Guide A Dictionary of Chinese Characters: Accessed by Phonetics

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During the winter of 1 was reading a detective story written in Cantonese and serialized in the Blue Cover Mystery magazine, but I noticed that two other such stories, the jokes, cartoons, readers' letters, news stories, etc. City Magazine mixes English text in with the standard Chinese text of its feature articles, but readers' letters to the editor may be written in either standard Chinese or Cantonese cf. Cheung Yatshing "The most conspicuous group advocating the institutionalization of the written Mixed-code is the City Magazine. Their language is very colloquial, blending together Cantonese with English; their views on culture: "anything goes.

Most articles published in The Affairs Weekly are written in standard Chinese, although Cantonese lexical items appear in cartoons, some advertisements, and some articles about movie stars and singers and the latest fashions in clothes.

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I examined one gungfu comic book and found that it was written almost entirely in standard Chinese: but with no apparent. Predicting the use of written Cantonese. In my research on written Cantonese I have been trying to come up with generalizations for predicting the use of written Cantonese in Hong Kong newspapers and magazines. My hypotheses accounting for the use of written Cantonese are still being worked out, so the generalizations presented here are preliminary and tentative.

Further, for limitations of space, only short extracts of texts are used for illustration and are meant to be suggestive only. As a starting point, I have found it is useful to recognize two basic kinds of material which can occur in a text: 1 quoted speech which is overtly marked as such with quotation marks, and 2 narration or description which constitutes the remainder of the material in the text and is not quoted speech. Both kinds of texts, one with narration and quoted speech or one with just narration, may be written entirely in standard Chinese, or entirely in Cantonese, or in a mixture of both which is classified as written Cantonese.

A text which contains both quoted speech and narration may have the narration in standard Chinese and the quoted speech in Cantonese but not the reverse:. The use of Cantonese lexical items in the quoted speech is not predictable from the standard Chinese narration. However, the following situation may be so: If a text which contains both quoted speech and narration includes Cantonese lexical items in the narration, then it is usually the case that the quoted speech will be written in Cantonese as shown by the text below note use of D in narration which marks it as written Cantonese :.

The Hong Kong community's attitudes toward language varieties. Although Hong Kong has not had an organization formally assigned the job of monitoring or directing the development of Cantonese speech, nevertheless, Chinese and Western scholars have maintained a strong tradition of Cantonese scholarship over the decades with a steady stream of well- written and accurate studies of the lexicon, grammar, and phonology of Cantonese.

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Dictionaries and pronunciation guides to the Chinese characters reflect the community's lively interest in the development and maintenance of the standard form. In Hong Kong classrooms the practice of reading Chinese texts with the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters has perpetuated such knowledge among educated Cantonese-speakers; in this area, Hong Kong stands in sharp contrast to other regional dialect communities in the major cities of Taiwan and China where the speakers particularly the younger ones of Wu, Hakka, and Min have typically lost this skill if they have been educated in the national language.

While the Hong Kong community recognizes a phonological and lexical standard of spoken Cantonese, at the same time, however, its attitudes toward written Cantonese and Putonghua seem both paradoxical and ambivalent. On the one hand, many Hong Kong Cantonese-speakers openly acknowledge that Putonghua has higher prestige than Cantonese whose regional status they readily recognize. But on the other hand, they are still proud of being Hong Kong Cantonese-speakers.

In my sociolinguistic fieldwork in Hong Kong I have found that almost every Cantonese-speaker I talked to said that the Cantonese he or she spoke was standard Cantonese, and that Hong Kong Cantonese regarded by most speakers as practically the same as Guangzhou Cantonese, the original home of the standard is the superior or prestigious variety in relation to other Yue dialects. I remember. After the woman from Toishan has spoken to me, I had to confess to my Hong Kong friends that I could not understand her very heavily Toishan-accented Cantonese. They all readily admitted they also had trouble understanding her and mimicked her lateral fricative, a prominent phonological feature of Toishan speech, by sticking out their tongues and blowing.

The attitudes of the Hong Kong community toward spoken and written Cantonese reflect the distinctions people around the world make between "languages" and "dialects" : a language is a prestigious speech variety which is used in formal writing, but the same is not true for a dialect Hudson Some Cantonese-speakers believe that Cantonese speech cannot be written down.

A few years ago as part of a Cantonese-sociolinguistics research project I was conducting in Hong Kong, I asked subjects to read aloud a story which had been written out in colloquial Cantonese with Cantonese characters used to represent Cantonese morphemes; most of the subjects performed this task without hesitation, but a few were amazed by this story and, with great serousness, informed me that Cantonese was not a written language.

Cantonese not only does not have an officially-recognized written counterpart, but no formally-organized effort has been made by the community to develop and maintain a standard written form of it. Further, up to the present time linguists in Hong Kong have not regarded written Cantonese as a serious language phenomenon that merits systematic analysis.

To a linguist, however, this is especially interesting, because it means that written Cantonese is quite simply developing naturally in the hands of ordinary people — that is, normally. Hudson has aptly described this: " Ho Kin Cheung, felt uneasy over the increasing use of written Cantonese: "There is a growing trend for popular Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong to use colloquial Cantonese slang in news reports, there is a slight worry over the loss of beauty in the more refined Chinese language [i.

Ho said this is obviously becoming a trend in local newspapers.

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My impression is that most educated Chinese disapprove of written Cantonese to some degree. It is not the written language they learned at school, so there is something improper about it. I once told a Chinese neighbor in Hong Kong that I liked to read mystery stories written in Cantonese, and his response was to scoff at such material and to call it "low-class" Chinese. But I regarded these stories as the most interesting textbooks I had for both the spoken and written forms of Cantonese.

In summary, the attitudes of the Hong Kong community toward written Cantonese can be termed ambivalent: overt disapproval of written Cantonese is offset by covert tolerance and even acceptance, since one finds it occurring in so many different places and with such a high frequency in relation to standard Chinese. Although educated people denigrate written Cantonese, it still flourishes in the community: there are people who are writing it because they know they have an audience who wants to read it.

Further, no one is yet trying to stamp it out. Finally, with regard to Putonghua, it is not surprising that Cantonese-speakers in Hong Kong recognize that only knowing how to speak Cantonese but not Putonghua creates a language barrier for them when traveling in Putonghua-speaking areas of China and Taiwan or when doing business with Putonghua-speakers.

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As a result, many Cantonese-speakers have been learning to speak Putonghua. Here again, a first-hand observation can make this development especially vivid: In response to the premium the job-market has placed on tri-lingual workers, a Chinese neighbor with fluency in both Cantonese and English quit her job as a secretary in order to move to Taiwan for six months for the sole purpose of studying Mandarin at one of the centers in Taipei.

Even though competence in Putonghua brings practical benefits to Hong Kong Cantonese-speakers, the language also stirs within some of them ambivalent feelings: with the return of Hong Kong to Beijing's control less than ten years down the road, some people have come to associate Putonghua with the uncertainties of what life will be like in Hong Kong after it comes under communist administration in Socially-relevant utility of written Cantonese. Does written Cantonese have any socially-relevant utility? If it does, would this be sufficient reason for the community to standardize its orthographic conventions and promote its use in the classroom and elsewhere as the official written counterpart of standard spoken Cantonese?

In Hong Kong the spoken and written forms of English, Cantonese, and Putonghua come together to create a complex language-contact situation. English is the language of government and international business; Cantonese is the language used among compatriots, friends, and family members. In many schools teachers attempt to teach in English since it is supposed to be. English is perceived by the Chinese population as the means for getting a good job. Chinese parents want upward-mobility for their children, and they see an education in English as the means for achieving this goal.

So, even though they have the option of sending their children to a Chinese-language school, they prefer the schools which use English as the language of instruction. When these children reach middle school, they are ill-prepared to learn mathematics or biology or anything else from lectures and books in English. Educational authorities have expressed the fear that this mismatch has been turning students off their educations with the result that schools matriculate young people who speak English poorly and write it and standard Chinese badly.

Furthermore, some educators see the use of English as having a detrimental impact on Chinese: viz. The response of many educational "pressure" or lobbying groups concerned with these problems has been to advocate mother-tongue education, Le. They probably intend that the teacher will teach her class in Cantonese but she and the students will use textbooks written in standard Chinese, and this is already being done to some extent.

However, a problem that exists but is generally ignored is the impact on learning caused by the primarily lexical gap between standard written Chinese and spoken Cantonese. While it is not as great as that between Chinese and English, yet nothing is known about how it affects learning. One of the international claims for mother-tongue education is that it allows children to learn to read and write the way they speak. One of the advantages of teaching Cantonese as a written language would be that children in the early grades would learn to read and write the way they speak.

Written Cantonese could serve as a stepping stone to learning to read and write standard Chinese in the higher grades. Written Cantonese as Hong Kong's official language.

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One salient but not surprising characteristic of written Cantonese is the inconsistency in the use of symbols used in its representation. Variant graphs allographs for the same morpheme point up the lack of a standard. In view of the fact that written Cantonese is used so extensively in the community, why not acknowledge it by formally agreeing on a standard for of it? What would it take for Hong Kong Cantonese to acquire a standardized written. When viewed in a broader context, the development of a standardized form of the written language is seen as just one step in the general process of elevating the language to the level of a prestigious standard.

What would it take for Cantonese to become Hong Kong's official, standard language?

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In spite of this belated action, however, the government follows its familiar laissez faire policy of indifference to language matters. While the government claims to be promoting the use of Chinese in its dealings with the Chinese-speaking population, it nonetheless has rejected the establishment of a "Chinese language foundation" whose purpose according to its supporters would be to raise the standard of the Chinese language in Hong Kong "Another 'no' to [Chinese] language foundation", South China Morning Post, March 26, , page 4.

When one plots the current status of Hong Kong Cantonese against these four stages, one sees that Cantonese has informally reached at least two of them 2 and 4. What has been lacking is the formal "selection" by the government of Cantonese as Hong Kong's official, standard language.

This step requires the appropriate political, i. It now appears that Hong Kong will be moving in this direciton in the last few years that remain before it formally becomes a Special Administration Region of China. If Cantonese were made Hong Kong's official, standard language, the development would be one concrete reflection of the Hong Kong Government's democratization.

The future of Hong Kong Cantonese. How will the change in political status of Hong Kong in influence spoken and written Cantonese after that time? What linguistic plans do the Chinese authorities have in store for Hong Kong? For their part, what linguistic changes do the people of Hong Kong foresee in their future?