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Chinese in purely phonetic script

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geraldc

The main argument for a shift to a phonetic system of writing was that of raising literacy, however no one proposes such a shift anymore.

China's adult literacy rate (people over 15 yrs old and can read and write) is 90.9%, HK's 93.5% and Taiwan's 96.1%. The countries that have moved from a character based system to a romanized system are: Vietnam 90.3%, South Korea's 97.9% ( source http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ )

It seems the most important factor behind the literacy of a nation is its level of economic development, rather than its writing system. I still think it's possible to convert written Chinese to a phonetic system, but the benefits would far outweigh the gains. Much in the same way, you could come up with a system of writing English with Chinese characters, but it would be a very messy way of doing it.

In the UK, they've been trying to clarify the language used in certain situations, e.g. lawyers no longer use archaic latin phrases in the courtroom any more (including the more common ones such as habeus corpus etc) as it was confusing the juries. http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/story/0,,806559,00.html

The use of latin in English, does have some mirrors in the use of classical Chinese in modern Chinese, everyone can read it, but there are always some people who aren't too sure what it means :mrgreen:

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ala
I don't want to drag this discussion out' date=' but I think this sentence kinda proves my point:

結構特點。詞或短語構成句子。 Now, look at huo4. It is clearly serving as Huo4 Zhe3, I am not sure that in literate writing you can just drop the zhe3 like this, maybe colloquially, but not in literate writing. But, because he is writing in characters, everyone will understand just huo4. maybe not if he just used pinyin.

[/quote']

或 by itself is pretty widely used.

The problem with characters is that they encourage a brevity that sometimes goes extreme (where if I read out loud a paragraph, a listener would not be able to understand even if he knows the vocabulary. This usually never happens in English, but happens quite often in Chinese).

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nipponman
Originally posted by ala

或 by itself is pretty widely used.

Dang. Ok, scratch that, bad example.

I still think it's possible to convert written Chinese to a phonetic system, but the benefits would far outweigh the gains.

:lol: You know you're contradicting yourself, right?

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geraldc

d'oh "losses would outweigh the gains"

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atitarev
I don't want to drag this discussion out' date=' but I think this sentence kinda proves my point:

結構特點。詞[b']或[/b]短語構成句子。 Now, look at huo4. It is clearly serving as Huo4 Zhe3, I am not sure that in literate writing you can just drop the zhe3 like this, maybe colloquially, but not in literate writing. But, because he is writing in characters, everyone will understand just huo4. maybe not if he just used pinyin.

nipponman

On HUO and SHI:

I and other users posted that classical Chinese is classical Chinese and can be written in Chinese characters only, if a text is not understood when read aloud it can't be pinyinized effectively. HUO4 used as OR is more literal than huozhe but still can be understood from the context, if spelled separately .

The well-known SHI poem (where all syllables are pronounced SHI) when read aloud is not understood by a Chinese speaker who doesn't know this poem, so it's not a good candidate for pinyinization.

I don't want to drag it either. I will probably leave this discussion if there are no new angles for discussion. Those who were interested to explore if this were possible (for experiment's sake) got their answer.

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fenlan

Let me just add one thing before the thread comes to an end: I read in a book once that there are a couple of academic publications produced in China entirely in pinyin. But I don't know what ones they are!

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Quest

I've been watching the very popular singing competition 超级女声(女声<->女生). Chinese use a lot of puns, and these puns would lose their colors if characters were abandoned. Imagine the show hosts will have to keep reminding people it's "chao1ji2 nv3sheng1 sheng1yin1 de sheng1".....

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Dennis

Dear Fenlan in your reply #69 you wrote that English has the largest vocabulary of 600.000+ words.

That is not true, English like Dutch and German hasn't got 600.000+ words but 5.000.000+ words and Chinese has got 20.000.000+ words.

Yes, Chinese has the largest vocabulary in the world and Japanese has the second largest vocabulary.

They got this vocabulary because they use characters as writing system.

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Glenn

What's your source for that? From everything I've ever read about vocabulary size fenlan's statistcs are right. If they aren't, then they're a lot closer than yours. Where did you get that information?

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Dennis

What is my source?

Education at school

My native language is Dutch

I learned its cousins English and German at school.

At college in the Dutch city of Maastricht and in Beijing I studied Chinese for three and half years and then stop before I got my diploma due to some personal reasons.

De Dikke Van Dale woordenboek the 13th edition consists of three books, 4300 pages containing 230.000 words.

Het Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal consists of 23 books containing 5.000,000 words.

The remaining 3 books x, y and z will follow soon

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fenlan

If English has 5m words, no one has ever compiled them. This is nonsense. Even the highest estimates - including every single little technical word, flower, tree, item of slang etc is 1m - and that includes word forms. In fact only a small fraction of the 290,000 words (headwords) in the OED are known to educated English native speakers nowadays, and so it is meaningless to claim that the language has 5m words. Chinese does not have a 20m word vocabulary - these numbers of yours are just plucked out of the air. But it does have the ability to produce a potentially much larger number of words from a smaller number of roots. I explained all this in my post above. My assumption above was that we are talking about Mandarin - and not assuming Chinese from 1000 BC till now to be the same language. Based on this assumption, I accepted that wenyanwen features in Mandarin are part of the language, and suggested a dictionary like the OED be compiled, aiming to be a complete guide to the Mandarin vernacular lexicon from the early novels to nowadays. As the early Mandarin would have used more characters, there would be a larger number of characters than the 13000 in the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, but smaller than the 60,000 characters that would be used for pre-Mandarin Chinese. What number that would be, I don't know. But there is no basis for asserting Chinese has a vocabulary of 20m.

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Glenn

Well, I just found this article, which makes me think that this discussion is pointless. Sorry for the OT.

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Dennis

That is why the WNT Dictionary of the Dutch Language is so unique in the world.

As for Chinese the 20m words 词 are all the words from Shang dynasty up till now.

And the total of Characters 字 lies between 5 and 60.000.

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fenlan

To claim that the whole historical breadth of Chinese has 20m ci2 is simply random guessing. In modern Chinese 5000 characters can create more than 120,000 words. In Classical Chinese, the language was much more monosyllabic. The tendency in languages is for an expansion of the lexicon. Thee number of characters in use today may be smaller than the entire Classical Chinese lexicon, but the ability to combine characters and make words addresses that and produces a larger vocabulary than at any one time in the past. It is mistaken to project "ci2" back into the monosyllabic past...

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gato

Maybe if you counted every word in every dialect as a separate word, you could reach the 20M mark. Anyway...

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Dennis

If you have read the article those 350.000-400.000 words are no older than 1500AD and not younger than 1921AD The words Belgium and Computer are not in this dictionary but they are in my language

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nipponman
Dear Fenlan in your reply #69 you wrote that English has the largest vocabulary of 600.000+ words.

That is not true, English like Dutch and German hasn't got 600.000+ words but 5.000.000+ words and Chinese has got 20.000.000+ words.

Yes, Chinese has the largest vocabulary in the world and Japanese has the second largest vocabulary.

They got this vocabulary because they use characters as writing system

.

That's a little steep. When I was in Highschool, I learned that English has 600,000 words approx. I don't think that it is feasable to for English to have 5,000,000+ words.

As for Chinese the 20m words 词 are all the words from Shang dynasty up till now.

And the total of Characters 字 lies between 5 and 60.000.

Do people use words from the Shang dynasty anymore?

nipponman

P.s. Do people use commas in Dutch?

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Dennis

Yes Nipponman, you do use words before 1922 AD when 文言 became 百话。

Here is another one 道可道,非常道。

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fenlan

The Daode Jing is not a Shang dynasty composition. When was it? I am not actually sure.

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