Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li


Holidays are mostly over. Jet goes back to school tomorrow. Life may resume a more modest pace.


I don't think I've been doing much, but, as usual, when I look at it I do a *headdesk*. Since we got home from Taos, we've mostly been cleaning up the house so that the cleaners could come today and not wade about in a morass of wrapping paper, flung toys, and snow gear. We've been playing with our toys and eating food and exercising. The snow is falling again, and I had fun digging out the sidewalk and driveway. It's a good workout.

We all got H1N1 flu shots as the local clinic was in good supply, and at $10 a pop it didn't hurt even if we thought we'd gotten it. I've been riding the bike like a good girl and watching Ghost in the Shell 1 and 2 (the Innocence). The Innocence was clearly an art-flick, and the number of aphorisms was astonishing, and I loved learning that they got a *Chinese* calligraphy master to do the poetry.

My dad's a linguist of some 60 years study, since he was born in China, and lived most of his young adult life, there, his first language is still a dialect of Fukanese (Taiwanese) first, and then Mandarin. During our trip home, he expounded some on his theories about the difference between the written language of China and those of Europe.

European languages are written phonetically. Even though English borrows the phonetics from a dozen different languages, most of the others are fairly straightforward between pronunciation and what is written down. When I was on a whirlwind tour of France, Germany, and England for business, the Germans sat me down in a pub and asked me to read a paragraph in German; and when I did so they were all saying that I sounded like I was speaking high German perfectly. The Latin-based languages are very straightforward, I loved that Spanish's vowels were all only pronounced One Way.

The languages are written to emulate how people speak, and my father was pretty clear that by doing it that way, the European languages made it difficult to understand each other. What was written by one country could not be shared with another without understanding the way the other country spoke.

In China, the first Emperor that united all the lands of China imposed the pictograph writing system across the entire nation as a means of bookkeeping and records keeping. It was a way to communicate across the country without having to rely on how the various languages worked in the various regions. The only reason the Chinese "dialects" are called dialects is because they have a common written language. If they were classified the way European languages are separated, they would all be languages unto themselves with entirely different words, different pronunciation rules (inflections are a monster in some of them), sometimes different spoken grammar, and different constructs.

The follow-on reality, though, is that the written language of China was not built to be spoken. It's a different sort of language unto itself. The written conventions have evolved as they needed to express more and more concepts as well as concrete things. "Size" is indicated by using both "Small" and "Large", "how much" is "Much" and "Few", and homonyms aren't necessarily so across dialects, so what is a rhyming poem in Mandarin will not be so in Cantonese.

It was just a very interesting observation for me.

As the Chinese written pictographs mostly mean things in English for me, now. *laughs* I don't remember all the Mandarin, but I remember the symbol meaning "Happiness", and so on, and I can half-read kids books from what I remember of a pig under a roof being "Family" or two women under a roof meaning "Strife". It's just interesting because I'm teaching a girl born in China, adopted when her umbilical was still attached by a blonde mother and a blond father, and these symbols I'm teaching her mean things that she'll be able to understand the way I do. She may well be learning the only Chinese language I really know, which is the written one.

Anyway... I'll be glad to get back to the old routine and have some time at home alone again. The week away was a lot of fun. I have gotten a little further with the beaded shawl. I finished a pair of socks for Jet that he wore skiing, and need to get some fingerless mitts for my mother-in-law. I want to dye some Reds for that, and I want to do a Moebius strip scarf for Singer. I need to make cookies for those left on the Cookie List.

I think I'll be busy enough. *laughs*
Tags: words

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