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Re: Chinese writing systems

From:Florian Rivoal <florian@...>
Date:Monday, November 4, 2002, 11:52
>Yes, but i was referring to the joyo kanji. I know that the Japanese often >use more due to such things as familial names, etc. But by and large to be >able to read most things in Japanese you only need the Joyo kanji (i'm >speaking of Basics). This does not mean they read chinese.
Famillial names do not often include rare kanji. First names often do. And the 4000 difference between what you learn until high school, and what a teacher knows is not only for writing names. Most of it are for advanced vocabulary, technical words, jargon and so on... A good japanese dictionary usualy references as many characters as a chinese one does. But while it is true you can read most of a text only with the joyo kanji, i wouldn't say you can read mosts texts with it. I mean that in most texts, there will be just a few things you can not read, but still, unknown kanji will not be rare. One thing is true for all languages, Usualy the most common words carry the less inforamtion. So those kanji you don't know may carry important meanings. By the way, i never said that they can read chinese. I said they can undersand approximately what it is about. Which is different.
>You're also including the educated here, which know more than the common >people who do not go to college. It's much like expecting your common >middle american farmer to understand many of the commonly used french and >german terms found in essays and research papers for universities.
Yes i am including educated people here. Because i think this matter of international understanding mainly involves educated people, and that a middle american farmer, as well as a japanese fisherman, or a french grapes cultivator will not learn chinese, writen in roman alphabet or not.
>>>North Korea doesnt use Hanzi at all. >>In the official script. Yet the north korean students in my class(chinese >>language class) do have a certain knoledge of hanzi, as most educated >>people in north korea do. > >"A certain knowledge" doesnt mean comprehension.
A certain knowledge, in this case, means that they know quite a few hanzi before starting to learn chinese. Not as many a a chinese or japanese does, but still enough for them to feel familiar with it, recognise some vocabulary at the first sight, and learn new ones more easily, since they are familiar with the system.
>Educated people. And you admitted that these students are in your Chinese >language class. I'd be willing to assume that the educated people there >also learn some chinese. But, do the common folk? Those educated in >Universities shouldn't be confused with the common populace.
Educated people might or not learn some chinese but i don't think it is the point. The common folk who might not understand so many hanzi, would still not go on learning chinese was it writen in their own alphabet.
>>> Tibet has it's own writing system. >>tibet is not a country. China claims, and it is internationaly admited >>that it is part of china. I don't want to enter the debate of knowing if >>tibetan people are happy this way, but there is no other governement in >>tibet than the chinese one. And though tibetan language has (now) are >>freedom of existance, mandarin is still the official language there. > > >I was speaking in terms of a large group of people tied culturally and >distinct from their ruling nation, and Speak a language related to Chinese >and yet don't use Chinese writing.
Tibetan language falls in the same language familly as chinese, when you consider gigantic groups like "indo european", "tonal languages from south east asia"(sorry, i forgot the oficial name of this group", or "ural-altaic aglutinating languages including korean and japanese". But if you make smaller cathegories, you they are not so related, and tibetan is not considered a sinitic language.
>>Taiwan is not part of china (though china would like things to be so), >>but speeks mandarin, and write hanzi. I beleive(but i am not sure for >>this one) that chinese is still one of the official languages in >>singapore. >>And the chinese diaspora, rather present in most countries in the world, >>and often having a strong position in many asian countries, write hanzi >>when they need to write their language, since up to now, there is no >>other way to write it. > >Yes, and they also use the traditional system while the Chinese use the >simplified. My friend Irene whose family is from Taiwan says she can't >read simplified Chinese.
I can't understand the hanzi from mainland, is often more a problem of pride, than of reading. The traditional and simplified set only differ by 30%, and most of the time, simplifications were made on the base of how people usualy tended to simplify naturay hanzi through fast hand writing. It is true that they can not read everything, but most of it shouldn't be a problem. The other way is even easyer, because mainlanders often come across traditional hanzi. In old books, anything imported from taiwan, or from hong kong (imported may not be the right term here), including all the karaokes, which is probably one of the favorite chinese hobby. Finaly, if they can not always write it properly, most mainlanders can read traditional without to many problems.
>Again, how does China using Pinyin exclusively for instance, put it more >distant with some other nations since these other nations do NOT write in >chinese and do not understand it (i'll reiterate: Getting the idea does >NOT mean comprehension)?
Ok, it does not mean comprehension. The understanding here is only vague. But with a alphabetic system, it would not be vague, but inexistant. And people who do not speak chinese would still be unable of pronoucing it. knowing the alphabet does not mean you can pronounce since the ponetic rules and values of the letters are different. And the use of hanzi does make the learning process easier for those who are native to this system. I do not mean that they are the only one who are efficient in learning to write, when other do not manage, but that it gives them a real help for understanding new vocabulary.
>One poster did admit that some Japanese can get an idea, but getting an >idea does not mean comprehension of a text (i can get an idea of an >Italian text from what I know of sound changes and similar Spanish words, >but it doesnt mean i understand it).
when i go to the chinese restaurant with japanese friends (even if they have never learnt chinese) they can read the menu, while i can't. A japanese will most probably have allmost no problem to find the extact thing he wants in a supermarket. he will know on the remote controler which buton is power, which one is play and which one is record(one could argue that if chinese used the common symbol with a triangle or a red circle, it would be easier for every body, but actualy, they don't). The road sign saying "slow down" will make sence to him. he will find his way out in a chinese subway station only by reading, without any problem. He will know which buton is send and which one is delete in a chinese email software.... Of course, philosophy in chinese will be out of his range, but he can still achieve many things.
> In fact i'm pretty sure some of those >countries would gladly distance themselves from China.
???? having a dificult common past do not mean that they are not trying their best now to become "friend nations".
>So again, I ask you, how would it make it more distant from: > >Taiwan, N. Korea, S. Korea, Japan, and Tibet (included only due to the >contact it's traditionally had with China. ANd yes i know it's a part of >Chinese territory)?
I don't think it would make them much more distant, expept for those who want to learn the language. But i also don't belive it would make them closer to the roman writing world. As you pointed out, vietnam uses a roman alphabet. Do you realy consider they have better relations and are closer to the rest of the world? And thailand has its own alphabet, which is not roman. But since it is an alphabet, it should be very easy to learn, right? So why does no one (ok, not no one, but not so many) try to learn thai? Because except when your school wants you to learn a second language, and gives you the choice between two or three, no body choose to learn a language because it is easy, and especialy easy to write. You learn a language because you consider it usefull, or intressting, or because its the native language or the (wo)man you love... People who are in a situation leading them to learn chinese will learn it, writen in hanzi, roman alphabet or anything else. And people who feel no interest in china will not sudenly start to learn its langauge just because it is writen in roman letters. And anyone who would turn away from mandarin because of its writting system should know that it is not the hardest part of the language that frightened him. I think that mandarin pronouciation is much harder to learn than its writing system. Not only because of tones, but also initial consonants, and some vowels. I have been in china for 4 months, and taking lessons for two months, and (though it happens less frenquently now) i sometime have to write things when people don't understand what i say. And my pronounciation is not worse than average, au contraire. i have tried quite a lot of different languages, which help, when it come to producing new sounds; and being a conlanger, i read quite much about linguistics, and especialy phonetics, thanks to what I know rather well to which details i should pay atention to pronounce correctly.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>