Chinese is a unique language. Anyone who learns it will find it difficult to really understand and master the language if he/she does not completely cast away the habits and concepts acquired from his/her mother tongue or other foreign languages. Chinese is a language of great international importance in the present world of globalization. Modern Chinese (also known as Mandarin, Pu Tonghua or Guoyu) is spoken in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and increasingly so in Hong Kong. It is one of the four official languages in Singapore.
There are significant communities of Mandarin speakers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, the USA, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, South Africa, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, the UK and Mauritius. Mandarin is spoken by about 1 billion of people all over the world. It is also one of the five official languages of the United Nations. The communicative unit of Chinese is the sentence. Sentences in Chinese are quite different from those in other languages. During communication, certain parts of a sentence may often be omitted. This is one of the differences between Chinese and other languages.
The language and script of the Chinese language belongs to the ‘Sino-Tibetan’ family. Chinese is also described as a tonal language, which means that a syllable generally is pronounced with a characteristic tone. On the whole Chinese lacks the inflections (suffixes, prefixes) that are characteristic of many other languages. While foreigners are under the impression that Chinese characters are countless, the fact remains that even China does not have anyone capable of mastering all the characters. The Kangxi dictionary of 1716 contains 47,000 characters whereas the Chinese dictionary of 1986-90 contains 56,000 characters.
In fact there are only 3,000 characters which are often used. Other than being a language it is used for writing and keeping records. Chinese also has a great value in the field of calligraphy and is greatly appreciated as a work of art. Over the vast area throughout which Chinese is spoken, there are many different dialects. Some of which are mutually unintelligible. Chinese characters are the symbols used to write Chinese. Chinese characters developed more than 3000 years ago out of ideographs. Some of these are still in use today.
Every Chinese written character represents a one-syllable word. Many Chinese words, however, are compounds composed of two or more characters. In these compounds each character contributes a meaning to the total concept. Modern Chinese characters fall into two categories: One with a phonetic component, the other without it. Majority of those without a phonetic component developed from pictographs. Characters of this type which do not contain phonetic components account for only a small proportion of all Chinese characters, but many of them are in common use.
Most of the Chinese characters contain a phonetic component that tells the pronunciation and an idea component that indicates something of the meaning. These idea components are also called radicals and are often written on the left-hand side of the character. There are more than 250 radicals. The phonetic component is often a character in itself. If one knows the pronunciation of the character it is based on, one can know the pronunciation of many characters in which that component is used. One of the unsolved problems of “pinyin” is that some characters, though written differently and with different meaning, sound the same.
However, usually one can tell from the context which one to use. The tone of a Chinese word is just as important as it s pronunciation. This aspect of speaking Chinese is the most difficult for English speaking people to learn. In English, the tone of a word varies with the mood of the sentence; in Chinese, the tone stays the same whether the sentence is a question, exclamation or a simple statement. The Chinese written language is an ancient and unique writing system with a history of 6000 years. There are a total of 60,000 characters, of which only 3000-4500 are frequently used.
Ancient Chinese characters evolved from pictures. Each Chinese character is composed of various strokes. These strokes are basically straight lines. From top to bottom and left to right are the main directions. There are eight basic strokes used for writing Chinese characters. These strokes are used in a certain order to write Chinese characters. In the past few decades standard language has gradually been formed based on the language of the norm with Beijing as the norm and a grammar modeled on modern vernacular writing. This language is called ‘Pu Tonghua’ and is gradually being popularized.
It will eventually become the form of spoken and written Chinese in universal use. b) Discuss the ways in which Chinas language and literature reflect other aspects of Chinas culture such as kinship, art, politics, religion, economics, and the Chinese world view in general. A Chinese name is composed of two parts – a surname and a given name. The surname comes first, followed by the given name. Most surnames are monosyllabic. The most common surnames are Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao and Liu. There are a few disyllabic surnames such as Zhuge, Ouyang and Shangguan. Given names can be either monosyllabic or disyllabic.
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