Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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timothytye
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Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:26 am

Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by timothytye » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:55 pm

People who rely on POJ and Tailo for romanizing Penang Hokkien should take note that the Amoy Hokkien and Taiwanese do not have the /ԑ/ vowel sound produced from the near-front of the mid-opened mouth. This sound is in Penang Hokkien, but the Amoy and Taiwanese Hokkien often pronounce it with the /e/ sound. This is what I have observed on a couple of words.

Take the word for "low". It is written in Chinese as 低. In Penang Hokkien, it is written using TJ as kae3 [kԑ]. However, that same word appears in POJ as well as Tai-lo as kē. If I render that using International Phonetic Alphabet, it comes out as [ke]. Can you see the difference? In Penang, we pronounce /kԑ/ but in Taiwan, it's /ke/. Click on the Taiwanese dictionary to hear how it is pronounced:
http://twblg.dict.edu.tw/holodict_new/r ... owcount=11

The word "low" is not the only example. Another which I come across earlier was 猛, which means "fast". In Penang, we pronounce it as mae4 [mԑ]. However, POJ and Tailo both render it as mé, which is rendered in IPA as [me]. Listen to it here:
http://twblg.dict.edu.tw/holodict_new/r ... rowcount=7

When I check the vowel table, I see that the /ԑ/ sound does not appear in POJ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peh-oe-ji#Current_system) or Tai-lo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai-lo#Values). In other words, both orthographies do not have that sound. This is rather disturbing, as people who rely on POJ and Tailo to learn Penang Hokkien will miss out on a particular vowel sound. And if they learn Penang Hokkien using POJ, their Penang Hokkien will come out sounding peculiar.

Of course, if a vowel sound is missing in their orthography, POJ zealots will accuse Penang people of "mispronouncing" Hokkien. They would probably say, oh, you are mispronouncing the word 低. It shouldn't be pronounced [kԑ], it should be [ke]. I would respond to that with: If a person asks to learn Penang Hokkien, he should be taught to pronounce Penang Hokkien, even if you consider the way we speak a "mispronunciation". If a learner is taught to pronounce 低 as [ke] instead of [kԑ], and given the impression that he is learning Penang Hokkien, he is misled.
AndrewAndrew
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by AndrewAndrew » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:43 am

Tim

Perhaps you need to check your glasses. On the Wikipedia link for Tailo, there clearly is:

Tâi-lô IPA Bopomofo
ee [ɛ] ㄝ

For POJ, here is an image of the relevant page for Douglas' 1873 dictionary. Note "(C. kɛ̄)", which indicates the Chiangchiu/Zhangzhou pronunciation, which almost always corresponds to Penang Hokkien.

Also, on your spelling page, you list "seh3" for sè (small) and "teh2" for tɛ̑ (tea). Any comment?

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amhoanna
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by amhoanna » Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:54 am

Any romanization worth its salt should be able to handle the Ciangciu / Penang /ɛ/. As Andrew's shown, Douglas used "ɛ". Another convention is to use the sequence "-ee". I bet this would drive this Tye guy nuts b/c he is so Anglocentric. What is kind of funny is that he makes a big fuss over /ɛ/ when he doesn't even bother to distinguish final /k/ and the glottal stop. Hmm... 8)
timothytye
Posts: 29
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:26 am

Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by timothytye » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:34 pm

Any romanization worth its salt should be able to handle the Ciangciu / Penang /ɛ/. As Andrew's shown, Douglas used "ɛ"
Yes. I saw that. So what? You expect learners to cart around the Douglas dictionary. Whenever they meet a Penang Hokkien person, they have to flip open the dictionary, check up the word. It doesn't mention Penang Hokkien, so they need to have a sense of history and understand that Penang Hokkien is a byproduct of the Zhangzhou dialect. Oops, can't find Zhangzhou either, now have to know that Changchew is Zhangzhou. Now, transition from pronouncing /ke/ to /kɛ/? Simple, hah? But for words like street, they have to remember to pronounce /ke/? Now tell me, how different it that from learning the TJ system and see the IPA symbol in square brackets? And moreover, have the assurance that with the TJ system, they never have to bother about writing ɛ as everything is friendly to the standard keyboard.

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Also, on your spelling page, you list "seh3" for sè (small) and "teh2" for tɛ̑ (tea). Any comment?
For every word you learn, you learn the pronunciation alongside. Now your turn to check your glasses: didn't I mention that the /ɛ/ sound can be represented by the e, ae or eh? Check http://www.penang-traveltips.com/hokkien/spelling.htm

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Apart from this small group of POJ enthusiasts, I don't see POJ being applied outside the classroom in real life in Penang. People learning POJ to speak Penang Hokkien is given a distorted reality. As soon as they land on the street in George Town, they get a culture shock. Why isn't a single name or signboard in POJ? Why is it char koay teow and not, perhaps, chhá-kóe-tiâu? You are forcing learners to learn one system for the language and another system for the street. All because you sayang the POJ system. Do you want a person named Khoo to have to change the spelling of his surname to follow the POJ system? As we say in Penang, tan4 ku1-ku4!

POJ has been around for years and years. Why haven't the people of Penang accepted it? POJ has had its chance to save Penang Hokkien, but what has it done for it so far? Whatever it has is not enough! Tan Choon Hoe has done more for Penang Hokkien than all POJ enthusiasts. You advocate a system that nobody except those who are very educated is able to grasp. You are dreamers who are not doing what you need to do to rescue Penang Hokkien.
AndrewAndrew
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by AndrewAndrew » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:33 pm

Tim

It is often said that you can recognise a Chinese dialectologist from the fact that he has invented his own romanisation. Pretty much every dialectologist around thinks he can come up with a better romanisation than those that have preceded him. The difference is that most dialectologists have at least studied the advantages and faults of preceding systems. Trust me when we tell you that we on this forum have seen more different romanisations of Hokkien than we can possibly count. We are not inflexible or conservative - on the forum we often use numbers for tones instead of diacritics, and E/O or e∙/o∙ for ɛ̇/ơ, while others like to use Hanzi or even Vietnamese diacritics.

If you want to examine a really weird romanisation that has been discussed on this forum, then look at http://www.tadpolenese.com/ . But the following should give you a taste of what is out there:

Hanzi: 早起的報紙來未?— 猶未。 毋知按怎今仔日按爾晏。
POJ (19th C.): tsá-khí--ê pò-tsoá laî--boē? — á-boē. m̄-tsai án-tsoáⁿ kin-á-ji't án-ne oàⁿ.
Bodman (1950s): câ-khì+ ē poù-cuà+ laí buē? — â buē. m̆ caî ân-cuà: kīn-â-zît+ ân-nê uă:.
Xiamen Uni 閩拼方案 (1980s): za3ki3 e2 bo3zua3 lai2 bbue5? — a3bbue5. m5zai1 an3znua3 kin1a3zzit7 an3lne1 nua4.
Xiamen Uni 簡式閩拼方案 (1980s): zarkir ee boxzuar laai bbue? — arbbue. mzaiv arnznuar kivnarzzit arnlnev nuax.
Taiwan Lomaji (2000s): tsá-khí--ê pò-tsuá laî--buē? — á-buē. m̄-tsai-án-tsuánn kin-á-ji't án-ne oànn.

The fact that the oldest romanisation, which was developed by English and Scottish sinologists and missionaries over 150 years ago (Medhurst, Douglas, Campbell, Barclay, etc.), is still the most popular today, and the fact that the most recent Tailo system is merely an minimal adaptation of POJ, is testament to its enduring value. The others have largely fallen by the wayside, despite their advantages. The Bodman system, for instance, which was devised for 1950s Malaya, depicts tone sandhis in a highy intuitive form. The Xiamen Uni system is designed to closely follow Hanyu Pinyin and to allow cross-dialectal comparisons. But none of them can compete with the depth of resources and literature in POJ/Tailo. There is a reason why in 2013 we all still refer reverently to a 900-page dictionary published by a Scottish Presbyterian missionary in 1873, and it is not because we are conservative or are members of the Hokkien Presbyterian church.

You may argue that conditions in Penang are different. But the fact is that there is NO romanisation worth the name currently in use in Penang: and please don't try to tell me that a system that spells the surnames of Speaker Law Choo Kiang and EXCO Law Heng Kiang the identically is a romanisation (one is pronounced Lo∙, the other Lau - I will let you guess which is which). It is therefore perfectly possible for any romanisation to be taught to and adopted by the common people. If I decided to propagate Bodman's romanisation, which closely corresponds to the sounds of the Malay/Latin alphabet, it would be perfectly acceptable. You can likewise try to propagate your own system, but we who have studied and discussed Hokkien on this forum for the past 10 years are simply trying to advise you in order to prevent you from having to learn the hard way from your mistakes.

You keep saying that you are not here to argue about your romanisation. If so, then stop trying to bash a system that has stood the test of centuries and that has had a thousand times more success than any other system including your own. It would be fitting if you would at least try to understand the intellectual giants that preceded you before you petulantly reject their work.
AndrewAndrew
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by AndrewAndrew » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:06 pm

PS many of us, e.g. Mark and I, are non-native speakers who learnt Penang Hokkien as adults, so we do know what it is like to be a non-native learner.
timothytye
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by timothytye » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:18 am

Thank you AndrewAndrew for your point of view.
I fully understand and appreciate your effort in explaining to me.

Will the system of romanisation that I created stand the test of time. I suppose only time will tell. But in the meantime, do give it a chance to survive.

How should we pronounce Law Choo Kiang and Law Heng Kiang? In my opinion, we should pronounce the two people's names according to how they want them to be pronounced. We shouldn't re-spell their name simply to be phonetically precise. Life is never near, it is full of quarks and we should accept the quarks. If Lisa Minnelli wants to pronounce Lisa as [lai-za], then we take the cue and follow. So how do we pronounce Law Choo Kiang and Law Heng Kiang? Listen to how they (or their acquaintance) pronounce it, write it down using IPA or any other phonetic alphabet that you are familiar with, and pronounce it accordingly.

If you were to propagate the Bodman romanisation, yes, you should do it if you feel it is the best system for the language you want to promote. You should go ahead and do it without fear of criticism, and if someone should criticize you, then you are prepared to explain why you are convinced that this system is superior. Of course if you are going to spend time to propagate a romanisation system, you should have done your due diligence in determining it is the one to use. Your yardstick isn't limited to how precise that system is, but also how easy can it be taught, how easy can it be used, are you prepared to create the dictionary to list out all the words, etc.

If as a result of your propagating the Bodman romanisation system, I gain best practices that I can adopt into my system, I would certainly be happy that you invested time to revived the system. But if I found that the system is not useful to me, of course I will take anything from it, and if asked, I will explain why not. Am I criticising the system? Only if you want to call it that. I would prefer to say that it is not ideal for what I have in mind.

Would I ever move from my present system to another? Yes, if I find a system so good that I am convinced it is the best hope for the survival of Penang Hokkien. Such a system has to have the following characteristics:
1) Easy to learn
2) Easy to write using a standard keyboard
3) Allow a person who knows Penang Hokkien express himself in the language without feel obstructed.
4) Has a dictionary that shows only the words used in Penang Hokkien.
5) Has lessons where people can hear how the language is pronounced.

Although I don't find the POJ system to be the best one for Penang Hokkien, I refer to the various POJ dictionaries as well as Tai-lo dictionaries all the time. I fully respect the work that the missionaries carried out at a time when people don't even have computers. BTW, do you know that the missionaries of the London Missionary Society passed through Penang before they continued to China. This is one of their places of worship: http://www.penang-traveltips.com/farquh ... chapel.htm

I believe a high number of words in the POJ system is spelled the same way as in my system, except for the difference in diacritics and tone numbers. Having said that, I do not adopt from the POJ dictionaries wholesale. Every word that enters my dictionary undergoes a litmus test: do people in Penang use this word, how do they pronounce it, does it mean the same thing in that dictionary as it does in present-day Penang - when people use my dictionary, they know every word has been tested. Often members of my Facebook Group contribute words. Often they do so without providing me the tone. I don't add any word into the dictionary unless I am confident about its meaning, how it is pronounced, what's the tone, how it would appear in a sentence. I test it with other native speakers to see if they know the word. So there's a rigorous stress test before I add words.
amhoanna
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by amhoanna » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:45 am

You are forcing learners to learn one system for the language and another system for the street. All because you sayang the POJ system. Do you want a person named Khoo to have to change the spelling of his surname to follow the POJ system? As we say in Penang, tan4 ku1-ku4!
"Khoo" is the spelling of that person's name in ENGLISH, not Hokkien, not Teochew, not Malay. Should that person change the spelling of their name IN ENGLISH? I ... don't ... care.

We (U included) are just hoping that someday soon, that person will actually bother to spell their name in Hokkien as well.

How their name will be spelled in Hokkien is a matter to be decided using science, logic, and a touch of art. I think the POJ is fine, but I'm not strongly attached to it.

What U have been saying is that the Hokkien spelling should be an exact copy of the English spelling wherever possible. A mistake, I tell U. A mistake.

This is like saying, Malacca shouldn't be spelled M-E-L-A-K-A in Malay b/c it confuses the people who'd already gotten used to writing Malacca.

This is like saying, Rome should be spelled R-O-M-E even in Italian, b/c it's spelled like that in English.

There is something Anglocentric, something slavish about all your thought processes. Why slavish? B/c U are Anglocentric w/o being Anglo, hence slavish.

How do U write "紅毛奴 (Ângmo͘ lô͘)" in your system? What's the special, holy spelling that U've assigned to it?

I get and accept that POJ is not the end-all and be-all. But one thing U've never addressed in your ramblings is why U chose to base your system on English, instead of on Malay, which is not only regularly spelled, but uncontestably MORE PENANG than English is.

Why rail against POJ for being "not Penang enough", while dismissing Malay -- a language that is SO PENANG that it was spoken on Pulau Pinang even before Penang Hokkien???

The fact that English enjoys higher prestige than Penang Hokkien and Malay IN PENANG, is not something to be embellished, preserved, and celebrated forever. I envision a Penang where English and Mandarin will take a back seat to Hokkien and Malay and Cantonese -- in the streets, in the media, in offices, in homes, in courts of law, in public events.
AndrewAndrew
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Re: Pronunciation of Romanized Hokkien

Post by AndrewAndrew » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:39 pm

timothytye wrote:How should we pronounce Law Choo Kiang and Law Heng Kiang? In my opinion, we should pronounce the two people's names according to how they want them to be pronounced. We shouldn't re-spell their name simply to be phonetically precise. Life is never near, it is full of quarks and we should accept the quarks. If Lisa Minnelli wants to pronounce Lisa as [lai-za], then we take the cue and follow. So how do we pronounce Law Choo Kiang and Law Heng Kiang? Listen to how they (or their acquaintance) pronounce it, write it down using IPA or any other phonetic alphabet that you are familiar with, and pronounce it accordingly.
Precisely. So please give us IPA or another phonetic alphabet if you insist on using a non-phonetic system. Or are you expecting your readers to telephone every time they want to know how to pronounce something?

Nobody is suggesting that personal or place names must be respelled. Even in Malay, proper nouns retain their peculiar spellings, e.g. Kuching, Kota Bharu, Britain. If a person has a Cantonese or Hakka name, it can either be pronounced as it is, or translated into Hokkien. Obviously Malay, English names, etc. cannot be translated. So a Hokkien can either choose to keep his own spelling or to transcribe his name in a phonetic romanisation.
I believe a high number of words in the POJ system is spelled the same way as in my system, except for the difference in diacritics and tone numbers. Having said that, I do not adopt from the POJ dictionaries wholesale. Every word that enters my dictionary undergoes a litmus test: do people in Penang use this word, how do they pronounce it, does it mean the same thing in that dictionary as it does in present-day Penang - when people use my dictionary, they know every word has been tested. Often members of my Facebook Group contribute words. Often they do so without providing me the tone. I don't add any word into the dictionary unless I am confident about its meaning, how it is pronounced, what's the tone, how it would appear in a sentence. I test it with other native speakers to see if they know the word. So there's a rigorous stress test before I add words.
Great. That is why people value Tan Choon Hoe's work, because we know that there is zero possibility that he simply borrowed a word from an Amoy/Taiwanese dictionary - we know that all his words are genuine Penang Hokkien words, even if we have to struggle to guess how the word is pronounced!
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