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characters vs. romanization

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characters vs. romanization

Postby cranky laowai » 17 Jul 2002, 14:48

I'm starting this thread to deal not with the romanization of Mandarin but with the use of Chinese characters for languages/dialects other than Mandarin.

An article in last Friday's Taiwan News had something about this. I've been looking for followup information but haven't seen any. So I'll just get things started with this:
<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun yesterday said the invention of a character system for the various Chinese languages is more important than choosing a romanization spelling system for the Chinese languages in Taiwan. ...

Huang said yesterday that the romanization spelling system could not completely represent a language and the phonetic symbols are just part of the language. "What is more significant is to build up a written character system, which would be the true identity of a language," Huang said....

"The MOE has promised the Legislature to design a character system for Hoklo, Hakka, and the aboriginal languages within three years, and the current drafting of the bill will be completed in two months and submitted to the Executive Yuan for review," he added.<hr></blockquote>
In short, the Ministry of Education want to use Chinese characters, not romanization, not only for dialects of Chinese other than Mandarin but also for languages from completely different language groups. This is nothing short of astonishing.

I'm trying to figure out the reasoning -- and, perhaps more to the point, politics -- behind this.

Has anyone else heard news of this?

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characters vs. romanization

Postby nemesis » 17 Jul 2002, 19:23

My friend's mom does it this way, and it's the dumbest thing; Chinese isn't even a phonetic language and she uses traditional characters to say English (sort of) words, right down to the Chinese tones; kind of takes away the whole purpose, doesn't it?

Though I've been guilty of using bopomofo to drive some English words home...
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characters vs. romanization

Postby Lord Lucan » 17 Jul 2002, 22:32

Looks like a bunch of guys inventing jobs for themselves.
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characters vs. romanization

Postby hrx » 18 Jul 2002, 06:26

The idea of developing character systems for Chinese languages is not entirely stupid. After all, cantonese newspapers exist all over the world. I suppose this kind of system makes sense to native Chinese speakers. It isn't going to be much use for your average foreigner, but then I guess that isn't really the point.

Doing the same for Aboriginal languages seems a little harder to see the sense in. But having said that I do have aboriginal friends who write letters in the Tayal (spelling?) language using Chinese characters. I don't think they follow much of a system. They just write each word using set of characters that sound the same. (some of my friends can't even write roman letters at all).

A romanization system would seem far less hassle than the above method for aboriginal languages, but I guess some people have just got used to using Chinese characters to write.

Overall, I guess the plan could work OK for Chinese languages, but it seems a bit silly for Aboriginal languages. Roman letters do work rather well, otherwise most of the world wouldn't be using them.
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characters vs. romanization

Postby sandman » 18 Jul 2002, 07:05

<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by kiwi:
<strong> Roman letters do work rather well, otherwise most of the world wouldn't be using them.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Most of the world? I don't think America, some of Europe, Australia and New Zealand count as most of the world.
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characters vs. romanization

Postby Juba » 18 Jul 2002, 07:28

There is no need at all to "design" a character system for Chinese dialects. For the most part, the characters already exist - you just have to match them up correctly with the spoken syllables. Hokkien ("Taiwanese") is one of the dialects farthest removed from Mandarin, but almost all the vocabulary in Hokkien that is different from Mandarin is derived from ancient Chinese. A great deal of research has been done on this, notably at Xiamen University. What we see in Taiwan is that spoken Hokkien is often sloppily matched up against inappropriate Chinese characters. For example, the Hokkien word for "fragrant" - pang - is often represented by the character 香 whereas it should be 芳. In Hokkien, the character 香 is pronounced hiu (Juba pinyin - I think it would be hniu in Xiamen University's pinyin,) and it is only used in the sense of incense.

As to Hakka, it is more closely related to Mandarin than is Hokkien, and is also related to Cantonese, for which special dialect characters are already well established. So establishing the right characters for Hakka should be easier than for Hokkien. However, since I can't speak a word of Hakka, I will leave any further comment up to our resident expert, Jidanni.

It is absurd to try to write Taiwan's aboriginal languages with Chinese characters. They are related to the languages of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, which are now all written with Latin characters. The best way to develop Taiwan's aboriginal languages is to spell them in a similar way to other languages of the same language family, like Tagalog and Malay.
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characters vs. romanization

Postby Comrade Stalin » 18 Jul 2002, 07:35

<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by sandman:
<strong>

Most of the world? I don't think America, some of Europe, Australia and New Zealand count as most of the world.</strong><hr></blockquote>

How about: All of North America, Central America, South America, most of Africa, Indonesia, the Philipines, East Timor, Vietnam, a large percentage of India, western Europe, parts of Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia, Polynesia and all of Antarctica.
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characters vs. romanization

Postby maoman » 18 Jul 2002, 07:36

<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by sandman:
<strong>Most of the world? I don't think America, some of Europe, Australia and New Zealand count as most of the world.</strong><hr></blockquote>Add into the equation Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia and China. That's right, while Taiwan is content to use Zhuyinfuhao for their pronunciation schemes, China, the heavyweight of world populations, uses Roman letters to phoneticize Mandarin. Throw Canada into the mix (How could you have forgotten Canada! [img]images/smiles/icon_confused.gif[/img] ), and I do believe that you have "most of the world". [img]images/smiles/icon_razz.gif[/img]
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characters vs. romanization

Postby Juba » 18 Jul 2002, 07:38

<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by sandman:
<strong>

Most of the world? I don't think America, some of Europe, Australia and New Zealand count as most of the world.</strong><hr></blockquote>

I think you mean all of western, central and southern Europe (except Greece), Turkey, all of northern, central and southern America, most of Africa, most of southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and all other countries in Oceania.

***OopsImage - O'Brian, Maoman and I all posted at the same time. Great minds think alike. While we're about it, let's not forget Japan (romaji widely used) and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc., where English is an official language.

Russian can also be spelled with Latin letters e.g. V samoe blizhajshee vremya budet otkryt novyj site projecta "Srednee Uho" s podrobnoj informaciej o koncertah i drugimi interesnymi i poleznymi materialami. (Source: http://ulitsky.freeservers.com/lat/aurismedia.html)

Another web page in romanised Russian: Biografia Aarona Rosanda (Biography of Aaron Rosand)
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characters vs. romanization

Postby Comrade Stalin » 18 Jul 2002, 07:55

<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Juba:
<strong>
***OopsImage - O'Brian, Maoman and I all posted at the same time. Great minds think alike. </strong><hr></blockquote>

I'm going to save this quote.



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