Thursday, February 12, 2009

a brief summary of Mandarin and Cantonese

D: since these are my basis for an acceptable Chinese-English interlang, let's look at them.
Keep in mind we need to consider the lowest common denominator of both.


In each cell below, the first line indicates the IPA, the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar
Plosive [p]


Nasal [m]


Lateral approximant




Fricative [f]
[ʐ] 1

Approximant [ɻ] 1

[j]2 or [ɥ]3

Mandarin Vowels (Pinyin [IPA: SIL Font])

Front Central Back
unroundround unroundround unroundround
High i [i] ü [y]

u [u] o(ng) [U]
Mid (i)e, a(n) [e]
e(n/ng) [«] er [Ô]
e [F] o [o]

a [a]


b, ch, d, f, g, gw, h, j, k, kw, l, m, n, ng, p, s, t, w, y

D: there are many more finals, but of interest to us is the M, N, and NG options.
That is more than Mandarin.
Note that C + W is acceptable at times.

Obviously we're pushing the limit with C + LRWY.
I flipped through my dictionary for English initial consonant clusters.

We lose English S + (C) construction.

Chinese is adept with vowel combinations, which provides us with many more ways to express concepts.

Obviously, we lose tone.

Treating voiced/voiceless consonant pairs as discrete is problematic if we allow those consonants as both initials and finals. I am convinced that not treating e.g. P and B as discrete is important.

We are not *really* using the lowest common denominator here. I trust that bypassing the arbitrary syllable rules of Chinese will not unduly strain a speaker. Some of the limits are more easily bypassed than others. The one that cannot be overcome is hearing a phoneme distinction that one is not used to.
For Mandarin speakers, that makes the N, M, NG endings a bit hazy. Keep in mind there IS a visual clue, at least.
Again, I have a 'lite' version of Decimese that relies more strongly on a particular word order to address this.

I was tooling around in my notebook while watching Stargate last night.
For VERSE, I was trying to figure out how one could transition from a creole style vocabulary to a Decimese-based one. By that I mean in Decimese, the nasal consonant ending defines what part of speech a word is. I suppose I need an Ido-style distinction to clarify the state or action or nature of a word in its primary form. I took the following 3 English words.
Strong, Man, Ram.
stroNG, maN, (to) raM.
-NG for adjective (and adverb strongly), -N for noun, -M for verb.
Tack on some H plus vowel prefix for nuance, and Bob's yer uncle!
E.g. to make strong, strong one, strong-ness (strength), some basic variations like that.
BTW (By The Way), strong is too hard to say. Trong is close. T(uh) -rong is likely the result.
(Uh) indicating the noncommittal schwa sound in "the".
Really, just some way to split up consonant clusters, rather than dropping them.
At some point, dropping any problematic clusters results in many homophones. As in pidgin, the likely result is to use reduplication and other mechanisms to generate more vocabulary again.

For the VERSE -related fiction, I'll likely just apply these rules to English and see what it looks like. I suspect one could automate the vocabulary generation, using related concepts or occasionally other languages (heavy emphasis on Chinese) for alternatives.
As such, it is hardly culturally neutral!
I hope to explore how asking an Anglophone to not use certain aspects of English is difficult for them. Don't use idiom. Try getting through a day without it!
Avoid consonant clusters. Break down affixes into the phrases that amount to the definition.
Marry, married, marital, marriage. Marriage- of marrying age. Of an age to marry.

Try that for a day while speaking. I need to. I work in a factory with a whole lotta ESLers.
The other company has a number of mentally challenged workers. I have a grad-level vocabulary. And would not be understood if I used it. I need to make an effort to be diaphanous. Er, clear. <:
I told my supervisor the new chemical product safety training was written at a high school level - too high for half of my co-workers. Decanting is not a commonly used term. The acronyms lost ME. The instructor, hopped up on coffee and reciting the material for the 100th time, spoke at a very rapid clip. That was a waste of 2 hours and 30 hours of pay.

-----D: OK I figured out that Espo diacritic program. I just needed to reboot the machine. Then you click on the lil' Ek button. At that point, hitting H shortly after some other letters retros it into a diacritic letter. I did so by accident the first time, and had to guess what was happening.

g gh ĝ

And here are my mock rave reviews for : Esperanto: the Musical.

"The consonant cluster are much easier than Polish!" Mrs. Trshxvhel, Poland.
"Far less agglutinating than Inuit!" Fred Qaniujaaqpait, Yukon.
"The vowels were a breeze." Ms. Auitaoh, Hawaii
"Bah. Foolish mortals - I will show you infixes!" Maddie Hilker, Classics major.
" hK&hquE" SpeedTalker.
"I thought that was an Italian Opera!" D, Anglophone.



"That international auxiliary language is best which in every point offers the greatest facility to the greatest number" - Otto Jespersen, 1908

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