WILD changes?

Don Donald_Astelle@yahoo.com
Thu Jun 2 01:43:01 EDT 2011

Wow!  Impressive!  ;-)

----- Original Message ----- 

From: "Garrett Wollman" <wollman@bimajority.org>
> That is simply not true, on two accounts.  
> 1) Because Han (Chinese) characters do not include a phonetic element,
> modern Chinese writing includes a great deal of what could be called
> "puns", where certain characters are used not for their (common)
> meaning but for their (language-specific) sound, particularly when
> representing names or borrowed words.  A Min or Wu speaker will not
> use the same characters, since the corresponding words are not
> pronounced the same.  (Of course, any PRC-educated writer will have
> been learned Putonghua, but the converse is not true.)  Japanese,
> which also uses Han characters (kanji) in its writing system, has not
> one but two phonetic auxiliary scripts, which are used much more
> frequently than the official phonetic romanization of the PRC, hanyu
> pinyin, or the common phonetic script used in the ROC, bopomofo.
> 2) The PRC government likes to denigrate the other languages of China
> by describing them as mere "dialects" of one common[1] Chinese language.
> However, by modern linguistic standards, Wu is no more a "dialect" of
> Putonghua than Portuguese is a dialect of Romanian.  Western linguists
> working in China today tend to use the neutral term "topolect", which
> avoids the government's sensitivities over the word "language" without
> angering speakers of minority languages.  (There are, of course,
> non-Sinitic minority languages in China, the most notable of which is
> probably that of the Uighur people in Xinjiang.)
> There is a similar situation in the Middle East with respect to
> Arabic, where the prestige position is held by Modern Standard Arabic
> but most people speak a vernacular arabic topolect.  This issue came
> to some prominence in the Tunisian revolution, when then-president Ben
> Ali gave a televised address for the first time in Tunisian rather
> than MSA.  (The prestige position of MSA is due in part to the fact
> that it is a modernized version of the classical Arabic of the Quran
> -- which is considered to be perfect and unchanging -- so local
> topolects are portrayed as "corruptions" of proper (Quranic) Arabic.
> Nobody looks down on their local language the same way in the non-Arab
> Muslim world, where the local languages are invariably not
> Semitic.[2])
> Historically, there have been similar situations in European
> languages, leading to the (sometimes violent) suppression of minority
> languages like Catalan and Breton.  The PRC at least does not forbid
> parents from teaching the children their own language -- but when they
> go to school, they will learn Putonghua.
> -GAWollman
> [1] But illusory.  The basic requirement today is that speakers of the
> same "language" be mutually intelligible at a fairly high level.
> [2] Most Muslims in the world speak either Indo-European (Persian,
> Hindi/Urdu, Bengali) or Austronesian (Malay) languages as their mother
> tonuges.  Afro-Asiatic languages, including the Semitic languages
> (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and a few others), come third, IIRC.  (I'm
> not sure whether Turkic ranks ahead of or behind Afro-Asiatic, but I
> think it's behind.  Turkic languages are spoken in a large swath of
> central Asia where country names end in "-stan"; Uighur is a Turkic
> language.)

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