This page is not for foreigners to learn Chinese, but an investigation into possible change of the Chinese language. If you are interested to learn Chinese, please visit another page.
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This small dictionary complements my work in the 'A Dictionary of PinYin Language'. The starting point for both dictionaries is that Chinese syllables are an open set, and what are represented by the ideographs ( HanZi) is a close set. The sounds represented by HanZi are only a subset of a larger set of legitimate and possible sounds of the Chinese language. Many legitimate sounds have no written forms in HanZi. Spellings in bold in this dictionary arguably represent these sounds.
All ideographs were created to indicate a concept. No one was created to stand for a meaningless sound. This is attested by the structrual principles of the ideopgraphs. In contrast, phonetic letters only represent the sound. This is a significant difference between the ideographic writing and phonetic writing. If Chinese were written in a phonetic system, the sounds in bold in this dictionary would have written forms (spellings), as well as opportunities to be employed in the language, such as through transliteration of foreign words. The Chinese language would be different.
As a matter of fact, there has been such a phonetic system since 1958. This is the. Prosodically and grammatically, the ZhengCiFa is to write a tonal language as it were non-tonal language. It does not represent Chinese properly, and has been proved to be a counter-efficient writing for the language.(Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet), or PinYin for short. Unfortunately, after adoption of PinYin, a fatally incorrect approach, the Basic Spelling Rules for PinYin Orthography (ZhengCiFa), became the official policy in China
The presumption for ZhengCiFa is, and can only be, that Chinese language is represented only by those sounds that have written forms in the ideographic writing. And any sound without ideographic written form must not be a possible Chinese sound. This is why conscious efforts in investigating and adopting possible sounds have never been made in connection with the ZhengCiFa. The obvious fact that the possible syllables that have no written forms of HanZi but have become available with a phonetic writing has been totally ignored. With the ZhengCiFa, the language's dynamics is restricted within only the phonetic range as defined by the ideographs.
The two dictionaries in my web site, this one being one of which, are based on the assumption that after a phonetic writing is adopted for Chinese, it is possible to gradually change the ideographic language to phonetic language, because the possible sounds that are not written in HanZi now become orthographically available. Phonetic language is defined as one in which different concepts are primarily represented by distinct phonetic values.
Conscious efforts in language planning must be made to substantiate such change. Several technical issues in connection with such efforts are discussed in following sections. Some relevant topics have been considered in the page associated with the other dictionary, so will not be repeated in this page.
There are consonant clusters in many Western languages, such asin English word , and in Spanish word . This phenomenon is not current in Chinese language. When transliterating such words to Chinese, a full syllable has usually to be employed for each consonant in the cluster. For example, the current transliteration for is . Compared to the English spelling , the is too clumsily long. In this dictionary, an abbreviated form is designated for some English consonant clusters. They are listed in following two tables:
|Foreign Word||Full Trans.||Abbreviation|
More examples are listed in the dictionary. It is necessary to point out that abbreviations in above table are not consonant clusters in Chinese speech, hopefully only not yet. In stead, they represent full syllables. For example, the spellingis pronounced as . Furthermore, the pronunciation of in will always be , in transliteration of , , and all foreign words with consonant cluster of .
When transliterating foreign words with the ideographic writing, tones come with particular ideographs. No separate decision has to be made for tones. With the phonetic writing, syllable and tone are separate decisions. And the decision for tone is not an easy one, because the foreign language gives no clue to which tone to take for the loan word.
A policy for tones in this dictionary is that neighboring syllables do not carry same tone, to ensure equal opportunities of employment for all the four tones in transliterating foreign words. But tone designation remains a hard decision. No matter which tone is eventually adopted for a syllable, it is hard to make everybody happy, due to one or more of following reasons:
A related issue is tone sequence or tone combination. It is in regard to native speakers' preference on the order of tones. Assume that a term consists of two syllables, x and y, and in that order. Each syllable has four tones. So we have following combinations:
In above table, there are total 16 tone combinations. In the Chinese speech, no particular tone combination is better preferred than the other. They are all equally legitimate. The spellings in blue are excluded, not because they are not or less legitimate, but because of the consideration about tone employment. Which of the other 12 tone sequences will eventually become the norm is entirely a matter of conventionalization.
The uncertain situations of designating tones to foreign words as discussed above will be encountered by anyone who does not transliterates with the HanZi script, but directly with a phonetic system.
It's worth observing that this topic has never been discussed in connection with the ZhengCiFa, a claimed independent phonetic orthography. The explanation can only be that the sounds as represented by HanZi are taken for granted in ZhengCiFa to represent the whole Chinese language. In other words, all sounds in Chinese must already have written forms in HanZi. And if a sound has no written form in HanZi, it must not be a sound in Chinese. Or Chinese sounds and the sounds that are represented by HanZi are exactly the same set. This is completely wrong. The Chinese romanization is hopeless with this assumption.
Sounds of many foreign words in Chinese have been shortened. This makes sense, because utterance of distinct tonal syllables consumes more efforts. The purpose of taking words from another language is not for communication between speakers of that language and native speakers of Chinese, but among native speakers of Chinese themselves. The loaned foreign words must be adapted to fit in the Chinese language.
But why, for communication among native speakers of Chinese only, do we make the transliteration to sound like the original foreign word as much as possible? This answer is: it will be easy to achieve consensus among native speakers on the sound values of transliteration.
Another practice is mixture of partial transliteration and native Chinese words. Sometimes this method is adopted together with abbreviation mentioned immediately above. Following are examples:
|American (people)||lao3 mei3|
|Mexican (people)||lao3 mo4|
This tradition of abbreviation and mixture will be continued in the phonetic writing.
The Japanese writing is a mixture of kanji and kana alphabet. Unlike the Chinese PinYin, kana is an integral part of the Japanese script. Besides grammatic and semantic functions, the kana organizes entries in dictionaries and other information databases such as phone directories and library catalogs. It brings order to knowledge and every corner of the society. In this respect, the kana plays exactly the same role as the Latin alphabet in Western languages.
There are two sets of letter in kana, that is, hiragana and katakana. Of the two, the katakana is chiefly used for transcription of foreign words, which makes it convenient to loan words into Japanese from other languages. The katakana is an alphabet for foreign words. There is no such a set of letters in the Latin alphabet that exclusively plays this role. This does not mean that a complete set of letters have to be adopted or created for presenting foreign words in Chinese. A couple of symbols would be sufficient as the indicator.
It is my opinion that two symbols have to be adopted to indicate foreign words in Chinese. One of them separates syllables, the other separates first and last Western names. The two symbols in my suggestion are the dot operator (⋅) and hyphen(-). The following table demonstrates how they work together.
The hyphen makes the spelling too long. This is the disadvantageous. But I am still using it in the dictionary, and looking for other options in the meantime. In general, it is good to indicate foreign words in an orthography, such as the katakana is doing, because it encourages adoption of foreign words in a language.
The two sets of letters in Latin alphabet, that is, the small and capital letters, play different roles from those of Japanese hiragana and katakana. The Latin letters are convenient for creating acronyms and abbreviations. Chinese already has ways to abbreviate the language. With the Latin letters, writing can be further simplified with acronyms. Some examples are in the following table:
|bei3 jing1 da4 xue2||⇒||bei3 da4||⇒||bd.|
|bei3 jing1 shi1 fan4 da4 xue2||⇒||bei3 shi1 da4||⇒||bsd.|
|fu4 dan4 da4 xue2||⇒||fu4 dan4||⇒||fd.|
|hua2 dong1 shi1 fan4 da4 xue2||⇒||hua2 shi1 da4||⇒||hsd.|
I anticipate that acronyms will be employed widely in the Chinese alphabetic writing, for both native and foreign words. They will help increase the efficiency of both the language and orthography.
Discussions on Chinese language and writing usually involve several linguistic levels, that is, phonemic, tonal, syllabic, morphemic and syntactic. The HanZi are not letters of phonemic or syllabic alphabet, so does not represent the language at phonemic or syllabic level. This does not say that HanZi do not represent sounds. They definitely do. The sound values are assigned to HanZi through social institutions such as convention or official lexicography.
Each HanZi is also a morpheme. This fact is supported by the homophonous HanZi. If HanZi are not morphemes, but meaningless syllabic sounds, most homophonous HanZi can be eliminated from the writing. Using one HanZi for one syllable would be enough. At the morphemic and syntactic levels, the HanZi are doing a perfect job, due to that the tonal syllabic morphemes enjoy absolute flexibility working with one another.
The(pinyin) per se is concerned with only the phonemic and syllabic levels. When coming up to morphemic level, the association between alphabetic orthography and zhengcifa style is not absolute. Vietnamese writing is an alphabetic script, in which it is the syllables, not any other unit, that are spaced. On the other hand, the zhengcifa style can be adopted for non-alphabetic writing systems, too, such as the HanZi script.
Comparing the HanZi and ZhengCiFa scripts, anyone with the basics of linguistic knowledge can immediately conclude that they are too different at the morphemic level to represent same language. As discussed in the paragraph immediately above, ideographic or alphabetic script does not affect how writing goes at morphemic level. Earlier, it's pointed out that the ideographic writing represents Chinese language perfectly at the morphemic level. Therefore, conclusion can only be that the correct morphemic relationship of Chinese language is disregarded and violated in zhengcifa.
With the HanZi orthography, Chinese language suffers from phonological restrictions, but enjoys maximum morphological flexibility. The purpose of adopting a phonetic writing is to remove the phonological restrictions. But with the zhengcifa, the language is not freed phonologically, and loses morphological flexibility. There is still some room for creativity at the syntactic level, that is, the speaker cfn make sentences with the zhengcifa-ed 'words'. But the phonological and morphological levels are more fundamental. Restrictions on these two levels amount to death penalty on the linguistic creativity of native speakers.
Foreign words can be either transliterated or translated, or both. For obvious reasons, only transliteration is involved in this dictionary. Purpose of this dictionary is to discuss phonological resources of Chinese, but not to assign transliteration to particular foreign words, because there are many factors whose effects are hard to anticipate.
Native speakers of Chinese do not perceive the language and its possibilities in exactly same way. Each speaker has his or her unique linguistic experience. The factors include education, knowledge of dialects and foreign languages, age, gender, social status, and so forth. Therefore, what sound possible to me may not sound so to another person, and vice versa.
All native speakers have linguistic creativity. Native speakers of Chinese have been creating the language at morphological and syntactic levels, with the language resources represented by HanZi. With a proper phonetic writing, they may extend creativity to phonological level. This is the point that this dictionary is intended to make.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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