Question on traditional and simplified characters

Moderator: OldBoring

gooooyaffa
Posts: 34
Joined: 2004-06-07, 0:40
Real Name: Dustin Chacon
Gender: male
Location: Rapid City
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Question on traditional and simplified characters

Postby gooooyaffa » 2005-07-11, 22:10

Can a person who has only learned traditional characters read simplified, and vice versa? I tried learning Chinese before, and I was learning both sets of characters. I was just wondering, because if I were to try to learn Chinese again, would I have to go through all the work of learning both sets, or is it possible to learn only one set and still be understood by both parties?

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-11, 22:22

Yeah, I was wondering that too, because time and time again I hear that speakers of Mandarin or Cantonese can understand one another in writing even if they don't speak the opposite verbal language... but how does that work, if Cantonese speakers use traditional characters (from what I've learned so far), and Mandarin speakers are usually taught simplified?
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan

中文的名字:天礼

CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

gooooyaffa
Posts: 34
Joined: 2004-06-07, 0:40
Real Name: Dustin Chacon
Gender: male
Location: Rapid City
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby gooooyaffa » 2005-07-12, 5:31

Wow, I never even considered that.

I studied Japanese before, so most traditional characters were easy to learn for me, and then it was usually just getting used to the rules by which they were simplified. So for me, it's usually pretty easy recognizing what the traditional component is for a simplified character, but I don't know what it's like coming from the other side.

User avatar
勺园之鬼
Posts: 890
Joined: 2003-05-29, 5:16
Real Name: 君君
Gender: male
Location: :o)
Country: KP North Korea (조선)

Postby 勺园之鬼 » 2005-07-12, 21:14

Ah, I know I forgot to answer a message somewhere... ;)

There is no real rule whether to use the traditional or the simplified writing system to write down a language, because there is no need for one: you could even write Chinese with the simplified characters the Japanese created if you wanted, and that would still be understandable for most people...

The general idea according to which Cantonese is written in traditional characters has been widespread basically because Hong Kong seems to be representative of the Cantonese language in the western world - which as I stated before, stands for less than 10% of the total amount of Cantonese speakers in China.
Of course, in Guangdong province, where Cantonese is majoritarian, when it is written it is written with simplified characters.

About education... Chinese are taught their language in simplified characters in China: they learn to read them, write them. Yet at the same time they all learn to recognise traditional characters, even if they're not taught to write them. Some people who want to go further can learn to write traditional characters in no time. Let's keep in mind that the amount of simplified characters in Chinese doesn't exceed 1800, when the number of characters needed to read newspapers goes up to 3000, and that a well educated Chinese speaker knows up to 8000 (before you even ask, I don't think I know 8000 of them yet, but I'm on my way... :mrgreen:).
In other areas where traditional characters are still taught in majority, like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and a few reactionarian Chinese communities in North America (;)). They usually learn to read and write traditional characters, yet they are soon or late confronted to simplified characters - which they usually understand thanks to the context, or to some logic Psi-Lord and I tried to explain on the language forum...

As for myself, I know both systems. I usually write simplified, except when I want it to look more... traditional ;), then I use traditional characters. It has been said that traditional characters make more sense when you learn Chinese when it comes to the etymology, and this is true. To finish, I'll advise anyone who learns Chinese to learn both systems - that is usually not a hard task, once you managed to learn either, to master the other one...
四海为家

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-12, 22:39

Not meaning to slightly veer from the subject at hand, but I was wondering... what if a Mandarin speaker who doesn't know Cantonese writes a letter from his mind, in his language, of course using 中文 (and for this example, we'll assume Simplified Characters). Now what if a Cantonese speaker, who has no idea in the world how to speak Cantonese, receives this letter? Would that Cantonese person be able to completely understand the letter despite the fact it was written by a Mandarin speaker? I'm really confused how this supposedly works, as they different grammar, words, etc....
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan



中文的名字:天礼



CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-13, 0:05

The point here is probably quite simple—when writing, the Chinese usually write in standard Chinese (普通話). It's similar to what happens with most dialects of German or Italian, which often don't even have a proper, standard orthography (and, when they do, it often happens to have quite a number of variations).

If you're writing Cantonese based on the oral language, you'll indeed get quite a different result from the standard. However, I believe this type of written Cantonese is limited to very colloquial contexts, comic books, and probably to places where it's required to write down exactly what the person / character said. I've already seen speakers disagreeing on which characters should be used for this and this meaning, too (using colloquial characters? outdated characters for a different meaning or reading? inventing new characters? etc.).
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-13, 3:22

Okay-- but still being two different languages with different *grammars* and word usages entirely, how then are they still able to communicate? I realize that Chinese is a system of pictures, but doesn't each language have its own form of grammar and structure that would widly differ from the other?
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan



中文的名字:天礼



CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

gooooyaffa
Posts: 34
Joined: 2004-06-07, 0:40
Real Name: Dustin Chacon
Gender: male
Location: Rapid City
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby gooooyaffa » 2005-07-13, 3:29

Yet at the same time they all learn to recognise traditional characters, even if they're not taught to write them


Ah! That's what I was unsure of. So most people can usually understand both systems, though everyone prefers their own system. Of what I understand, I'd probably be able to read it regardless of which system it was in, but I didn't know if people in the real Chinese-speaking world just ignore the other system, if they were discouraged to learn it, or what.

An interesting point and kind of a side point, I have a slightly outdated text-book (It still gives "The Soviet Union" as a vocab word in the countries section) that uses a weird mix of traditional and simplified characters :? Does anyone really write like this today, or is everyone follow one system as opposed to the other?

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-13, 13:25

jonathan wrote:Okay-- but still being two different languages with different *grammars* and word usages entirely, how then are they still able to communicate? I realize that Chinese is a system of pictures, but doesn't each language have its own form of grammar and structure that would widly differ from the other?

Hmm, I'm probably missing your point, jonathan… I mean, for the me, there are two situations:

1) Each of the Chinese 'dialects' will be different from the others, though in various different degrees (like JunMing once compared them to the various Romance languages), and so, as they are, some are indeed mutually unintelligible. The grammar can be different, the structure can be different, the tones will probably be different (with some dialects having quite peculiar, complicated tone sandhi to add), etc. Because of that, if speakers of a given dialect decide to write in a way that reflect their own dialect usage, communication will indeed render much more difficult, if not totally impossible. So, in this case, no, they cannot communicate with each other.

Cantonese, for instance, usually expresses things in a much more concise way than Mandarin does, and I believe one the reasons for that is that, as Cantonese has more tones and more syllable possibilities, longer expressions weren't created to disambiguate situations that rose in Mandarin.

2) However, speakers of all dialects use standard Chinese to communicate, especially in writing and especially when they're native speakers of different dialects. Again, this can be paralleled to the situation of e.g. Italian dialects—a speaker of Venetian (which is a language on its own) and a speaker of Pistoiese (which is an Italian dialect) won't understand each other more easily than a speaker of Portuguese and a speaker of French would, and so they use standard Italian.

In a way, it's a bit like if all Romance speakers spoke their native languages with family, friends etc., but used Latin to communicate to one another, and as their standard writing language.

And I believe it's worth pointing that thinking of Chinese as a system of pictures may not be a very good approach—there are probably no more than 600 Chinese characters that are real pictograms (象形), such as 人 ('person'), 女 ('woman'), 馬 ('horse') and 龍 ('dragon'), and these are probably among the oldest characters Chinese still uses.

At present, more than 90% of all Chinese characters are phono-semantic compounds, constructed out of elements intended both to hint at its meaning and its pronunciation. However, as both meaning and pronunciation have changed over time, these components are no longer good guides either to meaning or to pronunciation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character_classification
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-13, 16:11

Psi-Lord wrote:And I believe it's worth pointing that thinking of Chinese as a system of pictures may not be a very good approach—there are probably no more than 600 Chinese characters that are real pictograms (象形), such as 人 ('person'), 女 ('woman'), 馬 ('horse') and 龍 ('dragon'), and these are probably among the oldest characters Chinese still uses.

At present, more than 90% of all Chinese characters are phono-semantic compounds, constructed out of elements intended both to hint at its meaning and its pronunciation. However, as both meaning and pronunciation have changed over time, these components are no longer good guides either to meaning or to pronunciation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character_classification



Well what I meant there was simply that Chinese is not just letters that carry no meaning, just as our roman writing system is. Even if the characters are random and are not "good guides to either meaning or pronunciation," they certainly still visually represent something to perhaps anyone in China who looks at it (and of course can read it).

But I constantly hear people say that Chinese people, regardless of the language they speak (Mandarin or Cantonese), are able to understand one another's written form as if it were written in their own language. So assuming a Cantonese person *doesn't* know Mandarin (which is more common than you think, IMO, because I've met several Cantonese immigrants who don't know a thing of Mandarin), how is it they can still understand a letter or written document by a Mandarin speaker?
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan



中文的名字:天礼



CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

User avatar
勺园之鬼
Posts: 890
Joined: 2003-05-29, 5:16
Real Name: 君君
Gender: male
Location: :o)
Country: KP North Korea (조선)

Postby 勺园之鬼 » 2005-07-14, 17:04

Psi-Lord wrote:Each of the Chinese 'dialects' will be different from the others, though in various different degrees (like JunMing once compared them to the various Romance languages), and so, as they are, some are indeed mutually unintelligible. The grammar can be different, the structure can be different, the tones will probably be different (with some dialects having quite peculiar, complicated tone sandhi to add), etc. Because of that, if speakers of a given dialect decide to write in a way that reflect their own dialect usage, communication will indeed render much more difficult, if not totally impossible. So, in this case, no, they cannot communicate with each other.


I am sorry Psi-Lord, but this is not right.

From all the time I have been spending to master Chinese, I could learn that most words are similar between all dialects.

Between Chinese dialects, there is not much of a difference, certainly not as much as non Chinese speakers may think (hence the misunderstanding in the other thread between people who do not speak Chinese and pose themselves as pseudo specialists of Chinese, having heard they are mutually unintelligible in their spoken form).

Chinese characters are unique in the way they were designed to cover all the varieties of the Chinese language, and make them mutually understandable in their written forms (the first Qin emperor, Qin Shihuang, did a lot to develop it).

What are the main differences between all the varieties of Chinese?
Let's see them in order of importance. Chinese dialects differ based on:

1) their pronunciation. This is the main difference between two given dialects of Chinese, and what makes the dialect from a city different from the dialect of another city located 50 km away.
For instance, a different tone. A word can be zhang1 in a region, zhang2 in another region. And again zhang1 in a third region you can reach when going through the second region after you departed from the first region...
Another example, a local variation in the pronunciation of an initial, a vowel, or a final. A word like zhang1 can as well be pronounced zang1 in another city/region, and as you go further, it can be even more different, the tone can be different, why not zang4, and as you go further, you notice another difference and it then sounds as... zan4? or even another sound which is not codified in Hanyu Pinyin...

2) the vocabulary. Now this is getting harder, and in a given region most dialects will probably not differ drastically on this matter. This is not only representative of Chinese geography, but also of history: most of China has been unified for milleniums, and words used in a regional speech somewhere happened to be widespread enough to get a written form and at the same time be used in other remote areas. Let's take the example of "啥" (sha2), which means "what", is common to probably all dialects of Chinese, yet it is common (and even the preferred way) in some, and rather uncommon (if not almost unknown) in some others. It has been another candidate to be used as the standard word for "what", and "什么" (shen2me) was preferred. It's not like you will never meet 啥 in the standard. It is to be found everywhere around China, and you'd better know what such 'secondary' words mean if you want to master Chinese. ;)

3) the grammar. Now we reach the climax of the difference between Chinese dialects, and a major point: very very few are the dialects whose grammar differ, and it is not an exaggeration to say that they don't in the written form.


To talk about my experience, I do not speak Cantonese myself, nor do I understand spoken Cantonese (without subtitles ;)), but I have no problems whatsoever to understand everything in a text written in Cantonese (in the same limits I understand a text written in the standard which I studied).

Once in a Cantonese text, I will probably notice a word which I find awkward in the context, or incredibly common as it is not common in one of the dialects I might be used to read. But the point is that this word exists in all other dialects, the only difference lies in their frequency in two given dialects.


Psi-Lord wrote:Cantonese, for instance, usually expresses things in a much more concise way than Mandarin does, and I believe one the reasons for that is that, as Cantonese has more tones and more syllable possibilities, longer expressions weren't created to disambiguate situations that rose in Mandarin.


I wonder where you read that. Let's not forget that, even in its form spoken in Hong Kong, Cantonese takes most its 'scientific', 'technical' words of all given 'jargon' from the standard - except a few awful, unwanted words which are phonetically translated loanwords which came from English :( (this is not a technical word, but I remeber you once mentioned that horrible loanword "士多啤梨", which is "phonetically translated" strawberry). These loanwords being generally longer, how come you end up thinking that?

Or maybe (I think as I am writing ;)) do you mean that sometimes in the northern speech specific words of categories are added, which might be forgotten in southern dialects because there is no conflict possible with another word? If you mean this, this is true, but this is very rare; since people usually can make the difference with the context, even if in the case of a single word it can pose a problem. It's a bit like saying "poor" and "pour" can be confused (for people who pronounce it the same obviously), when they are never alone and out of a context in speech - so it is hardly possible. ;)

Psi-Lord wrote:However, speakers of all dialects use standard Chinese to communicate, especially in writing and especially when they're native speakers of different dialects. Again, this can be paralleled to the situation of e.g. Italian dialects—a speaker of Venetian (which is a language on its own) and a speaker of Pistoiese (which is an Italian dialect) won't understand each other more easily than a speaker of Portuguese and a speaker of French would, and so they use standard Italian.


Exactly. :D

Psi-Lord wrote:In a way, it's a bit like if all Romance speakers spoke their native languages with family, friends etc., but used Latin to communicate to one another, and as their standard writing language.


I am annoyed by this comparison... Latin is a common reference because it gave birth to all these romance languages; standard Chinese is a modern reference actually made up of all the dialects (with more references to some than others). In a way, that would be preferrible to compare it to Interlingua (made up of romance languages for romance language speakers), which has the same purpose... ;) Except that Standard Chinese is way less artificial.
Yet I can understand the comparison makes sense when it comes to the differences between these languages - except one: Chinese dialects are all written alike.

Psi-Lord wrote:And I believe it's worth pointing that thinking of Chinese as a system of pictures may not be a very good approach—there are probably no more than 600 Chinese characters that are real pictograms (象形), such as 人 ('person'), 女 ('woman'), 馬 ('horse') and 龍 ('dragon'), and these are probably among the oldest characters Chinese still uses.

At present, more than 90% of all Chinese characters are phono-semantic compounds, constructed out of elements intended both to hint at its meaning and its pronunciation. However, as both meaning and pronunciation have changed over time, these components are no longer good guides either to meaning or to pronunciation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character_classification


Definitely! :D That's never enough to remind people about this.

Even easy common characters like (zhang1) is made up of a semantic part (gong1) and 'bow' and a phonetic part (chang2)

In the traditional form: 張 弓 長
四海为家

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-14, 17:57

How are their grammars (Mandarin v. Cantonese) not different??
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan



中文的名字:天礼



CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-16, 15:33

君明, this is just to let you know that I'm still writing a response to your post. I was writing it offline, but then I had to send the computer to the technician for a couple of days, and now I'm having a hard time getting back to the point where I'd stopped, so I guess I'll have to reformulate my post. :( But no, I haven't abandoned the discussion. :)
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-17, 4:23

JunMing, although I’m sure you’ll want to break my neck for this, I hope you ‎understand why I keep referring to 普通話 as ‘Mandarin’ in this thread. :P

JunMing wrote:I am sorry Psi-Lord, but this is not right.

Thanks for taking the time for pointing that, then. As you know, and as I always try ‎to make clear, I’m far from an expert myself.‎

JunMing wrote:From all the time I have been spending to master Chinese, I could ‎learn that most words are similar between all dialects.

I’ve read many, many times that some dialects are more ‘archaising’ and ‘traditional’ ‎than others, and have kept one-syllable / one-character words for things that, in ‎Mandarin, as expressed by two or more of those. However, I wouldn’t know any by ‎heart, and so I usually guess they’re referring to things such as e.g. the Moon being ‎just 月 instead of 月亮, or the everyday word for the Sun being just 日 instead of 太陽.‎

JunMing wrote:Between Chinese dialects, there is not much of a difference, ‎certainly not as much as non Chinese speakers may think (hence the ‎misunderstanding in the other thread between people who do not speak Chinese and ‎pose themselves as pseudo specialists of Chinese, having heard they are mutually ‎unintelligible in their spoken form).

I was a bit confused by this paragraph… Are you just talking about written Chinese, ‎or are you talking about oral Chinese? I mean, even from a non-native point of view, ‎I’m quite convinced that Cantonese and Mandarin are certainly very, very far from ‎intelligibility in their spoken forms. However, by reading what you wrote, I get the ‎impression you’re saying that’s a typical non-native’s opinion which doesn’t reflect ‎reality.‎

And I hope you’re not including me in the ‘pseudo specialists’ group, since I always ‎try and mention that I certainly know very little about Chinese, and most of what I ‎talk about has actually been read or heard from other people (most of the time, from ‎you yourself, when you’re in your ‘teaching’ moods, hehe).‎

JunMing wrote:2) the vocabulary. Now this is getting harder, and in a given ‎region most dialects will probably not differ drastically on this matter. This is not ‎only representative of Chinese geography, but also of history: most of China has ‎been unified for millenniums, and words used in a regional speech somewhere ‎happened to be widespread enough to get a written form and at the same time be ‎used in other remote areas. Let's take the example of "啥" (sha2), which means ‎‎"what", is common to probably all dialects of Chinese, yet it is common (and even ‎the preferred way) in some, and rather uncommon (if not almost unknown) in some ‎others. It has been another candidate to be used as the standard word for "what", and ‎‎"什么" (shen2me) was preferred. It's not like you will never meet 啥 in the standard. ‎It is to be found everywhere around China, and you'd better know what such ‎‎'secondary' words mean if you want to master Chinese. ;)

In a way, this reminds me of what we, Romance speakers, often do e.g. in the ‎Unilang chat, when talking to one another in our own native languages—we often ‎recognise what someone else has told despite we ourselves not using that word or ‎construction because we’re aware of the many synonyms and related vocabulary in ‎our own language, while a foreign speaker who only knows standard vocabulary ‎would remain totally clueless about what’s going on.‎

JunMing wrote:To talk about my experience, I do not speak Cantonese myself, nor ‎do I understand spoken Cantonese (without subtitles ;)), but I have no problems ‎whatsoever to understand everything in a text written in Cantonese (in the ‎same limits I understand a text written in the standard which I studied).

But are you talking about the standard with a ‘Cantonese touch’, so to speak, or a ‎direct, complete written text based on the colloquial, everyday oral Cantonese? For a ‎beginner, it can be quite a surprise to learn that, after all, becoming proficient in ‎Standard Chinese will allow him to equal Cantonese 我個名喺…… to Mandarin 我的名字是……, even if easily recognising the first three characters.‎

JunMing wrote:Let's not forget that, even in its form spoken in Hong Kong, ‎Cantonese takes most its 'scientific', 'technical' words of all given 'jargon' from the ‎standard - except a few awful, unwanted words which are phonetically translated ‎loanwords which came from English :( (this is not a technical word, but I remember ‎you once mentioned that horrible loanword "士多啤梨", which is "phonetically ‎translated" strawberry). These loanwords being generally longer, how come you end ‎up thinking that?

I didn’t come to that conclusion myself, and I’m sure the person / people who may ‎have was / were talking about the core of the language, and not about modern ‎borrowings or loanwords. They might also be talking, again, about the fact that ‎Mandarin has many compounds, while Cantonese might still use single-character ‎words or something like that. I don’t really know, though, and the few examples I ‎have won’t really allow me to take personal conclusions.‎

JunMing wrote:Or maybe (I think as I am writing ;)) do you mean that sometimes ‎in the northern speech specific words of categories are added, which might be ‎forgotten in southern dialects because there is no conflict possible with another word? ‎If you mean this, this is true, but this is very rare; since people usually can make the ‎difference with the context, even if in the case of a single word it can pose a problem. ‎It's a bit like saying "poor" and "pour" can be confused (for people who pronounce it ‎the same obviously), when they are never alone and out of a context in speech - so it ‎is hardly possible. ;)

Maybe that, too. I mean, it seems most sources try to emphasize the fact that, ‎Mandarin having lost many of the old finals and having narrowed the tones, a pretty ‎large number of homophones would’ve arisen, and so compounds were necessary to ‎clarify the meanings when other dialects wouldn’t have to. However, given the fact ‎that real life speech is indeed usually properly contextualised, I wonder how much of ‎truth there is on saying so.‎

JunMing wrote: I am annoyed by this comparison... Latin is a common reference ‎because it gave birth to all these romance languages; standard Chinese is a modern ‎reference actually made up of all the dialects (with more references to some than ‎others). In a way, that would be preferable to compare it to Interlingua (made up of ‎romance languages for romance language speakers), which has the same purpose... ;) ‎Except that Standard Chinese is way less artificial.

Sorry, I didn’t think of that specific implication when I wrote about Latin and the ‎Romance languages… As you can guess, I was just trying to compare Chinese as a ‎whole to something that might be more familiar to the average Western reader. I ‎actually thought Arabic would provide a better comparison, but I don’t know nearly ‎enough about the actual situation of Classical Arabic versus dialectal usage to ‎properly measure such a comparison.‎

About grammar (I know I had a better paragraph to link the topic to, but I got a bit ‎lost), I understand I myself may’ve sounded like, ‘Oh, Jesus, Chinese dialects have ‎grammars as different as Spanish and Swahili!’, and I’m sorry for that. What I had in ‎mind was more like some ‘guidelines’ I’ve seen here and there, usually comparing ‎Cantonese to Mandarin… Although the two of them are S-V-O, and treat word ‎classes (that’s a bit faint in Chinese, isn’t it?) the same way, it seems that things such ‎as adverb positioning in a clause, connecting sentences, choice of conjunctions and ‎prepositional positioning may actually vary quite a bit between them, is that right? I ‎remember having read about demonstrative adjectives in Cantonese, and wondering ‎what expressions such as 呢枝鉛筆 and 嗰三本書 would look / sound like to ‎Mandarin speakers.‎
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-17, 19:39

I've just realised another difference between traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and Japanese while writing a post in the 'dreams & nightmares' thread.

The traditional Chinese character for 'evil' is:

Image

which was also used in Japanese. However, China has simplified it to

Image

while Japan has taken to use the variant

Image

Etymologically, the character comes from 亞 (亚) / 亜 phonetic over 心 'heart'.

亞 (亚) / 亜 = Mandarin / Cantonese aa<sup>3</sup> / Sino-Japanese a
心 = Mandarin xīn / Cantonese sam<sup>1</sup> / Sino-Japanese shin
惡 (恶) / 悪 = Mandarin è / Cantonese ok<sup>3</sup>, fu<sup>1</sup>, wu<sup>3</sup> / Sino-Japanese aku, o
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 418
Joined: 2003-04-05, 3:18
Real Name: Jonathan Wing
Gender: male
Location: houston | tx | usa
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby jonathan » 2005-07-18, 16:09

*patiently awaits JunMing's vigorous reply*
Jonathan / ジョナサン / 조나단 / 乔纳森 / Giònata / Jônatas / Jonatã / Jonathas / Jonátan / โจนาธาน / Jónatan



中文的名字:天礼



CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING: English, 中文 (普通话), 日本語, tiếng Việt.

gooooyaffa
Posts: 34
Joined: 2004-06-07, 0:40
Real Name: Dustin Chacon
Gender: male
Location: Rapid City
Country: US United States (United States)
Contact:

Postby gooooyaffa » 2005-07-18, 18:28

Psi-Lord, that's one of my favorite examples :wink: That and 氣, 気, and 气. The lines just keep disappearing!

User avatar
勺园之鬼
Posts: 890
Joined: 2003-05-29, 5:16
Real Name: 君君
Gender: male
Location: :o)
Country: KP North Korea (조선)

Postby 勺园之鬼 » 2005-07-18, 19:26

Psi-Lord wrote:I’ve read many, many times that some dialects are more ‘archaising’ and ‘traditional’ ‎than others, and have kept one-syllable / one-character words for things that, in ‎Mandarin, as expressed by two or more of those. However, I wouldn’t know any by ‎heart, and so I usually guess they’re referring to things such as e.g. the Moon being ‎just 月 instead of 月亮, or the everyday word for the Sun being just 日 instead of 太陽.‎


Oh now I see what you mean. I am sorry to tell you that no more Chinese dialects (may they be spoken anywhere) still refer to the sun as 日 or the moon as 月 (except compounds, of course, which are to be found even in the standard).

This for a very simple reason. Until the beginning of the 20th century, Chinese was not one language but two: written Chinese (文言文), and spoken Chinese (白话).
Why until the 20th century? We have to look into Chinese literature. It was with the end of the Empire that a new impulsion gave importance to a new trend in literature, to use spoken Chinese in literature. That doesn't mean to write as one speaks, but to write the learned spoken language. Until that time, Chinese has always been written the same; the compounds present in speech were not present in written texts, because the administrative and cultural apparatus was traditionalist and kept on using codified writings which appeared succesfully with centuries of literature. This doesn't mean there was no cultural creation - it was only the privilege of the elite, which was imaginative enough to keep on reinventing the language... but in the classical style.
During this time though, China was unified, and all speakers of Chinese used to write in the classical style, with its own grammar: that of a different language, impossible to understand for the learners of modern Chinese; which is the written version of the learned spoken language.
When Chinese started to be finally written, there had to be a standard imposed for it. That couldn't be completely based on everyday speech, as these speeches were different in all the country.
This written standard is the one to be found now written all around the country, in all areas where (any dialect of) Chinese is spoken; basically everytime and everywhere where Chinese characters are used.

Psi-Lord wrote:
JunMing wrote:Between Chinese dialects, there is not much of a difference, ‎certainly not as much as non Chinese speakers may think (hence the ‎misunderstanding in the other thread between people who do not speak Chinese and ‎pose themselves as pseudo specialists of Chinese, having heard they are mutually ‎unintelligible in their spoken form).

I was a bit confused by this paragraph… Are you just talking about written Chinese, ‎or are you talking about oral Chinese? I mean, even from a non-native point of view, ‎I’m quite convinced that Cantonese and Mandarin are certainly very, very far from ‎intelligibility in their spoken forms. However, by reading what you wrote, I get the ‎impression you’re saying that’s a typical non-native’s opinion which doesn’t reflect ‎reality.‎


This reflects reality, as speakers of Cantonese and any northern dialect (I insist on the fact that what you call 'Mandarin' is not a dialect) indeed cannot understand each other... in speech. Once they start to write, even if they write as they speak, the will manage to understand each other.
To explain it better I will link it to something you said below:

Psi-Lord wrote:
JunMing wrote:To talk about my experience, I do not speak Cantonese myself, nor ‎do I understand spoken Cantonese (without subtitles ;)), but I have no problems ‎whatsoever to understand everything in a text written in Cantonese (in the ‎same limits I understand a text written in the standard which I studied).

But are you talking about the standard with a ‘Cantonese touch’, so to speak, or a ‎direct, complete written text based on the colloquial, everyday oral Cantonese? For a ‎beginner, it can be quite a surprise to learn that, after all, becoming proficient in ‎Standard Chinese will allow him to equal Cantonese 我個名喺…… to Mandarin 我的名字是……, even if easily recognising the first three characters.‎


The examples you give are representative in that they are easily understandable by any speaker of Chinese.
I'll pass on "我的名字是" (or "叫" as the verb, which fits better here), which is the standard and by definition something understandable by all Chinese around the world.
In the Cantonese sentence, the character "我" is still the same, with a different pronunciation in Cantonese, but which doesn't matter as we are debating written intelligibility. "個" ("个") is a character used in all the Chinese dialects I've encountered so far; there is no reason to doubt it is understandable for everybody. Even if its use is not conventional to you, it is easy to think of it as "我这个名字是" (or even "我这个人的名字是" but it is a bit too far fetched) which is not common in speech in the standard, and probably not even correct; yet this is understandable for all. About "名", using it by itself is something common in many northern standards too. The last character, "喺", is the modern dialectal form of an old character used in classical Chinese, "係" (whose simplified form is 系, along with 繫 and the original character which is also 系 in its traditional form). This character means "to be", and it's not to be found by itself in many dialects as far as I know... probably only Cantonese now. It's still very common in compounds (even if simplified Chinese doesn't help to recognise between the original 係, 繫 and 系); for instance words like 关系 (關係) or 维系 (維係).
By the way, why did you input Cantonese in traditional? Does your IME only allow traditional? That's probably the case for most Hong Kong IME...

Psi-Lord wrote:And I hope you’re not including me in the ‘pseudo specialists’ group, since I always ‎try and mention that I certainly know very little about Chinese, and most of what I ‎talk about has actually been read or heard from other people (most of the time, from ‎you yourself, when you’re in your ‘teaching’ moods, hehe).‎


No worries. :D

Psi-Lord wrote:
JunMing wrote:Or maybe (I think as I am writing ;)) do you mean that sometimes ‎in the northern speech specific words of categories are added, which might be ‎forgotten in southern dialects because there is no conflict possible with another word? ‎If you mean this, this is true, but this is very rare; since people usually can make the ‎difference with the context, even if in the case of a single word it can pose a problem. ‎It's a bit like saying "poor" and "pour" can be confused (for people who pronounce it ‎the same obviously), when they are never alone and out of a context in speech - so it ‎is hardly possible. ;)

Maybe that, too. I mean, it seems most sources try to emphasize the fact that, ‎Mandarin having lost many of the old finals and having narrowed the tones, a pretty ‎large number of homophones would’ve arisen, and so compounds were necessary to ‎clarify the meanings when other dialects wouldn’t have to. However, given the fact ‎that real life speech is indeed usually properly contextualised, I wonder how much of ‎truth there is on saying so.‎


Well, I understand your opinion and I'd rather say the difference lies between the spoken Cantonese and the written standard version instead of anything else. Cantonese being further to the standard than many other dialects, speakers of the standard tend sometimes to use the written form in speech. But this is not always the case; which would be written in a two-syllable word, would be pronounced as a one-syllable word in Cantonese as in any other dialect.
Actually, this is the opposite which happens. Many words which are written in one character will be transformed in two-syllables words in speech, adding suffixes like 子 or others. Chinese evolves more and more to a disyllabic or multisyllabic word system; not only because of its grammar, complex notions which need compounds to be expressed, but also because of a phonetic balance. This is very important about modern Chinese.

Psi-Lord wrote:About grammar (I know I had a better paragraph to link the topic to, but I got a bit ‎lost), I understand I myself may’ve sounded like, ‘Oh, Jesus, Chinese dialects have ‎grammars as different as Spanish and Swahili!’, and I’m sorry for that. What I had in ‎mind was more like some ‘guidelines’ I’ve seen here and there, usually comparing ‎Cantonese to Mandarin…


To make it short, the grammar, even if influenced by the way the writer speaks, is similar in the written language.

Psi-Lord wrote:Although the two of them are S-V-O, and treat word ‎classes (that’s a bit faint in Chinese, isn’t it?) the same way, it seems that things such ‎as adverb positioning in a clause, connecting sentences, choice of conjunctions and ‎prepositional positioning may actually vary quite a bit between them, is that right?


Don't be so sure about that; Classical Chinese (which seems to be a different language after all) uses so many particles that sometimes the grammatical order doesn't seem to be always S-V-O... ;)

Psi-Lord wrote:I ‎remember having read about demonstrative adjectives in Cantonese, and wondering ‎what expressions such as 呢枝鉛筆 and 嗰三本書 would look / sound like to ‎Mandarin speakers.‎


Basically the way they seem to me: that means "this pencil" and "these three books". I would say the first one means "this" and the second one "that". I don't think anybody would have a problem in understanding these expressions when written. When spoken, this could cause much more problems, and even result impossible to understand, depending on which is the native dialect of the speaker of the standard...
四海为家

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-19, 3:10

gooooyaffa wrote:Psi-Lord, that's one of my favorite examples :wink: That and 氣, 気, and 气. The lines just keep disappearing!

Ah, I just can't believe I forgot that one! :D It's also one of my favourites, hehe.

JunMing wrote:I am sorry to tell you that no more Chinese dialects (may they be spoken anywhere) still refer to the sun as 日 or the moon as 月 (except compounds, of course, which are to be found even in the standard).

Good, now I know how much outdated information must be still flowing around there in the web. :)

JunMing wrote:This for a very simple reason. Until the beginning of the 20th century, Chinese was not one language but two: written Chinese (文言文), and spoken Chinese (白话).

Ah, I guess we once briefly talked about it in the chat… A long, long time ago. Well, not really talked—you talked, and I tried to understand it. :P ;)

JunMing wrote:Why until the 20th century? We have to look into Chinese literature. It was with the end of the Empire that a new impulsion gave importance to a new trend in literature, to use spoken Chinese in literature. That doesn't mean to write as one speaks, but to write the learned spoken language. Until that time, Chinese has always been written the same; the compounds present in speech were not present in written texts, because the administrative and cultural apparatus was traditionalist and kept on using codified writings which appeared succesfully with centuries of literature. This doesn't mean there was no cultural creation - it was only the privilege of the elite, which was imaginative enough to keep on reinventing the language... but in the classical style.
During this time though, China was unified, and all speakers of Chinese used to write in the classical style, with its own grammar: that of a different language, impossible to understand for the learners of modern Chinese; which is the written version of the learned spoken language.

I can't help thinking of some Japanese texts written in the early 20th century by the emperor and other members of the Japanese imperial family—tons of 漢字 that were outdated even for the standard language (which still hasn't been reformed), archaic vocabulary and constructions, and convoluted grammar, to the extent that the average Japanese would never make much sense out of it.

JunMing wrote:When Chinese started to be finally written, there had to be a standard imposed for it. That couldn't be completely based on everyday speech, as these speeches were different in all the country.
This written standard is the one to be found now written all around the country, in all areas where (any dialect of) Chinese is spoken; basically everytime and everywhere where Chinese characters are used.

Maybe this is a good time for you to introduce the discussion about why Mandarin is not a written form of the Beijing dialect, as many people believe it to be (and maybe even why one shouldn't call 普通話 'Mandarin' at all). :)

JunMing wrote:The last character, "喺", is the modern dialectal form of an old character used in classical Chinese, "係" (whose simplified form is 系, along with 繫 and the original character which is also 系 in its traditional form). This character means "to be", and it's not to be found by itself in many dialects as far as I know... probably only Cantonese now. It's still very common in compounds (even if simplified Chinese doesn't help to recognise between the original 係, 繫 and 系); for instance words like 关系 (關係) or 维系 (維係).

Ah, that's why I had preferred to take a beginner's point of view in my last post—I did have no idea that 係 had ever meant 'to be', and I did thought Cantonese was quite peculiar in using 喺. So indeed, now I'm beginning to see that, for an advanced student and for a native speaker, it's easy to relate such examples using synonyms, old characters or alternative words found even in the standard.

JunMing wrote:By the way, why did you input Cantonese in traditional? Does your IME only allow traditional? That's probably the case for most Hong Kong IME...

Not really—I just happened to have the Cantonese sentences in traditional, and I was afraid that, even using Wenlin for it, I might end up converting the characters to wrong simplified forms, ending up messing a discussion that is rather difficult on its own. :oops:

JunMing wrote:
Psi-Lord wrote:I ‎remember having read about demonstrative adjectives in Cantonese, and wondering ‎what expressions such as 呢枝鉛筆 and 嗰三本書 would look / sound like to ‎Mandarin speakers.‎

Basically the way they seem to me: that means "this pencil" and "these three books". I would say the first one means "this" and the second one "that". I don't think anybody would have a problem in understanding these expressions when written. When spoken, this could cause much more problems, and even result impossible to understand, depending on which is the native dialect of the speaker of the standard...

Ah, again, now I see this is probably totally impossible to grasp for a beginner only. I mean, I only knew 呢 as the Mandarin final particle ne, and even Wenlin seemed to indicate that 嗰 was unique to Cantonese, so I'd never expect that the average speaker of other dialects (or of the standard) would clearly realise they're used as 'this' and 'that' in this type of sentence. :oops:
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)

User avatar
Psi-Lord
Posts: 10087
Joined: 2002-08-18, 7:02
Real Name: Marcel Q.
Gender: male
Location: Cândido Mota
Country: BR Brazil (Brasil)
Contact:

Postby Psi-Lord » 2005-07-24, 5:53

Back to small differences in grammar between Mandarin and Cantonese, I've found two sentences given as an example of minor but important differences…

The first is just a matter of characters, as we've discussed a lot before:

I am not Hongkonger.

Mandarin - ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Cantonese - ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

The second, though, is a difference in how to convey the idea of a continuous action:

I am studying Cantonese.

Mandarin - ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Cantonese - ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

JunMing, do you know if 唔 is historically related to negation, and if there's a classical background for 紧 as used here? Or are they Cantonese innovations?
português do Brasil (pt-BR)British English (en-GB) galego (gl) português (pt) •• العربية (ar) български (bg) Cymraeg (cy) Deutsch (de)  r n km.t (egy) español rioplatense (es-AR) 日本語 (ja) 한국어 (ko) lingua Latina (la) ••• Esperanto (eo) (grc) français (fr) (hi) magyar (hu) italiano (it) polski (pl) Türkçe (tr) 普通話 (zh-CN)


Return to “Chinese (中文)”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest