idiot

Publié le par chrislzh

So a friend sent me a link to a post on China Travel Guide forums by one griz326 entitled Is the Chinese language dead? She asked for my help in setting this Griz character straight. I don't know why, she's a professional linguist, has been studying Chinese, and is more than capable of doing the task herself. In fact, she had already done a decent job of showing Griz up for the fool he is before I got to see the offending post. Anyway, I checked it out and decided to add my two fen worth just for good measure.

Well, I decided to post the offending post and my reply here, just for good measure. But before you continue, please remember: It's early in the morning, I'm still recaffeinating, and I'm still fighting off this cold. I may well have made a few mistakes myself. I would appreciate it if you could correct my mistakes, though, because the more accurate my reply is, the more effective it will be.

Here is the original post, for those who don't want to click through to the forum:

"No offense is intended here.... But in discussing the Chinese languagewith a friend yesterday, the question I posed here came into my mind:

Is Chinese a dead language?

Obviously, it is still in wide usage...so in that regard is certainly is NOT dead.

However, does the Chinese language invent new words? Or does it only use existing words to describe new things?

Consider these words:

network - 联机.....联 - unite/join 机 - machine

radio - 无线电.....无 - without/nothingness 线 - line/thread 电 - lightening/electricity

airplane - 飞机.....飞 - fly 机 - machine

skeet - word not found in the Wenlin dictionary - however my translator gave me this meaning "shooting the flying disk"

biotechnology - word not found in the Wenlin dictionary

bytes - word not found in the Wenlin dictionary

How would the Chinese language invent new words?

Wouldn't new characters need to be created?

Is the lack of such a mechanism an indication that the Chinese languageis dead? Or is there such a mechanism in place and I simply do not knowof it.

What happens when China - which is educating far more citizens in the sciences than the United States - over takes American dominance of technology and begins to be the creator of new technologies...

How will those Chinese inventors pick new words for their inventions?

I hope you have as much fun thinking about this as me... "

And my reply (minus a brief intro only relevant to the thread itself):

"My two fen worth will start with taking Griz up on one of his own points:
无 线电. Let's look at this properly: 无线 is a common prefix equivalent to the English 'wireless'. For example, I am currently using a 无线网卡/wireless internet card to get online. But wait! How can this be? English has used the exact some process as Chinese to express this new concept! 'Wireless' means without wires, just like 无线! So is English dead too? As Stocktov [a previous commenter on the thread] said, all languages (except those that are dead, of course) evolve. That process of evolution includes recombining words or 'particles' (as in the prefix-root-suffix model common in European languages) to create new words to fit new concepts.

"biotechnology - word not found in the Wenlin dictionary" Two things:
1: Not all words in any language are to be found in the dictionary. And why check Wenlin? Sure, it's a good resource, but it's hardly the authority on the Chinese language. It's not the Chinese OED.
2: Clearly your knowledge of Chinese isn't what you would have us believe. I don't know the word for biotech either, not off the top of my head, but if I were translating for someone and had to make an educated guess, I would say "生物技术." And you know what? The pinyin input system gives me the exact characters I want without me having to change any, which is a good indication I have the right word. And just to confirm, I look in the dictionary, and although 生物技术 itself is not listed, there are plenty of other words using 生物 as the equivalent of the English prefix 'bio-', which makes me feel pretty confident I've got the right word.

"How would the Chinese language invent new words?"

As you yourself have demonstrated, one method is the same as that used in any other language- rearranging or recombining old words to form new words.

"Wouldn't new characters need to be created?"

Not always, but yes, sometimes. When paper was invented, the Chinese people needed a word for it, and that word needed a character, and that's how we wound up with 纸.

"Is the lack of such a mechanism an indication that the Chinese language is dead? Or is there such a mechanism in place and I simply do not know of it."

Well, you've answered your own question: You clearly don't know enough about the Chinese language. As Rogerinca pointed out, Chinese does have a mechanism for creating new characters. All but the simplest characters are made up of 'radicals'. Radicals are basically simple characters, sometimes stripped down or altered to fit comfortably in a more complex character. Radicals are combined to form new characters. Chinese has been doing this since the days of the oracle bones. A good example would be the Table of Chemical Elements. Obviously many elements required a new character as the were unknown to the Chinese (indeed, to everybody around the world) only 100 or 200 years ago. If you look at the table, you will see many (most? all?) the metals contain the radical 金 in their character. Why? 金 (meaning metal or gold) indicates that this character is the name of a metal. The other radical is usually there for it's phonetic value.

"What happens when China - which is educating far more citizens in the sciences than the United States - over takes American dominance of technology and begins to be the creator of new technologies...

How will those Chinese inventors pick new words for their inventions?"

Well, clearly, the world will stop spinning on its axis, the Earth's magnetic field will reverse, the laws of thermodynamics will no longer apply, and we'll be reduced to grunting like Neanderthals or chimpanzees. Or, more likely, English will start to take on a lot more words from Chinese (and you'd be surprised how many we already have), words that were 'invented' in all the usual ways new words are coined, words that will have new characters or new combinations of characters just like all the previous words that have at some stage been new to Chinese, and life will continue on as it always has."

Well, like I said, I would appreciate any corrections to my rant that anybody has to make. I don't consider myself an expert on the Chinese language.

Publié dans chrislzh

Commenter cet article