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Posts: 66

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Q: Will Pinyin ever replace Chinese characters?

As I learn Mandarin, I have noticed that it is not really that terrible to learn, except for the characters part....they all seem very similar! Since the young generation is being taught Pinyin in school and the PC's may not be necessarily character-adept, do you think the system would switch to Pinyin solely so that it is more accessible to the rest of the world? Wink

9 years 2 weeks ago in  Culture - China

 
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Posts: 1933

Shifu

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I doubt it. There were two drives to switch to the Latin alphabet, one in the 1910s when they were restandardizing written Chinese, and supposedly Mao was playing with the idea. Neither had much support.

The kids use Pinyin, but it's phased out at a pretty young age. The computer input systems they have are amazing. And the loss of culture and heritage would be enormous. It's quite an old, beautiful, and eloquent tradition. Aside from that, classical Chinese - the language the bulk of Chinese literature is written in - is nearly impossible to parse in modern pronunciation, so the study of that language would probably vanish without the leg up knowing thousands of characters gives you.

It would be a massive loss and I hope the Chinese know it.

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
Posts: 65

Governor

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If you learn mandarin you might have noticed that it's simply impossible with so few different syllabs in use

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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I hope not. Writing characters is fun.

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
Posts: 1318

Shifu

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Phasing out Chinese characters would actually make the language harder. Just take the word "shi" for example and how many different characters that pinyin alone has to represent all the possible different meanings (even if you did add a tone indicator at the end). Now something that could be stated with two or three characters would take a paragraph to give enough content to explain the meaning behind the pinyin. There would be no simple answers anymore.

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
Posts: 65

Governor

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talking about "shi" do you know this famous chinese riddle ?

《施氏食獅史》
石室詩士施氏,嗜獅,誓食十獅。
氏時時適市視獅。
十時,適十獅適市。
是時,適施氏適市。
氏視是十獅,恃矢勢,使是十獅逝世。
氏拾是十獅屍,適石室。
石室濕,氏使侍拭石室。
石室拭,氏始試食是十獅。
食時,始識是十獅屍,實十石獅屍。
試釋是事。

In pinyin, you just type "shi" 98 times (with the different tones of course), that is :

« Shī Shì shí shī shǐ »
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The translation is something like :

« Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den »
In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.

I'd like to know the answer. Does anybody know it ?

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
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It would be impossible for pinyin to replace Chinese characters. 100% impossible. Again, as stated, shï has about 20 common usages so you would need to know the context of what it means which is impossible without the characters. Like the famous poem inserted above, you can see that multiple words use exactly the same sound.

Imagine if in English we used "ther" for their, they're, there. You would reference which one by the context of the sentence.

Spoken Chinese is actually a very limited and simplistic language. As I've said in other posts, but will reiterate because it's relevant, 400 combinations of initials and finals = 400 sounds in the Chinese language x 4 tones = 1600 different sounds. That's it. Every single thing is made from those sounds. The latest full Chinese dictionary has over 85,000 characters in it, so that would mean each sound has on average 60+ different meanings ALL DEPENDING ON THE CHARACTER.

The forms of Chinese language would lose any ability to portray complex notions because it does this through the characters and not the spoken language. Converting to pinyin would be so difficult simply because the entire written form (and then the spoken form) would have to follow suit. It would be easier to adopt a different language (like English) then revamp Mandarin so it works with 26 letters.

This is also one of the reasons why every form of movies and TV shows are always subtitled. Reason 1 is because dialects differ so much but the written language is the same. #2 is because without them, some spoken language might not be clear. Also why people like to text and use IM programs.

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
Posts: 14

Governor

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never gonna happen.

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9 years 2 weeks ago
 
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