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25

Yes, it is possible to read texts that are written only in pinyin. This is pretty trivial in one sense: pinyin spelling indicates all of the segmental phonemic distinctions of standard Putonghua Chinese (it was designed to) and when used with tone marks and correct word division and punctuation, it indicates some of the suprasegmental and intonational ...


18

It must be remembered that in the Japanese language system, the lexeme's sound and the lexeme's spelling are much less correlated with each other than even in Chinese; the phenomenon of 訓読み kun'yomi means that one lexeme can be written with several different spellings (even if the spellings overlap in meaning). The most well known example for beginners is あう ...


16

Yes, all of these cultures expect and use sorting pretty much just like alphabet-using cultures do. Japanese has a set of some 46 phonetic characters called kana. They're arranged by phonetics in a table of fixed order, called the 50 sounds table (gojūonzu), a descendant of Sanskrit phonetic tables. Textual data, glossaries, lists etc. are usually sorted ...


12

Apart from the three languages you named, I know of at least three additional major languages that have used the Chinese script; which are, Thai, Zhuang, and Mongolian. Several minor ones that have also used it include Miao, Yao, Bouyei, Kam, Bai, and Hani. Thai used to use the Chinese script until the 13th century, when it was abandoned in favor of an ...


11

It is possible only if you write in an informal way – the way you would say things out loud. The difference between formal and informal writing is quite large in Chinese, and the informal style may feel very awkward in many circumstances. With Pinyin it wouldn't be possible to write everything the way it is written now. Some examples of clearly distinct ...


11

This is Legge Romanisation, as taken from the 1879 volume of Sacred Books of the East. It is a transcription of the "Mandarin" speech of 19th-century Beijing, which is slightly different to both later transcriptions of standard Mandarin e.g. Wade-Giles. The symbol under question bears most phonetic resemblance to the zemlja of the Cyrillic script, з, ...


11

Whispering excludes voicing from the linguistic inventory. Quite naturally, the decrease of the ability to comprehend a whispered speech depends on the language's original set of phonetic tools. Marc Ettlinger, linguistics PhD at Berkeley, shows that languages that intensively use voicedness and lexical tones are the most difficult to whisper in (from the ...


9

The basic answer is "because there are". Languages work the way languages work: we can explain how something has come about in a language, but why questions are nearly always unanswerable. Your question is about two different things: the kinds of grammatical distinction made in a language (such as plural, or objective case) and the mechanism by which these ...


9

I don't think it's a regional question. Mandarin b,d,g may often be realized with voicing, but the key distinction is aspirated vs. unaspirated. Here is a lab study of the voicing profiles of Mandarin and German. This comparison with German stops sums it up: “Phonologically, all Mandarin stop consonants are voiceless; /p,t,k/ are aspirated, /b,d,g/ are ...


9

As a general rule, English speakers don't learn the pronunciation of place names from speakers of that language; they use general rules for pronunciation. Hence [br̩lɪn] instead of [bɛrlin], [ɔzlow] instead of [uʃlu], [pɛrɪs] instead of [paʁi], and Qatar (Standard Arabic [ˈqɑtˤar]) is a real problem, so I've heard [ˈkɑɾṛ], [kəˈtɑr] and [kæɾr̩]. Colin Powell ...


9

The Chinese characters have not only a pattern, but many, many patterns. But First to clear up some confusion. Radicals are not usually composed of eachother, but are unanalysable. By analogy, a radical is like a morpheme (it's compositional, it's there for a reason semantic or otherwise), and a stroke is like a phoneme (it's just there so that you've got ...


8

Of course it can be used to record lots of other languages and you can find the complete list here For Vietnamese a new type of script called chữ nôm based on Chinese characters is created. There are many ways to construct the new characters: Borrow the whole Chinese character and meaning with its Sino-Vietnamese reading. Sometimes it's also used to ...


8

You have had some good answers to your question, but I would like to expand on what you say about Vietnamese writing traditions. The Chinese-based chữ nôm had a very marginal existence in Vietnam, being used almost exclusively for poetry and for “women’s literature” (basically translations - or imitations - of Chinese novels by and for women). The main ...


8

Your question is an interesting one, in general how to compare the comparisons of languages and more specifically about the Chinese family. The usual qualitative measure of difference is mutual intelligibility; but quantitative measures of this are hard to come by except by a large collection of anecdotes or great linguistic experience. That is to say there ...


8

Native Korean speaker here. changed pronunciations so pairs of words are no longer homonyms: NO changed spellings so pairs of words are no longer homographs: NO Spelling of Sino-Korean words are very rigid: with very few exception they are spelled in the way each constituent character (i.e., a Chinese character) is spelled. In most cases pronunciation ...


8

First of all, Chinese is not an isolated language, but a member of the well-established Sino-Tibetan language family. Relationships beyond Sino-Tibetan aren't well established although the Tai-Kaddai language or the Hmong-Mien languages are included in some proposals of a larger Sino-Tibetan family. Sino-Austronesian was indeed proposed by some linguists (...


7

Yes as you speculate, when Chinese borrows a Japanese word, its pronunciation is often determined by the Chinese characters, no matter how it is pronounced in Japan. This results in loanwords that sound totally different, especially when they are native Japanese words, rather than Sino-Japanese words (i.e. Japanese-coined words that are made of Chinese-...


7

Much of the following answer comes from this 1999 study, as well as Cheng (2009), and some of my own experiences. Let's first get the usual suspects that identify Cantonese-accented Mandarin as a southern accent out of the way: lack of retroflex consonants. This is a given, merging them into their alveolar (and not palatal) counterparts. Hypercorrection is ...


7

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the concept of grammaticalization in this context. Asking why in linguistics is almost never a good question. But grammaticalization can certainly help explain how. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammaticalization). The process through which words become morphemes is described as the following cline: content word → ...


7

For Japanese at least, both happened: sometimes the characters are used semantically, others phonetically - either according to their Chinese pronunciation (which can come from either a Northern or Southern, earlier or recent form of Chinese) or to the Japanese reading. For instance, one of the Chinese readings of the char. "origin/beginning/birth" is "hon"....


7

I'm surprised that neither of the current answers makes reference to what exactly the Pinyin phonetically transcribes. The name of the city, romanised in Pinyin as kun1ming2, is pronounced [ku̯ən˥ miŋ˧˥]. As hippietrail correctly notes, there is a semi-vowel in medial position in the onset. hippietrail's transcription of 'kweeming' reflects the semi-vowel ...


7

Beyond other answers, I will add some examples of actual use of phonetic writing systems actually used for Chinese (or any Sinitic language, what is traditionally called Chinese dialects/topolects). These example show that it is linguistically possible to use a phonetic script to write Chinese; of course, doing so would be a major revolutionary change, ...


7

The official Chinese language isn't "supposed to" be monosyllabic, at all. That's a misconception. Chinese languages are polysyllabic and that's it, including the putonghua standard (the pīnyīn orthographic standard, for example, includes rules to space the letters by polysyllabic words). The confusion arises because Chinese morphemes are usually ...


7

Truly, you have a great ambition. Don't give up!! But you cannot learn to talk an ancient language just from the way it is written. Heck, you cannot learn how any language is spoken from the way it is written, though maybe Korean comes as close as any. That aside, decipherment of ancient scripts is very worthy. But to decipher a new ancient language needs ...


7

One part of the reason is that Chinese characters are not as language-independent as you think and do, in fact, represent Chinese pronunciation. That is why you have a "horse" 马 mǎ component in the yes/no question marker 吗 ma (which in itself shows that Chinese characters are also tied to Chinese grammar). The reason that you get two-character responses is ...


7

The largest publication and seriously academically attempted transcription of oracle bones in modern script (using an umbrella method known by Chinese paleographers as 隸定, or clericalification), is the title 郭沫若《甲骨文合集》 (Guo Moruo's Compilation of Oracle Bones), detailing the transcription of 41956 fragments of various sizes, freely accessible here. The ...


6

The formation of the "four tone" system of Middle Chinese, which resulted in a historically attested distinction (see the various rime dictionaries compiled in the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties), is meant to have derived from the "cheshirisation" of the final consonants of Later Old Chinese. Finding the "reflexes" of these ancient consonants requires ...


6

Note that China has fifty-something officially recognised ethnic minority groups and it's impossible to say anything about "Chinese minorities in general". Let me summarise my experiences from several months of travel in Zhejiang, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and Xinjiang. I don't know how generalisable they are, but they should give you some idea about ...


5

You might want to check out this page http://sealang.net/thai/chinese/middle.htm which indeed claims that the word is related to 要. เอา Prapin gloss: to want Prapin: 606 (class 1) Chinese gloss: idem   Karlgren: 1142a   Big5: 要 (1) yao1 {yao4} (0) yao4 yao3 {yao1} (1) [1] [v] invite; request the presence of [2] [v] engage; date; make ...


5

You wrote about the claim 'that Chinese words can mostly be used as any part of speech.' While the claim is untrue, I can see why people fall for it. The relationship between lexical word class and how they appear as parts of speech is much more opaque than in English. There is nothing close to a one-to-one correspondence between the two, but it would be a ...


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