Re: writing Chinese dialects

From: Arne Götje (高盛華) (
Date: Fri Jan 26 2007 - 10:03:18 CST

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    > Is the use of 食 and 吃 in Minnan based one any of the above
    > mechanisms is it like writing "I could 吃 a 马" (I could eat a horse)
    > where the charcter is used is used solely for it's meaning -- what
    > one might call an ideographic loan.

    In Minnan the character 吃 has two meanings. 1. it is indeed an
    ideographic loan from Mandarin and has the same meaning like in
    Mandarin... this is due to the fact that people are lazy or didn't know
    that the original character for "eat" is 食. Many people indeed think
    that 吃 is the correct character for "eat" when it is actually not. Lack
    of education I would say... 2. the pronunciation of 吃 is kih8 and is
    the sound when someone is laughing.
    The dictionary lists both usages but notes that 食 is the correct
    character for "eat" and that it should be preferred.

    This is not the only case, where Mandarin characters got embedded into
    Minnan, because due to Big5 encoding, there was no room for the
    original Minnan characters to be encoded (and it was probably
    politically not wanted). So, most people where not able to use them on
    their computers and they just used the Mandarin characters which have
    the same meaning. We can still see this on TV here and then. Nowadays
    we have a total mess of different publications using different
    characters for the same words. We can group them into the following
    1. Original characters: they use Unicode and publish with the original
    Minnan characters. These publications are usually written and read by
    higher educated people.
    2. Borrowed characters from Mandarin which have the same meaning and
    just got branded with a new "sound". This is due to Big5 and the lack
    of typing the original characters. Unfortunately most people don't know
    this issue and take these characters as "correct" characters.
    3. Phonetical similar Mandarin characters. This is the ugliest of all
    variants and usually found in schoolbooks. :( Here the authors didn't
    care about the original characters for Minnan and just use Mandarin
    characters which sound similar like the Minnan pronunciation they want
    to display. Here the meaning of the characters makes absolutely no
    sense, they are purely used as pronunciation aid. Their idea is, that
    Minnan is primarily a spoken, not a written language and therefor they
    don't need to care about characters.
    4. POJ enthusiasts, who detest the Han characters and claim that the POJ
    romanization using Latin script is the "true Taiwanese"... (no comment
    from my side to that claim... it's just not worth discussing).


    Arne Götje (高盛華) <>
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