What is the Chinese Language?

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What is the Chinese Language?

Postby 3Boys » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:23 pm

http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/12/chinese

An interesting post, and I quote one of the comments.

"Localcommie Dec 14th 2011 1:38 GMT
I was raised by my (close and extended) family (a mix of Hakka- and Hokkien-speakers, most of whom are multilingual) to think of all Chinese as 'dialects', arguing more-or-less according to the points made above.

The older I get though the more I'm inclined to the Western linguist view that different chinese's are not dialects but massively (if not completely) different languages. It's why I need to speak Hakka to my dad's parents, Hokkien to my mother's parents, Cantonese to the cafe owner and Mandarin to my Beijing friends. It's why it's impossible to fumble my way through (either by speaking or writing) all of these people using just one 'dialect'. It's why my parents (who talked to each other in English because they can't speak each other's 'dialect') raised their children in English.

However I only partly agree with Western linguists' point 2. Granted, Hanzi is stupendously difficult to read, and much, much harder to write. Being able to type in Pinyin (and then transforming it into Hanzi) is a God-send. That said, for a reason I still haven't quite figure out yet, I find it harder to read in pinyin (or equivalent) than in Hanzi in an experience similar to NovemberSnow's comments. However, I was only ever raised and educated to read in Hanzi so maybe if I wasn't, it wouldn't be a problem. I'd like to know if anyone's done an experiment on that.

Fundamentally, Chinese arguments on the language may be rooted in sentiment. Being diaspora Chinese, I can see why some would want to take any opportunity they can to construct/reinforce a connection to a homeland that many left not exactly out of choice but because of politics or lack of economic opportunities. No matter what you speak, most Chinese are raised with the same stories and heroes (like our New Year customs and Romance of the Three Kingdoms). Our perceived connection to other Chinese may be especially strong where the diaspora has been (and continues to be) discriminated against.

Or maybe it's because we share so much (like delicious, delicious food) that it seems silly to allow mere language to separate us. Though I'm sure Taiwanese would have something to say about that."

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Re: What is the Chinese Language?

Postby verykiasu2010 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:22 pm

What is the Chinese language?

Dec 13th 2011, 21:34 by R.L.G. | NEW YORK

I HAVE exercised Chinese commenters with a few posts that were seen as either simplistic or biased. So let me offer two competing visions of Chinese that help explain what the two sides disagree on. These are archetypes which few partisans may agree with every word of. But they are the basic poles of thinking about Chinese, I think. I submit them for the good of commenters, who should debate them to shreds.

In brief, Chinese traditionalists believe

1) Chinese is one language with dialects.
2) Chinese is best written in the character-based hanzi system.
3) All Chinese read and share the same writing system, despite speaking in different ways.

Western linguists tend to respond

1) Chinese is not a language but a family; the "dialects" are not dialects but languages.
2) Hanzi-based writing is unnecessarily difficult; the characters do not represent "ideas" but "morphemes" (small and combinable units of meaning, like the morphemes of any language). Pinyin (the standard Roman system) could just as easily be used for Chinese. Puns, wordplay and etymology might be sacrificed, but ease of use would be enhanced.
3) Modern hanzi writing is basically Mandarin with the old characters in a form modified by the People's Republic. Everyone else (Cantonese speakers, say) must either write Mandarin or significantly alter the system to write their own "Chinese".

There are so many arguments packed into these two ideas that it's hard to start, much less finish, in a blog post. Since I'm (really) on holiday, I'll leave it to commenters to enlighten each other, and me on my return.

======================

Thanks for the link, I copied it as above

Thanks to Shi Huangdi who unified the writing system and weights and measures but he should have just completely burned all books and literature so that many people today would have no need to deal with chinese language at all

If not because of Shi Huangdi, we may probably be dealing with a written form for each of the dialects, viz, hakka (huizhou khek, taipu khek, hopo khek, lufeng khek etc), hokkien, foochow, teochew, cantonese, cannot tonese, shanghainese, pekingese, suzhounese, hainanese, manchurian, henghwa, etc etc... imagine a business trip covering Guangdong province and Shanghai / Suzou will probably need 10 written 'chinese' languages .....

:rotflmao: :rotflmao: :rotflmao: :faint:
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Re: What is the Chinese Language?

Postby 3Boys » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:38 pm

Its pretty interesting, isn't it, how much emotion one can attach to what is essentially an artificially and politically created situation, that Mandarin be the lingua franca of Chinese worldwide? Cantonese for instance, as got much phraseology that has no written form, does that make Cantonese who speak no Mandarin any less chinese for that fact?

So I would say, see it for what it is, and not overlay with all the knee-jerk emotion around Chinese-nese or lack thereof. Not everyone was born into a mandarin speaking family and not everyone buys into that philosophy.

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Re: What is the Chinese Language?

Postby concern2 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:07 am

3Boys wrote:Its pretty interesting, isn't it, how much emotion one can attach to what is essentially an artificially and politically created situation, that Mandarin be the lingua franca of Chinese worldwide? Cantonese for instance, as got much phraseology that has no written form, does that make Cantonese who speak no Mandarin any less chinese for that fact?

So I would say, see it for what it is, and not overlay with all the knee-jerk emotion around Chinese-nese or lack thereof. Not everyone was born into a mandarin speaking family and not everyone buys into that philosophy.


3Boys, I am just thinking along this line - that your sentiments is very much unique to Singaporeans, because English isn't a mother tongue of our ancestors, yet we are brought up by an Educational System that uses English as the key language.

As for Hanzi and Mandarin being the lingua franca of Chinese worldwide, with my limited knowledge of Chinese History, didn't that originate from Qin Shi Huang? Without which there would be more dialects and written form of Chinese and non of us would even understand... ooops, just realized this has already been mentioned.

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Re: What is the Chinese Language?

Postby 3Boys » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:31 am

concern2 wrote:
3Boys wrote:Its pretty interesting, isn't it, how much emotion one can attach to what is essentially an artificially and politically created situation, that Mandarin be the lingua franca of Chinese worldwide? Cantonese for instance, as got much phraseology that has no written form, does that make Cantonese who speak no Mandarin any less chinese for that fact?

So I would say, see it for what it is, and not overlay with all the knee-jerk emotion around Chinese-nese or lack thereof. Not everyone was born into a mandarin speaking family and not everyone buys into that philosophy.


3Boys, I am just thinking along this line - that your sentiments is very much unique to Singaporeans, because English isn't a mother tongue of our ancestors, yet we are brought up by an Educational System that uses English as the key language.

As for Hanzi and Mandarin being the lingua franca of Chinese worldwide, with my limited knowledge of Chinese History, didn't that originate from Qin Shi Huang? Without which there would be more dialects and written form of Chinese and non of us would even understand... ooops, just realized this has already been mentioned.


How about chinese in the US, Canada, UK? Germany, Italy, Ireland? Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam?

Even if it were Qin Shi Huang who unified the written form via Hanzi, is it not a act of politics? How about the Taiwanese who use a different written form?

What I am trying to highlight is the artificiality of the whole thing, yet we use it as a stick to beat people on the head with.

I am not trying to deny the chinese culture, it is something that I am very proud to be part of. But it is also diverse, and not merely a mandarin based hegemony, which is what some people would try and make it out to be.

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Re: What is the Chinese Language?

Postby verykiasu2010 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:41 pm

interesting discussion on languages and politics

Qin Shihuang and mandarin

LKY and Singaporean's English speaking environment (and some families are purely English speaking)

Conclusion : Qin Shihuang = LKY
:evil: :evil: :evil:
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