The earliest Chinese characters were pictographs, such as a crescent for the moon, or a circle with a dot in the center to represent the sun. Gradually these gave way to nonpictorial ideographs which, in addition to standing for tangible objects, also represented abstract concepts. Today two characterssometimes the same, sometimes differentoften stand side by side to form a third. Thus two tree characters mean forest, while sun + moon = bright and woman + child = good. Sometimes the two characters are superimposed upon each other, their relative position giving a clue as to the meaning of the newly formed character. Thus when the character for sun is placed above the character for tree the new character means high or bright, but when it is placed below, the new character means hidden or dark. No matter how many single characters are combined into one, the resulting character always has the same square appearance and is the same size as any other character.
ThoughChinesehas many dialects, Mandarin, based on the pronunciation of Peking, is considered the standard and is spoken by about two-thirds of the population. The other major dialects are (I) Wu, spoken by about 50 million people in the Shanghai area and in Chekiang Province to the south; (2) Cantonese, spoken by about 45 million people in the extreme southern provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi; (3) Fukienese, or Min, spoken by about 45 million people, and generally subdivided into Northern Fukienese, or Foochow (15 million speakers), of northern Fukien, and Southern Fukienese, or Amoy (30 million speakers), of southern Fukien, Amoy Island, and Taiwan; (4) Hakka, with 20 million speakers in northeastern Kwang-tung and southern Kiangsi provinces; (5) Ilsiang, with 15 million speakers in Hunan Province. In addition the Fukienese dialects are widely spoken in Malaysia and Singapore, while Cantonese is also spoken in Hong Kong and on the Southeast Asia mainland. Nearly all Chinese in the United States speak Cantonese.
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Despite their staggering complexity, the Chinese characters do have ihe advantage of making written communication possible between people speaking mutually unintelligible dialects and languages. A given word may be quite different in Mandarin and Cantonese, but it would be written identically in the two dialects. Since the Chinese characters are also used inJapanese,each language, when written, is partially intelligible to a speaker of the other, despite the fact that the two spoken languages are totally dissimilar.
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To name just a few of the new products, we now have the latest Systran product, the Systran Classic version which is a very high quality translation software within almost any budget. The Talk Now tutorial now supports 25 languages with help in another 40 languages and runs on both Mac and Windows machines. For support of right-to-left languages virtually anywhere in Windows, we have OnePen. And with the growth of the internet, we have improved multilingual web browsers, web-page editors and translators.
Lastly, I personally wish to thank the many customers who have refer their friends to us and come back to us repeatedly. We are proud to be a company of integrity working with a vast spectrum of customers from all age groups and literally all walks of life. But most importantly, we are proud to have some small part in helping to bring you and the rest of the world together.
has been an official language of the United Nations since the founding of the organization in 1945.
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Copyright © Kenneth Katzner,The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
English words of Chinese origin includetea, typhoon, sampan, kaolin, kumquat, kowtow, andshanghai.
Numerous attempts have been made over tbe years to simplify the Chinese system of writing. In 1955 the Chinese Peoples Republic initiated a plan to simplify more than 1,700 characters, this number to be increased gradually so that over half of the most commonly used symbols would eventually be simplified. But the ultimate hope for easy readability of Chinese would appear to be an alphabetic script. In 1958 a new Chinese alphabet based on the Roman script was introduced, but thus far it appears to have made little headway.
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The majority of Chinese characters, however, consist of two elements a signific, which indicates the meaning of a word, and a phonetic, which indicates the sound. The significs, or radicals, number 214 in Chinese, and indicate the class of objects to which the word belongs. For example, all words relating to wood, such as tree and table, contain the wood radical. The phonetic consists of the character for a word whose meaning is totally unrelated to the word in question, but whose pronunciation happens to be the same. Thus the character for ocean consists of the signific water plus the phonetic sheep, the word for sheep being pronounced the same as the word for ocean. In some cases the phonetic stands alone, as in the case of the character for dustpan which also stands for the Chinese possessive pronoun, since the word for the pronoun is the same as the word for dustpan.
is spoken by more people than any other language in the world. Since estimates of the current population of China are only approximate, figures for the number of speakers of
must likewise be approximate. An educated guess would be about 1.1 billion in the Peoples Republic of China, to which must be added another 20 million on Taiwan, 5 million in Hong Kong, 4 million in Malaysia, l million in Singapore, one million in Vietnam, and lesser numbers in other countries including the United States. Thus Chinese has more than twice the number of speakers of English, though of course it lacks the universality of English and is spoken by few people not of Chinese origin.
Chinese, like the other languages of the Sino-Tibetan family, is a tonal language, meaning that different tones, or intonations, dis-tinguish words that otherwise are pronounced identically. The four Chinese tones are (I) high level; (2) high rising; (3) low rising; (4) high falling to low. It is not unusual for a syllable to be pronounced in each of the four tones, each yielding a word with a completely different meaning. For example, the wordmain tone one means mother, whilema2means hemp,ma3means horse, andma4means to curse. In fact each tone usually offers a large number of homonyms.Yiin tone one can mean, among other things, one, clothes, doctor, and to cure;yi2aunt, doubt, suitable, and to shift; yi3already, because of, and by; yi4easy, strange, benefit, and the number 100 million.
Chinese is written with thousands of distinctive characters called ideographs which have no relation to the sound of a word. In a large dictionary there are 40-50,000 characters, while the telegraphic code book contains nearly 10,000. A Chinese child learns about 2,000 characters by the time he is ten, but it takes two or three times as many to be able to read a newspaper or novel. One kind of Chinese type-writer has 5,400 characters. The number of strokes required to draw a Chinese character can be as high as 33.
Chineseis spoken/used in the following countries:BruneiCambodiaCanadaChinaGuam (U.S.)Hawaii (U.S. State)Hong KongLaosMacao (Portuguese)MalaysiaMauritiusParacel IslandsSingaporeTaiwanThailandUnited States of AmericaVietnam.