Tengwar for Chinese/Re: Re: Orthographic English Tehtar Mode (Elfscript # 2525)
- --- In email@example.com, "j_mach_wust" <machhezan@g...> wrote:
>Alright, I see what you mean (and I think spelling "people" with E-tehta
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Dave <david.vdpeet@m...> wrote:
> >Even more complicated (in this orthographic mode) it would be with a
> >word like "beau" (French, but also a borrowing in English), where
> >the "eau" really represents one single sound (/o/), although one
> >could maybe analyze it as (/ou/). Let's stick to /o/ and see what we
> >could do: umbar + E-tehta on short carrier + A-tehta on vala? This
> >would violate our principle of "only one vowel tehta per syllable".
> >What would you do? Maybe resort to a somewhat more phonetic
>No, I'd spell as you've suggested. To me, a speaker of German, it
>seems very natural that there are certain loan words that don't follow
>the normal spelling rules of a language. That means, I have no problem
>that this principle would not apply to some rather marginal words.
>I've more troubles with the word "people" (I'd like to spell it with
>úre, in analogy to "Michael" spelled with yanta, but this is too much
on úre sounds fine).
As it happens, I'm currently working on a Chinese (Mandarin) Tengwar
mode, and "unfortunately" in this language you see quite a large amount
of syllables that contain three vowels (read as one sound--obviously,
since it's one syllable :)), e.g. biao, diao, jiao, liao, miao, niao,
piao, qiao, tiao, etc. In other words, in Mandarin we are not dealing
with a few borrowings or marginal words, but with a substantial amount
of characters/words. (Basically in Mandarin one syllable is represented
by one Chinese character [or vice versa] which can [and usually does]
also represent one word, but [especially in modern Chinese as opposed to
the classical language] there are also a lot of words that are made up
of two or more characters/syllables.)
In Mandarin, there are a little more than 400 ways to combine consonants
with vowels, i.e. about 400 syllables that represent all the possible
sound combinations. This could easily render the spoken language hardly
intelligible because of the huge number of homophones, a problem that's
partly solved by the fact that in modern Chinese most words are
combinations of two or more characters (though one syllable/character
words still constitute a lot of the _basic_ vocabulary), and partly by
the tonal system, which in Mandarin comprises four (five) different
tones. These tones I intend to represent as they are in Hanyu Pinyin,
the official Romanization script for Mandarin, using the same signs: a
macron for the first high, even tone; an acute accent for the second,
rising tone; a breve accent (chevron pointing downwards) for the third,
falling and rising tone; and a grave accent for the fourth, falling
tone. I haven't figured out yet where to put them, since there'll
already be vowel-tehta on the consonant/vowel tengwa.
I am also planning to use Hanyu Pinyin as the basis for transcribing the
400 something syllable/character _sounds_ (as opposed to the _tones_,
that are only an "additional", though _very_ important, feature, if you
like)--you could hardly go by the Chinese characters which are by their
_original_ nature more ideographic.
I am going for an orthographic tehta-mode, and since many words begin
with a consonant and end in a vowel (there are in fact only two
consonants that can appear at the end of a syllable: "n" and "ng" [the
latter pronounced as in English "king", i.e. the velar nasal]), I intend
to put the vowel signs on the preceding rather than the following
consonants (as in Quenya).
So, I guess it would be alright to go against the principle of "only one
vowel tehta and one vowel tengwar per syllable", even though in Mandarin
it would be a substantial part of the vocabulary that is affected?
I would propose to spell the relevant syllables as follows
liao: lambe with I-tehta on top + úre with A-tehta on top;
tiao: tinco with I-tehta on top + úre with A-tehta on top, etc.
Does that sound ok for these triphthongs?
In syllables made up of one vowel alone, I'd use the relevant tehta upon
a short carrier.
Syllables like "ao" = A-tehta on top of úre, etc.
Syllables like "en" or "an" (pretty rare)= E or A tehta on short carrier
In consonant plus one vowel combinations (e.g. ta, da, la, ma, tu, du,
lu, mu, he, ha, etc etc.) I'd use the relevant vowel tehta upon the
In syllables such as tui, dui, rui, sui, mao, tao, dao, rao etc. I'd use
the relevant consonant tengwa and treat the complex vowel as the
diphthong that it is (e.g. U-tehta on anna for "ui", a-tehta on úre for ao).
A syllable like "tang" would be spelled tinco with A-tehta on top plus
Where Y represent an initial palatal sound (consonantal Y), I'd use a
long carrier (not anna to avoid confusion with diphthongs), e.g. "yang"
= long carrier with a-tehta on top plus nwalme. Using anna plus E-tehta
on top plus nwalme would read "aing"--though maybe this is no problem,
since this sound doesn't exist in Chinese. Hmm. So, on second thought, I
might stick to this spelling, since it couldn't really be misread by
someone who understands Chinese.
Where YI occurs, it represents a simple "e" sound (similar to the "ea"
in "tea"), and could thus be rendered as anna as well, because in all
the possible combinations (yi, yin, ying) a Chinese speaker knows that
here a palatal sound cannot possibly occur.
(BTW, the contrast between t vs. d, p vs. b, or k vs. g in Mandarin is
_not_ one of unvoiced vs. voiced (as in English or Sindarin), but one of
aspirated vs. un-aspirated. I guess (particularly since I'm proposing an
orthographic mode) one could still use tinco for T, ando for D, parma
for P, umbar for B, quesse for K and ungwe for G.)
Any ideas as to where the tone-signs (macron/acute/breve/grave) might
go? Maybe even on top of the vowel-tehta--after all, we do see two signs
on a tengwar sometimes (for example when there's a bar/tilde (preceding
nasal) _and_ a vowel-tehta on top of a tengwar (as in "won't" in the
Brogan Tengwa-greetings etc.).
The other big problem when assigning tengwar to Chinese sound values are
the numerous affricates in Mandarin (many more than in English or most
European languages, I think), incl. what in Hanyu Pinyin is represented
as "zh(i), ch(i), j(i), q(i), z(i), c(i)" :). And even the fricatives
that occur are different from those in English (what's "sh" in Hanyu
Pinyin, for example, is not the English sound in "shell", but rather a
retroflex ["rolled tongue"] fricative--although it comes pretty close to
the English "sh" in many Southern Chinese variants of Mandarin).
Maybe use harma and anca for q(i) and j(i), since these are palatalized
sounds and would thus fit in this téma, but what about the others?
Thúle and anto would be available, since Chinese has neither a soft nor
a hard "th", and since this is a dental téma, one could assign the
apico-dental c(i) and z(i). This way, we would have these four
consonants (q[i], j[i], c[i], z[i]) in roughly (!) the right spots on
the grid of method/point of articulation (well, if we assume that
putting affricates instead of fricatives in tyeller 3 and 4 doesn't
already go to far.
We are left with the retroflex ch(i) and zh(i). I think we could assign
these to calma and anca, since in the orthographic English Tehta Mode
that is kind of my blueprint for this, these two stand for "ch" (church)
and "j" (John), and neither sound occurs in Chinese, anyway. This means
putting retroflex sounds in a palatal téma, but since it seems there are
no retroflex sounds in any of the languages Tolkien intended the Tengwar
for (mainly Sindarin, Quenya and English), we need to make compromises I
guess. At least ch(i) and zh(i) would be in somewhat "befitting"
tyeller, since like English "ch" and "j", they are affricates (and since
Tolkien himself "put" the affricates "ch" (church) and "j" (John) in the
"generally" plosive tyeller 1 and 2, I guess we are free to do the same
with ch[i] and zh[i]).
A last consideration with the above sounds is how to spell them when
they do not occur in combination with other sounds (as in zhuang,
chuang, chan, jian, qian etc.). They do often occur "on their own", if
you like, as syllabic consonants (that's why in Pinyin an "i" is added,
which I've given in brackets: this "i" is only used in romanization when
no other sounds follow. It represents the "sound" you have to make to
make the consonant "sound" at all :)). Like all other syllables, they
represent one syllable/character.
I would propose to simply use an under-dot, even though in the
orthographic English tehta mode I'm generally basing this mode on, the
under-dot indicates a silent "e" rather than a syllabic consonant.
Still, I think we can "borrow" this feature from the "Bombadil mode",
since it a) doesn't conflict with any other sounds/spellings and b)
comes in really handy here.
I think this should cover most of the ground...hopefully :)
And yes, before anybody points this out: I may be slightly crazy to use
tengwar [an alphabetic writing system] to try and represent a language
whose script is basically ideographic in character. Even though
"pronunciation indicators" are incorporated into many more "recent"
[i.e. invented since the Han-Dynasty or so] Chinese characters, they are
pretty unreliable, because a) the sounds of the language have obviously
changed over the past 1,500 - 2,000 years, b) they often were nothing
but a "rough guide" to begin with.
And the large number of homophones (even considering the additional
element of tones: even for the sound "shi" in the fourth tone, to name a
particularly scary example, you will easily find about 30 entries in a
medium-sized dictionary. What discerns these in writing are the Chinese
characters, since each of these 30 entries is written with a different
one. The moment you start writing Chinese alphabetically, the clear
distinction made by the characters disappears, and the guessing begins
(well, not it's not quite that bad: remember that in modern Chinese most
characters are used in combination with other characters to form
bi-syllabic or poly-syllabic words). Still, this, apart from
considerations for culture and tradition, is one of the main reasons why
the Chinese governments efforts at completely romanizing the script
(i.e. using Pinyin instead of characters) have failed so far.
I believe that for classical Chinese (where most words indeed consist of
only one syllable) an alphabetic spelling as with Tengwar is indeed
without any practical use (well, if we pretend for a second that people
use Tengwar for practical uses rather than aesthetic pursuits such as
calligraphy etc :)), since the number of true homophones would be
staggering. No way you could understand classical poetry written in
either Latin or Tengwar letters. Also, the predominant "one syllable-one
word" factor in classical (or literary) Chinese means that without a
distinct Chinese character AND without a second syllable that further
specifies or narrows down the meaning (as in modern Chinese
poly-syllabic words, e.g. "sixiang" (thinking, ideas) instead of just
"si", for which _on its own_ there are a) numerous meanings (thought,
thinking, think, consider remember, remembrance, recall, admire, pine
for, etc.) [same character] and b) quite a few homophones [different
characters with different meanings], the bare (i.e. phonetically
transcribed) single syllable becomes a very vague carrier of
information. (Bi-syllabic words/phrases do also appear in classical
Chinese, but they are much less common.)
For modern Chinese, though, I think a text that uses Latin or Tengwar
letters would be understandable, especially if one adds tone signs.
Of course, the context of a text also helps.
Thanks for bearing with me, suggestions are welcome :).
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