Author: thestud

Changing China: the evolving Chinese dialects [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2004-8-23 22:25:11 |Display all floors


Word History: The history of typhoon presents a perfect example of the long journey that many words made in coming to English. It traveled from Greece to Arabia to India, and also arose independently in China, before assuming its current form in our language. The Greek word tuphon, used both as the name of the father of the winds and a common noun meaning “whirlwind, typhoon,” was borrowed into Arabic during the Middle Ages, when Arabic learning both preserved and expanded the classical heritage and passed it on to Europe and other parts of the world. Tufan, the Arabic version of the Greek word, passed into languages spoken in India, where Arabic-speaking Muslim invaders had settled in the 11th century. Thus the descendant of the Arabic word, passing into English (first recorded in 1588) through an Indian language and appearing in English in forms such as touffon and tufan, originally referred specifically to a severe storm in India. The modern form of typhoon was influenced by a borrowing from the Cantonese variety of Chinese, namely the word taaîfung, and respelled to make it look more like Greek. Taaîfung, meaning literally “great wind,” was coincidentally similar to the Arabic borrowing and is first recorded in English guise as tuffoon in 1699. The various forms coalesced and finally became typhoon, a spelling that first appeared in 1819 in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.

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Post time 2004-8-23 23:55:21 |Display all floors

English words borrowed from Chinese and vice versa

English from Chinese
- kow-tow
- wok
- silk (very likely but not too sure)
- lychee

Chinese from English
- most of the chemical atoms' names
- hotline
- humour
- modern
- saxaphone
- sandwich
- salad
- system (very likely but not too sure)
- logic
- tank (the ones used in a battle)
- card
- bar (like a tavern)
- pump

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Post time 2004-8-24 00:29:33 |Display all floors

Reply: My mistake

"Yes, in the Amoy dialect it is t'e, pronounced "tay", and in modern cantonese, it is pronounced as "cha." But I am not sure how it was pronounced 400 years in cantonese."

In the east part of Guangdong, near Fujian province, the dialects pronounce similar.Tea, both pronounced t'e there.

And I think the word tea, may probably derived from Dutch 'thee', or from Malay 'teh', or from Chinese 'te'. Among these three places, China is the earlest place of tea consumption, the story of tea began in ancient China over 5000 years ago, and as early as 800AD, tea had already been recorded in the book Ch'a Ching(茶经). Tea arrived in Europe in late 16th century was traded from China. It arrived Britain about 1652. Maybe the word was traded to Europe along with the tea trading route.

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Post time 2004-8-24 00:38:48 |Display all floors


I am a native speaker of several subtypes of Wuyu, and I have this much to say about your not-so-accurate descriptions of the Wu dialect:

1. "Ngu zi Sanghei ni" in Shanghainese Wuyu.

"Ngu" --> Ngo (with the vowel prolonged just a bit)

"Sanghei" --> Sang-Ha (Ha as in habitat)

"ni" --> ning

2.  in some of the Zhej!ang dialects of Wuyu (吴语), it's "diet fan" (pron. "dyett").

I don't know which "Zhej!ang dialects" you referred to, but in MOST "Zhej!ang dialects of Wuyu", including the one spoken in the birth place of J!ang Jieshi, and in the Shanghai dialect, the mandarin Chi-fan is pronounced as "Tru-Ve" (Tru as in truck, and Ve as in vegetable).

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Post time 2004-8-24 11:30:44 |Display all floors

the spread of chinese tea

the following is from my "a passage to chinese tea" book:

"the chinese pronunciation the character 'TEA' spread far and wide through land and sea.  the first overland route moved north and west, carrying the mandarin pronunciation of the character 'TEA' as 'CHA.'  the second sea route crossed over from xiamen of fujian province.  the western seafarers based in xiamen and other ports adopted the pronunciation of 'TEA' in the local fujian dialect, 'TEY.'"

also from the book:

iran = cha
arabia = chai
turkey = chay
portugal = cha (this is strange, since portugal was a sea-faring nation)
russia = chai

england = tea
france = the
germany = tee
spain = te
italy = te
holland = thee
dobridania = er ... is tea alcoholic?


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Post time 2004-8-24 11:47:55 |Display all floors

To the Stud

Thanks for your input.  And, yes, you’re right.  The word catsup came from Cantonese, not Hokkien.

"Tru-Ve" (Tru as in truck, and Ve as in vegetable) sounds similar to Vietnamese.  Very interesting.

And to Gtnbia,

"'Ngo hoi Sheunghoi yan’ in Cantonese”

Correction, the word “hoi” ought to be “haai” with a long, low tone.  So we'd say "Ngo haai Seunghoi yan".

And just for your info, “我是上海人” is “Gua si Sionghai lang” in Amoy/Hokkien.

Thanks for your input as well.

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Post time 2004-8-24 19:04:02 |Display all floors

Changing China: the evolving Chinese dialects II

Even in the pre-Qin era, there were dialects that held the status of today's Mandarin, the so-called yayan (雅言) or tongyu (通语), and those that were considered less standard or "civilized", the so-called feiyayan (非雅言) and shuyu (俗语). For instance, from the Analects of Confucius:

“子所雅言:《诗》、《书》、执礼,皆雅言也。”( from《论语·述而》)

Here, what Confucius used to read out the classics, such as Shi(诗) and Shangshu (尚书), is the "mandarin" dialect of his time, the yayan. And Mencius had this to say in regard to his debate opponent, Xu Xing (许行):

“今也南蛮鴃舌之人,非先王之道;子倍子之师而学之,亦异於曾子矣。”( from 《孟子·滕文公上》)

In other words, Mencius laughed at Xu Xing, who was from Chu (楚), for speaking a nonstandard dialect, which was considered inferior, yet sounded intelligible to Mencius.

In the Yuan dynasty Zhou De Qing (周德清) wrote what has become one of the foundations of northern Chinese dialects including the standard Mandarin Chinese -- the all important "Midland Phonology"(《中原音韵》). In it,  Zhou De Qing said:

“造语,可作乐府语、经史语、天下通语,不可做俗语、…市语、方语、书生语。”( from《中原音韵》)

Which clearly defined the difference between the standard dialect and nonstandard ones.

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