Questions about Chinese / 关于中文的问题 / 關於中文的問題

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Questions about Chinese / 关于中文的问题 / 關於中文的問題

Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-02-07, 13:23

Following ego's example, I opened this thread so that you can ask all kinds of questions about Chinese here.
Feel free to post your questions about Chinese here.
And of course, you can also start your personal thread if you prefer.
Last edited by lishaoxuan on 2008-04-15, 17:37, edited 2 times in total.

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language reform policy

Postby hunxue » 2008-02-08, 14:53

Are there any governamental policy for a future orthographical reform of chinese language? Will roman alphabet replace hanzi in a near future?

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Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-02-08, 15:12

Hmmm, no hunxue, that's not gonna happen.

The reason our government do not replace hanzi with pinyin is that using pinyin solely will lead to endless confusions. Because countless Chinese words with radically different meanings sometimes share the same pronunciation.Some scholars have suggested using a form of alphabet to write Chinese in as early as the beginning of 20th century, but their opinion met with huge objections, because that way, written Chinese won't be understood any more.

I think national pride is another reason. Ancient Chinese invented these script, and hanzi always represent something particularly Chinese, so we Chinese are obligated to carry it on. :wink:

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Postby hunxue » 2008-02-08, 23:21

太好了!

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Postby Pendragon » 2008-02-09, 11:11

I wonder how big the differences between written Chinese and spoken Chinese (colloquial) are. In some languages the differences are small (written version is just the spoken language but written down), while in other cases it almost seems that there are two separate languages (written/formal; spoken/informal).
Thanks! :wink:

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Postby linguanima » 2008-02-09, 13:34

Pendragon wrote:I wonder how big the differences between written Chinese and spoken Chinese (colloquial) are. In some languages the differences are small (written version is just the spoken language but written down), while in other cases it almost seems that there are two separate languages (written/formal; spoken/informal).
Thanks! :wink:



Unfortunately, the differences are usually huge, greater than many European languages. I think the Chinese place a great value on literature and therefore are more concerned about the elaboration of the written language. It has always been like this, since antiquity. Kids are taught how to write properly - and the appropriateness means diction and style - the adoption of a language that deserves to be written down. A criterion of a good piece of writing is the correct use of a good amount of Classical Chinese, or pseudo-Classical (coinage of Classical and Modern elements), vocabulary. A lot of Chengyu's (four-word idioms) to enhance the quality of the writing.

Yet spoken Chinese can be so extremely informal that I'm always ashamed to write the way I talk.
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby Pendragon » 2008-02-12, 23:31

Thanks for the information! So it seems important to a learner of Mandarin to pay enough attention to informal, colloquial vocabulary. At the moment I'm trying to pick up some colloquial words from www.chinesepod.com , seems to work quite well.

Something else I was wondering about: while in European languages the speaker can express emotion through the use of tones in pronunciation (surprise, excitement, anger etc), it seems that in Mandarin the tones are already reserved for pronouncing the words themselves. For example I heard that the second tone should be pronounced somewhat like the tone for 'surprise' or 'asking a question' in European languages, while the fourth tone sounds more like 'finishing a list of items' or 'sounding convinced, resolute'.
So I wonder how in Mandarin (and other Chinese dialects/languages) emotions are expressed, if not through use of tones.

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Postby linguanima » 2008-02-13, 2:51

Pendragon wrote:Thanks for the information! So it seems important to a learner of Mandarin to pay enough attention to informal, colloquial vocabulary. At the moment I'm trying to pick up some colloquial words from www.chinesepod.com , seems to work quite well.


Yes. But pay more attention to the syntax of the spoken language though, because the average Chinese would be pretty verbose when talking. While a good piece of writing would definitely be concise, the spoken version would be lengthy.

Pendragon wrote:Something else I was wondering about: while in European languages the speaker can express emotion through the use of tones in pronunciation (surprise, excitement, anger etc), it seems that in Mandarin the tones are already reserved for pronouncing the words themselves. For example I heard that the second tone should be pronounced somewhat like the tone for 'surprise' or 'asking a question' in European languages, while the fourth tone sounds more like 'finishing a list of items' or 'sounding convinced, resolute'.
So I wonder how in Mandarin (and other Chinese dialects/languages) emotions are expressed, if not through use of tones.


I think you confuse 'tone' with 'pitch' there. I think we, Europeans and Chinese alike, express our emotions by varying the pitch of our voice rather than the tone. So Mandarin, same as other Chinese dialects, changes the pitch to express emotion. It's like the same song played in another octave, if that makes sense.
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-02-15, 10:19

linguanima wrote:
Pendragon wrote:Something else I was wondering about: while in European languages the speaker can express emotion through the use of tones in pronunciation (surprise, excitement, anger etc), it seems that in Mandarin the tones are already reserved for pronouncing the words themselves. For example I heard that the second tone should be pronounced somewhat like the tone for 'surprise' or 'asking a question' in European languages, while the fourth tone sounds more like 'finishing a list of items' or 'sounding convinced, resolute'.
So I wonder how in Mandarin (and other Chinese dialects/languages) emotions are expressed, if not through use of tones.


I think you confuse 'tone' with 'pitch' there. I think we, Europeans and Chinese alike, express our emotions by varying the pitch of our voice rather than the tone. So Mandarin, same as other Chinese dialects, changes the pitch to express emotion. It's like the same song played in another octave, if that makes sense.


Linguanima is right!
We use pitch to express emotion.E.g. we raise the pitch at the end of interrogative sentence.

And also, there are some meaningless particles with neutral tone reserved for expressing tints of emotion. (Because they are with neutral tone, you can say them in a tone that best fits the emotion of the sentnce.)
For example:
吗[ma]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence
呢[ne]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence that ask you to choose between something
哇[wa]: used to express exlaimation
.........etc

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Postby linguanima » 2008-02-15, 15:13

lishaoxuan wrote:And also, there are some meaningless particles with neutral tone reserved for expressing tints of emotion. (Because they are with neutral tone, you can say them in a tone that best fits the emotion of the sentnce.)
For example:
吗[ma]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence
呢[ne]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence that ask you to choose between something
哇[wa]: used to express exlaimation
.........etc


And if you go to the South you can hear more exclamative particles of this kind, which people in the North find redundant. :wink:
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby Pendragon » 2008-02-16, 9:44

Thanks guys, it's very helpful! :D

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Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-02-16, 9:47

linguanima wrote:
lishaoxuan wrote:And also, there are some meaningless particles with neutral tone reserved for expressing tints of emotion. (Because they are with neutral tone, you can say them in a tone that best fits the emotion of the sentnce.)
For example:
吗[ma]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence
呢[ne]: used at the end of a interrogative sentence that ask you to choose between something
哇[wa]: used to express exlaimation
.........etc


And if you go to the South you can hear more exclamative particles of this kind, which people in the North find redundant. :wink:

Hmmm...

Interesting. Maybe you could teach basics of the Fujian dialect in the future.
Although I am of southern Chinese descent, I do not speak any of the southern dialects. I was raised in Beijing so I only speak Mandarin.

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Postby nettchelobek1 » 2008-02-20, 18:28

Well, I was just curious... how often the idioms are used in colloquial speech? I mean, I've heard that those idioms of four characters are used mainly in written language, but how about spoken language? Should I learn them if I want to sound more natural to Chinese people?
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Postby linguanima » 2008-02-21, 6:19

People do use chengyu in colloquial speech to show that they are well educated. There are, however, four-word idioms that are too formal (usually too Classical Chinese) to be used in everyday speech. But it is to be expected that the ones taught in textbooks for non-Chinese speakers are the colloquial ones.
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-02-21, 8:49

Chinese people will wow you if your speech is filled with four word idioms(成语[cheng2 yu3]).

This will show that you know a lot about our culture, and Chinese people will definitely treat you better. :wink:

But for people of age like me and linguania don't use chengyu frequently. Chengyu is often used by educated adults when making a conclusion about a really long speach,or to show that he/she is really educated, and stuff like that. :)

I think for foreign learners, learning chengyu is a very interesting thing to do, cuz there is a story behind every chengyu. Memorizing chengyu is a good way to keep you motivated. 8)

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Postby linguanima » 2008-03-02, 2:11

Question: where can I get the tone diacritics on my computer?!
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby linguanima » 2008-03-02, 5:57

I use the English version of Word. :cry:

LOL είσαι υπεράνθρωπος.
Şərqiy hünərlər: [flag]ug[/flag] [flag]tr[/flag] [flag]ar[/flag] [flag]fa[/flag] [flag]mn[/flag]
Ğərbiy hünərlər: [flag]en[/flag] [flag]fr[/flag] [flag]pt[/flag] [flag]ru[/flag] [flag]el[/flag]

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Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-03-02, 6:00

linguanima wrote:I use the English version of Word. :cry:

Oh, I thought you use the Chinese version.
But English version probably also has this function, maybe just not on the surface.

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Postby Babelfish » 2008-03-07, 15:27

Yes, in Word 2003 you can use Format->Asian Layout->Phonetic Guide. But do you get the Pinyin displayed automatically? I have all the fields empty and have to fill them myself. There's a "default readings" button but it just clears anything. Maybe I need a Chinese dictionary for Word for this trick...

The Windows Chinese IME does have a set of "soft keyboards" one of which can be used to enter vowel with tone marks - the one called "Pinyin letter". But it only allows entering vowels, which is very uncomfortable...
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Postby caiweijie » 2008-03-22, 14:23

Babelfish wrote:Yes, in Word 2003 you can use Format->Asian Layout->Phonetic Guide. But do you get the Pinyin displayed automatically? I have all the fields empty and have to fill them myself. There's a "default readings" button but it just clears anything. Maybe I need a Chinese dictionary for Word for this trick...

The Windows Chinese IME does have a set of "soft keyboards" one of which can be used to enter vowel with tone marks - the one called "Pinyin letter". But it only allows entering vowels, which is very uncomfortable...


You might need to check whether the language setting of your text is Chinese (PRC). The language setting function can be displayed through the Formatting toolbar. If the language setting is other than Chinese (PRC), you might not be able to get the Pinyin displayed automatically. When that is the case, select all the text and change the language setting.
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