Transcriptions: how to write down pronunciation

[ 2005-06-15 19:52:10 pm | Author: Admin ]
                             Transcriptions: how to write down pronunciation

The old Chinese became aware of the sound system of their own language when they had to translate foreign words with a meaning that could not be expressed in Chinese: Buddhist terms. Dictionaries that tried to express pronunciation came up during the Tang Dynasty. They used the "reverse cutting" system (fanqie
反切), using the initial sound and the final sound of two words/characters to describe the sound of a word/character. For example: 他前切 [ta][tçin]qie "pronounced like [t-] and [-in] ([tjn])". Another possibility to express the pronunciation of a character was to cite a character with an identical pronunciation, like 薪讀若新 "xin (firewood), read like xin (new).".

The first transscriptions of Chinese language that have been made by Westerners were all written like the particular travelers, merchants or missionaries heard the words and wrote them down following the writing rules of their own language. French people of course wrote the same words not in the same style like British would have done or people from the Netherlands. There did not exist a standardized style of transscription until the late 19th century. Typically for the early transscriptions was the hard style transscription of the sounds [dj] or [tç] as "k", like "kin" for [djin] or "kü" for [tçy], for instance "King-ting ku-kin t'u-shu ki-ch'eng" for
清定古今圖書集成 (pinyin: Qing ding Gujin tushu jicheng). Many geographic names of China are still known today in their old transscription like the provinces Shan-tung, Fo-kien, Kiang-su, or the cities of Peking and Kanton. Also the names of people like Chiang Kai-shek or Sun Yat-sen are derived from non-standardized transscriptions of non-Mandarin languages or dialects (in standard Mandarin, they are called Jiang Jieshi resp. Sun Yixian - but no Chinese calles the founder of the Republic by this name - the is called Sun Zhongshan). 


  Chinese silk embroidery painting art from Suzhou

[Last Modified By Admin, at 2006-01-05 09:05:29]

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