Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
Abun
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Re: Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Postby Abun » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:12 pm

amhoanna wrote:The conscious de-emphasis on aesthetics

I’m not entirely sure what exactly you are referring to. While I also observe a trend that things above all are supposed to look pompous and not necessarily beautiful, I’m not quite sure how that relates to the topic of script-unification. After all, people can choose an aesthetic script as well as a non-aesthetic one. In fact, unless there are other more important reasons to choose a non-aesthetic over an aesthetic one, I would guess that people would tend to the latter. Of course, aesthetics is a very subjective matter, but cultural influences would probably urge people in roughly the same direction; I would guess this to be one of the main reasons (if not THE main reason) behind the bias towards completely or at least mainly character-based writing systems.
amhoanna wrote:I doubt inconsistency of orthography is a key factor on any level. It is never cited as a reason by non-learners.

I agree to a certain point. A lack of a standard is definitely something that poses more problems to learners than to native-speakers. However I am also convinced that there would be a distinct benefit for native-speakers, too. Just recently, I read about a study on how the familiarity with the visual form of a written word has a significant impact on the reading speed (I would give the actual title of the study but I merely read about it in a secondary source which I don’t have access to at the moment. I can therefore only refer to said secondary source, Mark Sebba’s “Spelling and Society” (2007)). For example, since we are used to the current English orthography, we can read it a lot faster than, for example, ɪf wi: sɑdn̩li ɹout ɪt ɪn IPA. That doesn’t mean one spelling is superior to the other in any way, only that reading a script that you’re used to is easier than one that you’re not used to because you’re familiar with the visual form of the words and you can recognize them at one glance. I’m guessing this is also connected to the common advice given at speadreading courses, that you should give up subvocalization (the habit of “pronouncing” the words silently in your head while reading) and disassociate the form of the word from its pronounciation because you (supposedly) read much quicker if your focus is on recognizing the written form instead of thinking about the pronunciation.

It is in fact debated how big the influence of this effect on reading smoothness and speed actually is. My guess is that it probably varies depending on the script. For example, I expect the impact of this effect to be much bigger with rather irregular scripts like English whose written forms are not that closely connected with the sound, compared to largely phonetic scripts like, say, POJ. Even then, though, it does make a difference, as visible for example when you compare the speed in which you can read POJ to Liim Keahioong’s equally regular Phofsit Daaibun (at least for me there is a significant difference, but then again, I of course don’t even come close to a level where I can count myself among experienced Hokkien users :lol:). To come back to the topic however, this means that a unified script would most likely lead to texts being easier and quicker to read for native-speakers/-readers because the visual forms of words would always be the same.

Also, while the needs of native speakers definitely need to be addressed first, the demands of learners for a standard should not be completely disregarded either. Hokkien admittedly doesn’t count among the languages with the most learners in the world, also because other languages are much more important for success in business. Despite, or maybe precisely because of the small number of learners however, I think that it would be beneficial for the promotion of Hokkien to not scare all but the most persistent ones away from learning it.

On the other hand, I agree with you that the MoE characters are not exactly ideal from the linguistic point of view due to too many, and often unjustifiable borrowings from Mandarin, the 的/个 distinction being the most horrific example of this (although at least they refrained from creating {女尹} and {牜尹} to reflect the Mandarin characters 她 and 它 :lol: (which of course are equally unjustifiable with reasons inherent to the Mandarin language)). Even from the pragmatic point of view there are reasons against them because the anti-local-language-policies of the KMT government made quite a few proponents of Hokkien literature oppose anything coming from the government for the simple reason that it comes from the government.

I also agree that there is the danger that some 借字 could be mistaken for 本字 by non-linguists. However I think this in itself is not too big an issue. Taking Mandarin 這 as an example again, I doubt that a lot of Chinese out of circles highly educated in classic literature know that this character originally had nothing to do with the meaning “this” but was pronounced “yàn” and meant “to meet”. Still, this doesn’t impede their ability to read and write Mandarin. Of course, if the 借字 so many, and only from one language, that the script almost looks like this other language (which I agree is a problem with the MoE characters), it does become a problem, but it has less to do with 借字 being mistaken for 本字 but with too extensive and imbalanced borrowing. Of course I prefer using 本字 if they are available. But if they are not, I think that the danger of 借字 being mistaken for 本字 is not really that problematic in practice because it would have little impact on people’s ability to write Hokkien. Also, you can always publish lists with the 借字 so that people can refer to them if they really do need/want that information.

Still, I agree with Ah-bin that the Nôm way of creating new characters when there is no identifiable pún-jī is preferrable to borrowing characters from other languages. For example you could write say, {多坐}, {欲末} and {肉巴} for chē, bueh and bah (I feel {多坐} might be more ideal than {多齊} because as far as I know 齊 doesn’t rhyme with the word for “many” in Chôan-chiu-type dialects). What might make this a little difficult in praxis is the way characters are encoded in Unicode (full characters instead of freely combinable components), but in theory it should be no problem to include them in an extension. In Word you can even circumvent this problem (at least for characters which consists of two other characters next to each other) by writing both seperately and then adjusting the horizontal scale of the characters (the setting for this can be found under the Home tab, paragraph section, and then the option “character scaling” under the “Asian Layout” button, at least in Word 2007). However this of course quite a pain for writing a single character. Also, it only works with characters composed in one particular way, and only if the software you’re writing in has this option; in this forum for example there is no such option (or maybe there is but it would by far exceed my html skills :lol:) In my eyes, the more ideal solution would be a revamping of the way characters are encoded in Unicode from the whole-character system to a system where you can combine elements, say “亻+因” or “伊+心/亻+尹+心” for the third person plural pronoun, at least if your character isn’t already among the encoded ones.

While I don’t see kana as the ideal solution, I also agree with amhoanna that the integration of entirely phonetic elements is also necessary. Even if we invented characters to write the non-sinitic words which have been part of Hokkien for centuries if not millennia (such as “bah”, “bueh” and “lâng”), there would still be plenty of more recent loanwords which I feel are not easy to integrate into a wholly character-based system (i.e. not without either using characters purely for phonetic purposes or creating a whole bunch of new characters for just one single word), simply because most of them are poly-syllabic. Latin Script may be the most obvious solution, but in my eyes (and I don’t think I’m alone with that view), it doesn’t blend well with the characters. Kana might actually more workable than I originally thought, but I still think they are too inflexible, especially when it comes to finals and tones. Therefore, I still think a Hangeul-type solution would be easier to adapt and to learn, although of course, standard Hangeul would have to be modified as well, to fit Hokkien phonology. The more practical problem though, is of course the bias amongst many Hoklophones (especially Mandarin-educated ones) against non-character elements (and in Mainland China very likely especially so against Japanese kana). Some may call this bias irrational, ignorant in the face of proof for the successful use of non-character scripts in the past, or even arrogant towards languages that don’t use characters. However such accusations, be they justified or not, will not make the Hoklophone public more accepting towards any suggestions we might have. I may believe that a certain way of writing is the most ideal from a linguistic point of view but if the public doesn’t accept it, it has been of little practical use. For this reason, I think that it makes only limited sense to exclude the needs of the “recipient”, i.e. the people who are actually supposed to use the script, from my considerations when creating a script. That is if my goal is to have the public accept it in the first place, of course ;)

amhoanna
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Re: Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Postby amhoanna » Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:29 am

While I also observe a trend that things above all are supposed to look pompous and not necessarily beautiful, I’m not quite sure how that relates to the topic of script-unification.

U would have to first agree -- only of your own free will -- that the "MOE Hokkien aesthetic" is based on "Modern Standard Chinese" a.k.a. Written Mandarin.

There is a certain visual (but not just visual) elegance and balance in 唐 Era Literary Chinese as well as in Written Japanese. This sense of elegance and balance is missing from Written Mandarin and Written Cantonese. By basing (but NOT consciously) Hokkien character aesthetics on Mandarin character aesthetics, the MOE has promulgated an inelegant, unbalanced Written Hokkien. To be fair, though, it could be even worse.

There will typically be people who come in at this point and say "What are U talking about? I don't think Written Japanese is any more elegant or balanced than Written Mandarin". The fact is that people get used to whatever they learned first, and don't tend to take a step back and re-examine. In some cases, some people may perceive what I am talking about, but suppress their own perception of it as being irrelevant or at odds with their worldview. The comparison (btw Written Jp and Written Mand) is obvious to me. I don't have the training to back it up with psycho-statistical analysis, so I'll have to leave such challenges unanswered for now.

However I am also convinced that there would be a distinct benefit for native-speakers, too. Just recently, I read about a study on how the familiarity with the visual form of a written word has a significant impact on the reading speed

Standardization and speed are both great, I agree. But now we're talking about speed for a politically disadvantaged written language that most speakers consider to be invalid?

I will point out also that U don't hear French people or Ibero-Americans or Malays or Vietnamese talk about speed all the time. Yet the Germans and the Chinese are both obsessed with it, and Anglos to some degree.

a unified script would most likely lead to texts being easier and quicker to read for native-speakers/-readers because the visual forms of words would always be the same.

A unified script would be great. In my mind, unification is a priority. But aesthetics and aesthetic autonomy should be priorities too. To (subconsciously and unintentionally) base a script on the aesthetics of Written Mandarin and then constantly shove it down everybody's throats saying, "It's not perfect, but we all have to do it this way, so we can all be the same", is not acceptable to me. And incidentally it is a mindset (unification for the sake of unification) that pervades East Asia.

On the other hand, I agree with you that the MoE characters are not exactly ideal from the linguistic point of view due to too many, and often unjustifiable borrowings from Mandarin

8)

Of course I prefer using 本字 if they are available. But if they are not, I think that the danger of 借字 being mistaken for 本字 is not really that problematic in practice because it would have little impact on people’s ability to write Hokkien.

With this I must agree.

For the record, personally I don't JUST privilege 本字. I privilege 本字, 俗字, and 訓用字 based on "Classic" Literary Chinese.

While I don’t see kana as the ideal solution, I also agree with amhoanna that the integration of entirely phonetic elements is also necessary.

8)

Therefore, I still think a Hangeul-type solution would be easier to adapt and to learn, although of course, standard Hangeul would have to be modified as well, to fit Hokkien phonology. The more practical problem though, is of course

I would advocate a 3-in-1 system of kanji + hiragana + hangeul, but kanji + hiragana has proven to be much more acceptable to my friends, in practice. Written Japanese is a 3-in-1 system of kanji + hiragana + katakana; the difference is that our eyes are accustomed to kanji+hira+katakana and no longer see them as anything but a whole.

I've been writing with kanji+hiragana for a while now. Many people have responded positively, inc. to tell me "Thank God U got rid of the hangeul". Hoklo speakers are much more likely to know hiragana than hangeul, and even those who don't know hiragana tend to have wanted to learn them at some pt. Even those who have no interest in hiragana are often happy to read just the kanji and try to understand the entirety of what I write. Kanji+hiragana is much less functionally capable than kanji+hiragana+hangeul, but people find it much, much more acceptable.

For the record, there are also a few hangeul-for-Hoklo types out there who've told me to just drop the kana and use kanji+hangeul. These people are rare indeed. W/o Internet 2.0, I would've never even come into contact with them. Thank the gods for the internet. Personally I find hangeul (or katakana) to be much less aesthetically pleasing than hiragana IN THE CONTEXT OF KANJI.

amhoanna
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Re: Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Postby amhoanna » Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:48 am

I have been leaving them as squares for the time being rather than using the Mandarin ones like 揣 for chhōe get on my nerves.

Cán, cán.

I've been using "尋" for chōe. This usage was apparently somewhat popular in the 20th century. I like the visual aspect of the kanji too, shading one's eyes with one hand while searching for something.

I can't work out why people are so desperate to standardise everything and have no deviation.

An East Asian obsession.

I like the way Ah-Beng and Ah-Hwa speak, and I model myself on them as much as possible. If they can get everything they want to say across in something that others consider "uncultivated" then I don't mind doing it either. It sounds more real to me than a news report or textbook piece from Taiwan or China.

Exactly! What is cultivation anyway? And why value it over authenticity?

Given the choice, I would prefer the eighteenth and nineteenth century Vietnamese Nôm approach of inventing characters with meaning and sound components combined in a single square. With less than a hundred or so extra characters built on the Nôm principle, and the gaps can be filled.

Just 100? That would probably cover the most common usages... And then less common usages -- less common action verbs, etc. -- could be taken care of using a phonetic companion script...?

I respect the Nom approach b/c

1. It's autonomous. At least it doesn't lend itself to dependence on other languages.
2. It's systematic.
3. It's intuitive for adult learners who speak the language.
4. It's highly kanji-compatible.

However, I am still kind of against the Nom approach overall b/c

1. It creates "busy" characters and, in turn, a busy written form.
2. Ease of use is reduced when writing (not typing).
3. It often results in "busy" characters for the "simplest" words or syllables in speech.
4. Perhaps most importantly, it places the language that's being written at the periphery, privileging the old written koine over the modern spoken vernacular. Kanji such as 一 or 人 or 田 -- cornerstones of the entire system, and unspeakably elegant -- are reserved for literary, bookish usages ... while cornerstone utterances of the vernacular such as ONE or MAN or FIELDS are then "relegated" to busy Nom characters which then reappear over and over again in vernacular texts while reinforcing the old idea that the written koine is central and the vernacular is peripheral.

AndrewAndrew
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Re: Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Postby AndrewAndrew » Tue Jul 01, 2014 1:50 am

I think there should be two systems, Hanji and romanisation. Each should be capable of being written independently, but of course people can mix and interchange the two where necessary.

I don't think hiragana is politically suitable or technically suited to Hokkien phonology.

As for Hanji standardisation, Hokkien needs to look obviously Hokkien. Otherwise it gets confusing when I'm reading something and don't know whether to sound it with Hokkien or Mandarin. Quite apart from the etymological issues, it is therefore unhelpful if obviously Mandarin particles such as 的 are used to represent Hokkien (Personally I can't see why 個 can't be used for both 的 and 個).

amhoanna
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Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:43 pm

Re: Medhurst, Si̍p-ngó͘ Im and Chiang-chiu Phonology

Postby amhoanna » Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:05 pm

I think there should be two systems, Hanji and romanisation. Each should be capable of being written independently, but of course people can mix and interchange the two where necessary.

我是加減同意ら、不こ目前㑑純唐人字兮系統益干な卡適合純技術性兮寫作にあ。汝咁八㪯純唐人字兮福建文來寫不但技術性兮物仔、比論一篇三千字兮「檳榔嶼歷史介紹」。

Góa sī kekiám tông'ì--la, m̄ koh bo̍kcêng sûn Tn̂glângjī ê hēthóng iáu kannaⁿ khah sek'ha̍p sûn kisu̍tsèng ê siácok nīⁿāⁿ. Lí kám bat gia̍h sûn Tn̂glângjī ê Hokkiàn bûn lâi siá m̄ nāⁿ kisu̍tsèng ê mi̍hⁿá? Pílūn ci̍t phiⁿ 3000 jī ê "Pinnn̂gsū le̍ksú kàisiāu"?

I don't think hiragana is politically suitable or technically suited to Hokkien phonology.

Yes, certain Hoklophone populations, but Malaysians especially, are averse to some things Japanese... Also, given the Tionghoa-style (using "Tionghoa" very specifically) Manducation of 90+% of all Hoklophones, a solution piggy-backing on Written Mandarin would be easiest to adopt... maybe this is what U mean. I think all this pales in contrast to the prevailing Hoklophone psychology, which is that Hokkien is not meant to be written in general. That's where the political challenge lies.

As for "technical suitability", I covered this in a recent post. Hiragana just happens to be a good match for most of the syllables in Hoklo that lack solid, efficient, elegant kanji solutions. It would not be possible to use it as a comprehensive phonetic script for Hoklo. This is an important distinction.


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