A story in which each syllable is pronounced "shi"

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A story in which each syllable is pronounced "shi"

1LolaWalser
Redigerat: jun 19, 2013, 12:47 pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

2Fogies
jun 19, 2013, 12:20 pm

This bit of doggerel has nothing to do with ancient China. It was concocted in the twentieth century as a joke. We urge those who post in this group not to go so far outside its basic scope.

3LolaWalser
jun 19, 2013, 12:33 pm

Thanks for the information.

Is it a good joke?

4LolaWalser
Redigerat: jun 19, 2013, 12:53 pm

Incidentally, it would seem that those of us who have followed several group reads in here over the years have unwittingly offended you. All the books read are considerably younger than 1000 CE.

If we had had an inkling of your attitude, I doubt anyone would have started those group reads.

5LolaWalser
jun 19, 2013, 12:47 pm

I hope deleting the OP helped.

6kafkachen
jun 24, 2013, 9:52 am

A little OT wouldn't hurt this group, which has been in deep sleep anyway, if not for a few member like Lola and jc, it would have been a dead group.

7pechmerle
maj 20, 2023, 1:23 am

>3 LolaWalser: Yes. And it is not entirely a joke at all. It was concocted by the famous linguist Chao Yuenren. It's original intention was to argue against the Romanization of Classical Chinese. (Thus, there is actually a modest link to the topic of this group.)

When read in its characters, the story is meaningful. But when read aloud in modern Mandarin, it is incomprehensible because all the syllables are "shi" though in all four tones. Thus it cannot be understood in any Romanized form.

He developed the National Romanization, which spells tones as well as syllables in Latin script. This is far superior to all systems that use diacritical marks or numbers to indicate tone. Unfortunately, he was affiliated to the Nationalist regime, and so his system had no chance of being adopted in the PRC era. A friend commented to me, when discovering that I had my introduction to Mandarin via Chao's textbook, "Isn't it true that you only truly know how to pronounce those words you learned in the NR system?" There was some truth to that!

8LolaWalser
maj 20, 2023, 3:47 pm

>7 pechmerle:

Thanks, interesting, I haven't given thought to indicating tone with spelling before--I'm a little amazed it would work.

I think I was originally amused by this because a language as different to Chinese as Croatian also distinguishes four tones (a famous illustration is the sentence "Gore gore gore gore"--up there, the mountains burn worse--in speech, each word is accented differently). Of course, the use of ideograms lends Chinese to such much longer examples.

9pechmerle
maj 21, 2023, 11:23 pm

>8 LolaWalser: Here is a simple example of the NR tonal spelling system, in order 1-4:
tan
tarn
taan
tahn

10LolaWalser
maj 22, 2023, 12:37 pm

>9 pechmerle:

Thanks, I saw Wikipedia's example with "guo" too... I'm wondering about the apparent reliance on knowing English (or any foreign language) in order to decipher those examples! Clearly it could be useful to foreigners learning Chinese but as I understand, the main purpose was to facilitate the spread of native literacy.

Incidentally, how would you describe, or sound, the difference between "tarn" and "tahn"?

11pechmerle
Redigerat: jun 2, 2023, 2:09 am

"tarn" is a rising tone pronunciation; "tahn" is a falling tone pronunciation.
Yes, Y.R. Chao intended this system to help with efforts at literacy.
Since it utilizes the Latin alphabet, it of course comes a bit easier to speakers of a European language.
I do think, however, that it could also be helpful to beginning native speakers. Most Chinese characters do not have easily perceivable pronunciation elements. Thus, for the beginner, having the characters presented for the first time with this spelling system along side should make learning to pronounce the characters easier.
However, it is not used in any Chinese-speaking country, not even Taiwan. Children there are taught using a non-Latin system of pronunciation symbols, called Bopomofo (q.v.) or Zhùyīn Fúhào in Mandarin. It has the disadvantage that tones in that system are also done via diacritical marks rather than the "spelling."

By the way, Chinese doesn't lend itself to long homonymic phrases because it uses ideograms, but rather because the (modern) spoken language has only about 1,200 syllables (including all tonal variations!) vs. about 8,000 in English.

12LolaWalser
jun 2, 2023, 3:50 pm

tarn tahn tarn tahn tarn tahn tarn tahn by Jove I got it, it does go up down up down...

the (modern) spoken language has only about 1,200 syllables (including all tonal variations!) vs. about 8,000 in English.

Right, I meant the same-sounding syllables can be rendered by multiple different ideograms, which can't be done in alphabet.