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Tengwar for Chinese/Re: Re: Orthographic English Tehtar Mode (Elfscript # 2525)

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  • Dave
    ... Alright, I see what you mean (and I think spelling people with E-tehta on úre sounds fine). As it happens, I m currently working on a Chinese (Mandarin)
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 9, 2004
      --- In elfscript@yahoogroups.com, "j_mach_wust" <machhezan@g...> wrote:
      > --- In elfscript@yahoogroups.com, 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
      > >spelling?

      >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

      Alright, I see what you mean (and I think spelling "people" with E-tehta
      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
      + númen.

      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
      preceding consonant.

      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
      nwalme (ng).

      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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