07 September 2008

Chinese (Mandarin)

In some ways, Chinese is much simpler than English. The majority of common words are monosyllabic. There's no verb conjugation. There's no such thing as "spelling" as we tend to think of it. I'm wondering, now, how one deals with tense in the language, if there's no conjugation. My best guess is that there's a "tense marker" rather like the two question markers: ne (nuh) & ma. For the sentences we've played with, you form the sentence exactly as usual, then add 'ne' or 'ma' onto the end to turn it into a question. Presumably there are rules about when you use which one, but we haven't seen those yet.

As I was walking back from class, I found myself wondering why that construction felt familiar. Then I heard it in my head. "This is way to hotel, no?" "You sell souvenirs here, yes?" The construction exists in English, but is used almost exclusively by non-native speakers, probably adapting a common construction from their own language. But in Chinese that seems to be the only way to ask a question. There's no switching of verb order or tense to turn something into a question. Like we'd say "Do you sell souvenirs here?" or a German might use the order, "Sell you souvenirs here?"

It's rather nice to have the class four times a week. I find myself missing it over the weekend, which may be why Japanese goes MT-ThF, so that the longest gap is a two-day one. Comparing notes with Travis (who is practicing for Japanese so he can get back into it next semester) finds that while Japanese doesn't have tones, it does have "voices," with varying levels of formality. Saying something in a different voice may entirely change the construction of the sentence. Apparently in most classes, they teach the most formal voice, as that one is unlikely to offend anyone they may encounter. I'm not sure yet, but I suspect I prefer dealing with tones and simply constructed sentences to dealing with voices that change the sentence construction. ^/^ Oh, Japanese also has multiple writing systems, one of which essentially mirrors Chinese characters. One new writing system is plenty at the moment. `/^

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