RE: Peking/Beijing (Re: Burma/Myanmar)

Date: Thu Oct 07 1999 - 15:27:05 EDT

I love when anybody else is going off topic, so I can do it as well!

In linguistics, a "dialect" is in fact a "language". When linguists call
"dialect" a language they just mean that this language is being considered
as a member of a language group. So it makes perfectly sense to call Chinese
languages "the Chinese dialects" ("Chinese", here, is the name of a language
group). It also makes sense to say that Castillian, or Italian, are "Latin
dialects" or, better, "Romance dialects" (but it is not correct to say that
English is a Latin dialect: English has always been a Germanic dialect).

This meaning of "dialect" should not be confused with the every-day
derogatory meaning, that linguist Max Weinrich defined as "a language not
supported by an army and a navy".

"Jehol", with that final L, doesn't look like Wade-Giles. The Wade-Giles for
Rehe would be Je-ho or Jŕ-ho (pinyin "r-" sound pretty like a French "j").
There are many old romanization systems that look similar to W.G., but are
not the same thing.

The "k" in Peking is not so strange as it may seem. The sounds that are
spelled j, q and x in pinyin (and ch, ch', hs in Wade-Giles), in some parts
of the Mandarin-speaking area are still pronunced [k], [k`] and [x], in some
words, and [ts], [ts`] and [s] in other words. But in the last century, for
most Mandarin speakers, the two sound series converged to [tš], [tš`] and
[š], hence the pinyin spellings j, q, x that are probably a sort of
compromise. By the way, Mandarin braille (that I learned thanks to Jim
Agenbroad) has letters for initials and finals of syllables, like bopomofo.
Well, the same symbols that are used for the g, k, and h initials are also
used for j, q, and x!

However, I would say that anybody should be free to use whaterver name they
want for whaterver place on the Planet. The Burma/Myanmar case should have
taught that it is not the case of being too much fastidious about names as,
sometimes, names that look completely different turn out to be the same
thing. This is very evident in Ireland: most towns have an Irish and an
English name; the two names normally look very different (the Irish being
sometimes twice the length) but, a part a few cases, have exctly the same

The good news is that whatever name one uses for a town, whatever the
alphabet used to spell it, (s)he will soon be able to write it on any
computer, with Unicode« :-)

Regards. Marco

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Edward Cherlin []
> Sent: 1999 October 07, Thursday 20.06
> To: Unicode List
> Subject: Peking/Beijing (Re: Burma/Myanmar)
> At 05:59 -0700 10/7/1999, Akerbeltz Alba wrote:
> >Micheal Everson sÚh:
> >
> > >For the last two, I think there's nothing wrong with us updating to
> more
> > >correct pronunciations than those cogged together by civil servants of
> the
> > >British Empire. Pinyin is _convenient_, and why not use it for all
> > >placenames in China?
> >
> >Hmph, because Mandarin is a foreign language to anybody south of the
> >Yellow river. Admittedly "Hong Kong" is a VERY crude representation
> >of "Heung Gˇhng", but in any case preferred to "Xiang Gang".
> >Admittedly, few of the place-names actually ARE in the local
> >languages, but the few there are survive only in foreign languages
> >these days, such as Fukien/Hokkien, Hong Kong, Kwangchou, Kwangsai
> >etc.
> >On a personal note I always found it hilarious that the capital,
> >deep in Mandarin speaking territory, should have a phonetic
> >representation of I'm-not-sure-what but definitely NOT Mandarin with
> >the final -k and/or inital k- in PEKING; could be Cantonese Pak Ging
> >; )
> >
> The spelling "Peking" in the Wade-Giles Romanization represents the
> same pronunciation in the same dialect as "Beijing" in Pinyin. They
> had some funny ideas about phonology back in the 19th century. The
> funniest example is
> Wade-Giles Jehol
> Pinyin Rehe
> also the same pronunciation in the same dialect.
> I also find it funny that the Beijing "dialect" is called Mandarin,
> which is not Chinese. It is derived from a Hindi word brought in and
> applied by the British.
> And of course, that several of the various languages of China are
> called "dialects", which is like calling English and Castilian
> (Spanish to the hoi polloi) "dialects" of Latin, or calling Catalan
> and Portuguese "dialects' of Castilian.
> --
> Edward Cherlin
> "It isn't what you don't know that hurts you, it's
> what you know that ain't so."--Mark Twain, or else
> some other prominent 19th century humorist and wit

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