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Old 10-14-2009, 06:11 PM   #166
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The Satanic Verses is not available at Amazon. Maybe they're also anti-anti-Muslim.
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Old 10-14-2009, 06:36 PM   #167
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Thanks, Hans. Sometimes it seems the more I learn the less I understand this subject.

Is that different then from somebody trying to learn to read Hanzi by only knowing the English meaning of the characters and character combinations, along with idioms of course? Or with some of the Chinese languages/dialects is it basically somewhat like that?

- Ahi
Your old favorite subject. I never said that it is impossible to learn written Chinese without learning spoken Chinese. I just believe that if you miss the sound component you will find it difficult to remember. And it makes little sense to me, since you can learn the spoken language in months, but it will take many years to master the written language! And speaking it will make it much easier to learn and remember the writing. So the whole matter really doesn't make sense, if you want to learn the Chinese written language, learn both at the same time.

Just for your info, the other Chinese languages are more difficult to learn than Mandarin. The main reason they did pick Mandarin as the standard is because it is easy to learn.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:26 PM   #168
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Your old favorite subject. I never said that it is impossible to learn written Chinese without learning spoken Chinese. I just believe that if you miss the sound component you will find it difficult to remember. And it makes little sense to me, since you can learn the spoken language in months, but it will take many years to master the written language! And speaking it will make it much easier to learn and remember the writing. So the whole matter really doesn't make sense, if you want to learn the Chinese written language, learn both at the same time.

Just for your info, the other Chinese languages are more difficult to learn than Mandarin. The main reason they did pick Mandarin as the standard is because it is easy to learn.
I'm interested in the question as a hypothetical matter, not as a practical one, Hans.

The reason I brought it up is because it doesn't jive with me that (1) you say that the written stuff has different (basically arbitrary) pronunciation depending on the reader's native language/dialect, but (2) you also suggest that it would be problematic to have the arbitrary sounds be the Hanzi characters' English meanings. Do you just feel so because of the existing set of associations those English words would have (that wouldn't always be compatible with the semantic cover of the Chinese concepts) or am I missing something bigger than that? (Or am I altogether misinterpreting what you wrote in one or another message?)

- Ahi
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:59 PM   #169
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I'm interested in the question as a hypothetical matter, not as a practical one, Hans.

The reason I brought it up is because it doesn't jive with me that (1) you say that the written stuff has different (basically arbitrary) pronunciation depending on the reader's native language/dialect, but (2) you also suggest that it would be problematic to have the arbitrary sounds be the Hanzi characters' English meanings. Do you just feel so because of the existing set of associations those English words would have (that wouldn't always be compatible with the semantic cover of the Chinese concepts) or am I missing something bigger than that? (Or am I altogether misinterpreting what you wrote in one or another message?)

- Ahi
The main obstacle I see is the sentence structure, grammar. Let us say you assign an English word to every character. But the way sentences are formed is totally different. No tenses (you, for example, indicate past tense by adding a little word 了LE or 過了GUO LE or just simply yesterday). Verbs never change. You have no cases, no conjunctive (again, just denoted by a adding a simple word). Word order is different and arranging the same words in different order can give a totally different meaning. You have counters (like one PAIR of pants in English) for everything. Most characters have many different meanings. Some characters (like the above 過 GUO and 了LE), have no English word equivalent at all.

So, to sum it up. All Chinese languages are structurally almost the same and well suited for using Chinese characters, that is why you have the situation as explained. Japanese is not, and that is why they have Hiragana to write what cannot be expressed by the characters (usually because of the totally different Japanese grammar). It is not possible to write English in Chinese characters, but as a purely academic excercise, yes, it is possible to learn Chinese writing without learning spoken Chinese. It just makes no sense at all to do so. To learn writing and understand the meaning of the whole sentence, you have to be totally immersed in the language.

You pointed out some scholars who did this, they could read Chinese but could not speak it. My guess is that they actually could speak it, but that their pronunciation was very bad and people didn't understand them -- so that they were embarrassed to use the spoken language. And they also weren't able to pick up the tones and other matters to be able to understand a native speaker. So it must have been a matter of knowing the spoken language but not having mastered a good enough pronunciation to be able to communicate in verbal form. Pronunciation is a much greater obstacle in Sinotibetan languages than in European ones! And people tend to laugh at foreigners who get it wrong. The scholars probably didn't want to subject themselves to such ridicule and therefore pretended they couldn't speak at all.
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:04 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by HansTWN View Post
The main obstacle I see is the sentence structure, grammar. Let us say you assign an English word to every character. But the way sentences are formed is totally different. No tenses (you, for example, indicate past tense by adding a little word 了LE or 過了GUO LE or just simply yesterday). Verbs never change. You have no cases, no conjunctive (again, just denoted by a adding a simple word). Word order is different and arranging the same words in different order can give a totally different meaning. You have counters (like one PAIR of pants in English) for everything. Most characters have many different meanings. Some characters (like the above 過 GUO and 了LE), have no English word equivalent at all.

So, to sum it up. All Chinese languages are structurally almost the same and well suited for using Chinese characters, that is why you have the situation as explained. Japanese is not, and that is why they have Hiragana to write what cannot be expressed by the characters (usually because of the totally different Japanese grammar). It is not possible to write English in Chinese characters, but as a purely academic excercise, yes, it is possible to learn Chinese writing without learning spoken Chinese. It just makes no sense at all to do so. To learn writing and understand the meaning of the whole sentence, you have to be totally immersed in the language.

You pointed out some scholars who did this, they could read Chinese but could not speak it. My guess is that they actually could speak it, but that their pronunciation was very bad and people didn't understand them -- so that they were embarrassed to use the spoken language. And they also weren't able to pick up the tones and other matters to be able to understand a native speaker. So it must have been a matter of knowing the spoken language but not having mastered a good enough pronunciation to be able to communicate in verbal form. Pronunciation is a much greater obstacle in Sinotibetan languages than in European ones! And people tend to laugh at foreigners who get it wrong. The scholars probably didn't want to subject themselves to such ridicule and therefore pretended they couldn't speak at all.
Thanks, Hans! That makes perfect sense.

You have disabused me of some more of my Sinitic misconceptions.

- Ahi
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:08 PM   #171
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My suggestion for you is, learn an oriental language. It will be a very enlightening experience. Language is culture, and it will teach you a whole new way of thinking.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:59 PM   #172
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yeah it is. you just can't get it for the Kindle.
Oops, your right. It's not available for the Kindle.
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Old 10-14-2009, 11:29 PM   #173
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These recent posts are making me think of the Chinese Room:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room

Not that I'm claiming that you don't all pass the Turing test...
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:18 AM   #174
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These recent posts are making me think of the Chinese Room:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room

Not that I'm claiming that you don't all pass the Turing test...
dood! I gotta tell ya'... sometimes I have a REALLY hard time reading your posts
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Old 10-20-2009, 09:46 AM   #175
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Just had a few more thoughts, Hans...

---

write

Quote:
Originally Posted by HansTWN View Post
No tenses (you, for example, indicate past tense by adding a little word 了LE or 過了GUO LE or just simply yesterday).
did write
will write

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Originally Posted by HansTWN View Post
Verbs never change. You have no cases, no conjunctive (again, just denoted by a adding a simple word).
I write
you write
he/she/it writes
we write
you (all) write
they write


I did write
you did write
he/she/it did write
we did write
you (all) did write
they did write

I will write
you will write
he/she/it will write
we will write
you (all) will write
they will write

If one is not obliged to be 100% grammatically correct and/or elegant, English isn't necessarily wildly different from what you describe.

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Originally Posted by HansTWN View Post
Some characters (like the above 過 GUO and 了LE), have no English word equivalent at all.
Why not read "了LE - did" and "過 GUO 了LE - have had"?

---

Without meaning to suggest that it would be a sensible idea to do, I increasingly think that Hanzi could be learned reasonably by assigning (context-dependent) English meaning(s) to characters, without Chinese language pronunciation.

The result would not be fine Shakespearean (or even modern) English, but a sort of very un-English-like English that speakers of western languages would probably perceive pidgin-like... but it does seem to me it ought to be comprehensible enough.

The task ought to be even easier in other languages whose grammatical structure is more similar (as you yourself alluded).

Also, you wrote earlier:

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Sure you could, but you never would get past words to whole sentences. The languages are too different. Let us take a whole sentence "Ma, ni hao"
"媽, 你好" Three simple words. Mother, you, and good. In this order it means "Mother, hello". Next up, "Ni ma hao""你媽好" Now it means, "Your mother is good" (better style would be "你的媽很好", before someone corrects me!, but still it makes perfect sense like this, too). And there is "你好,媽?" "Are you ok, mother?". Again, before any rebuttal comes, "你還好,媽?" or "你好不好,媽?", would be better.
I actually don't see the problem...

你 - "you"
好 - "good"
媽 - "mother"

你媽好 - "you-mother good" (Your mother is well.)
Take the first two characters to form a unit, and it's perfectly clear.

媽,你好 - "mother, you good" (Mother, hello.)
This is not all that bewildering a colloquialism. If you added a question mark, it would practically be English slang.

你好,媽? - "you good, mother?" (Are you ok, mother?)
This *is* English slang.

Or even the more proper form you noted:

你好不好,媽? - "you good not good, mother?"
But for the lack of an "or" that is implied well enough, this is also something entirely intuitive.

The biggest problem I foresee to trying to remain non-Chinese-phonetic is with names. Names that you are supposed to recognize, that is.

Hard to turn "卡尔扎伊" into "Karzai" without knowing the Mandarin pronunciation of the first three characters... albeit, without additional context, I suspect it is difficult to turn it into "Karzai" even if you do know the pronunciation.

But it wouldn't be a problem with names you did not need to immediately associate with a western name... assuming you could accept that Hanzi written names are weird in their own unique way.

Anyways... like I said, I find this interesting mostly as a thought experiment in what is possible.

- Ahi
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Old 10-21-2009, 05:03 AM   #176
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Without meaning to suggest that it would be a sensible idea to do, I increasingly think that Hanzi could be learned reasonably by assigning (context-dependent) English meaning(s) to characters, without Chinese language pronunciation.

- Ahi
Is there a MobileRead award for the biggest drift off topic on a thread?

If not, I think there should be.

Regards, Alex
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Old 10-21-2009, 12:05 PM   #177
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That would be the Off Topic Thread, which is mostly topic drift.
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Old 10-21-2009, 05:41 PM   #178
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That would be the Off Topic Thread, which is mostly topic drift.
That would be on topic. The topic of the thread was changing the topic.
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Old 10-21-2009, 05:51 PM   #179
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That's true.
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Old 10-21-2009, 05:54 PM   #180
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yeah it is. you just can't get it for the Kindle.
What I find aggravating, is that you can't put a Kindle copy on your wish-list. So, I have a ton of paperback books on my Amazon wish-list, which I end up purchasing elsewhere to avoid DRM.
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