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Thread: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

  1. #21
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florianus View Post

    "三国演义、红楼梦,etc" had been translated to Mandarin. And, Mandarin that I mentioned is official one 普通話, not those non-official Mandarin 官話.
    普通話(PuTongHua)indeed combined a lot of Chinese vocabulary including Shanghai Wu Chinese, Cantonese, etc. Cuz it is a mixed language, so I think it is created recently. And, Beijing Mandarin is one of 官話 Chinese. They still have a lot difference, such as: vocabulary, tones, and pronunciation. I assume nowadays no many Beijing teenages can speak fluent Beijing Mandarin without mixing 普通話 vocabulary. If a language lacks the vocabulary, it is not the language anymore but a new mixed language. I call those 京普話 instead of 北京話 'cause 北京話 does not have too many common in vocabulary with 普通話。
    I agree that the slang words are disappearing. But I don't think the language with only Beijing words and no 普通话 words exist. The definition of 普通话 is: phonetically 以北京语音为标准音, vocabulary 以北方话为基础, grammar 以典范的现代白话文著作为语法规范. If you found 普通话 has a lot of Wuu or Cantonese specific words, either those vocabulary also exist in 官话 area, or your 普通话 is not good enough.
    Of course, there exist many many special 北京土话 words. But I disagree that only those words are called 北京话. According to my personal knowledge of the northern dialects, there is no way to speak naturally for a while without using a lot of 普通话 words, even my 80-year-old grandfather can't. Most of our words differ from the standard Chinese only phonetically.
    Let me give an example (may not be accurate, just an example). "father" is called 老子 in some place but 爷 in another place. However, 爹、爸爸、父亲、家父、令尊 are well-understood everywhere. It is not a valid question to ask whether these "formal-look" words are 北京话 or 普通话. They are Chinese words. Everyone can use such words in their writings and speak with their own accent in their own dialect/language, and this is not called a mixed language.
    As for 红楼梦, the original text is written in Mandarin because there are many northern specific vocabulary. If one reads it 普通话 sounds, then it is 普通话 with a small proportion of uncommon words, which is not a problem for a big book.

    Quote Originally Posted by Florianus View Post

    However, those different Chinese languages, like Min language won't be in the same case. The word use is totally different with dissimilar pronunciation.
    People can't say they are the same based on the written form in Chinese characters. European languages mostly use Latin alphabets, but they are still different languages. I would say a language contains different word use, sounds, tones, and grammar.
    I was not to claim Min (or other southern language) is not a language. I was just saying the classification is not obvious and may need more work than a forum can do.

    The written form of Chinese is very different from the western situation. What I meant by "written form" is not just the characters, but the formal essays written by Chinese people from different parts of the country. If we talk about only the spoken language, Min etc are definitely different languages. But Chinese have a much "greater" knowledge and culture than just the spoken words. All Chinese are educated with identical textbooks throughout history. And all formal books are written in the same language all around China.
    Imagine back to the ancient examinations, there were students from 江南 and 北京. Is an essay from the exam written in Wuu or Mandarin? This is not a valid question, it's written in Chinese. Of course those essays can be classified as a different language called "classic Chinese". However, I don't agree with such classification either because some classic Chinese are very close to 白话 and some 白话 can contain many classic Chinese sentences.
    There are also other examples. This is a sentence found in 《天朝田亩制度》 (太平天国) :凡分田照人口,不论男妇,算其家口多寡,人多则分多,人寡则分寡. I don't think it's possible to tell this is Mandarin or Cantonese.
    With all these thoughts I'm doubting if it is actually possible to divide the written Chinese (which carries more high-level words than spoken languages, no matter 文言 or 白话). Of course, just some doubts and I don't really want to challenge the well-admitted fact that Chinese has many languages.
    Last edited by tarlou; 10th August 2013 at 10:34 PM.

  2. #22
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    It is well-known for many Chinese linguists that official Mandarin 普通話 contains words borrowed from Japanese, Shanghai Wu (when the time Shanghai was very popular in last century, like the famous 上海灘), and some Cantonese words. This is the truth and 普通話 even has borrowed words from English like 咖啡、沙發 etc. If you don't really know this, it is great to take a note of it from Internet.

    Nowadays, 普通話 has evolved to be different from Beijing Mandarin 北京話. 北京話 has 老子、午响兒 etc local words, and 蝴蝶兒 the totally different pronunciation that only few of older people could remember how to speak cuz of official Mandarin influence that even older generation of Beijing people can speak only good official Mandarin instead of pure Beijing Mandarin. And yes, it is true that Beijing Mandarin and official Mandarin has some commons. But many of them are not pure Beijing Mandarin, but borrowed from official Mandarin and official Mandarin borrowed from other Chinese languages.

    Beijing Mandarin has formed hundreds of years. Mongolians and Manchu invaded Pekin 北平 and affect northern Chinese in a large areas, now that are called Guan Chinese 官話. And there're still a lot of debates there, that northern Chinese evolve away from Old Chinese and southern Chinese.

    紅樓夢 does have some words that are also in Mandarin but it also exist in southern Chinese. Especially, my mother tongue Hoochew Chinese, 新婦 etc. I don't know about how many words are in common with Guan Chinese, but I know many words are still exist in Hoochew Chinese and other southern Chinese.

    令尊、父、爹、爸 come from 文言文mostly, not only Beijing Mandarin and official Mandarin have it. Southern Chinese also do but they are not used in everyday language. These words are also not being used frequently in Guan Chinese as well that only few high officials did in old days.
    Only now, people are well-educated and who use them whenever they would like in formal occasions. Here, I think we should talk about oral Chinese that our ancestors spoken daily during 1950s.
    Last edited by Florianus; 11th August 2013 at 7:07 PM.

  3. #23
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florianus View Post
    It is well-known for many Chinese linguists that official Mandarin 普通話 contains words borrowed from Japanese, Shanghai Wu (when the time Shanghai was very popular in last century, like the famous 上海灘), and some Cantonese words. This is the truth and 普通話 even has borrowed words from English like 咖啡、沙發 etc. If you don't really know this, it is great to take a note of it from Internet.

    Nowadays, 普通話 has evolved to be different from Beijing Mandarin 北京話. 北京話 has 老子、午响兒 etc local words, and 蝴蝶兒 the totally different pronunciation that only few of older people could remember how to speak cuz of official Mandarin influence that even older generation of Beijing people can speak only good official Mandarin instead of pure Beijing Mandarin. And yes, it is true that Beijing Mandarin and official Mandarin has some commons. But many of them are not pure Beijing Mandarin, but borrowed from official Mandarin and official Mandarin borrowed from other Chinese languages.
    I don't see your point actually. I've never said Beijing Mandarin is the same as 普通话. The difference is significant. And I agree that slang words are disappearing. I'm not quite sure about what you mean by "蝴蝶兒 the totally different pronunciation". Isn't it hu4tier3? If both you and me, whose native languages are not Beijing Mandarin, know this, then I think there is no need to worry too much about Beijingers.
    No language can stay the same without borrowing other words. And most borrowed words did not exist before the borrowing. There was no 咖啡、沙发、警察、政治 in Mandarin, and that's why these words were borrowed. It simply does not make sense to say these things in so-called "pure" Beijing Mandarin, which does not have these words. Moreover, when those words were borrowed to 普通话, most likely they are borrowed to all other Mandarin languages as well. I'd consider that as an evolvement of both Beijing Mandarin and 普通话, rather than an evolvement of only 普通话 plus an "impurify" of Beijing Mandarin.
    The way that northerners treat 普通话 is probably different from southern language speakers. Beijing Mandarin, 普通话, and any Mandarin dialect are not different languages. People in the Mandarin area share the same operas, 评书, 相声, other entertainments and media since hundreds of years ago. Therefore all Mandarin languages are very much influenced and can't be separated.
    I think I know what you mean by 北京话. We usually call it 老北京话. And to be honest, I don't think it is a different language. The difference from modern 北京话 is that 老北京话 has more slangs. But I don't think that's a big deal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Florianus View Post
    Beijing Mandarin has formed hundreds of years. Mongolians and Manchu invaded Pekin 北平 and affect northern Chinese in a large areas, now that are called Guan Chinese 官話. And there're still a lot of debates there, that northern Chinese evolve away from Old Chinese and southern Chinese.

    紅樓夢 does have some words that are also in Mandarin but it also exist in southern Chinese. Especially, my mother tongue Hoochew Chinese, 新婦 etc. I don't know about how many words are in common with Guan Chinese, but I know many words are still exist in Hoochew Chinese and other southern Chinese.
    I've seen a lot of similar arguments on the internet. I agree that northern dialects might have been influenced by 少数民族. However, I doubt about "Mongolians" and "Manchu", because both languages do not have retroflex consonants and the time of 入声's disappearing was probably before Mongolians. So maybe 辽、金 or others may be possible. That's a different topic anyway.

    As for 红楼梦, it has many many words exist only in northern Mandarin and you may google this. But this is irrelevant so let's don't elaborate more. If we consider the overall language instead of specific vocabulary, your argument seems supporting my position "written Chinese without considering phonology is one language", and I want to claim 红楼梦 is written in the language called Chinese and is understood by all Chinese. I believe it has many in common with southern Chinese, because all Chinese languages share a lot in common in terms of written/formal words.

    Quote Originally Posted by Florianus View Post
    令尊、父、爹、爸 come from 文言文mostly, not only Beijing Mandarin and official Mandarin have it. Southern Chinese also do but they are not used in everyday language. These words are also not being used frequently in Guan Chinese as well that only few high officials did in old days.
    Only now, people are well-educated and who use them whenever they would like in formal occasions. Here, I think we should talk about oral Chinese that our ancestors spoken daily during 1950s.
    As I said I agree that the southern Chinese are different languages if we consider the oral language. My doubt was only about the written language, which carries most of Chinese traditional culture and knowledge, as Chinese civilization is different from a primitive tribe whose only treasure is their endangered spoken language.
    I also want to clarify that I was not using "written" or "formal" to mean difficult words in 文言. Take a look at the Wikipedia pages in Cantonese and Wuu, which are the only source I can find that explicitly claims to be written in Chinese other than Mandarin. The text is completely intelligible to Mandarin users. In fact, in most parts, the differences from Mandarin exist only in a few words. That's what I mean by "written Chinese without considering phonology is one language".
    China was not like western countries that most people were unable to write (in middle ages). Well-educated people were everywhere, not just high officials. (A simple evidence, many ordinary families maintain a 家谱 of a few hundred years. This implies that they can write.) Even the uneducated people were also able to understand those words actually. They learnt the words from every jokes they heard, every opera and song, every social event (marriage/funeral) and many many other ways. Those words are critical to a Chinese who lives in China (I don't know about oversea Chinese descendants who are able to survive in an English society).
    But since you are only considering the spoken languages, let's forget about this.
    Last edited by tarlou; 12th August 2013 at 7:36 AM.

  4. #24
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    I can read Archaic Chinese texts with modern Mandarin pronunciations; still, I have to mentally translate the texts into the modern language so as to fully comprehend them. I can read Japanese texts written mostly in Chinese characters and guess all the way through; still, that doesn't prove they belong to the same language. There is a feeling of "distance", either something in a long forgotten past or something strange, something related yet somewhat "foreign". And that's how I feel when I try to pronounce Mandarin texts with Taiwanese pronunciations or to read Cantonese texts with Mandarin pronunciations. I can feel the difference, a feeling of something "forced", not natural. When I see something like 佢姓馬嘅, my brain stumbles and has to make a guess (or translation). And the need for guessing or translation is a tell-tale sign that it is not the same language that I am used to.

    Do Chinese languages share a written language? I'm not sure I would call it a language. It is a writing system that makes apparent the meanings of each vocabulary so that we can guess all the way through and understand most of the texts regardless of what languages we are actually speaking. Say, if English adopts Chinese characters as well, we will have:
    "This is a book. That is a window." ==> 这是一书. 那是一窗户. Will we claim that English and Chinese belong the same language as a result thereof? Is there truly a shared written language underlying those two languages or is it simply a shared writing system?

  5. #25
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    I'm not using "written language" to mean "written system". "written system" obviously does not imply anything.
    "written language" means the high level, formal vocabulary. I'm aware of things like 佢姓馬嘅. But those Cantonese specific words is just a small proportion (and actually some of them are "wrong" characters). Words without a "written form" also widely exist in all 官话 dialects and distance exists when you pronounce with a different accent. If those things can make a different language, then there are at least 1000 different languages in 官话 area.

  6. #26
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    Re: Do you think Chinese is a macro language?

    Quote Originally Posted by tarlou View Post
    "written language" means the high level, formal vocabulary.
    Even if two languages share 80% of core vocabulary, it can mean they are at least one millennium apart from each other. The rate of change for Icelandic constituted merely around 4% per millennium.

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