Chinese writing system

Discuss the Chinese language.
alefbet

Chinese writing system

Post by alefbet »

Hello, I'm not a Chinese language expert. I'm not even fluent in it. So, if you think this whole post is nonsense, feel free to say so. :)

Let's see the problem regarding the Chinese writing System: Chinese characters are hard to memorize and to write. A foreigner learning English or any other alphabetic language could immediately be literate these language. While the same person learning Chinese would take years to be literate.

I don’t think current Chinese writing system will survive, especially with the coming of computer age. Just think about it, Unicode is almost entirely filled with Kanji/Hanzi. Looking for an entry in a Chinese dictionary is much slower compared to an alphabetic dictionary. There are other problems such as database sorting, etc. I understand that many people love the current writing system, but its death is inevitable.

PRC tried to make it easier by simplifying it, but it’s still to complex. The only way out is, of course, to phonetize it. The problem is, Chinese always complain that phonetization will make it too ambiguous to read because of homophones in Chinese language. To overcome this problem, an indicator to differentiate homophones could be used. I don’t know if anyone ever proposed such system.

For example, shi1: teacher, carry out, poetry, lion and wet. You can use the element indicator at the left, and the bopomofo letters at the middle, and the tone indicator at the right. It will look like this:

shi1
亻ㄕ teacher
扌ㄕ carry out
讠ㄕ poetry
犭ㄕ lion
氵ㄕ wet

mu4
目ㄇㄨˋ eye
木ㄇㄨˋ wood
日ㄇㄨˋ dusk

Let’s take a look at mu4 (eye and wood). In the first columns, “eye” indicator for eye and “wood” indicator for wood are used respectively to avoid homonimity. In the second column, bopomofo letters (pronunciation guide) are written vertically (I can’t write them vertically here, so I write them horizontally instead). In the last column, a tone indicator is added. So, a keyboard entry would require two to five entry for a word.

The number of indicators would, of course, depend on the number of homophones for each Chinese character and the number of elements imaginable. Some examples of these are: wood, fire/temperature, water, land/soil/rock, body/anatomy, metal/gold, hand/action, event, sun/day/time/weather, mouth/speech/names, animal, number/mathematics, mind/intention/imagination, etc. Twenty or more indicators should be enough. For words with many homophones like yi4 (more than forty) of shi4 (more than thirty), homonymity can’t be avoided, so, a ”miscellaneous” indicator would be enough for rarely used words, empty words (words that must be joined with other words to have a meaning). Not all homonymity could be avoided, but this reduces ambiguity.

So, we need in total: 20 or more element indicator + 37 letters in bopomofo + 4 tone indicator = 61 or more letters.

BTW, I’ve a question. How do you make a font in Chinese language? Do you have to draw all the Chinese characters?

alefbet

Post by alefbet »

Apparently, the Chinese character wasn't displayed correctly. I've corrected them. Isn't anyone going to respond to this?

Dylan Sung

Post by Dylan Sung »

Perhaps there aren't enough people who are able to respond to this. But I'll have a go anyway.

Now you mentioned a few examples above. However, if you could the number of characters which use yi as it's syllable, you find there are literally hundreds. What are you going to do then when each one has a separate and distinct meaning? Invent new radicals to append to the phonetic?

Moreover, the examples you provide are biased toward the Mandarin putonghua language. It is not my Chinese language at home, as I speak another one. Many other people speak Cantonese, Hokkien, Shanghai hua, Hakka, etc. All these have varying and differing pronunciations. If you intended to replace hanzi with the characters you propose, they will not be obvious to those speakers.

Many Chinese simplified characters for example exhibit the bias towards Mandarin which doesn't make much sense in non-Mandarin Chinese languages such as Cantonese or Hakka for instance. I see little difference in the same attempt here.

Hanzi each being distinct is helpful for pan-Chinese speakers of different languages. Given a standard vocabulary and grammar like that in use in books from China, I can read it in my own Hakka language without guessing what the syllables may be, if the writing suddenly changed into some for of pro-Mandarin biased radical+phonetic proposal as you've shown us here.

Dyl.

alefbet

Post by alefbet »

For words with many homophones such as "yi", a "miscellaneous" radical could be used (I don't know if there is such radical) for rarely used characters. Of course not all homonimity could be resolved. "Pa2", for example, could be 扒(gather up/rake up/stew) and (climb/crawl). Both indicate action and are represented with 扌ㄆㄚˊ. But this system is still less ambiguous than pinyin.

It’s true that this system, like all phonetic based systems, is biased toward a dialect (in this case, Mandarin). But the current/traditional writing system is too complex. IMHO, It’s better to sacrifice inter-intelligibility of current Chinese writing system for a writing system that is easier to learn and simpler for digital processing but less ambiguous than pinyin. Note that PRC once attempted to replace characters with pinyin but it failed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_Chinese).

Peace.

Guest

Post by Guest »

No matter which character type you use (simplified or traditional), it is a window to the past as well. Today, in China, you can by books printed in both forms. I've a copy of Shijing with English translation, printed in traditional characters, and also comprising of rare characters which aren't used much after the Zhou dynasty. They're there because it's the original text. I wish to point you to my webpage on Yuen Renchao's StoneRoom's Poet.

http://www.sungwh.freeserve.co.uk/hanzi ... mspoet.htm

In Cantonese and Hakka, we can distinguish between the final consonant endings missing in Mandarin, and not all the consonants share the same vowel quality or height.

Traditional characters have been used successfully by centuries of use, and the sense of difficulty is in the learner's mind only, IMO. If you bother to learn those characters you have a link between the present and the past. I can read my ancestor's notes of his accounts of settlement in the region my father comes from. That's from 11 generations back. I can read the poems of the poets of the last two thousand years.

As pronunciation changes over time, your method will eventually find itself being a record of past pronunciation, and no longer fit the current pronunciation patterns. For instance French, where there are silent endings, and silent letters in English spelling. I use British English, if I were American, I would write harbour as 'harbor'. Examples of words where the spelling does not reflect the pronunciation is honour (onur), Worcester (wuster), clerk (clark), etc.

The old addage fits the situation, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Dyl.

Aurelio

Post by Aurelio »

Hi!

Yes, the traditional system is complex and a simple alphabet would free up ressources for other things. And, nah, I think the classics might be somewhat overrated, because most people do not read them unless forced to (I for my part read them willingly, but I'm a happy minority :P ). Using bopomofo in conjunction with the radicals is one of the more imaginative attempts I've seen to replace Hanzi.

But at the end of the day, come on, face it ... it's ugly. Not as ugly as mixing Hanzi and the alphabet (especially small letters), as sometimes done to write Taiwanese, but still ... the shi-example looks quite good, because you need only one phonetic, but as soon as you need to write two or three of them like for h-u-ang it looks bad.

The shape of Hanzi was perfected for > 2,000 years and hence they look, well, perfect (needless to say, I am a Westener who doesn't like chickenscratch simplified characters either ... :twisted: )

Aurelio

andrew

Post by andrew »

Hi Alefbet,
In here is some posts about the Chinese writing system.
viewtopic.php?t=1599&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30

uncommonfaith

china writing

Post by uncommonfaith »

would please give more information

captain_pocket
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2005 6:55 pm

Post by captain_pocket »

The example shown in the original post is convincing, but it falsely takes the homophones too simple, and therefore, you overlook how chinese characters help distinguish the meaning of those homophones.

See this example: di. And this sound represents 55 meanings.

di1
氐 低 羝 堤 提 磾 嘀 滴 鏑 鞮

di2
狄 迪 的 糴 荻 敵 滌   笛 覿   嘀 嫡 翟 樀 鏑 蹢

di3
氐 邸 詆 坻 抵 底 柢 砥  

di4
地 玓 杕 弟 釱 的   帝 遞 娣 菂 第 諦 蒂 棣 揥 睇 締 禘 碲 螮 踶

captain_pocket
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2005 6:55 pm

Post by captain_pocket »

Aurelio wrote:Hi!

Yes, the traditional system is complex and a simple alphabet would free up ressources for other things. And, nah, I think the classics might be somewhat overrated, because most people do not read them unless forced to (I for my part read them willingly, but I'm a happy minority :P ). Using bopomofo in conjunction with the radicals is one of the more imaginative attempts I've seen to replace Hanzi.

But at the end of the day, come on, face it ... it's ugly. Not as ugly as mixing Hanzi and the alphabet (especially small letters), as sometimes done to write Taiwanese, but still ... the shi-example looks quite good, because you need only one phonetic, but as soon as you need to write two or three of them like for h-u-ang it looks bad.

The shape of Hanzi was perfected for > 2,000 years and hence they look, well, perfect (needless to say, I am a Westener who doesn't like chickenscratch simplified characters either ... :twisted: )

Aurelio
I always doubt if it's really ugly. Japanese has mixed chinese character with japanese alphabet (hitakana or katakana) for many years but asians, including chinese, seems love so much about any product with a label printed in japanese. There's many variable that can affect how people perceive the beauty of language.

alefbet

Post by alefbet »

Yes, it represents 55 meanings, that’s why a tone indicator is added. I don’t understand the complexity of homophones, would you please explain it to me?

The point of adding indicators or radicals is to eliminate/reduce homonyms found in romanization schemes. The elimination/reduction method itself isn’t important. Whatever the method is, if the number of homonyms is significantly reduced, it works.

The poem composed entirely of “shi” shown by Dylan Sung at the link above shows the deficiency of romanization schemes. But Chinese really needs to be phonetized, this is the Age of Information, learners are very important.

I don’t think it’s ugly, BTW. If you look at them a thousand times, you’ll get accustomed to them :)

It should look like this:
Image

Guest

Post by Guest »

alefbet wrote:Yes, it represents 55 meanings, that’s why a tone indicator is added. I don’t understand the complexity of homophones, would you please explain it to me?
If newly invented indicators can really work, how many indicators you need to distinguish 55 meanings of "di"?

alefbet

Post by alefbet »

First, "di" doesn't represent 55 meanings because there are tones.

It's not newly invented indicators. The radicals used are the same old radicals used in Chinese pictograms. So are the tonal indicators.

As I've said before, not all homonyms can be eliminated. Read the first to fourth posts above.

BTW, no one has answered my question about how to make chinese font.

Guest

Post by Guest »

alefbet wrote:
BTW, no one has answered my question about how to make chinese font.
Yes, you basically have to draw/encode each character. Most of the characters can be composed of basic elements.

Making a Chinese font does not differ from making a font for any other language.

Thomas

Guest

Post by Guest »

>the Chinese writing system ?

the Chinese writing systems are include 4 kinds:

1. the Oracle and bone writing system 甲骨 文

2. the Ancient classic writing system 古 文

3. the Literature-language writing system 文言 文

4. the Spoken-language writing system 白話 文

a. the Mandarin Spoken-language writing system 官話 白話 文 (Guoyu 國語, Hanyu 漢語 or Huayu 華語)

b. the Wu Spoken-language writing system 吳語 白話 文

c. the Hokkien Spoken-language writing system 福建話 白話 文

d. the Cantonese Spoken-language writing system 廣東話 白話 文

e. the Hakka Spoken-language writing system 客家話 白話 文

etc., .....

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