Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
aokh1979
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Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by aokh1979 »

Couple of days ago when I said something in Mandarin, it struck me.

你不也去過那個地方?

Does anyone know the 嘛 we always say in Hokkien, could have been something "more concrete" than just an exclamation word ? I then tried to look up for 不也 on the internet. It's used very widely in Mandarin, even myself, then I started making sentences to see if it makes sense to replace with 嘛 in Hokkien.

你不也是我的朋友。汝「嘛」是我个朋友。
這個問題不也得解決?這問題「嘛」著愛解決?
上海不也是好地方。上海「嘛」是好所在。

不 = 不、毋 m
也 = 亦、抑、也 iah -> ah -> a

Does it make sense to you ?

xng
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by xng »

aokh1979 wrote:
不 = 不、毋 m
也 = 亦、抑、也 iah -> ah -> a

Does it make sense to you ?
It is quite possible it is a combination of two characters like mai ie. 毋愛

but the second character has the wrong tone. Ma is low tone.

niuc
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by niuc »

Thanks, Aokh! It is very probable! :idea:

In my variant 也/亦/抑 (the meaning of 也 in Mandarin) is 'ia7' or 'a7'.
So: 'm7' + 'a7' -> 'ma7'. Neat! :mrgreen:

aokh1979
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by aokh1979 »

Hm...... Interesting.

I think 亦 can be iah8, can be a4. Furthermore, I try to keep an open mind that an old language like Hokkien, should not be restricted to the 反切 based on the tone spoken during a particular period. I try to be open-lah......

:lol:

amhoanna
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by amhoanna »

Makes sense! Interesting! Never occurred to me. The 不也 usage seems to have some attitude, or some spin. If m̄ + ā was originally used along those lines, it would've had to go through some evolution to get to what mā is today, at least in TW. We don't have "pun" here to share the workload. :P Iā is used somewhat frequently and occasionally ā. It may depend on the speaker. I think much of our generation uses mā exclusively——no iā.

xng
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by xng »

aokh1979 wrote:Hm...... Interesting.

I think 亦 can be iah8, can be a4. Furthermore, I try to keep an open mind that an old language like Hokkien, should not be restricted to the 反切 based on the tone spoken during a particular period. I try to be open-lah......

:lol:
It's highly possible the tone is 'flexible' but the meaning of 嘛 is 也 and not a negation of 也.

In English, 嘛 means 'also'. eg. I also think so. 'I dont also think so' has the opposite meaning.

aokh1979
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by aokh1979 »

不也 is not the negation of 也 but rather a rhetorical form of "also".

伊 ma 是汝个朋友
他不也是你的朋友

He is also your friend / He is also your friend wat (Manglish) / Isn't he also your friend ?

xng
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by xng »

aokh1979 wrote:不也 is not the negation of 也 but rather a rhetorical form of "also".

伊 ma 是汝个朋友
他不也是你的朋友

He is also your friend / He is also your friend wat (Manglish) / Isn't he also your friend ?
If it is a question mark, then shouldn't it be

伊 是汝个朋友 無 ?

Ma is never used as a question mark, as far as I know. It means 'also' and not asking a question and requiring an affirmation.

He is also your friend and NOT isn't he also your friend.

niuc
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by niuc »

xng wrote:伊 是汝个朋友 無 ?
In my variant, this construction is not found. For 是 si7, the question ends with 不(呣)是 m7-si7 or shorten to mi7 (often mi0, tone neutralized). Only for 有 u7, then the question ends with 無 bo5 (often bo0).

Aokh is right. 不也 in Mandarin "bu4-ye3" and Hokkien "m7-ia7" (at least my variant) is not a negation, but a kind of rhetorical question, i.e. a confirmation.

"M7-ia7" is rarer than "ma7", but both exist in Bagan Hokkien, with slight difference in nuance. The former is a confirmation with a hint of rhetorical question, while the latter has become a direct confirmation.

你不也是我的朋友。
Ni3 bu4ye3 shi4 wo3 de0 peng2you3.
Ly2 m7-ia7-si7-gua2-e5-ping-iu2.
=> 你懷疑什麼, 你根本就是我的朋友啊!

amhoanna
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by amhoanna »

So the Bagan m̄ iā "could be" like a missing link. Cool. :mrgreen:

One thing, though. I brought this up in another thread too. Do you guys totally not use "kám"??? Not now, not ever?

xng
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by xng »

I am waiting for reply from aokh.

The meaning is still incorrect. I just saw a taiwanese show. The guy said

我ma有看.

Is it not meant to be a question mark or affirmation question.

He meant 'I too have seen it'.

aokh1979
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by aokh1979 »

In my variant, or any other Hokkiens spoken in China and Taiwan, I think ma is not used as a question. What I meant was a "rather rhetorical form". It's not a question but a confirmation. It may have sounded like a question, which is not directly expressed in verbal form.

汝 ma 是我个朋友。

If I may exaggerate it in a series of continual emotions:
You're also my friend. Don't you know that ? You don't even have to ask. Don't you know, that you ARE my friend ? You surely are.

That's how I think and use the word ma.

There are times linguistic attitude differs when a "similar" sentence is spoken in various languages, like Mandarin and Hokkien.

你不也是我的朋友 and 你也是我的朋友 have very tiny little variance.

你不也是我的朋友 = You're also my friend, don't you think so ?
你也是我的朋友 = You're also my friend, case closed.

I am not sure if you guys say 好快樂 and 好不快樂 - it's the same, it's not negation.
我今天終於去了動物園,玩得好不快樂 = Finally I have been to the zoo, it's fun.

But above sentence cannot be translated directly into Hokkien. Our linguistic attitude is just different.

I had a deep-dive discussion with a British friend who teaches English here in Xiamen. We almost can conclude that Americans and British put a question very differently, and in most cases, she thinks British tend to ask more than Americans. Of course, we're not saying it's 100%, it's just what she and I observe.

American: This is a good painting. What do you think ? (I like it, I hope you like it too)
British: This is a good painting. Don't you think ? (I like it, I assume you must like it too)

Another example is 以爲 in Mandarin. What do you guys understand about the word 以爲 ?
我以爲這是不可能的 = I thought this was not possible. (I am not sure, I believe it's impossible)
我以爲這是不可能的 = I think this is not possible. (Well, I believe it's impossible)
The 2nd phrase uses 以爲 as 認爲 which is common in China.

Same goes for the word ma in Hokkien. This is what I feel. It can be used in many aspects, actually. It can be a confirmation, it can be trigger of a self-defence, it can be an agreement, etc. Sure, I am not 100% sure if all these ma's are exactly the same word but I ask myself, why not ? If Hokkien we speak today is actually a mixture of native tongues from different peoples in the past, they may have brought in many "local attitude" to it. Even for Mandarin, people across China and Taiwan speak very differently, not all the time, but sometimes. Again, my own observation after living in China for 8 years. Xiamen is no longer a Hokkien-speaking city, you hear Mandarin in every accent spoken everywhere. Outsiders from every province have outnumbered locals.

1. 我覺得這個東西很漂亮耶。(Often in Taiwan, not in North China)
2. 我覺得這個東西很漂亮。(Most common form, almost domination in Malaysia)
3. 我覺得這個東西特漂亮。(Often in North China, you hardly hear from any Southerners, or Taiwanese)
4. 我覺得這個東西挺漂亮的。(Often in China)

This is my input......

Last but not least:
我 ma 會曉 = I can do it-lah, you think I cannot-meh ? (Self-Defence)
我 ma suka 汝 = I also like you, I like you. (Confirmation)
我 ma 相信伊 = I also believe him. (Agreement)

SimL
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by SimL »

Hi aokh,

Kudos to you for trying to pin down the different shades of meaning of "ma".

This is really very difficult, but - as many of us probably realise - is not restricted to "ma". I think the issue here is that "ma" belongs to the set of what are called "modal particles". Modal particles (or words) express attitudes that the speaker has to what is being said - adding nuance to the "purely factual" information being conveyed. They may express things like "I'm surprised that this is so", "I'm doubtful that this is so", "How many times do I have to tell you that this is so", etc - all shades of nuance on the assertion that "this is so".

Modal particles exist in many languages, to differing degrees; i.e. some languages have many more modal particles/words than others. Personally, I've always thought that tonal languages would have more modal particles than non-tonal languages, because non-tonal languages can use tone to express some of the shades of attitude. Which is not to say that non-tonal languages don't have modal particles, of course. [For example, German has the famous modal particle "doch" - expressing strong affirmation - which is often explained as 'untranslatable' in English.] Conversely, this is also not to say that tonal languages like Chinese don't use tone to express shades of attitude - I imagine subtle differences in the same basic tone contour can express impatience, doubt etc, without the use of modal particles. Nevertheless, I still think that the general pattern would be for tonal languages to have/need more modal particles/words than non-tonal languages.

One of the nicest ones in Hokkien is "mE2". It expresses strong surprise: "lu mai khi mE?" (= "Oh, don't you want to go, I was quite convinced that you would want to").

So that I don't get too off-topic, for the "ma", my usage matches some of the uses of aokh's.

Examples:

- "i si wa e ho peng-iu. i kong ci-le bo-iaN, so wa ma siang-sin i lo" (= "He's my good friend. He says this isn't true, so I believe him [, of course]").

Here the "ma1" is used in conjunction with "lo2". As aokh says, there can be a (very light) tone of defensiveness in it (= "why should you think / how dare you think that I wouldn't believe him, when he's such a good friend of mine"). Or it could express that something is self-evident: "He's such a good friend of mine, of course I believe him when he says it isn't true").

- "i co ka a-nE khan-khO, wa ma mai khi liau" (= "He's making things so difficult (so) that I don't want to go any more").

Here the "ma1" is used as a strengthening/confirmation of the refusal to go, and underlining the fact that it's his making things so difficult which is now causing my refusal to go. But here, the cause-and-effect nature of it is less strong/explicit than:

- "i co ka a-nE khan-khO, wa sua(h) mai khi liau" (= "Originally, I had every intention of going, even really wanted to go, but he's making things so difficult that I don't want to go any more").

As aokh says, it's never clear whether we're dealing with different words having the same pronunciation (especially in Sinitic languages), or whether these are just context-dependent variations in meaning of the same word (look at the incredible number of uses of "ka" in Penang Hokkien, some of them almost definitely "corruptions" of different particles). In the case of "ma", my gut feeling is that they *are* all just context-dependent variations in meaning of the same word.

Two final points:

- When the words used to express simple concepts like "how", "dishes to put on your rice", "cicada", etc vary so much between the different variants of Hokkien, it seems to me self-evident that subtle concepts like these modal particles will also vary quite a lot between the different variants. The only thing we can do is to try and "capture" the meanings in each variant, by putting additional explanations, and by contrasting them to the use without the modal particles, or with different modal particles (as I and aokh have done in this thread). Here (IMHO) it's sometimes helpful to transcribe the variant exactly as it's spoken - with elisions, etc, because it is only in precisely that dialect that (some of) the modal particles have that particular shade of meaning.

- (An only indirectly related point.) I don't like to be 'negative', but it often strikes me as so *futile* when I read about these desperate attempts to capture "dying languages" before the last 10 speakers are dead. I mean, sure, I applaud the effort, and it's a lot better than just letting them die unrecorded. But when I think about the complexity and subtlety of human language (for example, we could probably write 3-4 *pages* just on the nuances of each of "ma1" or "suah4" or "mE2"), I wonder *what* we are capturing, by having some team of (non-native speaking) linguists talk to one or two native-speakers for 5 years, and then publishing a grammar/dictionary. The full richness of each language can only be *experienced* - by growing up in it, by having people treat you unfairly in it, by experiencing immense beauty or fear in it, etc. I.e. by *living* in it.

SimL
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by SimL »

Oh, here's a sentence-final "ma1" that I've just thought of:

- wa ka i kong kui-na-pai/tau liau ma (= "I've told him several times already, you know")

Here it expresses a slight impatience, sort of "it's obvious he should know / he should do it, because I've said it a couple of times already".

- i toh m chiaN wa ma = ("for some obscure reason, he won't invite me")

Again, a sort of slight impatience, caused by a failure to understand the reasons for his refusal to invite me. Here, interacting with "toh", which is another modal particle of some subtlety.

A little difficult to know if this is the same "ma1" as the non-sentence-final one. The tone-sandhi rules fit, and semantically, there's a certain closeness too, perhaps, namely "obviousness".

aokh1979
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Re: Wa ma tsai ! (I also know...)

Post by aokh1979 »

SimL wrote:I wonder *what* we are capturing, by having some team of (non-native speaking) linguists talk to one or two native-speakers for 5 years, and then publishing a grammar/dictionary. The full richness of each language can only be *experienced* - by growing up in it, by having people treat you unfairly in it, by experiencing immense beauty or fear in it, etc. I.e. by *living* in it.
SimL:

I couldn't agree more. That's exactly what I am doing. I grew up speaking a going-to-die-soon language, Penang Hokkien and I realised when I tried to use some "profound" words, people often said: We don't say so in Penang. The most distinguished examples would be khai-si and tan-si. Younger Penangites, most likely up to those in their 40s say "start" and "tapi". What I want to do now are:

1. Record (voice) words spoken in daily life by older generation.
2. Document them with proper romanisation - to start educating younger generation.
3. Look up for the right or reasonable characters, may not be pun-ji.

Ultimate goal is to enable myself, first of all, to express feelings in Facebook, to right articles in blog, to publish books in written Penang Hokkien. There are Hong Kong comicians working in Cantonese today, but we know they use sound-borrowed characters all the time. That's what I want to do, with more proper characters.

I am quite annoyed by those mouth-radical characters like 嘛, 咧, 唔 unless it's *really* related to mouth, like eating, drinking or exclamation. I truly believe many characters can be presented in a more proper way.

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