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One character, two syllables (was: Re: NATLANG: Chinese parts of speech (or lack thereof)

From:Douglas Koller, Latin & French <latinfrench@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 20:30
>--- Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...> wrote: > >whatever they may >> mean. Are there single Chinese signs pronounced as >> two >> or more syllables, this I don't know, but I haven't > > found examples yet > >There is only one. The character you often see on >Chinese wedding announcements and other things >associated with weddings and also the new year. It is >a special character composed of two of the character >"xi" meaning happiness, joy and is pronounced >"shuangxi" -- double happiness.
Point taken, but does that really count? Under that criterion, we could say that the stylized, single-character form of "zhao cai jin bao" is one character with *four* syllables. Both the "zhao cai jin bao" and "shuang xi" characters occur solitarily, pasted above doors or on windows, or printed in greeting cards and wedding paraphernalia, because they are artistic motifs. (On the poster for Ang Li's film, "The Wedding Banquet" ("Xi3 yan4" in Chinese), the "xi" is written with *three* xi's, both to represent the two gay lovers and the Shanghainese woman one of them marries to dupe his parents and to play off the marital bliss connotations of the "shuang xi".) They do not occur in sentences and are not, I believe, found in the dictionary. If you were going to talk about the "shuang xi" in a Chinese text, I think you'd have to write it out as "shuang" and "xi". Now a single character with two syllables that *is* found in the dictionary is "qian1 wa3", "kilowatt". It can be used in phrases and sentences ("qianwa shi", "kilowatt hour"), and as I said, can be found in the dictionary. It's simply a combination of the characters "qian", "thousand", and "wa", "tile, but here used for the sound of "watt", but the single character is in current usage. And then there are characters which represent some wacky contractions. In Shanghainese, the characters "wu", "not (archaic)", and "yao", "want" are smashed together to yield "viaw" (sets up negative imperatives like "bie" or "bu yao" in Mandarin). In Mandarin usage which I've been told is "northern" (though intelligible in other Mandarin-speaking areas), "bu", "not" and "yong", "use" are stacked one on top of the other to give us "beng2", "you don't have to", "it's unnecessary", "fugeddaboutit", etc. "Beng keqi", "you're welcome" (lit.: you don't need to be polite). "Beng"'s legit, if regional, and in the dictionary. "Viaw" would not be recognized by non-Shanghainese speakers as it's a newly minted character specifically for that dialect (like the Taiwanese contraction-character "mai" for "m ai" ("don't", negative imperative)). Kou