weren't taught with àizībìng, if you were taught to associate àizībìng with the meaning of an uncurable disease, then you would recognise àizībìng equally fast as with a red ribbon. When you were taught Hanyu Pinyin you were deliberately taught to slowly piece together(most teachers require you to read them aloud) each lettre of the Pinyin, and pronounce it whole at the end. You were deliberately taught to slowly read them in order to achieve its purpose of teaching you a standard pronunciation. Years later, you come back to reading Hanyu Pinyin, you do the same thing that you were trained to do as a child, fully pronounce each lettre slowly, and piece them together, then bringing to mind a meaning.

Consider a book written solely with Hanyu Pinyin, and if the books could talk 8) , then you would have little trouble understanding the book, however books can't talk, and now suddenly your reading of the book slowed down by alot, and that your understanding decreased. This is simply of the reason I said in the above paragraph, because you were taught to fully pronounce each lettre slowly in order to make out the correct pronunciation of a word. You were not taught to skim through them as you would with more recognised words. It is that simple!

English has homonyms, pail, pale, wright, right, write, rite, but you have no trouble distinguishing them because they rarely be in the same context, this is the same with the shi4 shi4, how often does 事事 and 逝世 are used close enough to each other as to cause confusion? Even if it did cause confusion on an occasion, a bit of an explanation would easily solve the problem.

I hope I didn't cause more confusion...

-Shìbó :mrgreen:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
skylee
Even if it did cause confusion on an occasion, a bit of an explanation would easily solve the problem.

I would hate to see the average level of the average Chinese lowered, as I imagine it would require plenty of explanations to explain the more advanced/sophisticated material to the average Chinese if they have not been taught the existing Chinese script.

On this I tend to agree with nipponman's comment in #27 ->

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.

This is just my humble opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
shibo77

If it lowers down the average Chinese, it would only lower the average Chinese down to the level that the written language and the speaking language are equals, just like English. English uses a script based solely on phonemes, how their language sounds. Writing with a modified Hanyu Pinyin is just like English, given that the average person is taught that way from childhood. When I said in the rare occasion that when "事事" and "逝世" occur near each other as to cause confusion, that means it would also cause the same confusion when it is spoken as well as if I wrote "shì shì", and "shì shì". The spoken language would equal the written language, just like English, when "pail" and "pale", (which are written differently because English orthography is like that, in a perfect phonetic orthography let's use IPA), they would be written "peil" and "peil", that means it would cause equal confusion whether it is spoken or written. The spoken language=the written language.

However with characters, some distinctions that doesn't exist in the spoken language have distinctions in the written language, written language does not equal the spoken language, in fact they are very different. The Chinese language has 1 third person singular pronoun [t'α55], which could be written in a phonetic script such as Hanyu Pinyin as tā. This truely reflects the Chinese language, spoken=written. However in the Chinese script, distinctions are made between, male human grapheme 他, female human grapheme 她, inanimate grapheme它, and in traditional characters, animal grapheme 牠, divinity grapheme 祂. This is all very nice and making the language recorded more accurately on paper than if it were recorded on tape, but this means spoken does not equal written, and writing is supposed to transcribe morphemes onto paper. Of course, recording it more accurately is an advantage but it does not lower the average Chinese's language abilities. It is the neutral point, in which language = script.

The advantages and disadvantages of a purely phonetic script for daily usage I don't need to elaborate. Of course, I don't think it will ever become reality, it's just a random thought of mine.

-Shìbó :mrgreen:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
skylee
it would only lower the average Chinese down to the level that the written language and the speaking language are equals, just like English.

ONLY?? 哀哉中國文化 ...

but this means spoken does not equal written, and writing is supposed to transcribe morphemes onto paper.

Supposed by whom?

Shibo, having generated so many replies is a great achievement for a random thought. 8)

Oh btw, does your name translate to 世伯 or 世博? :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fenlan
f it lowers down the average Chinese, it would only lower the average Chinese down to the level that the written language and the speaking language are equals, just like English.

Shibo, this is not true. In fact the opposite is true. Eliminating the characters would reduce Chinese to a colloquial level only, and eliminate 书面语. I want to bring out the comparison with English. English has the largest vocabulary in the world, with 600,000+ words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Now that does not include technical words, which would raise the total to 1m+. However, the 600,000 does include forms of headwords (eg, do, doing, done). In fact, eliminating these word forms, there are only 290,000 headwords in the OED. The coverage of the OED is "modern English", including "early modern English" (eg Shakespearian English and some entries from Middle English that illustrate the development of important words).

Middle English and Old English are largely excluded from the dictionary. But there are a lot of words in there that are no longer used, or are only used to read 16th century poetry, or whatever. Even so, the English vocabulary is at least twice the size of other European languages' vocabularies. And that is probably why English literature is the world's greatest contribution to literature, even though our contributions to other arts are rather invisible. Shakespeare, Dickens, Robbie Burns, Jane Austen etc - there is a whole breadth of language here, that is totally different to colloquial language (where the average person has a passive vocabulary of around 20,000 words, and an active vocabulary of much less than that).

[Chinese texts frequently speak of the "world famous" Lu Xun, etc. I have to say, he is only famous in China. As far as I know, the only "world famous" Chinese authors are Confucius, Lao Tzu and Mencius - and none from the Mandarin period, unless you include Zhang Rong who wrote in English. Maybe some authors deserve to be more widely known, but there are few genuine "classics" from the Mandarin period. The 5 vernacular novels from the early Mandarin period could probably be supplemented by a couple of works by Lu Xun, Mao Dun's Midnight and Ba Jin's Trilogy, and that is basically it.]

Now I have been thinking about the comparison between Chinese and English vocabularies. Chinese is the only genuine rival to English in terms of vocabulary size, and the depth and subtlety of the vocabulary. The fact that characters can be combined in so many ways means that the ABCD dictionary has managed to amass 196000 lexical items for Chinese, around 2/3 the number of OED headwords for English. The concept of "headwords" does not really work in Chinese, owing to the non-inflected nature of the language. I showed in a post in the Computing forum that 120,000 of the Chinese lexical items in the Richwin dictionary consisted of only the most common 5000 characters. You could argue that the Chinese language has fewer actual word roots than English (there are 6763 characters in the GB font, but English has more roots than that, owing to the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin roots of the language), but owing to the combining nature of the language could easily have as many words (单词).

To do a comparison with the OED - which does not include Old English or Middle English, except for a very small number of Middle English words - a dictionary of Chinese would need to be conceptualised as a dictionary of Mandarin, rather than as a dictionary of the whole historical breadth of Chinese, as classical Chinese should be excluded. This means that early Mandarin, such as in the early vernacular novels such as Xiyouji should be included, but the large number of characters not used to write early Mandarin or modern Mandarin should be excluded. By conceptualising Mandarin as beginning from Sanguoyanyi, Shuihuzhuan, Xiyouji, Jinpingmei and Hongloumeng, an OED equivalent dictionary for Mandarin would need to include every lexical item in those 5 vernacular novels (which is not the case with the 现代汉语词典), as the OED includes nearly every single word needed to read English literature from the early modern period until now. However, both early Mandarin and modern Mandarin contain a large number of classical allusions, which do form part of the Mandarin vocabulary. Without these, the Chinese vocabulary would be greatly inferior in breadth and depth to its English rival. As it stands, Chinese is the only language in the world in a position to compete with English, largely because the 文言文 elements left in modern Mandarin give Chinese the tools to express themselves in a rich high style on a par with what can done in English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
skylee
a rich high style

I like this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
Shakespeare, Dickens, Robbie Burns, Jane Austen etc - there is a whole breadth of language here, that is totally different to colloquial language (where the average person has a passive vocabulary of around 20,000 words, and an active vocabulary of much less than that).
For me, the vocabulary I use for writing and speaking are virtually the same. In fact, I can't think of any words that I would use in writing but not in speaking. I suspect that would be true for most native-level English speakers, but it's not true at all for Chinese. That's the writting-spoken gap Shibo was referring to.

As for the relative fame of writers, Aristotle and Plato are infinitely more famous than any modern Greek writers. Does that prove that modern Greek is inferior to classical Greek?

The relative size of dictionaries is really peripheral to the issue. Both sets of dictionaries have many words that no person would ever use in either writing or speaking, the OED more than any other dictionary. We should look at the vocabulary that's actually used.

Modern written Chinese can be thought of as a combination of two different languages, vernacular Mandarin and classical Chinese. Yes, a dictionary of classical Chinese might be very thick, but no one speaks classical Chinese. As I've mentioned before, classical Chinese is the Chinese counterpart to Latin. As recent as fifty years ago, English writers, particularly those in the legal field, used Latin phrases quite liberally. But today, the use of foreign words, including Latin, in English prose is frowned upon because it's unnecessary, seen as a sign that one is putting on airs, and more importantly, it hinders communication. English writing practices have become increasingly egalitarian over the ages. Some might call it "dumbing down." But it's not really "dumbing down" when properly understood. Rather it's an attempt at improving readability, to reach a broader audience. To communicate a complex idea simply, with words your audience would understand, is a beautiful thing.

The teaching of Chinese writing, by contrast, still stresses the superiority of classical Chinese (non-spoken) over the spoken venacular. Even in the mainland, which supposedly has had a revolution in language, chengyu inherited from classical Chinese (set phrases) still have a favored place in many teachers' eyes, and students are penalized if they don't use chengyu when writing, no matter how well they otherwise express themselves. It's a legacy of the elite literati past when less than 1% of Chinese could read and write.

The vocabulary of vernacular Mandarin might be smaller than that of vernacular English, but is it always going to be the case? I don't think so. As more Chinese have become educated and the Chinese culture grapple with new concepts that the West has had to grapple with, such as those in the sciences, technology, psychology, and other fields, equivalent terms in Mandarin are invented and incorporated into the spoken vocabulary.

The relevant question for this discussion is whether all words in the spoken vocabulary can be recognized quickly if they were written out in pinyin? Shibo believes they can, given some practice. I'm a little skeptical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fenlan
For me, the vocabulary I use for writing and speaking are virtually the same. In fact, I can't think of any words that I would use in writing but not in speaking. I suspect that would be true for most native-level English speakers, but it's not true at all for Chinese.

Gato, as I pointed out native English speakers can read Shakespeare and everything since then relatively easily. However, I suspect you don't use Shakespearian language that you could read with understanding in your own life. You probably have a wider vocabulary than most English speakers - educated people normally do - and you may use all the terms you write when you speak, but you will passively understand many more words in your reading.

As I've mentioned before, classical Chinese is the Chinese counterpart to Latin. As recent as fifty years ago, English writers, particularly those in the legal field, used Latin phrases quite liberally. But today, the use of foreign words, including Latin, in English prose is frowned upon because it's unnecessary, seen as a sign that one is putting on airs, and more importantly, it hinders communication. English writing practices have become increasingly egalitarian over the ages. Some might call it "dumbing down." But it's not really "dumbing down" when properly understood. Rather it's an attempt at improving readability, to reach a broader audience. To communicate a complex idea simply, with words your audience would understand, is a beautiful thing.

Latin still is used in the legal field in England, and there are more foreign words used in England than in the US, as a familiarity with French and Latin was until very recently the norm in the educated class. Getting your meaning across is not in itself a sign of "high culture". An examination of presidential inauguration speeches shows that Washington and Jefferson and others used very high-style English, whereas recent presidents are not known for their linguistic distinction. Language is not just utilitarian. There is poetry and literature, where the criterion of beauty is not "getting the meaning across", but the beauty and skilful use of the language. This is the point. This is what China would lose by abolishing the characters.

The teaching of Chinese writing, by contrast, still stresses the superiority of classical Chinese (non-spoken) over the spoken venacular. Even in the mainland, which supposedly has had a revolution in language, chengyu inherited from classical Chinese (set phrases) still have a favored place in many teachers' eyes, and students are penalized if they don't use chengyu when writing, no matter how well they otherwise express themselves. It's a legacy of the elite literati past when less than 1% of Chinese could read and write.

In other words, Chinese students get a good education at school. That is what school is for. In the past 1% were literate. Now hundreds of millions can express themselves in chengyu etc. Brilliant. It is natural that teachers encourage an educated and elegant writing style. They are doing their job!

The vocabulary of vernacular Mandarin might be smaller than that of vernacular English, but is it always going to be the case? I don't think so.

No, I don't think the vocabulary of Mandarin will always be smaller. It is quite large enough for me to have trouble navigating it, and new words are being created all the time. I implied that Chinese is the only language that has a comparable breadth and depth to English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pazu
How was/is it taught, then? :help

Vietnamese did the same (I mean teaching classical Chinese without speaking any form of "modern Chinese"), they use the Vietnamese Chinese (Han Viet) phonetics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
Gato, as I pointed out native English speakers can read Shakespeare and everything since then relatively easily. However, I suspect you don't use Shakespearian language that you could read with understanding in your own life.
Yes, even in English, one's reading vocabulary is likely to be larger than one's speaking vocabularly. But my impression is that the vocabulary one uses for writing and speaking would be virtually the same. Again, I can't think of any English words I would use for writing but not for speaking. That's not the case for most people in Chinese.
Latin still is used in the legal field in England, and there are more foreign words used in England than in the US, as a familiarity with French and Latin was until very recently the norm in the educated class.
There's an element of professional interest at work here. It helps to keep the laymen at bay. Why else would you use "inter alia" when "among other things" would do just as well? Here's a quote you might appreciate: "I think the cases are comparatively few in which much light is obtained by a liberal use of Latin phrases....Nobody can derive any assitance from the phrase novus actus interveniens until it is translated into English...." Ingram v. United Auto. Servs., Ltd., (1943).
Getting your meaning across is not in itself a sign of "high culture".
But shouldn't it be? In the broadest sense of ther word "meaning." Using a foreign word when an English word meaning exactly the same thing is available seems snobbish to me. Maybe it's because I've been brainwashed by the Americans.
An examination of presidential inauguration speeches shows that Washington and Jefferson and others used very high-style English, whereas recent presidents are not known for their linguistic distinction. Language is not just utilitarian. There is poetry and literature, where the criterion of beauty is not "getting the meaning across", but the beauty and skilful use of the language.
Well, Bill Clinton speaks quite eloquently, even though the words he uses are not difficult. Poets like Robert Frost and Emily Frost were no less eloquent because they used words more intelligible to the modern reader than Shakespeare.

I agree that language is not just utilitarian, but we should also resist the urge to use it as a badge of social class. There was an strong tendency in that direction in traditional Chinese literary culture, in which all vernacular literature, novels and plays, were deprecated in favor of the written dead language of Wenyanwen. There are still remnants of that sort of thinking today. We still see Chinese schools asking their students to spend hundreds of hours memorizing classical Chinese, so that perhaps they could impress others. Wouldn't the time used for memorization be profitably spent on reading more literature, more history, and practicing their own analysis and writing? A blind reliance on chengyu leads to bloated cliche-filled writing that doesn't say very much. It's the kind of the writing that the May 4th Movement was fighting against.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fenlan

Gato, clearly more than one point of view on this is possible. Can I explain my reasoning? The difference between written and spoken English is one of "register". There is less use of slang and colloquial expressions in print. I spent years working as a subeditor, combating the influence of slang (often US-derived), in order to maintain a "high style" in the reports I subedited. In the office where I work, there is a daily banter/discussion among the writers and subeditors on the subject of which words are permissible and impermissible etc. I take your point that we do write in the vernacular, but a vernacular that has multiple registers, where some expressions are inappropriate in informal circumstances.

Whether you use more words in your own written English or not, the full range of English literature is available for you to access. You can read Shakespeare, Milton and Blake - even though you will need a wider passive vocabulary to do so than when talking to the milkman. The use of a small number of phrases such as "inter alia", which is still often seen in modern English, is a reminder of our cultural inheritance and how Latin once united Europe. Do you ever use the phrase "per annum"? Of course the use of anything other than slang and colloquial English comes from learning at school and the reading of a broad range of books and periodicals. At school vocabularies are broadened, there is exposure to foreign languages and formal grammar, where pupils can learn of more obscure parts of the grammar of their own language, such as the subjunctive and other rarely used aspects. The point is that: they are getting an education. Culture is like a huge treasure-house, and students are introduced to it at school. That is what school is for. I don't understand why pupils should leave school at 16 writing prose that could be written by a 7 year old. In the intervening years, the wonderful storehouse of culture is imbibed by pupils, and the result is a more elegant writing style. What's wrong with that? What should Chinese people learn at school if learning is to stop as soon as they have mastered the basics? Education should give you more than you would have had otherwise.

Bill Clinton may speak in a way that accomplishes the goal of communicating with the uneducated. In that sense he is "eloquent". But politicians of both stripes now speak this kind of dumbed down, meaningless, bureaucratic language. They spend most of their time trying not to say anything at all controversial. This is not a partisan point. You could examine the speeches of all of them and point out all the logical slips, the use of fatuous phrases etc. OK, this is a stylistic point, rather than one on vocabulary per se ("per se" - Latin, but frequently used). But the real reason these people use fewer and smaller words than 200 years ago is that they are addressing themselves to a poorly educated population. It does not matter if politicians use slang - but can their audiences read Shakespeare and Dickens? If not, they are locked out from their heritage.

Literary Chinese is not the preserve of just a few, as you point out that children all over the country are learning it. The May 4th movement ended the use of classical Chinese, and avoided the alternative pitfall of creating a purely demotic language with no higher registers of language and cut off from a glorious past. A grand language has been created, which is nevertheless rich in its vocabulary and historical references. I don't think there is any merit in constraining the development of a literary culture merely because poorly educated people will struggle with it. The solution is to provide a better general education to all to allow them all to take part. Teaching only a basic level of language at school would be the worst course of action - this would reserve the heights of English literature for an educated minority. Can you imagine if English children did not study Shakespeare? That would be a pull-up-the-drawbridge policy that would cut the disadvantaged off from culture. In the Chinese context, a level of language must be taught in schools to enable every child to read an early vernacular novel such as Journey to the West, Xiyouji. Otherwise, that would fence off such contributions to Chinese literature for an educated minority only.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
nipponman
Origianally posted by: Glenn

Just out of curiosity, where did you get that? It's interesting that something like that would be written entirely in kana.

I got the article online (can't remeber where) and quickly wrote it up in kana, it was originally in kanji though.

Originally posted by: Skylee This is just my humble opinion.

Glad you agree, Sky..

Too bad I missed out on much of the discussion. I'll try to recapture some of it though.

Originally posted by: Shibo

The advantages and disadvantages of a purely phonetic script for daily usage I don't need to elaborate. Of course, I don't think it will ever become reality, it's just a random thought of mine.

I'm not sure that they are all that clear now. I think someone should write down to positives and negatives to having a purely phonetic system. If you did, we could discuss it from there. But, as it stands, Chinese has way too many homonyms and way too few ways to distinguish them already, why make it even harder? We skate on thin ice by using context to discern what is said in speech, but what is written has always been very clear. Even in English, if you are a native speaker (or a Chinese speaker with enough English-speaking experience) you will definitely run into some problems with homonyms. Live and live are pronounced differently, but are the same word (in spelling). You can live, while being filmed live on t.v.

As far as vocabulary. I think it would definitely have to be reduced. Different words might be needed because not every sentence looks like wo3 shi4 mei3guo2ren2. That is easy enough to decipher, but even then I was thinking in characters. There is a text at the bottom, could someone, for the sake of argument, translate it for me?

nipponman

duan3 yu3 zai4 ha4 yu3 zhong1 ju4 you3 fei1 chang2 zhong4 yao4 de5 di4 wei4. han4 yu3 de5 yu3yan2 dan1 wei4 fen1 wei4 wu3 ji2, sui1 shuo1 yu3 su4 yu3s su4 zu3 he2 cheng2 chi2, chi2 he2 chi2 zu3 he2 cheng2 duan3 yu3, ci2 huo4 duan3 yu3 zu3 cheng2 ju4 zi5.

shi2 ji4 shang4, hen3 shao3 you3 dan1 ge5 ci2 gou4 cheng2 de ju4 zi5...

It think this has been done before, but I want to see if those who believe in an all pinyin system can actually translate this text excerpt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

n-man, I think I got it, though I admit I had to read it slowly until I understood the context. Shouldn't ha4 of "zai4 ha4 yu3 zhong1" be han4 instead? And the chi2 in "he2 cheng2 chi2, chi2 he2 chi2 zu3" should be ci2?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

fenlan, we're more or less in agreement. I still think that the existence of 书面文 in Chinese (which doesn't exist in English) is a hindrance to learning Chinese for native and non-natives alike. But it seem that they are there stay for now because the vernacular language needs those words to be fully expressive. Perhaps in the long run some of the 书面文 will be incorporated into the vernacular (like how per se is considered a full-fledged member of the English language) and the less commonly used and redundant 书面文 will simply become a historical artifact.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev

For me it would take the same from pinyin or from proper Chinese time to translate - easier from Chinese because I can use electronic dictionaries. Quest already answered that he could read and understand pinyin texts, although it is harder and longer to read than characters. My Chinese is low intermediate. One thing though about texts in pinyin. As I posted before it's important to segment words in pinyin.

jiǎn and dān have much more combinations than jiǎndān spelled together (简单 - 簡單). Wenlin software not just converts characters to pinyin but segments and prompts you how you wish to separate words in cases when there are variants, segmented pinyin texts are much easier to read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
shibo77

duan3 yu3 zai4 ha4 yu3 zhong1 ju4 you3 fei1 chang2 zhong4 yao4 de5 di4 wei4. han4 yu3 de5 yu3yan2 dan1 wei4 fen1 wei4 wu3 ji2, sui1 shuo1 yu3 su4 yu3s su4 zu3 he2 cheng2 chi2, chi2 he2 chi2 zu3 he2 cheng2 duan3 yu3, ci2 huo4 duan3 yu3 zu3 cheng2 ju4 zi5.

shi2 ji4 shang4, hen3 shao3 you3 dan1 ge5 ci2 gou4 cheng2 de ju4 zi5...

There are a few mistakes and I would use tone marks with the words grouped together, nevertheless,the first sentence was difficult and slow, but as soon as I got the context, the rest came easily. If this were spoken you would have no trouble understanding it, I explained this in my previous posts, so please stop post random Hanyu Pinyin passages. My first Hanyu Pinyin post was to explain it being difficult and awkward because of not being associated to Hanyu Pinyin from childhood...

I don't like to post alot of replies because I think it is unnecessary if I explained it clearly, but I think I didn't explain it clearly so I wrote the following replies. I started the thread to talk about writing Chinese in a purely phonetic script, which I read somewhere else that it is not possible, but which was obvious to me that Chinese could be written so and not only chinese but all natural human languages, the reason being if you can understand it being spoken, then you could understand it being written。 All this seemed obvious to me, and I feel like explaining the obvious, with the morephemes and graphemes, but I guess I am not good at explaining, hehe.

How I write and how I speak are very different. There are alot of words which I speak but I have no idea how to write them. When I write, I would choose a different and more formal word. I think the only occasions I speak according to how I write is when I am having an awkward conversation with a foreigner or a formal conversation with my professor.

Yes skylee, that is so great, you got my name!

-Shìbó :mrgreen:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...