What came before Zhuyin to learn Chinese characters?

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What came before Zhuyin to learn Chinese characters?

Postby Milkybar_Kid » 02 Jul 2012, 12:16

This weekend I was watching my wifes 阿公 read a newspaper and I started to think.

He can only speak taiwanese and japanese - no Mandarin. However he can understand the characters and pronounce them in Taiwanese. How did he learn the pronunciation and what these characters mean?

Where the japanese using zhuyin before 1949? Were they using another system?

My wife also didnt know and didnt want to ask.

Any help?
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Re: What came before Zhuyin to learn Chinese characters?

Postby archylgp » 02 Jul 2012, 12:51

There was a system called /fanqie/ 反切. It worked like this:

陽 有忙切.

The character to be pronounced is 陽 /yang/. 有 /you/ indicates the initial /y-/ and 忙 /mang/ the final (including tone) /-ang/. There was also a system for indicating character pronunciation based on methods used in Sanskrit (韻圖 /yuntu/). The oldest work is called 韻境 /yunjing/. (If you're interested in this, buy a book about 聲韻學 /shengyunxue/.)

Your wife's grandfather didn't learn characters this way, though. He is probably reading them based on everyday Taiwanese pronunciations in his dialect with various prescribed readings here and there. He would have learned the characters from his teachers. Probably through repeating character pronunciations after his teacher... I wish I could remember more; I've read about this before...Why don't you ask him?
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