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Re: Chinese writing systems

From:Douglas Koller, Latin & French <latinfrench@...>
Date:Monday, November 4, 2002, 21:51
Mat writes:

>>This is not difficult since writting only caries the meaning, and not >>pronounciation. Would you remove any possibility of writing to those >>languages, > >That wouldn't happen because every form of Chinese language could have a >Roman system. And they are not that different, so they could all be >variations on the same model of writing system.
No small feat since they are that different. Different dialects have different numbers of tones; and what one identifies as "fourth tone" might be "second tone" in another. So tone marking would have to be different. And trust me, I've tried it, while it's *relatively* easy to romanize one dialect, it's tough to devise a unified model that crosses dialect boundaries well, even allowing for some tweeking here and there along the way, since there are significantly divergent phonetic inventories. I mean, Polish and English are variations on the same model of writing, but how helpful is that?
>>or create hundreds (not less, knowing how many dialects ans languages) of >>different complex spelling systems? > >That is the point again, re the spoken language: if there is that much >variation in the spoken language, there is already that much common >unintelligibility. Why does no-one think of all these Chinese languages as >cultural forms in their own right, with the right to individual expression?
Dialect expression and suppression have both occurred in Chinese society. I think the pendulum is swinging back toward expression. Cantonese has a solid history of a written form in characters, but other dialects have also had special characters to meet their specific needs, albeit probably not very well known by the general populace (unless, say, you're an aficionado of Shanghai opera). In Taiwan, at least, there is a growing body of literature written in Taiwanese Hokkien in characters. All the dialect dictionaries I have use the characters and graft dialect pronunciations onto them, then add specific dialect characters for grammatical function words and the like (it should be noted that some dialect words simply do not have characters at the moment, but they could be created using the principles that gave us feminine "ta"; how quickly such forms would be accepted and used by the masses is another matter). Kou