RE: writing Chinese dialects

From: Michael Maxwell (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2007 - 11:41:42 CST

  • Next message: John H. Jenkins: "Re: writing Chinese dialects"

    William J Poser wrote:
    > > In writing Cantonese the basic principle is that if the morpheme is
    > > cognate to its Mandarin counterpart it will be written with
    > > the same character but if it is not cognate a distinct character
    > > will be used.
    > > For example, the 1st person pronouns Cantonese ngo,
    > > Mandarin wo, and the 2nd person pronouns, Cantonese le,
    > > Mandarin ni, are cognate and
    > > are written with the same characters, but the third person
    > > pronouns, Cantonese keoi, mandarin ta, are not cognate so
    > > keoi is written with a "non-standard" character (U+4F62).

    Is this something that is taught to Cantonese speakers in schools? I can't imagine the average person on the street knowing which of these words are cognate.

    John H. Jenkins:
    > Exactly, which is why there are relatively few
    > Cantonese-specific sinograms. Almost everything in the
    > Cantonese lexicon is cognate with Mandarin words.

    I was just talking with a Chinese speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin (parents were Cantonese, baby sitter was Mandarin). He was saying that for some small number of Cantonese words, one used a character for a Mandarin word that sounded something like the Cantonese word, preceded by a radical meaning "mouth". He said there were several variants on this idea--extra strokes, or another radical. Apparently it's not common, but "everybody" knows the words for which this is done. Comments? (And in Unicode, is this done with a separate Unicode character for the 'mouth' radical, or is there a combined Cantonese character? Or is there any way to do it?)

    (Apologies if this is getting too far off the topic for this list--I'd be glad to take it off-line, if people want us to do so.)

       Mike Maxwell
       CASL/ U Md

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From:
    > [] On Behalf Of
    > Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 12:23 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: writing Chinese dialects
    > On Jan 24, 2007, at 11:14 PM, wrote:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Jan 25 2007 - 11:44:27 CST