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The politics of pinyin

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Threads dealing with Taiwan's history belong in the Culture & History thread. Please do not post articles - use links instead. Quoted sources should be limited to one paragraph in length, or less. If you see a post that you feel is against the rules, you can send a report to the moderators so we can look into it

Re: Countdown to the 2012 Presidential Election

Postby Chris » 15 Jan 2012, 00:22

80sStar wrote:American spelling disconnects the language from its latin roots and the changes-- intended to make the spellings more phonetically accurate-- were half done and don't make sense. Case in point: colour/color.

The Latin for color is ... color.

Indeed, part of Webster's reform attempts (yes, never completed) was to make certain words less like French and more like Latin, hence color, center, etc.

In simplifying the language, why not go for for culler? Is this the sort of thing you were on about when you threw out the jargon term "parsimonious?"

You must have me mistaken for someone who was advocating English spelling reforms. I wasn't. Yes, English spelling is notoriously unparsimonious. So what? We're talking Chinese pinyin here.
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Re: Countdown to the 2012 Presidential Election

Postby Chris » 15 Jan 2012, 00:31

80sStar wrote:If Americans can claim their own spelling system, flawed as it may be, surely the Taiwanese can have their own romanisation system for Mandarin?

I forgot to address this in my last post.

One major problem with Tongyong is:
1) The locals are not taught it and don't use it.
2) Foreigners learning Chinese don't use it.

So, who is it aimed at?

(Another is that you get abuses like "Cing Dynasty" when nobody but nobody in the English-speaking world refers to the Qing/Ching/Ch'ing Dynasty in that way.)

I could go on and on and on with all the problems with Tongyong.

As for American English spelling, that's been entrenched for over 200 years. Too late to do anything about it that wouldn't cost a fortune in money, time and effort with little practical payoff.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby suntex01 » 15 Jan 2012, 01:13

80sStar wrote:
suntex01 wrote:Actually, I spoke to a linguistic who teaches Chinese in the US. And she agrees. It forces people to come off their native language and pronounce properly. It forces people to memorize the proper pronounciation.


Sorry, but you (as well as the teacher you are talking about) are arguing that all the Chinese in China don't speak Chinese, because they use pinyin to learn Chinese. You don't "memorize" accurate pronunciation. It's something that comes through proper practice, listening and reproducing what you hear, and not whatever symbols are used for reading. Most Taiwanese are ignorant about romanization, confuse it with English and wrongly assume that zhuyin is superior simply because they were told it is.



Its a good thing you're not the one with the PHD in linguistics from Columbia U. Your presumptions are incorrect. In fact, if you look back to the history of 注音, it dates 40 years before 拼音, its not just a Taiwanese thing. Just in 1958 the Communists decided to go the different route, as was the same with the rest of the chinese language they decided to use. Enough about the history, you are right about the practice and reproduction. But you gotta understand, practice is a type of memorization...
Its getting your brain to memorize how to pronounce properly. And yes it does matter what symbols are used, atleast for the foreign learners.

And I think the romanization of Chinese for both systems are based more on english than any other languages that use similar alphabet no? So saying ABC can have different pronounciations don't really apply in this case, as the case that ABC is not Chinese to begin with as well.


Wrong. Romanization isn't "based on English," nor is it intended only, or mainly, for English speakers. And, yes, the fact that roman letters can and do have different pronunciations in different languages does "apply" in this case. French speakers can learn to pronounce English words correctly, despite using the same characters. Ditto for German, Italian and so forth. Likewise, people can learn Chinese pronunciation correctly without using a system mainly only used in Taiwan (not that learning it would be a bad idea).[/quote]

You're sort of right about the romanization not based on english. Rather its based on the common pronounciation of the alphabets throughout the different languages.
Thats why you don't see the ~n or other characters used only in certain languages. Nevertheless, it is still based on a predetermined set of pronounciations not unique to mandrin when coming up with the match for 音, rather than the other way around, which would of been unique symbols to match the 音 (注音).

Also, you neglected the difference between native learners and foreign learners by bringing up the the example of the Chinese.
You do understand by the time most kids start learning pinyin, they pretty much have the pronounciation spoken part of the language down?
They use pinyin to break down the pronounciation they already know and learn new words and link words they know to the writing. Hence, they don't rely on the romanization to learn the different "音" of the mandrin dialect.

But for foreign learners its just the opposite. They use pinyin to first learn the "音" of the mandrin dialect and move on to whole words. Its similar when you learn Japanese. Except they have 50 of them in two formats. And trust me, usually when foreign learners see pinyin, espc. people of romanized language background such as english, spanish, italians and etc. will either treat prounciation as their own language or english. You can still hear the difference between in 音 such as ㄓ ㄔ.
Another example is if you listen to spanish, italians or even french speak english. Alot of times, their "A" would only be pronounced as in "AH" and also other things as well.
And its similar when english speaking people learn spanish at first, they don't speak spanish, they speak english with spanish words.
This is also true with people trying to learn Japanese.
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Re: Countdown to the 2012 Presidential Election

Postby Deuce Dropper » 15 Jan 2012, 01:22

80sStar wrote:Honestly, I don't know why people get their knickers in a twist about whatever romanisation system is used. It would be helpful, though, if one system were chosen and used consistently, though.


I answered your own question by editing your post.

If this site had rep, I'd be getting a ton, yes I am awesome.

What does chap my fair bottom is the chabudoism that goes into the application of the pinyin or anytime romanized characters are applied. The fucking careless errors in this area are shocking, embarrassing and amateur as fuck.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby suntex01 » 15 Jan 2012, 01:32

Chris wrote:
suntex01 wrote:Actually, I spoke to a linguistic who teaches Chinese in the US. And she agrees. It forces people to come off their native language and pronounce properly. It forces people to memorize the proper pronounciation.

I don't buy it. This has never been my experience as a language learner, having studied (in my life) French, Spanish, German, Chinese pinyin and Indonesian.

It's a fundamental principle that different languages using the same alphabet pronounce the letters in different ways. Consider the Spanish j, German j, French j, English j... all very different. Same with "r": different sounds in English, French, Italian, Chinese, Hmong and Turkish. Yet all use Roman-based alphabets.

And when learning foreign scripts like Thai, Korean, Japanese, Cyrillic or bopomofo, I will still equate them in my mind to symbols of the Roman alphabet.


I studied only Spanish and Japanese...So I'm not as up on foreign languages as you are.
The same letters are different in different languages, I agree with you on that. But that's where it all ends.
When you listen to Spanish, French people speak english, they don't always use the correct pronounciation of the word.
It is true the other way around as well. Why do you suppose this is? I can bet you this is due to fact that they visualized the word and learned the pronounciation of words from spelling rather than from listening. So instead of relating to the pronounciation of whatever language they were speaking, they related back to their own language.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby suntex01 » 15 Jan 2012, 01:39

archylgp wrote:
suntex01 wrote:Actually, I spoke to a linguistic who teaches Chinese in the US. And she agrees. It forces people to come off their native language and pronounce properly. It forces people to memorize the proper pronounciation.


Zhuyin Fuhao doesn't force people to do anything...

Pronunciation/language learning is achieved through listening/practicing/speaking...not analyzing signs...and besides Mandarin pronunciation should be mastered on a syllable by syllable bases, which makes any confusion with English impossible...


Nope you are wrong. Pronounciation / language learning comes from both. Even in english, you learn the difference between aeiouy and their variances such as oo.
Seriously I can't believe somebody would even think that language learning is not from analyzing signs...
Even in english, when you come across new words, you break it into vowels and cosonants you know and go from there. And then somebody might come along one day and correct your pronounciation after you start using it in a reading or coversation. Same is with chinese, except you can't break down a chinese character 50% of the time to get a close enough pronounciation, so that's why they have alternate symbols.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby Chris » 15 Jan 2012, 02:02

suntex01 wrote:When you listen to Spanish, French people speak english, they don't always use the correct pronounciation of the word. It is true the other way around as well. Why do you suppose this is? I can bet you this is due to fact that they visualized the word and learned the pronounciation of words from spelling rather than from listening. So instead of relating to the pronounciation of whatever language they were speaking, they related back to their own language.

But they're not relating it to the letters of their own language, but the sounds of their own language. There's a difference.

People grow up used to producing certain sets of sounds with their mouths, and that is carried over into their pronunciation of foreign languages. The result is "accent", and I don't think there's any difference in "accent intensity" between your average Frenchman speaking English and your average Chinese speaking English, all else being equal.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby Confuzius » 15 Jan 2012, 02:02

My :2cents: :

Transliteration (in all languages) is a crutch at worse and tool for learning at best. Different people learn differently and may prefer one over the other because it works better for them. So work with what you like and hopefully, someday, you'll be able to read the original and not have to worry about the transliteration issue.

Chinese ain't the only language with several accepted methods for transliteration (and a number of bastardized forms that are entirely inconsistent, yet get used all the time).
I worked cataloguing rare & antiquarian books for a number of years. You quickly have to become a 'bibliographic polyglot' for that line of work.
I noticed that all sorts of languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Tibetan, etc) had various "accepted" transliteration systems and that on OCLC (the world-wide database of library books) you could find several entries, all spelled differently, for the EXACT same book. So what's the big deal? This 'problem' ain't peculiar to Chinese.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby Chris » 15 Jan 2012, 02:21

Confuzius wrote:I noticed that all sorts of languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Tibetan, etc) had various "accepted" transliteration systems and that on OCLC (the world-wide database of library books) you could find several entries, all spelled differently, for the EXACT same book. So what's the big deal? This 'problem' ain't peculiar to Chinese.

Which brings up another objection I have to Tongyong:

There were already several romanization systems to choose from, including more than a couple highly applicable ones, but they preferred to address the issue by creating yet another one, with the predictable result that an already muddled scene became even more muddled.
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Re: The politics of pinyin

Postby Dog's_Breakfast » 15 Jan 2012, 09:40

A few practical points about Romanization that nobody has touched on yet:

1) Inputting Chinese characters on a computer. It's nice to have a consistent system for doing that. Having 3 or 5 different Romanization systems in use doesn't help me there. Hanyu Pinyin works fine, except that "umlaut u" thing which (on my computer) I have to type as "yu" though I know some systems allow you to use ":u" or "v".

2) The Taiwanese Post Office would certainly be happier if only one Romanization system was used. I don't know how they manage to deliver my mail given the potpourri of spellings on some of the letters I receive.

3) The MRT in Taipei - would be nice if the maps inside the trains were the same as the signs in the stations. It's been awhile since I was in Taipei, but I remember seeing "Xindian" on the map and "Xindian" in the station - I'm sure this had everything to do with politics and was not a simple spelling mistake.
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