Lantis Registered User
#1

Since barely anyone's making new topics...

Okay, this question's based only on the written language, not spoken because I know the differences there.
I'm learning Mandarin and have a few friends who speak Cantonese, and my questions are:
Is there much, or any, of a difference in the written language?
If you can read Mandarin, can you read something aimed at a Cantonese audience, and vice versa?
And if the other two are yes, then how do you tell the difference between writing from different dialects?

DEmeant0r Registered User
#2

I think we should talk about the different character sets, Cantonese uses Traditional which has 13,000 characters in it's basic set, and Mandarin uses Simplified which has 6,000 characters in it's basic set. The Simplified form was a result of a drastic language reform in China. But most that are educated in Chinese can understand both versions, though idiomatic expressions vary from place to place. There are however some words in Traditional set that are used in HK for every-day speech that the Mainland Chinese speakers may not understand, words like Ê\ (keoi). But, of course these words are never really meant to be written down.
So, to answer your question, Mandarin speakers may be to understand written Cantonese if none of the every-day speech words are written down. Cantonese students in HK are usually educated in both sets of characters anyways and thus are able to understand written Mandarin.

strawberry Registered User
#3

Do you think the reform was a good idea?
I think they've butchered some of the characters in mandarin, like when they rather ironically took the 'heart' out of 'love'.

DEmeant0r Registered User
#4

Well, I'm not too familiar with the simplified version as I'm still a learner of the traditional version so I don't have much of an opinion on that. But from what I can see, the simplified version is much uglier looking than the traditional. I don't really know why the ruler of the time tried to change the writing system, why bother fixing something that's not broken, right?

rainbow kirby Moderator
#5

Wasn't it because the Communists thought the traditional system was 'decadent' because it was used in the times of the emperors?

DEmeant0r Registered User
#6

I really don't know much about Chinese history to tell you the truth

#7

rainbow kirby
Wasn't it because the Communists thought the traditional system was 'decadent' because it was used in the times of the emperors?
The Communists inherited an illiterate country. In order to ease the task of teaching the masses to read and write, they embarked on an ambitious program of language reform.

A lot of research and effort was put into this task by scholars of the language. One useful result was the pinyin system, which was intended for teaching young children Chinese without burdening them straight away with characters.

Simplification of characters was another important aim and it was done in several stages. Often, the simplified character is just the handwritten version of the printed version. In these cases, it's really just a matter of formalising the natural evolution of the characters - nothing new was invented.

In other cases, various characters or parts of characters with the same pronunciation were replaced by a single character. Again this mirrors what has happened in the historical evolution of the character system.

I think the simplification process was well thought-out and largely reasonable. I know there are particular examples which seem unfortunate (like 'ai' (love) or 'long' (dragon)) but simplified Chinese seems to me a lot cleaner in its printed form and certainly more pleasant to learn. The characters I see in HK look too "busy" and crowded to me. Less beautiful.

Of course, this is all from the point-of-view of someone who does not natively speak Chinese and who has studied Mandarin/simplified characters. So my opinion is probably biased.

Interestingly, the Communists orginally intended to go much further with language reform. There was another round of character simplification that was abandoned, as far as I recall. Also, Mao's personal opinion was that the Chinese language had somehow stalled in its natural and inevitable development into a fully phonetic language. So his intention was ultimately to replace the character system with pinyin.

There does not seem to be any prospect of further top-down changes these days though.

An interesting question is how long you think it will take before HK adopts simplified characters

Eastwind Awaiting Email Confirmation
#8

What i see the both chinese lunguage is that Mandarin speak is the triditional way to use. the writen was to use from 1960, when the time one party taken over, and stand still. cantonese is using the riditional writen way to write. BUT pronaunce localy. and I think cantonese only a local language. like shanghai language, taiwan languge. but why they can stand together? is because lots of HK people stay aboard for life long, even log in the local society. make u think cantonese can Vs Mandarin. But u re wrong. Everywhere u go on the land called china, u can use mandarin, but u use Cantonese only in HK and Canton province. and the people there alread know how to speak the Mandarin.#
so. this time mandarin is win, mandarin is useful. u should know.

DEmeant0r Registered User
#9

I don't think the question Lantis asked was whether Mandarin is better than Cantonese Eastwind, but rather if there were differences between written Cantonese and Mandarin.

strawberry Registered User
#10

The people in Hong Kong quite clearly don't all know how to speak Mandarin anymore Irish people all know hoe to speak Irish. What a random generalisation <confused>.

Optikus Banned
#11

mandarin is more widely spoken.. but cantonese has better looking women , so thats the 1 id go for

davwain Registered User
#12

Optikus said:
mandarin is more widely spoken.. but cantonese has better looking women , so thats the 1 id go for


Likewise, Russian is more widely spoken than Ukrainian, although it's hard not to notice how similar those 2 languages' writing systems are. I would say the same is applicable between Mandarin and Cantonese, and, yes, East Slavic women (regardless of their birthplaces) are beautiful.

davwain Registered User
#13

strawberry said:
The people in Hong Kong quite clearly don't all know how to speak Mandarin anymore Irish people all know hoe to speak Irish. What a random generalisation <confused>.


Cantonese, I admit, is more widely spoken in HK than Mandarin is, despite the two languages sharing a common writing system. I would have to say the odds of finding someone who speaks Mandarin in HK are about as good as finding someone, on the streets of any city in Moldova, who can speak Cantonese. Among Asian languages, Russian and English are good bets to use in Moldova, with Russian a much better bet (given the limited ability, of many people in the ex-Soviet republic, who can speak any Asian language other than Russian).

Want to share your thoughts?

Login here to discuss!