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Shelley

Should the whole world write using Chinese Characters?

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ZC

It's cool I guess, but like even if we accept that in some (see all western) languages the pronunciation of each character is not consistent (人 -> person //  人们 -> peo-ple) there are some concepts that just like can't reliably be expressed with characters (how do you write 'ran' differently from 'run' as a single word and have it be cogent in Chinese and English for example). One of the reasons this might be tough is that Chinese and derived languages likely stem from a different invention of writing than indo-european ones so there is little overlap in how they express ideas between written and spoken words. So while you might be able to get away with having all East Asian languages use the Chinese language, you would have trouble transferring the ideas in western (not to mention indigenous) languages to the same script since ideas are coded differently. The idea of a universal language is super cool though! but it would totally require an invented alphabet and probably go no farther than esperanto. This is basically a knee-jerk reaction of someone with no linguistic study though, so I'm interested to see what y'all all think!!

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Shelley

I really like the idea but realise it is totally impossible to do for many reasons, some of which @ZC pointed out, I think it would just be so difficult to get people to put in the effort needed to learn characters. I suppose if you start with a younger generation it will be second nature, but there would be a heck of messy time as things changed over rather like going from Imperial to metric both are in use for some people for some while.

Reminds me of a silly joke- A little old lady goes in the butchers and asks for a pound of sausages, Ah said the Butcher its kilos now, Alright says the little old lady "I will have a pound of kilos please"

 

Anyway I thought if did happen we would all have a major head start:clap

 

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陳德聰
4 hours ago, ZC said:

One of the reasons this might be tough is that Chinese and derived languages likely stem from a different invention of writing than indo-european ones so there is little overlap in how they express ideas between written and spoken words. So while you might be able to get away with having all East Asian languages use the Chinese language, you would have trouble transferring the ideas in western (not to mention indigenous) languages to the same script since ideas are coded differently.

I don’t quite follow this. There are a lot of scripts used by Indo-European languages, and not all of them are “Western.” The ones you might consider “Western” which use a Latin script are descendants—far removed by now though—from Egyptian hieroglyphics so I don’t know that it follows that the information is coded differently due to different inventions of writing.

 

But I do agree that information is coded differently. I just think that your examples of inflection are more similar than you think (the difference between singular/plural and non-past/past).

 

That being said, I don’t have a workaround and I think the idea that Chinese characters could/should be used to write a universal script is pure silliness.

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DavyJonesLocker

I think if the slate was wiped clean and languages were being reinvented, Chinese wouldn't make the short list.

I wonder what a perfect efficient language would look like? George Orwell had ideas:D

 

Anyone care to hypothesize?

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Shelley

I think if the slate was wiped clean i might want the grammar of chinese, sounds of English and the script of  Ogham. Wow my brain has just frazzled:)

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happy_hyaena
38 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I think if the slate was wiped clean and languages were being reinvented, Chinese wouldn't make the short list.

I wonder what a perfect efficient language would look like? George Orwell had ideas:D

 

Anyone care to hypothesize?

 

Why? Chinese is an excellent language if you want to keep kings, statesmen and scholars over incredibly large tracts of land capable of understanding each other in the written form.

 

 

I once read a post on Reddit where someone argued that the Bantu languages of Southern Africa could possible be linked together with a common written language, though I don't know how viable that would be. It would definitely be interesting if someone tried to create a constructed written language for the Romance languages, assigning unique characters to specific Latin root words and creating specific particles for conjugation. You could raise some cool questions, like how many extra unique characters would each language need, and which language would require the least (after Latin)? And how would one deal with the false friends between languages? 

 

We already have common "characters" in the form of numbers, even if the French have a very particular way of counting. We also already use ♀ for female and ♂ for male. What about using other astrological symbols? Like ☽ for both moon and month?

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歐博思
4 hours ago, Shelley said:

rather like going from Imperial to metric

 

I'd be happy enough if the U.S. would do this :P One less set of wrenches to lug around when I'm working on things, and I could finally use the more reasonable temperature scale when talking to family!

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DavyJonesLocker
5 minutes ago, happy_hyaena said:

Why? Chinese is an excellent language if you want to keep kings, statesmen and scholars over incredibly large tracts of land capable of understanding each other in the written form

 

 

Not denying the beauty of it but just simply too difficult as a means of communication. Even the Chinese themselves decided to simply their own written language. When languages evolved we didn't have the ease of communication as we do now. I'd hazard a guess that efficiency and logic would be the primary drivers. How that would look like I have no clue, maybe something like Orwell's vision in 1984 "double plus good"

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889

It wouldn't be difficult at all to use Chinese characters to write English à la japonaise. That is, use characters for most nouns and verb stems, using the Roman alphabet for verb endings, grammatical particles, and other oddities.

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Publius
56 minutes ago, 889 said:

It wouldn't be difficult at all to use Chinese characters to write English à la japonaise. That is, use characters for most nouns and verb stems, using the Roman alphabet for verb endings, grammatical particles, and other oddities.

私(ai)

見(si)

何(wot)

君(iu)

為(du)

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Lu

Or we could write English with characters, with at the same time everyone agreeing that 跑 is sometimes pronounced as 'run' and sometimes as 'ran'. Difficult? Sure, horribly so, but other languages get away with it too. Japanese has something somewhat similar, with characters having at least two and often more pronunciations, and I have the impression that Tibetan is similar as well, writing a lot of letters that are not actually pronounced (although someone who actually knows Tibetan might want to correct me on this).

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imron
47 minutes ago, Lu said:

with at the same time everyone agreeing that 跑 is sometimes pronounced as 'run' and sometimes as 'ran'.

It's like 'present' is sometimes pronounced 'PREsent' and sometimes 'presENT' depending on whether it's a verb or a noun. e.g. I present you with this present

 

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somethingfunny

Interesting, let me just record that in the record.

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ZC
17 hours ago, 陳德聰 said:

I don’t quite follow this. There are a lot of scripts used by Indo-European languages, and not all of them are “W estern.” The ones you might consider “Western” which use a Latin script are descendants—far removed by now though—from Egyptian hieroglyphics so I don’t know that it follows that the information is coded differently due to different inventions of writing

 Scripts that I’m considering for this are not just western but including ones like Arabic and Sanskrit etc. the reason these would be tough is because phonetically written languages tended to encode meaning more often in non-word graphemes that languages like Chinese express in words/particles, that being coherent on both ends might be tough i think.

 

4 hours ago, Lu said:

 

Or we could write English with characters, with at the same time everyone agreeing that 跑 is sometimes pronounced as 'run' and sometimes as 'ran'. Difficult? Sure, horribly so, but other languages get away with it too

 

I guess that might have been a poor example, the meaning I am getting at is sort of like the one that’s been presented a couple times at present moment (I can do it too). Imagine if we were taking English words as large ‘characters’ do we need to invent a new way to write ‘present’ for every meaning or de we just assume that all other languages must deal with idiosyncrasies in a single original.

 

Also there was a vegetable farmer who was famous for bringing enormous amounts of produce he had produced to market in an old boat. One day his boat sank because it had too many (leeaks) in it. This one works better when you say it.

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Lu
43 minutes ago, ZC said:

Imagine if we were taking English words as large ‘characters’ do we need to invent a new way to write ‘present’ for every meaning or de we just assume that all other languages must deal with idiosyncrasies in a single original.

We can do either. Depends on whether English is leading (in which case speakers of, say, Dutch, will just have to deal with the fact that you write 'cadeau' and 'presenteren' the same way. Each time they see the word 'present' they'll have to decide which meaning and thus which pronunciation in their local 'dialect' is called for) or whether, say, Chinese is leading (in which case PREsent is written as 礼物, pronunciation PREsent, and preSENT is written as 提出, pronunciation preSENT).

 

The leeks/leaks joke will still work for spoken English, but less so for written. And it will not work in other 'dialects' that use the English writing system but their own pronunciation.

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roddy

Reminds me of this, which I'm pretty sure is so old it was already on the Internet when they turned it on for the first time. It even links to Zhongwen.com, which for you kids, is what Pleco would be if Mike Love hadn't single-handedly invented the PDA. 

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ZC
1 hour ago, Lu said:

The leeks/leaks joke will still work for spoken English, but less so for written. And it will not work in other 'dialects' that use the English writing system but their own pronunciation.

Yeah I mean there are other examples see produce produce, point point, ruin ruin, etc. But this is the only one inspired by cloudy with a chance of meatballs. (The bad movies not the outstanding book)

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Shelley

Very interesting link, thanks roddy.

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陳德聰
7 hours ago, ZC said:

Scripts that I’m considering for this are not just western but including ones like Arabic and Sanskrit etc. the reason these would be tough is because phonetically written languages tended to encode meaning more often in non-word graphemes that languages like Chinese express in words/particles, that being coherent on both ends might be tough i think.

Maybe I am just full of contrarian bones but Aramaic script is also considered to be a derivative/adaptation of the Phoenician script, with Brahmic scripts being controversially also linked to the same... So I mean same idea.

 

When you say “phonetically written languages,” do you mean languages that use alphabets and abjads? What I am understanding is that you’re saying some languages encode meaning into units smaller than the syllable level? Or rather that there is morphophonological business that occurs in languages other than Chinese which would be hard to capture using Chinese characters?

 

I think the only issues I see are how to handle representing grammatical meaning that is simply not encoded in Chinese at all, which has little to do with the writing system itself. Because I think the point of finding a unified script is not to unify all languages and turn them into the same degree of analytic/synthetic-ness or unify the number of noun classes, or unify the graphical representation of tense and aspect etc. Right? And then even after that comes the question of whether it is still intelligible to people who speak other languages.

 

Like 見e 見w 見n is one way of doing that, but what about 唱ng 唱ng 唱ng? Also how does a speaker of a language that also uses tense inflection but not the same as English tense inflection read what the English speaker wrote and understand it?

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