Non-English Orthography Reform

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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by jlamonta » Thu 21 Jul 2016, 14:44

Sumelic wrote: - The literature I've seen suggests that French word-final clusters are complicated to syllabify (example: http://www.cog.brown.edu:16080/People/d ... eJCatL.pdf). In terms of permissible consonant clusters, they pattern like onsets. One the other hand, they do affect the quality of preceding vowels and count as codas for the "loi de position."
- [wa] and [ɥi]] can be analyzed as diphthongs (I've read that one reason to do so is in fact that they can occur after plosive + liquid clusters; ordinarily, semivowels are not allowed in this position in French)
- I'm pretty sure they are only classifying languages based on phonemic clusters, not phonetic clusters that arise due to vowel reduction. This is common: we don't say English has /dn/ as a possible onset cluster even though some people might pronounce "deny" as [dnaɪ].
- Definitely difficult to syllabify -- the patterning like onsets part is what I mean by having a coda-onset profile. You can have it look like both in the same coda (ex. /rbr/ is coda+onset), though agreed it can be solely onset as well (ex. /pr/), like it can be solely coda (ex. /rb/). Coda-onset reflect the 'maximal' complexity that occurs (and fairly commonly).
- Agreed that they're diphthongs (that's what I called them too!), but that does seem like an added level of complexity (just like a diphthong having an off-glide being followed by a coda -- especially a complex one -- seems like it could be more complex than simply having a [short] monophthong in that position).
- I wouldn't expect them to go to the level of reduced pronunciations, especially as reduced as my example, but it is an example of added syllable structure complexity in the input children receive. (Just like I didn't assume getting into linking and resyllabification, though they're potentially even more relevant!)

The goal was to raise points of "how did they and should we evaluate syllable structure complexity?" since the article didn't specify what they did (at least based on a very quick read-through). Having syllable structure complexity only be binary seems particularly surprising, but it looks like they were really just saying "Romance" vs. "Germanic" as the main goal, without necessarily specifying actually syllable structure motivations of the given languages. They noted a tendency towards CV in Romance, to paraphrase, but no specifics of how well that did apply to Romance or did/didn't apply to the others. I partly wanted to see how how well their classification matched what people thought for other languages as well, since I'm not familiar enough with all of them!
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Mon 12 Sep 2016, 13:51

I was researching logographies and comparing different methods. One trait that distinguishes Hanzi from Hieroglyphics and Cuneiform is that the latter used separate determinatives to distinguish phonemes whereas the former created new graphemes that combined the determinatives with the phonemes.

How practical would it be to write Hanzi decomposed into their constituent radicals? This would reduce the number of characters required for literacy from several thousand to about two hundred, make it easier to coin new words, and it would be fairly simple to convert hanzi to their constituent radicals. The downside would be that lines of text would become longer unless radicals are arranged into syllable blocks a la Hangul.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Mon 12 Sep 2016, 16:16

Unfortunately, that really would not work very well unless you completely revamped Chinese. Compounding begets compounding. It's easy enough to graphically deconstruct a compound character into its constituent signs, but as long as you continue to use those signs, you will have multiple layers of semantophonetic compounding whose relationships have now become obscured because you removed the visual cues. If you don't know what I mean, let's try what you are proposing to reveal where it would become very difficult (using Old Chinese pronunciations here):

*ɡraːmʔ "warship"

We can deconstruct this into its semantic radical 舟 *tjɯw "ship" and its phonetic complement, 監 *kraːm(s) "to supervise/oversee". So far, so good. It's clear how SHIP + *kraːm(s) is suggestive of the word *ɡraːmʔ "warship".

But the phonetic complement itself is a (ideographic) compound, so we need to deconstruct it into its constituents:

*qʰʷiːɡ "blood" and 臥 ŋʷaːls "to lie down"

But 臥 is also an ideographic compound that must be subdividedinto 臣*ɡiŋ "vassal" and 人*njin "person"

So, warship would be written 舟血臣人 *ɡraːmʔ. It consists of two parts: the semantic radical 舟 "ship" and the phonetic complement, 血臣人 *kraːm(s).

The problem is that none of the characters in the phonetic complement are pronounced anything like *ɡraːmʔ.

This means the sequence of characters (*tjɯw "ship") *qʰʷiːɡ *ɡiŋ *njin stand for a single word, *ɡraːmʔ. In other words, the visual compounding of these elements is a very important visual cue that allows us to tell easily which pronunciations are to be ignored.

Compare this with a complex Egyptian compound:

mnfyt "soldiers"

It consists of mn "senet board" n "water ripple" f "horned adder" y "reed leaf" y "reed leaf" t "small bread loaf" "man with bow and quiver" ("plural")


So just one more time, a comparison:

"warship" *ɡraːmʔ = SHIP + *qʰʷiːɡ + *ɡiŋ + *njin
"soldiers" mnfyt = mn + n + f + y + y + t + MAN-WITH-BOW + PLURAL

It should be clear that Hieroglyphics do not use the same sort of layering as Chinese and thus are more intuitive when uncompounded. Chinese characters rely on compounding for meaning.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by GrandPiano » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 03:38

Also, even if you did rewrite 艦 as 舟血臣人, how would that improve literacy? You would still have to remember that the sequence 舟血臣人 means "warship", which isn't very different from having to remember that the character 艦 (or its simplified equivalent, 舰) means "warship".
:eng: - Native
:chn: - B2
:esp: - A2
:jpn: - A2
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 06:20

The only way I can think of to achieve what MoonRightRomantic is suggesting is to take the semantic radical as an independent character and then match it up with some bopomofo (or hiragana), i.e. 舟ㄐㄧㄢˋ jiàn / 舟かん kan "warship".That way you can have a transparently phonetic system that still does a bit of a job at clearing up semantic ambiguity.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by Znex » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 07:52

That or have some basic characters represent sounds as well.

eg. 舟几妟 jiàn
:eng: : [tick] | :grc: :wls: : [:|] | :chn: :isr: : [:S] | :nor: :deu: :rom: :ind: :con: : [:x]
Conlangs: Pofp'ash, Ikwawese, Old Quelgic, Nisukil Pʰakwi, Apsiska
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 08:51

That gives us kian for Japanese kan. So Japanese would ideally need to do it differently, e.g. 舟干.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by Znex » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 10:43

The other Chinese dialects would have to do differently as well, I reckon, and not just for words like 艦.
:eng: : [tick] | :grc: :wls: : [:|] | :chn: :isr: : [:S] | :nor: :deu: :rom: :ind: :con: : [:x]
Conlangs: Pofp'ash, Ikwawese, Old Quelgic, Nisukil Pʰakwi, Apsiska
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 11:17

And here we see clearly how, by focusing on "fixing" the phonetic complements, we end up needing to customize it for individual languages, reducing its usefulness as a multilingual writing system.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 14:02

Reading hanzi still requires learning Mandarin grammar. There are heterograms, where a phonemic multigraph in one script is a logogram in another.

The literacy rate in China ~95%. The test for literacy is rated at a 4th grade level requiring the memorization of ~900 hanzi. Most of this literacy is lost over time. Being able to read a newspaper requires being able to read thousands of hanzi. Clearly this is a problem.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 14:38

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "reading Hanzi", but taken at the meaning of "look at characters and understand what they mean", then "reading hanzi" does not require learning Mandarin grammar. I look at 山 and understand that it means mountain; I look at 禁止酒後開車 and understand that it means "it is forbidden to drink and drive", despite not knowing Mandarin grammar (I have no idea how to pronounce that last one, by the way...I just understand the meaning). So I am not clear on what your point is.

I'm also not sure what you mean about heterograms, since this means two or more signs that are pronounced the same but are written differently and mean different things (e.g. 艦 jiàn "warship" and 建 jiàn "build"). I am unclear how "a heterogram" can be a phonemic multigraph in one script can a logogram in another. Like how "W杯" is pronounced wārudo kappu in Japanese? This is a partial phonemic multigraph (has the "w" from "world cup"), and basically logographic in Japanese, since the 杯 hai is not pronounced as such. But this is a heterogram of what, exactly?

I'm not sure why you think that Chinese people lose their literacy of 900 characters over time...if that were the case, newspaper companies would go out of business because no one could read their products!
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Tue 13 Sep 2016, 16:26

clawgrip wrote:I'm not quite sure what you mean by "reading Hanzi", but taken at the meaning of "look at characters and understand what they mean", then "reading hanzi" does not require learning Mandarin grammar. I look at 山 and understand that it means mountain; I look at 禁止酒後開車 and understand that it means "it is forbidden to drink and drive", despite not knowing Mandarin grammar (I have no idea how to pronounce that last one, by the way...I just understand the meaning). So I am not clear on what your point is.
I mean for Chinese as a first language speakers. Most varieties of Chinese other than Mandarin are not typically written, even if the reader/writer doesn't speak Mandarin. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Chinese
I'm also not sure what you mean about heterograms, since this means two or more signs that are pronounced the same but are written differently and mean different things (e.g. 艦 jiàn "warship" and 建 jiàn "build"). I am unclear how "a heterogram" can be a phonemic multigraph in one script can a logogram in another. Like how "W杯" is pronounced wārudo kappu in Japanese? This is a partial phonemic multigraph (has the "w" from "world cup"), and basically logographic in Japanese, since the 杯 hai is not pronounced as such. But this is a heterogram of what, exactly?
I am using a completely different definition. This is the definition I am using: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterogram_(linguistics)
I'm not sure why you think that Chinese people lose their literacy of 900 characters over time...if that were the case, newspaper companies would go out of business because no one could read their products!
See this answer: https://www.quora.com/Does-Chinas-liter ... ua?share=1 https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-litera ... gh?share=1
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 01:18

MoonRightRomantic wrote:
clawgrip wrote:I'm not quite sure what you mean by "reading Hanzi", but taken at the meaning of "look at characters and understand what they mean", then "reading hanzi" does not require learning Mandarin grammar. I look at 山 and understand that it means mountain; I look at 禁止酒後開車 and understand that it means "it is forbidden to drink and drive", despite not knowing Mandarin grammar (I have no idea how to pronounce that last one, by the way...I just understand the meaning). So I am not clear on what your point is.
I mean for Chinese as a first language speakers. Most varieties of Chinese other than Mandarin are not typically written, even if the reader/writer doesn't speak Mandarin. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Chinese
Ah, so you mean reading and writing in Mainland China (excluding Cantonese and Japanese) requires knowledge of Mandarin as it is the written standard. I misunderstood what you meant.
I am using a completely different definition. This is the definition I am using: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterogram_(linguistics)
Right, I am familiar with the phenomenon as it applies to ancient Middle Eastern scripts, but I do not see how it is especially relevant to Chinese writing. There are no phonemic multigraphs in Chinese, but it's true that a logogram representing one root word in Mandarin could be applied to a root word in another dialect that is similar in meaning but is not a cognate, resulting in a loss of relevancy for the phonetic complement. But since, as you say, fluent reading and writing requires knowledge of Mandarin, this is not especially relevant outside of Cantonese or Japanese. Plus, increasing the reliance on phonetic elements will intensify the heterographic tendencies, as it means customizing the script for a particular language/dialect at the expense of others.
Lowering the bar to inflate statistics sounds like something China might do, but unless I missed something in the articles (I skimmed the longer one), it's not stated that people are actually forgetting what they learned. And the low literacy mentioned in the articles applies specifically to minority groups who don't speak Sinitic languages, such as Uyghurs, Tibetans, Zhang people, Mongolians. It may be relevant to remember that many of these people are literate in their own languages, and probably don't need to use Chinese all that much (which is why they are illiterate in Chinese to begin with, I imagine). The Uyghurs I've met did not seem especially fluent in Chinese, but the some of the Inner Mongolians I met were. This is just anecdotal though; I'm not an expert here, so I could be wrong, if so, let me know.

Of course, increasing literacy among minority groups is a concern, so I understand why you are speculating about how to simplify the characters beyond where they have already been simplified, but unfortunately, as I have already pointed out, the way that Chinese characters are structured makes it impossible to simplify them in the way you propose without basically redesigning the entire script, the reason being that the phonetic complements of the characters tend to be the most complex and convoluted part of the character, often made up of multiple layers of phonetic and semantic compounding, which, as I demonstrated above, are mostly irrelevant to the character's meaning, so characters just get increasingly confusing and unwieldy when decomposed. So you will need to completely remake the script, perhaps by doing a comparison of the pronunciations across Chinese languages and finding which characters could serve best as pan-Chinese phonetic complements, or, making a script designed specifically for Mandarin Chinese with only one phonetic complement per syllable (which will annoy a lot of other people). At that point you may as well just use Pinyin!
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 09:36

I said that this could not be done without completely remaking Hanzi, which will never happen in the real world, but, this is a conlanging board, so:

If we were to reform Hanzi to have unified phonetic complements based on Mandarin Chinese and with no tone marking, it might be something like this:

开 = jian
艦 → 舟开
建 → 廴开
間 → 門开
檢 → 木开
劍 → 刀开
見 → 目开

半 = ban
般 → 舟半
版 → 片半
板 → 木半
班 → 王半
伴 → 人半

穴 = xue
靴 → 革穴
雪 → 雨穴
血 → 皿穴
削 → 刀穴
學 → 臼穴

With this system, the characters would not need to be deconstructed, because they fit nicely together, so e.g. 伴 can remain 伴, 檢 becomes 枅, 間 becomes 開.

There are some trouble spots though. There are many syllables that have no basic character that can stand as a complement (e.g. kai, qin) but we could perhaps repurpose some, e.g. a couple kai characters use 皆 as a phonetic complement, even though 皆 itself is pronounced jiē. So maybe 皆 could appear as a phonetic complement, but the traditional character 皆 would be reformed in the new script, like this:
開 = 門皆 kāi
皆 = 比介 jiē
(皆 = kai, 介 = jie)

We'll also run into problems where different characters will merge, e.g. 近 jìn and 進 jìn, which both become 辶今. These mergers could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Maybe 進む could become 辶今 while 近 becomes 廴今, for example.

This is kind of fun to do.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by Lao Kou » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 13:17

clawgrip wrote:This is kind of fun to do.
I agree it is. But go ahead, start making sentences. (Or even compounds like 刀削面 or Japanese 焼き鳥. [B)])
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 13:34

The point of reducing the inventory of hanzi to a handful of radicals, over simply adopting pinyin, is nationalism. Learning to read English as a native speaker was already difficult enough; I can't imagine what learning to read Mandarin would be like.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 15:03

Most of the proposed characters don't exist, so I had to make them:

Image
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by Lao Kou » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 15:21

clawgrip wrote:Most of the proposed characters don't exist, so I had to make them:

Image
It looks kewl, but a generation or two lost to the transition... Mooxii, you got some 'splaining; to do.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 15:23

Also if I made a mistake, it is on account of me not knowing Chinese pronunciation. Kind of a major hurdle whe trying to redesign Chinese phonetic complements. Just going by Wiktionary and zhongwen.com pronunciations.
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Re: Non-English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 14 Sep 2016, 15:40

I know what it's like to learn Japanese, and I can say with certainty that having reliable phonetic complements in characters would be extremely advantageous, so I can only imagine how much more true this would be in Chinese, which doesn't have a kun-yomi monkey wrench in its gears.
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