Writing down the spoken language

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
Elizabeth

Writing down the spoken language

Post by Elizabeth » Wed Oct 09, 2002 6:25 am

I'm involved with a Cantonese transcription project, which entails trying to write down the colloquial speech of Cantonese speakers, both in Chinese characters and in Yale romanization.

We are having difficulty determining which characters to use to transcribe very common words, like yi4ga0 ("now") and teng0yat6 (tomorrow), which seem to be strictly spoken expressions. Looking up "now" in the dictionary, for example, only yields the formal, written expression, which doesn't correspond to the spoken form at all. I've been told these spoken forms are written with characters borrowed for their sound rather than their meaning, but ask different people and they choose different characters to represent these sounds!

Can anybody tell me where I can go to in order to find out what is the standard way of writing down these type of expressions? Do they appear in comic books? Magazines?

All help most appreciated,

Elizabeth
James Campbell

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by James Campbell » Wed Oct 09, 2002 6:54 am

Try Cantonese-specific dictionary. Or Cantonese-language textbook.

yiga = 而家
tengyat = 聽日
ngaamngaam (just剛好) = 啱啱

I have a list of dialect dictionaries (50+) on my website. They are all fairly new if you check publication dates. Each of them display the local characters and pronunciations of words.

http://www.glossika.com/en/dict/phon/sources.htm

James Campbell
:-)

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by :-) » Wed Oct 09, 2002 8:39 am

I know the dictionary that is perfect for you!

It's called: "A Practical Cantontese-English Dictionary" by Sidney Lau.

copyright 1977, printed & published by THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER, Hong Kong. #154013-10L-11/87.


"teng-yat/ting-yat/" (tommorow) is character #3061 (listen/hear + sun/day)

"yi-ga" (now) is character #3417 (moreover + house)

"ngaam-ngaam" is character #2310 (be suitable for x 2) - "mouth" radical on the left + "mountain" over "stone" on the right.

:-)
Thomas Chan

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by Thomas Chan » Wed Oct 09, 2002 3:11 pm

Elizabeth wrote:
>
> I'm involved with a Cantonese transcription project, which
> entails trying to write down the colloquial speech of
> Cantonese speakers, both in Chinese characters and in Yale
> romanization.
> We are having difficulty determining which characters to use
> to transcribe very common words, like yi4ga0 ("now") and
> teng0yat6 (tomorrow), which seem to be strictly spoken
> expressions. Looking up "now" in the dictionary, for
> example, only yields the formal, written expression, which
> doesn't correspond to the spoken form at all. I've been told
> these spoken forms are written with characters borrowed for
> their sound rather than their meaning, but ask different
> people and they choose different characters to represent
> these sounds!
> Can anybody tell me where I can go to in order to find out
> what is the standard way of writing down these type of
> expressions? Do they appear in comic books? Magazines?

I would recommend getting a few recent dictionaries (1970s or later),
preferably HK ones, and selecting the written form that most of them
use. That way, you can minimize the idiosyncratic character transcriptions
that you describe (e.g., 比 for bei 'to give', rather that common 俾 or 畀); as
well as minimizing written forms that are just a figment of the dictionary
compiler's imagination (some will make up characters rather than
investigate which ones most people would write), e.g., many of the less
commonly used colloquial words, or particles; or those that are
etymologically correct but not actually used in writing colloquial speech
(e.g., tau 'to rest' is commonly written {口抖}, but {咅攴} is claimed in some
books as the "本字", or ngok 'to raise the head' which is commonly written
咢, but the "本字" is given as {岳頁}).

I mentioned "recent" and "HK", because 1) even in slightly older sources
(including even Sidney Lau's 1977 dictionary, unfortunately), the de
facto "standard" can be different, because in some cases people are still
figuring out what is the best way of writing words (e.g., the perfective
particle jo used to be {口阻}, but is now {口左}; and gau 'lump' used to be
person-radical {人咎}, but is now {口舊}; the order that the two characters
of gaatjaat 'cockroach' were switched as recently as the 70's or 80's--now
the one that looks like 甲 is written first); and 2) because non-HK sources
will bring in the risk of artificiality, since simplified charactes are used, and
writing colloquial speech is not anywhere as much a norm.

Also, keep in mind not to obsess over getting the actual character written--
it is okay if a 口 'mouth' radical or some other radical is omitted as long as
enough of a phonetic remains (e.g., tingyat 'tomorrow' can be 聽日 or {口聽}
日--offhand, I don't know which is more common, perhaps the former; or
局 rather than {火局} for guk 'to bake'), or if you choose a different but
alternative common way of writing a word because that is a character you
are able to type on a computer. For example, ham6baang6laang6 'all' is a
very confused word--not only do people and written sources differ on its
exact pronunciation (number of syllables, vowel "length", tones, etc), but
the three characters used to write it are always different, with no dominant
written form, although they always revolve around the same few phonetic
elements combined with a not so predictable radical, e.g., for the second
syllable, you find 唪, {口棒}, and {口捧}--奉 is the common piece (despite the
[f-] initial). Or take the case of saai 'to waste', which can be written {口徙},
徙, 漇, 扌徙, and 扌晒--but note that 徙 (and possibly also 晒) are the common
phonetic pieces.

In some cases, there simply is no de facto standard for writing certain
words because they are so rare that a consensus hasn't been gathered,
and you are reduced to either inventing new characters (something that
dictionary compilers are forced to resort to sometimes), or just putting in
empty boxes and let the romanized transcription tier provide the word's
identity.


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu
:-)

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by :-) » Wed Oct 09, 2002 8:16 pm

I assumed that because Sidney Lau's dictionary is published by THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER in Hong Kong, therefore, has the endorsement by the Government of Hong Kong. As a government publication, wouldn't you think it would be official even though it needs to be updated which perhaps may already have been since mine was purchased dacades ago?

As for overseas Cantonese speaking communities/markets, the sounds represented in Sidney Lau's dictionary is still valid even though they may have disappeared in the current colloquial Hong Kong Cantonese speech (ie: I=ngoh which in Hong Kong the "ng" is droped from ngoh. You=neih which in Hong Kong sounds like leih...).

Cantonese speaking people from rural Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, & Annam will retain the old phonetic sounds when speaking "standard" Cantonese represented by S. Lau's 1977 dictionary, therefore, if you are serving this particular Cantonese community as opposed to just those from Hong Kong, then Sidney Lau's dictionary will satisfy the current language needs. Even though Hong Kong Cantonese is widely accepted to be the dominant Cantonese language spoken, it still isn't regarded as the standard speech for Cantonese among overseas Cantonese communities where Hong Kong Cantonese is a minority among other Cantonese.

Why not recommend & name a better Cantonese dictionary alternative rather than criticizing the one which satisfy the current needs so we can all benefit from the knowledge.

Criticizing a recommended resource does not really help people if they don't know where to start looking, but recommending a better alternative does help everyone, including me.

Unfortunately, some people get trapped in a certain behavioral thinking pattern...

:-)
Thomas Chan

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by Thomas Chan » Thu Oct 10, 2002 3:16 am

:-) wrote:
>
> I assumed that because Sidney Lau's dictionary is published
> by THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER in Hong Kong, therefore, has the
> endorsement by the Government of Hong Kong. As a government
> publication, wouldn't you think it would be official even
> though it needs to be updated which perhaps may already have
> been since mine was purchased dacades ago?

Paying attention to the qualifications and reputation of who writes and
publishes things is a good habit, but I wouldn't take it to the level of taking
everything a particular writer says as gospel. You'll find that academic
authors and publishers don't necessarily agree with the government, nor
even amongst themselves. That is normal. Given that Cantonese isn't
standardized in spoken or written form, it becomes even more important
to consult multiple resources and make one's own observations.


> As for overseas Cantonese speaking communities/markets, the
> sounds represented in Sidney Lau's dictionary is still valid
> even though they may have disappeared in the current
> colloquial Hong Kong Cantonese speech (ie: I=ngoh which in
> Hong Kong the "ng" is droped from ngoh. You=neih which in
> Hong Kong sounds like leih...).
> Cantonese speaking people from rural Guangdong, Guangxi,
> Hainan, & Annam will retain the old phonetic sounds when
> speaking "standard" Cantonese represented by S. Lau's 1977
> dictionary, therefore, if you are serving this particular
> Cantonese community as opposed to just those from Hong Kong,
> then Sidney Lau's dictionary will satisfy the current
> language needs. Even though Hong Kong Cantonese is widely
> accepted to be the dominant Cantonese language spoken, it
> still isn't regarded as the standard speech for Cantonese
> among overseas Cantonese communities where Hong Kong
> Cantonese is a minority among other Cantonese.

For purposes of writing down colloquial speech, the pronunciation given
in any source doesn't matter. All that matters is what characters are used.

My recommendation for using HK sources for the characters was because
that community produces the most colloquial writing, and thus is a de facto
standard for the characters used. For writing purposes, I don't care what
pronunciations each source promotes.


> Why not recommend & name a better Cantonese dictionary
> alternative rather than criticizing the one which satisfy the
> current needs so we can all benefit from the knowledge.

You've missed my entire point. I'm not singling out Sidney Lau's 1977
dictionary for criticism, nor did I say much about it except mention it briefly in
passing. There is no *single* better dictionary--I recommended getting
several recent dictionaries and comparing them, including even Sidney Lau's
(I said 70's or later).

If I really wanted to criticize Sidney Lau's dictionary, then there are other
issues I would have brought up, such as it being a small resource and is
missing many common colloquial words (and thus, their characters). e.g.,
you cannot find tong1 'to slaughter' in it (written {當刀}). Or I could have
focused on its age, such that it thinks lip1 'elevator/lift' is not written
{車立}.) But it wasn't my goal to criticize it or provide a review of it.


> Criticizing a recommended resource does not really help
> people if they don't know where to start looking, but
> recommending a better alternative does help everyone,
> including me.

Overfocusing on a small comment and taking the discussion off on a tangent
doesn't help.


> Unfortunately, some people get trapped in a certain
> behavioral thinking pattern...

Such as zealously defending their favorite dictionary? :)


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu
:-)

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by :-) » Thu Oct 10, 2002 6:41 am

> You'll find that academic authors and publishers don't necessarily agree with the government, nor even amongst themselves.

The problem is, The Government decides what is official rather than what is academically correct. Standardization is a government function not an academic fuction.

For example, is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Academically, it is a fruit but the government says it's a vegetable. So who's right? The government, because business forms are legal documents and on the forms, tomatoes are "by legal definition" a vegetable even though it's really a fruit.

>you cannot find tong1 'to slaughter' in it (written {當刀}).

How often do you even use the word "slaughter" in English let alone Cantonese? There are words in English that aren't even in the English dictionary.

> Or I could have focused on its age, such that it thinks lip1 'elevator/lift' is not written
{車立}.)

Actually, "lip"1 for "lift" is character #1905 on p.510

> But it wasn't my goal to criticize it or provide a review of it.

Good! Now I can go on with my life freely and live life to it's fullest as if this theatrical moment never ever took place. Flop flop fizz fizz, Oh what a relief it is...

> Such as zealously defending their favorite dictionary? :)

Oh my gosh! I hadn't realized I had a favorite dictionary until now. For now on, I will genuflect to it everytime I open it and splash holy water under my armpits everytime I see a hidden message.

Actually, I have a problem with people who systematically discredit other people's resources while rarely ever providing alternative resources/solutions. These are the people who will tell The Little Trian that Could: "Nah, that'll never work." It's an attitude that negates: "Nothing Ventured...Nothing Gained..."

:-(
Kobo-Daishi

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by Kobo-Daishi » Thu Oct 10, 2002 11:19 am

Dear all,

I couldn’t find either of those 2 characters (當刀) ‘slaughter’ or (車立) ‘lift, elevator’ using the search input feature at the chinalanguage on-line dictionary.

But they do have the characters at the following web pages:

http://www.chinalanguage.com/cgi-bin/vi ... in,english

http://www.chinalanguage.com/cgi-bin/vi ... in,english

The only time I use the word “slaughter or butcher” is when we talk about slaughtering a chicken, pig or cow, usually for a special event. But, some people who prefer freshly butchered meats will go to Chinese butchers and would use the word. Of course in my dialect of Taishanese we pronounce it “hohng”. This is one of those characters with a t- initial sound in Cantonese and Mandarin that has an h- initial sound in Taishanese.

Since they don’t have this character in Mandarin, I guess the Mandarin reading is an artificial reading.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.
Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Government printer

Post by Helmut » Thu Oct 10, 2002 9:23 pm

:-) wrote:
>
> I assumed that because Sidney Lau's dictionary is published
> by THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER in Hong Kong, therefore, has the
> endorsement by the Government of Hong Kong.

No. I think, conventional wisdom is that no HK government ever bothered to do such a thing. If you have any evidence to the contrary, I would be interested to know.

According to the introduction chapters of his books, Sidney Lau was employed by the colonial HK government to teach Cantonese to British civil servants. Writing his books can be considered part of that job, so they have been published by a government agency. It does not mean that the government wanted to make anything an official rule. If it were so, I would expect that to be written explicitely in Lau's books.

Btw. S.Lau also introduced his own romanisation in his books, all published by the Government Printer. 30 years later, the HK government itself still ignores that and uses its own age old way of romanising place names. It was meant for teaching, not to be something official.
James Campbell

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by James Campbell » Fri Oct 11, 2002 2:49 am

I don't think people need to respond to this :) "flip flop" character since it's not willing to at least leave a name. In such a case it is easy to ignore this kind of 不要臉 person.

My dialect dictionaries leave a lot of boxes for words lacking characters. However, if a character has been assigned to a word that has its phonology proven by linguistic sources, then these dictionaries will print the character. Since these are linguists writing these dictionaries, not just lexicographers with an interest in publishing their created characters, I take them seriously.

My Guangzhou dictionary has the t'ong character as described above {當刂} (t'ɔŋ).

It lists sai3 as 晒. Funny, this is the simplified character for the one we use in Taiwan: 曬. I didn't know HK was using some simplified characters.

I couldn't find a 'guk' entry in the dictionary. Since it's in IPA, it would be under 'kuk'. But I also notice that it would be paired with 'kung' and it doesn't have that either. Wait a minute, maybe it's 'kok'. I take it back, there is a 局 under 'kok'. And it does indeed have {火局} with the following entries (how many of these do you people know and use?):

{火局} :1. 房間冇開窗,好~. ~到死. 2. {火局}飯, {火局}鵪鶉, {火局}茶, {火局}熟�. 3. {火局}魚, {火局}番薯, {火局}麵包, 鹽{火局}鷄
{火局}署
{火局}雨
{火局}爐
{火局}親
{火局}汗
{火局}傷風
{火局}盅
{火局}腳

And 'ngɔk' to raise the head, is listed as {岳頁}. They give linguistic reasoning for the use of this character as follows:
廣韵覺韵五角切:"說文云面前岳岳也"

{咅攴} is given as the character for 't'ɐu'. The following linguistic reasoning is provided:
集韵厚韵他口切:"展也"
Sample sentence: 等我{咅攴}下先.

James
:-)

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by :-) » Fri Oct 11, 2002 7:06 am

I've got an idea, let's start a "why I don't like Sidney Lau fan club"...Better yet, how about a dedicated website why we should ignore :-)

As for you Mr. Cambell, why do I need to leave a name when I was just making effort to help people? I'm actually very offended by you, of all people, to have me black-listed. At least, I have no secret agenda to trick people to visit my website in order to garner company name/brand recognition (ie Gl....ka) as a cheap cost-efficient marketing strategy. When I help people, I'm not begging for praise or compensation so what difference does it make what my identity is? I have no intention on meeting people especially those who show public display of judgement on others, so why is my name an issue? Do you know how many thousands of James Campbell's there are in this world? By you using your real name is just a insignifacant as me using a symbol. As for "character", aren't you just as much a character as anyone else? Your name tells me nothing about you except that you were not born from the Chinese cuture. Would it be better if I sign off as "annonymous". I like :-) because it conveys an emotion whereas a name or even a first name doesn't :-(

It amazes me how people are threatened by nameless personalities (especially those with personalities) whose best interest was in helping others. Unfortunately, I'm a personality that every superficial person wants to meet in person (and I'm tired of it). I'm a person that values my privacy and I only let a few very select group of people of special qualities know me as a real person, therefore, it is not necessary for the mass to know my name. Mr. Campbell, if you were a celebrety pianist, you would understand that, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Just because you know the Chinese language better than many people doesn't make you an expert on the thought process behind Chinese communication which within the subculture are masters at communicating through symbols :-), metaphors :-@, & sarcasm ;-). As far as attacking me as a "Flip Flop" character, there is no evidence anywhere of me being characteristicly inconsistant, so it's not fair for you to defame me. That only makes you look bad.

If you are offended by my sarcastic metaphors which weren't originally directed at you, well that just shows that you lack a sense of humor and are very lucky to have found a partner who can tolerate this character flaw.

As for you Mr. Hemut, thanks for enlightening me. It has been decades since I've been in Hong Kong so I don't know what the current situation is like over there. I was merely recommending a tangible & namable resource for someone in need and if people don't like it then that is not my problem but it's better than starting from nothing. Just having a list of available dictionaries in front of your eyes via a website is not much of a help if you can't tangibly open each one and compare them. By the way, are you familiar with Herbert Gronnemeyer?

Well, I've learned a very valuable lesson today. Everytime I have an itch to help people, which is one of my character flaws, I really ought to do a risk analysis first. Obviously, it looks like I make more enemies than friends when I help people. Oh well, it's a curse I have to live with...

:-)


---------------------
Hey Kobo Daishi,

How do you manage to find me everywhere I go on the internet? I'm beginning to feel like I'm being stalked by you! Enjoy your Halloween, I mean, be careful of them "tricks".

Your friend,

;-)
James Campbell

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by James Campbell » Fri Oct 11, 2002 2:24 pm

Well, obviously you don't want to be ignored, so I respond:

A name alone does not indicate background as family relations can be complicated. There are people in my family with full western name who are 100% Chinese, and others who are half. Furthermore, this does not necessarily mean this name is my real name. Whether I choose Tom, Bill, Jeff, or whatever, it is still one of thousands of common names.

Are you one of those bloody "loser ABCs" that I hear so much about?

My website does not need marketing, I'm just letting interested linguists know of the resource available. Since it is a new resource, very few people know about it yet. This is a common occurrence. As for the company where I'm employed, they have their own marketing and I'm not involved with that.

Being a celebrity pianist requires a very special ability. Anybody can be trained on the piano to play anything but it doesn't mean they will become a celebrity pianist. I am one of those who was trained and can play even a Rachmaninoff Concerto in full, among others, but this does not mean that I can be a celebrity pianist, I know my own limits. Some of my former classmates and friends such as Gergely Boganyi have become celebrities. Acting or performing is not a problem for me, infact those who know me well know I'm far from a serious character.

Ok, sure go ahead and attack me some more, you must have lots to say now. "Flop Flop fizz fizz Oh what a relief it is". Hope you're having fun?

James
:-)

I think I'm going to cry :.(

Post by :-) » Fri Oct 11, 2002 8:28 pm

James, if that is how you ignore people then I'm not very impressed. You're going to have to try a lot harder than that. Otherwise, I'll have to politely ask you to Talk to the Hand.

First you say:

> I don't think people need to respond to this :) "flip flop" character since it's not willing to at least leave a name. In such a case it is easy to ignore this kind of 不要臉 person.

And then you say:

> Furthermore, this does not necessarily mean this name is my real name. Whether I choose Tom, Bill, Jeff, or whatever, it is still one of thousands of common names.

"not willing to at least leave a name"... It seems like you've just justified why it's not neccessary to "leaveing a name" in your second arguement. Thanks for enlightening me or is it the other way around? Hmmmm.... I have to think about that one, in this case....who enlightened whom... or is it whom englightened who?

> Are you one of those bloody "loser ABCs" that I hear so much about?

Obviously, I've must have struck a chord with you, no pun intended, but when you initiate a political statement against other people, don't be surpised if they get offended and respond to the big man on campus.

Tell me what have you've heard about "loser ABC's" so I can be enlightened by your graciousness and expertise on this subject.

Are they the kind of ABC's who stand up to protect their honor or are they the kind to stay silent and let white people step all over them?

>Ok, sure go ahead and attack me some more, you must have lots to say now. "Flop Flop fizz fizz Oh what a relief it is". Hope you're having fun?

I admire people who beg to be publically humiliated, but it's not one of my fetishes. Actually, I've already stated my political position against those who disrespected me and you're really not much of a challenge. Perhaps you should switch to Preparation H, instead.


---------------
If, I said: "if", you got me confused with "Sum Won", then you've made a public "ass" out of yourself. But that is something we all have to live with. It brings new meaning to the word "diversity" or at least in America, many of us "bloody loser ABC's" live in a "diverse city". "Bloody"...hmmm that sounds like a violent word to me.

I'm actually surprised "Sum Won" disappeard when I arrived on this BB. He obviously recognized my writing style & politics from other Bullitin Boards within the first week of my arrival on this BB. He's an excellent candidate to exercise ancient military stratigies on. A duel with him would be really fun and quite entertaining. At least, he never showed public disrespect towards me dispite our political differences. By the way "Sum Won", one of your ISP address reveals that you are in Los Angeles. How's the weather down there?

:-)
James Campbell

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by James Campbell » Sat Oct 12, 2002 5:49 am

Дорогой Флипфлоп,

我不想對牛彈琴。

Я полагаю, что ты имеешь большое недоразумение. И никто не хочет обонять твою воняющую руку. Ты пишешь таким вводящим в заблуждение способом, это лучше только, чтобы ответить на иностранном языке. Я никогда не говорю о политике. Если ты хочешь говорить о политике, тогда говорить с твоей рукой. Это - ты, что Китайский зовут жопа "ABC". Если ты не понимаешь который я являюсь что касается, тогда пожалуйста спраши твоего Китайских товарищ. Если ты - не осторожен, тогда Китайский воспользуется тобой. Это истинно. Иди и готови твой собственный "H" и сосешь твою руку в восхищении.

Если ты действительно хочешь начать политическое обсуждение, тогда я не думаю, что это - соответствующее место. Кроме того, ты должен иметь так много мест, где ты обсуждаешь такие вещи, но ты должен понять, что не все желают обсудить такие вопросы с тобой. Кроме того, когда ты сначала начал писать здесь, именно мое мнение мы чувствовали, что ваши комментарии - все весьма грубые. Это - точно причина, почему мы начали нападать на тебя. Я не оскорблен, оскорбленный - только ты.

Только лучшее для каждого, что ты оставляешь это обсуждение. Спасибо.

Яшка
:-)

Re: Writing down the spoken language

Post by :-) » Sat Oct 12, 2002 6:14 am

Nar de hua!

:-)
Locked