etymologically correct pronunciation

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
rathpy

etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby rathpy » Fri Dec 20, 2002 12:09 am

Does every character in a Chinese dialect (specifically Cantonese) have a single etymologically correct pronunciation (especially with regards to tone)?

I know that there are lots of tone change guidelines, but when I learn a character I like to know the 'base' pronunciation version. Phrasebooks and dictionaries usually just provide the several versions. At the moment, I try to determine the base form by comparing the character on http://zhongwen.com and http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/ - I take the Mandarin tone provided at http://zhongwen.com and try to match it up (according to the Mandarin/Cantonese translation tables provided by James Campbell) with one of the (sometimes several) Jyutping version(s) at the other site. Usually, I narrow it down to one tone version. But sometimes I can't be sure (either because zhongwen provides several versions, or several Jyutping tones match up). Is there are better way?

I'm compiling my own online resource that grows with my vocabulary. In defining the data schema I'd really like to know whether it is accurate/appropriate to assign one main pronunciation for each dialect for each character - particularly for tones. (The alternative of just listing the tone variations in no particular order seems wishy-washy - I'd rather list the tone changes in the compounds where the character is used).

Regards,
rathpy

ppk

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby ppk » Sat Dec 21, 2002 4:10 am

difficult to know all to decide on one. usually linguists tend to choose certain towns or cities as a standard for different purposes, so it depends on ur field of study too. even for teochew dialects which is found only in teochew, sort of a 'county' in canton(i dunno how they group nowadays), there are 8 or 9 different districts, and only the 'city accent' is considered standard. for general learning purpose they choose the one with the most people speaking or most popular city of that dialect but with special note on some of the special usage in other places. since one of the main reasons to learn a language is to communicate, no point choosing one which is remote or with the least people speaking them. like cantonese u will probably get canton or hong kong pronouciation, mandarin u get to learn beijing pronouciation, hakkas u get to learn mei'xian pronouciation etc. others are emphasized only when doing certain specific research.

rathpy

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby rathpy » Wed Jan 01, 2003 9:40 pm

ppk,

I am focusing on my own community’s pronunciation, and I am recording its peculiarities. Of course, all the resources show Hong Kong / Guangdong pronunciations. I have to check every word in the books against how my community says it. I do also want to be able to communicate with speakers of Singapore, H.K., China, etc., so I’m learning both versions along the way.

As far recording/ knowing the “etymologically correct” pronunciation is concerned, I still would like to do that if possible. I appreciate that language just evolves, differently in different places, and that it’s all valid. But in some cases, aren’t some pronunciations more “original (or whatever)”?

For instance, I could record every syllable with an “N” initial to also have an “L” initial variant (according to younger pronunciation). But I don’t want to do this, because it’s sufficient for me to be aware of the change made by some speakers and try and cope with it. Likewise, many syllables with an “NG” initial have it dropped off, and some speakers even erroneously add an “NG” initial on. I don’t want to get into a mess of recording both versions for every syllable concerned – I would just rather record the “correct” one.

Do you see what I mean?

Regards,
rathpy

ppk

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby ppk » Fri Jan 03, 2003 6:25 pm

cantonese are not really specific about the slight differences(unlike shanghainese who cant bear outsiders speaking inaccurate shanghai dialects), and i think people in sg, hk and china can understand each other pretty well pronounciation wise, unless they are talking about specific terms that other places dont use, like propaganda terms in mainland china that are unfamiliar with singaporeans. thats my own opinion.

Lisa c

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby Lisa c » Mon Jan 06, 2003 6:06 pm

Your post brought to mind a funny memory. A friend of mine is from Singapore and has never lived anywhere else. I'm in San Francisco. We're talking one day in Cantonese (although his native dialect is Hokkien/Fujian) and I mentioned that I had to get my "si mian" out. Silk comforter. He didn't have the faintest idea what that was. Because it's not necessary to have a "si mian" in Singapore b/c of the tropical weather it 's not a term that he had ever learned.

Another friend of mine from S'pore referred to pineapple as "feng li" instead of "bo lo". It may be proper written Chinese to use 'feng li' but it cracked us up. He didn't know the Cantonese "bo lo" even though he's Cantones b/c so many dialectal groups living together I think they get a little mixed up. Ex. Chow guay diao (Teochew) for stir-fried guo tiao. Many Cantonese don't realize that the characters should be guo tiao and just use characters that approximate the sound.

ppk

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby ppk » Wed Jan 08, 2003 10:46 pm

bo luo is only used in mainland china. feng li is probably the proper name.

sfboy

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby sfboy » Thu Jan 09, 2003 4:25 am

i'm from hong kong. we also use bo lo

Radagasty

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby Radagasty » Fri Jan 10, 2003 11:27 pm

> i'm from hong kong. we also use bo lo

In Malaysia, the term is wong lei 黃棃.

rathpy

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby rathpy » Sat Jan 11, 2003 8:14 pm

Regardless of whether you think its usefull or not...
Can no-one tell me if there is such thing as an etymologically correct pronunciation, and how I might determine it ???

Regards,
rathpy

Thomas Chan

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby Thomas Chan » Sat Jan 11, 2003 9:18 pm

rathpy wrote:
> Regardless of whether you think its usefull or not...
> Can no-one tell me if there is such thing as an
> etymologically correct pronunciation, and how I might
> determine it ???

Hi,

For tones, determining the "etymologically correct" version would
probably require looking up the historical Middle Chinese tone in one of
the old rhymebooks; some contemporary dictionaries contain this
information.

Between the two sources you are comparing, http://zhongwen.com and
http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/, I would trust the latter a lot
more, because the latter is specifically for Cantonese, and compiled more
authoritatively and conservatively--it is S.L. Wong's classic first published
in 1941 (it is still in print from CUHK press, as far as I know); I don't know
what kind of stuff is cobbled in the former.

Comparing Mandarin to Cantonese is problematic, not only because both
contain tones that deviate, but also because you have no way to predict
what tone a character should have (in Cantonese) based on the Mandarin
tone if the word ends (in Cantonese and formerly in Mandarin) in -p, -t,
-k.

You can be suspect of words that have a variant pronunciation in tone 1
or 2 in Cantonese--those are what most tone changes become, e.g.,
tong4 糖 'sugar' changes to tong4-2 糖 'candy'; biu2 表 'chart/table; meter'
changes to biu2-1 表 (usually written 錶) 'watch'. But I don't think I'd say
these particular two cases are optional changes, unlike others.

You can also be suspect of most words with nasal initials m-, n-, ng- having
high register tones (yin) 1, 2, or 3 in Cantonese, and words with zero
initials 0- having low tones (yang) 4, 5, or 6 in Cantonese, because voicing
is associated with lower pitch. (Likewise, you can be suspicious of nasal
inital words with tone 1 in Mandarin.) Some colloquial or mimetic words
are exempt from this rule, though, e.g., mam1 '(baby talk for) food', ma1
媽 'mother', ma1 孖 'twin', maau1 貓 'cat', ngau1 'to scratch', mau1 踎 'to
squat', etc. (For "colloquial", I'd guess I'd say that it's something like a
word that you can't find in a std dictionary.)

I hope you've ruled out the possibility of characters being used for more
than one word, e.g., ngok6 樂 and lok6 樂. Also, sometimes the tone
changes are not optional, e.g., go3 go3 個個 'every one' vs. go3-2 嗰個 'that (one)'. (Even if there are no apparent changes in meaning,
there are words which have gained or lost the changed tone pronunciation
over time--this can be seen by checking older textbooks/dictionaries--and
this sort of thing frustratingly has to be learned lexically for each word,
like whether the "neutral" tone occurs in Mandarin.)

Stuff like 隸 pronounced l- rather than d- (due to graphic resemblance to
characters like 逮)--there's little you can do about irregularities like that.
Or keui5 � 'he/she/it', which is just keui4 渠 (but absorbing the influence
of the tone 5 of the other pronouns ngo5 我 'I' and nei5 你 'you').

How about instead of pursuing the grail of etymology, why not go with
the majority pronunciation? Check a few textbooks/dictionaries from
different authors, and from the last two to three decades or so. I find that
is helpful in weeding out the very odd pronunciations--one that comes to
mind is {口浪} long2 'to rinse', which if you think about it, is from long6 浪
'wave', but I've seen some sources give the hypercorrection *nong2.


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu

rathpy

Re: The Grail

Postby rathpy » Sun Jan 12, 2003 11:10 am

Thomas,

> . . .
> How about instead of pursuing the grail of etymology, why not go with
> the majority pronunciation? ...

Yes, but I think I’d personally have to pursue to 'majority' pronunciations...

My immediate goal is to be able to speak Cantonese to my wife, daughter and in-laws. They speak differently to the text books. (Their pronunciation of vowels 'e', 'oe' and 'yu' is different, otherwise fairly close). I am definitely learning/recording my local community’s way, at least.

However, almost all the learning materials available to me are, of course, in the more standard Cantonese. So I also need to understand standard Cantonese if I am to make use of books, learning tapes, news broadcasts from Hong Kong, etc. This is fine because my second goal is to be able to communicate with the peoples of Hong Kong, Singapore and Guangdong.

(I think it likely that I will develop non-standard Cantonese speech patterns from my family, therefore I would be very slow at attempting to speak the Hong Kong way. But I’m hopeful that with the combination of being aware of the pronunciation differences, as well as getting some listening experience, it will at least allow me to understand it being spoken.)


> ...Check a few textbooks/dictionaries from
> different authors, and from the last two to three decades or so. I find that
> is helpful in weeding out the very odd pronunciations--one that comes to
> mind is {口浪} long2 'to rinse', which if you think about it, is from long6 浪
> 'wave', but I've seen some sources give the hypercorrection *nong2.

I take your point that sometimes you can use your noggin to work it out. However, this morning I tried to look up黑, and got:

:hak1 - Chinese-English Dictionary, 2000 Chinese University Press
:haak1, hak1 – CCDict
:hak1(7) – A Concise Cantonese English Dictionary, 1999 Guangzhou
:haak1 – Phrases in Cantonese, 1996 Betty Hung
:haak1, hak1 - http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/ 1941?

Both vowels types sound pretty similar so it probably doesn’t matter that much. But it takes time to look them all up, and at the end you sometimes aren’t much better off. (Sigh). I can’t help wonder if it is really 'aa' but people just think it’s 'a' when spoken quickly.


> For tones, determining the "etymologically correct" version would
> probably require looking up the historical Middle Chinese tone in one of
> the old rhymebooks; some contemporary dictionaries contain this
> information.

This is probably a stupid question, but there wouldn’t be any "Cantonese" dictionaries with info like that would there? I’d have to use a rhymebook?


> Between the two sources you are comparing, http://zhongwen.com and
> http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/, I would trust the latter a lot
> more, because the latter is specifically for Cantonese, and compiled more
> authoritatively and conservatively--it is S.L. Wong's classic first published
> in 1941 (it is still in print from CUHK press, as far as I know); I don't know
> what kind of stuff is cobbled in the former.

Right-O.

I couldn’t find for sale at http://www.chineseupress.com/english/e_front_page.html or anywhere else, but I could email a query to them. Actually, I don’t suppose the book would offer anything over the web site?

While looking for this book I came across the background info at
http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/QEF5073/pro ... ect6r.html, and I now realise that there are two sites:
- the original .../Canton/ version that reflects the book,
- and the enlarged .../Canton2/ version.
I suppose that the entries in version 1 of the site would be more original because the data comes from 1942. So regarding the pronunciation for 黑 mentioned above, I see that the first site has only "hak1". I could take it as gospel?


> Comparing Mandarin to Cantonese is problematic, not only because both
> contain tones that deviate, but also because you have no way to predict
> what tone a character should have (in Cantonese) based on the Mandarin
> tone if the word ends (in Cantonese and formerly in Mandarin) in -p, -t,
> -k.

Yeah, I guess I was asking for trouble with that method.


> You can be suspect of words that have a variant pronunciation in tone 1
> or 2 in Cantonese--those are what most tone changes become, e.g.,
> tong4 糖 'sugar' changes to tong4-2 糖 'candy'; biu2 表 'chart/table; meter'
> changes to biu2-1 表 (usually written 錶) 'watch'. But I don't think I'd say
> these particular two cases are optional changes, unlike others.
>
> You can also be suspect of most words with nasal initials m-, n-, ng- having
> high register tones (yin) 1, 2, or 3 in Cantonese, and words with zero
> initials 0- having low tones (yang) 4, 5, or 6 in Cantonese, because voicing
> is associated with lower pitch. (Likewise, you can be suspicious of nasal
> inital words with tone 1 in Mandarin.) Some colloquial or mimetic words
> are exempt from this rule, though, e.g., mam1 '(baby talk for) food', ma1
> 媽 'mother', ma1 孖 'twin', maau1 貓 'cat', ngau1 'to scratch', mau1 踎 'to
> squat', etc. (For "colloquial", I'd guess I'd say that it's something like a
> word that you can't find in a std dictionary.)
>
> I hope you've ruled out the possibility of characters being used for more
> than one word, e.g., ngok6 樂 and lok6 樂. Also, sometimes the tone
> changes are not optional, e.g., go3 go3 個個 'every one' vs. go3-2 嗰個 'that
> (one)'. (Even if there are no apparent changes in meaning,
> there are words which have gained or lost the changed tone pronunciation
> over time--this can be seen by checking older textbooks/dictionaries--and
> this sort of thing frustratingly has to be learned lexically for each word,
> like whether the "neutral" tone occurs in Mandarin.)
>
> Stuff like 隸 pronounced l- rather than d- (due to graphic resemblance to
> characters like 逮)--there's little you can do about irregularities like that.
> Or keui5 � 'he/she/it', which is just keui4 渠 (but absorbing the influence
> of the tone 5 of the other pronouns ngo5 我 'I' and nei5 你 'you').

Noted, thanks for these guidelines.

I envisage recording the base pronunciation(s) for each character. Then for each compound or single-syllable word/expression I’ll record any tone changes.


I appreciate your insights and your time.

Regards,
rathpy

JCampbell

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby JCampbell » Sun Jan 12, 2003 6:55 pm

:hak1 - Chinese-English Dictionary, 2000 Chinese University Press
:haak1, hak1 – CCDict
:hak1(7) – A Concise Cantonese English Dictionary, 1999 Guangzhou
:haak1 – Phrases in Cantonese, 1996 Betty Hung
:haak1, hak1 - http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/ 1941?


I think what you're encountering here are different orthographies for the same IPA symbol. Everybody has their preferred spellings. Like the Germans spell 'sch', English 'sh', Italians 'sc', Hungarians 's', and Poles 'sz' all for the same sound.
In Cantonese there are two 'a's: this 'a', and an upside down 'a' (these are IPA symbols). The first 'a' is more like the short 'a' of English. The second is more like an 'uh' sound (approximately).
Learn to read what the orthographies are referring to in each dictionary, and familiarize yourself with a system or dictionary you know how to read from. There should only be one reading for this character, and no, the sounds are not interchangeable, you won't be understood if you say it wrong.

The seventh tone is usually referred to as the first tone in many references and textbooks. Also check my site's 'tutorial' and 'FAQ' about numbering Cantonese tones.

James

rathpy

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby rathpy » Sun Jan 12, 2003 8:45 pm

James wrote:
<<
I think what you're encountering here are different orthographies for the same IPA symbol. Everybody has their preferred spellings. Like the Germans spell 'sch', English 'sh', Italians 'sc', Hungarians 's', and Poles 'sz' all for the same sound.
In Cantonese there are two 'a's: this 'a', and an upside down 'a' (these are IPA symbols). The first 'a' is more like the short 'a' of English. The second is more like an 'uh' sound (approximately).
Learn to read what the orthographies are referring to in each dictionary, and familiarize yourself with a system or dictionary you know how to read from. There should only be one reading for this character, and no, the sounds are not interchangeable, you won't be understood if you say it wrong.

The seventh tone is usually referred to as the first tone in many references and textbooks. Also check my site's 'tutorial' and 'FAQ' about numbering Cantonese tones.
>>


The 'hak's and 'haak's I listed were all consolidated into Jyutping form (from various systems used in the dictionaries). The 'hak1(7)' was written because that dictionary used a 9-tone system. I probably should have stated these things to avoid confusion.

Regards,
rathpy

Thomas Chan

Re: etymologically correct pronunciation

Postby Thomas Chan » Mon Jan 13, 2003 5:31 am

rathpy wrote:
> The 'hak's and 'haak's I listed were all consolidated into
> Jyutping form (from various systems used in the
> dictionaries). The 'hak1(7)' was written because that
> dictionary used a 9-tone system. I probably should have
> stated these things to avoid confusion.

For 黑 'black', hak1 vs. haak1 is one of those literary (文) vs.
colloquial (白) reading differences. Another one is 生, such as in
醫生 yi1sang1 'physician'; sin1saang1 先生 'Mister'.


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu

Thomas Chan

Re: The Grail

Postby Thomas Chan » Thu Jan 16, 2003 2:44 pm

rathpy wrote:
> > For tones, determining the "etymologically correct" version
> would
> > probably require looking up the historical Middle Chinese
> tone in one of
> > the old rhymebooks; some contemporary dictionaries contain
> this
> > information.
>
> This is probably a stupid question, but there wouldn’t be
> any "Cantonese" dictionaries with info like that would there?
> I’d have to use a rhymebook?

No, you wouldn't have to use a rhymebook, and shouldn't have to.

Most Cantonese dictionaries just show the contemporary tone, with no
regard for whether or not it deviates from the historical tone. But in
reference to S.L. Wong's book below, I'm reminded that there is a book
by He Wenhui 何文匯 (aka Richard Ho) and Zhu Guofan 朱國藩, called
_Yueyin zhengdu zihui_ 粵音正讀字彙 (Hong Kong: Xianggang jiaoyu tushu
香港教育圖書, 1999). (香港教育圖書 = Hong Kong Educational Publishing
Co., http://www.hkep.com/) ISBN 962-948-496-X.

For 黑, it is filed under the "hak1" section, and says (132):
黑【胡北切】《廣》黑部。〔~暗〕﹔〔漆~〕。

I don't see any reference here to a "haak1" reading, although I know
it exists. The "胡北切", sourced from the _Guangyun_ 廣韻 rhymebook,
is basically saying the initial of 胡 plus the final of 北--well, 胡
is [w-] in Cantonese, but what was meant was a [h-]; 北 is [-ak]; hence,
"hak1".

The book is pretty much just short entries like that. Occasionally,
there are extra tags, like 正, 語, 本, 今, which distinguish the
proper (正) pronunciation (i.e., what you are seeking) from the colloquial
(語), but in cases where the etymological pronunication has fallen into
disuse, then it marks the original (本) and the current (今) reading.


> Between the two sources you are comparing,
> http://zhongwen.com and
> > http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Canton/, I would trust
> the latter a lot
> > more, because the latter is specifically for Cantonese, and
> compiled more
> > authoritatively and conservatively--it is S.L. Wong's
> classic first published
> > in 1941 (it is still in print from CUHK press, as far as I
> know); I don't know
> > what kind of stuff is cobbled in the former.
>
> I couldn’t find for sale at
> http://www.chineseupress.com/english/e_front_page.html or
> anywhere else, but I could email a query to them. Actually, I
> don’t suppose the book would offer anything over the web site?

I've misremembered the publisher. It should be Huang Xiling 黃錫凌's
_Yueyin yunhui_ 粵音韻彙 [A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the
Dialect of Canton] (Hong Kong: Zhonghua 中華, 1941). ISBN 962-231-201-2.
I don't know why I thought it was CUHK Press--perhaps I confused it with
Lin Yutang's dictionary (which CUHK did publish). My copy is a 1996 printing.

But no, it would not offer much over the online version, except for some
characters that couldn't be represented in Big5. Structurally, the book
is pretty old-fashioned--it has a radical/strokes lookup, but after finding
the character, you are directed to a particular column and row on a
different page to find the pronunciation (instead of listing it right here
in front of you. I suppose that allows one to also browse by looking at
lists of characters with the same reading, but it's still rather clumsy.


> While looking for this book I came across the background info
> at
> http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/QEF5073/pro ... ect6r.html,
> and I now realise that there are two sites:
> - the original .../Canton/ version that reflects the book,
> - and the enlarged .../Canton2/ version.
> I suppose that the entries in version 1 of the site would be
> more original because the data comes from 1942. So regarding
> the pronunciation for 黑 mentioned above, I see that the
> first site has only "hak1". I could take it as gospel?

You can, but the problem of "etymological" or "historical" backings
for readings is that they tend to favor the literary (文) vs. the
colloquial (白) layer. One can derive "haak1" just as well.

Two other lit/colloq pairs are -ang/-aang and -ing/-eng, e.g., ming/meng 名,
sing/seng 聲 for the latter.


> I envisage recording the base pronunciation(s) for each
> character. Then for each compound or single-syllable
> word/expression I’ll record any tone changes.

That sounds reasonable. Most of the recording you'll be doing are for
the changed tones to #1 or #2. And worth it too, since one thing can happen
is that if one (including native speakers) only hears a word in its changed
tone version (as part of a compound), then the base tone is never learned
(and the changed tone is not always an appropriate reading in other
contexts or compounds). e.g., for 魚 'fish' in isolation, I'd say yu2,
but it is really yu4-2, as discernable in gam1yu4gong1 'goldfish bowl'.


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu


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