Chinese Language: Linguistics & Learning
Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
99. Dreaming in Chinese. Mandarin lessons in life, love and language
Finished reading: 16 June 2011
As an introduction to the Chinese language, I found it rather weak. It is much more a travelogue plus the author's musings on the language than to be of any use to anyone who might want to know more about the language. The only chapter that interested me was chapter 10, about dialects, although all factual information can be found in much more detail on the Internet.
As a factual introduction, I would still suggest, for example, About Chinese by Richard Newnham, or a book I have recently read, which tells you all about the experience of learning Mandarin, Keeping my Mandarin alive. Lee Kuan Yew's language learning experience by Chua Chee Lay.
001. Appreciation of classic Naxi Dongba sayings
Finished reading: 1 January 2012
The population of China is made up of 56 ethnic groups, of which the Han form by far the majority, counting for about 92%. The largest minority group are the Zhuang, of about 18 million people. The other groups are considerably smaller.
The Naxi, in English often referred to as Nakhi are a mere 300,000. They live mainly in Yunnan Province. Relatively much is known about the Naxi through books such as Forgotten Kingdom by Peter Goullart (free download here and the works of the American explorer Joseph Rock.
Many of the ethnic minorities of China have their own languages, which are all in grave danger of extinction. In the late 1950s the Chinese central government tried to replace all Chinese pictorial script languages (including Mandarin) by Latin alphabet-based script forms. Instead of preservation and revival, that attempt has mainly led to the destruction of those languages, which was aggravated by the destruction of material resources during the Cultural Revolution.
The language of the Naxi, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages, now exists in three forms, the Latin alphabet version, the Geba script and the Dongba script. The Dongba script is believed to be 1,000 years old, and consists of an independently developed proto-writing system consisting of a combination of pictographs and ideographs.
Appreciation of classic Naxi Dongba sayings is a popular science type of publication, printed trilingually rendering all texts, the introduction and postscript in Chinese, English and Japanese. The author, He Pinzheng (和品正) is attached to the Lijiang Dongba Culture Research Institute. In the postscript, the author writes that the script has been in disuse for more than 40 years.
The book is totally useless. While it pretends to print samples of the Dongba script, the pictographs and ideographs are redrawn by a calligrapher. A frontis page shows a colour reproduction of an authentic sample, which can be seen to display the script in horizontal fashion, as above. However, in the book the majority of samples are represented as vertical strips, apparently following the Chinese tradition of New Year's couplets.
The script is represented horizontally in International Phonetic script with an unexplained Chinese (character) transliteration below it. There is no way to explain or figure out how the author made the step from the script to the transliteration. There is no help or suggestion how to read the Phonetic script.
The most one can get from this book is a sample of about a hundred proverbs and sayings, displaying a compilation of the sources of wisdom among the Naxi people. Here are some examples:
A very happy time in the New Year,
A long and prosperous life in good times.
Good-bye to the Old Year, sickness and misfortunes,
Hello to the New Year, fitness and hapiness.
Unity of Heaven, unity of Earth, unity of man is supreme,
This is good, that is good, peace is the very best.
All that a chick pecks is not grain;
All than a man says is not true.
An old horse knows the way;
A gray-haired man knows life.
Seeing is believing,
Doing is knowing.
Singing and dancing ensure a happy life.
Running and jumping ensure a long life.
Kindness brings in happiness.
Friendliness brings in wealth.
A wise man creates a culture,
A laborer creates the world.
The Yulong Mountain will not fall in earthquake,
The Naxi people will not perish in disaster.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.