Languages are dying. Which will remain?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Billy T, Sep 4, 2012.


Languages are dying. Which will remain 2000 years from now??

  1. English

    6 vote(s)
  2. Mandarin

    4 vote(s)
  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Sure, English looks impressive today, what with its collection of non-native speakers that easily exceeds the entire population of China.

    But if you assume that almost all English-speaking countries will somehow revert to Stone Age levels of primitivism and depravity in the next couple of years, and that China will simultaneously explode into a relative level of prosperity comparable to Britain back when it was the only industrialized economy on Earth - and that this situation will persist indefinitely - then Chinese looks like a real lock. This is totally a realistic, relevant scenario that a discussion about trends in world language should answer to, and not a massive derail into a crank's pet geopolitical fantasies.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Latin was the vernacular language of the central area of the Roman Empire. This is why the Franks, a German people, speak French, a Romance language, rather than another modern Germanic language vaguely like Dutch or Frisian. This is why the Romanians speak Romanian rather than Dacian.

    I think you meant to write Aramaic, not Farsi. Aramaic was both the official and vernacular language of the Middle East right up until about 100 years ago, and it still has quite a large community of speakers.

    The Chinese will benefit from the same technology, which is already visible on the horizon, as the rest of the world: instant electronic translation that's as good as a professional human diplomatic interpreter could do. This will take the pressure off all of the world's language communities.

    Spoken like a true anglophone.

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    The Chinese don't see that as an advantage because those "subtleties" have no standard definitions. They vary from one speaker/writer to another, and even more so between communities. This is the same way they feel about our so-called "advantage" at being able to express our emotions through the tone of our voice, which in Chinese is greatly restricted due to tone being phonemic. They figure that if you want to tell someone how you feel about something, you should have a sufficiently masterly command of your own language to say it in words.

    Sez you. They think our languages are relics of the Stone Age.
    Yeah right. Is that why we say, "I can't come to the phone because I am washing my hair, and then two hours later we say, "I don't want to schedule any meetings for next month because I am going to Switzerland. In Chinese, if it's important to specify the time when an action is, was, or will be taking place, you simply put in a word like "tomorrow" or "last year." Duh? What's wrong with precision?

    I get the impression that you can't actually speak two sentences in Chinese. It is far less ambiguous than English, which even I admit is the crown jewel of the Western Indo-European languages.
    Hogwash! (To use a word we recently taught to Saint

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    ) I didn't start learning Mandarin until I was in my late twenties. I hear the tones perfectly and I pronounce them perfectly. That's a criticism people toss at Chinese just to denigrate it, but it just ain't true. Sure, if you want to learn the language of Fujian with its twelve tones, that's so hard that even Mandarin speakers find it daunting. But Mandarin has only four tones: High, low, rising, falling. It doesn't take a professional musician to tell them apart or to learn to produce them well enough to be understood.

    You carefully craft your examples to make your point. I could do the same. My position relies instead on the fact that since I work in information technology most of my co-workers are from India and they speak fluent Indian English. The way they choose a preposition is to paste all of them on a dartboard and then toss a dart. They come up with some comical sentences but no one misunderstands them. Of course there are times when "on the desk" versus "under the desk" is an important difference, but those instances are vastly outnumbered by sentences like "We're going to concentrate on Chapter Two next week," or "My aunt is in trouble.

    Chinese does not get along without the ability to describe relationships, they just do it with nouns and verbs. Instead of saying "I am walking to my house" they say "I approach my house walking." Instead of "the dog is in the box" they say "dog occupy box interior." And none of these verbs have as many syllables as their English equivalents.

    Which brings up another advantage of Chinese that I noted earlier: its brevity. It takes only seven syllables on the average to translate ten in English or French, and sixteen in Italian or Japanese. This means you can speak more slowly. This gives you more time to come up with the right words and pronounce them correctly, a great advantage to foreigners. It also makes it easier to understand. I can read Spanish fairly well, but when people speak it their mouths run away from my brain in the first two sentences.

    I never claimed to have any, and I have many times told the readers of this board that I'm just an enthusiastic amateur. I am a professional writer and I have studied several foreign languages, and I am an analytical person who can't help examining their structures. All of these things give me some ability to answer questions but I'm no professor.
    As I said, we can both pick examples that support our theses. My point is based on the real-world observation that when people choose the wrong preposition in English, the odds are at least 9:1 that it doesn't make a bit of difference.
    As I said earlier, I'd like to know just how well you speak Chinese, in order to make such broad comments about it.

    Chinese doesn't need this facility. It has a much richer set of its own morphemes to build on. Remember, they're all monosyllables so Chinese comes up with much more compact compounds than ours. They built their word for "petroleum" the same way we did: by concatenating the words for "stone" and "oil." The difference is that we took ours from Latin so we ended up with four syllables. They used their own words qi-you and need only two syllables. This is yet another reason why Chinese can be spoken so much more slowly.
    Nobody would ever suggest making Sichuan or any of the other dialects of Mandarin a standard for China, much less the rest of the world. Beijing dialect has more native speakers than all the others combined, and it's the only one that's taught outside of the country. Also, Sichuan has six tones instead of four.

    Does it even approach the linguistic chauvinism of anglophones? Americans think either that everyone should learn English, or that they already know it. Even in England, the mother country that taught us chauvinism, foreign languages are more widely studied than here.

    Cantonese is phonetically far more complicated than Mandarin. It's difficult even for other Chinese speakers to learn. It also has a sound that strikes many people as bizarre because of its plethora of tones and the abrupt ending of syllables in consonants. They have a old saying, Tian bu pa, di bu pa, zuei pa tong ren shuo guan hua. "I fear nothing on heaven or earth so much as the sound of a Cantonese speaking Mandarin." (Notice that the English translation has eleven more syllables than the original.

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    There are 1600 monosyllables in Mandarin phonetics, and there are 5000 han zi that are considered "the basic character set" for an educated Chinese. This means that on the average there are three different logograms for each syllable, with three different meanings. It's not hard to come up with something that puts the desired connotation on a new coinage, although it does take a bit of poetic talent that not everyone in China has anymore than we Americans do.
    Q.E.D. Those shopkeepers had no poetic talent. The executives of the Coca-Cola company hired someone who does.

    One of the few foreign words assimilated into Mandarin is vitamin, which comes out wei ta ming. They chose logograms meaning: Only this gives life.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Nothing, precise speaking is to be preferred, but harder to do in English with verb tenses,than in Chinese and much harder to do in Portuguese, which has at least twice as many tenses as English. Thus, as I am not able to master them, I often incorrectly use the infinite, which I at least know, and do as the Chinese do - indicate I am speaking about something that happen yesterday by adding "Ontem" ("yesterday" in Portuguese but perhaps not spelled correctly)

    The Chinese method is MUCH less complicated - the only one easy enough for me to use in Portuguese. To see how complex English verb tense is note the one example: that young children will make past tense of irregular verb by incorrectly adding "ed." E.g. say: "Bobby runned after the ball but did not get it." (instead of "ran after the ball") - When it is your native language, most fail to realize how needless complex it is. The Chinese have had 3000 years to get it precise, yet simple.

    BTW, Fraggle, thanks for correcting my "Farsi" At one time, long ago the Persian were the westen world´s most technically advance (had a good calender, could write business records, etc. Point I have been tryng to make is that being the world´s techincal / economic leader for a few hundred years or more makes your language dominate in your world (contact regions) even if your population speaking it initially had many fewer speakers than those who will switch to it. (English from a tiny island is a good example.)

    Each link in chain below is there as their world´s dominate language, not because they had largest number of native speakers, but because they had world´s best technology and economic system at that time.

    Aramaic-> Greek-> Latin-> dark age in west -> Spanish-> French-> English-> Mandarin?

    I have given considerable detail why the CCP´s economic system is the world´s best but briefly again: They let the invisible hand of Adam Smith determine what is for sale in the market place and use central planning by engineers, not lawyers, with an up to 50 year time frame for infrastructure building, not the US´s "investment must begin to pay off before I face re-election if you expect me to vote funds for it" system. The better Chinese economic system is why they are starting to "eat our lunch" with 30+ years of much greater GDP growth (and most of their GDP has "lasting value," especially the biggest part - infrastructure, not like the funds in the US´s 2010´s GDP for rose bowl, basket ball and base ball games, 2010 trips to Disney land, their hotel room costs, latest 2010 hair and clothing styles, etc. that no longer have any economic value. (The don´t say US has a 2/3 consumption economy for no good reason - it is true.) If only "lasting value" expenditures were in the GDP figures, China´s is already greater than the US´s is and even in their current "slump" still growing five times faster than the US´s is!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2012
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Yep. Sez me - flexibility in word order is a feature, not a bug, in a world language.

    You can't. Three failed tries to date.

    I used your examples. Three separate times. And made my point easily.

    Not to be an insular and rigid language other people have trouble adopting, no. In rating its potential to be the lingua franca of a world technological society, adopted and adapted and employed and perforce altered by a wide variety of local cultures and speakers, that counts as a handicap.

    That is not precision, but simplification - and oversimplification on occasion, akin to pidgin - requiring extra words, introducing ambiguity and confusion of reference, dependent on a rigid word order for even basic comprehension, creating problems in translation and comprehension, dependent on contexts not found world wide, etc.

    And English has no tones, neither does it require a massive educational effort to establish ordinary mutual comprehension among the "dialects" of its several home countries - let alone home towns or provinces. So those reasons for rejecting Sichaun's version over putonghua apply even more forcefully to puntonghua over - say - English.

    Just call English a Chinese language (it has many Chinese speakers) and set up the comparisons from that basis.

    Count the tones as syllables and see what you get.

    Hardly at all, and wish I spoke much better. Chinese is a wonderful language, much more interesting and enlightening to me than, say, Spanish or German. But we aren't being so foolish as to attempt to rate languages on some kind of scale of general superiority - are we?

    It's a different kind of chauvinism - it's not based on a sense of linguistic superiority. Most Americans think someone speaking French, German, Latin, say, is exhibiting high class behavior or pretensions to same - not slumming in the Stone Age.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    So far this is a battle of opinions. I might agree with you that flexibility of word order may be an advantage in Latin, whose inflections make the choice of SVO/SOV/VSO/VOS/OSV/OVS a matter of style. But for a precocious foreigner to play around with word order in English is just as likely to either change the meaning or render it incomprehensible. The "rules" about which words can be swapped and under what circumstances are as arcane as our rules for spelling. Just follow Saint's questions on the "Help with English" thread. He frequently mixes up the word order and we can understand him only because his sentences are extremely short. Treat a longer sentence the same way and it will come out gibberish. He's still struggling with definite and indefinite articles (wasting his time on "noise-words"); you think he can learn the subtleties of optional word order?

    Only because you wrote the rules and then acted as referee.

    I never conceded and few of the other members are interested enough to vote.

    You're just spouting. Those "criticisms" range from dubious to comical. For example, why is adding an extra word in Chinese with an exact meaning ranging from "next" to "tomorrow" to "sometime in the distant future" inferior to adding the word "will" to form the future tense in English?

    You seem to have a personal problem with tones. None of the Americans in my Mandarin class found them difficult. Even people who are tone-deaf can distinguish high, low, rising and falling. Besides, as you noted, English has the much more daunting problem of expressing emotions through tones. It's different in every language, you know. Russians do not use the same tones we do and it can lead to some amusing misunderstandings.

    You're spouting again. During the three thousand years when Ancient Chinese diversified into eight or ten languages which share the same vocabulary, grammar and syntax, allowing a Cantonese to read Mandarin immediately and learn to speak it in one year, Western Indo-European diversified into the Germanic, Celtic, Hellenic and Italic language groups which have no hope of intercomprehensibility, and even within one group the differences are so great that Swedes and Dutchmen, or Italians and Frenchmen, have to study each other's languages for at least a couple of years to even begin to master them.

    Why would anybody do that? Seven syllables of Chinese translate sixteen syllables of Italian. Tones or no tones, it comes at you more slowly and makes it easier to follow. If perhaps you're hammering away at your own weakness at learning tones, please don't assume that all anglophones share this handicap. The "ugly American" who can't master tones is a cliche that Chinese people laugh at, but I've never actually met one. None of my Chinese friends have either, it's more likely an urban legend.

    That explains some of your completely off-base characterizations.

    The thesis of this thread is to guess which language will survive the next 2,000 years, which, if the last couple of centuries are a harbinger, will probably see a rapid sequence of six or eight Paradigm Shifts that make even the year 2525 unpredictable. I'm not sure "superiority" by any measure we might come up with will have anything to do with it.

    I would hesitantly predict that a homily that's proven generally true over the ages might continue to be true: "Language follows the coin, not the flag or the holy book."

    Sure, but you picked languages that are associated with academia and diplomacy, and which very few foreign visitors or immigrants actually speak in our presence. What about Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Pashto or Yoruba? Americans think that people who speak those languages are the scum of the earth.
  9. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    I tried changing this thread to be a break off of this one, as it was this thread that originally inspired me to make the other one. I think the argument over which language is "superior" should be moved there.
  10. youreyes amorphous ocean Valued Senior Member

    english language will completely dissapear, fade away like the latin language. Mandarin language will be spoken by the vast majority for millenia to come.
  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I doubt that millenia duration, but as you have voted for mandarin, I came off the fence and did so too - My arguments that it is economic dominance for several hundred years and not size of population initially speaking it, (clearly the historic fact)* that make a language become dominate (plus the continuing deterioration of Western economies and China´s just announced and measured, cautious, 158 billion stimulus support for needed infrastructure) convinced me. I.e. I persuaded my self to vote as I did.

    One must note that the 5 to 2 voted lead English has now is with all the voters speaking fluent English. It would be interesting to see what same question gets as votes in China. Does any one know how to post it there and link to this thread so many Chinese can read the arguments posted here?

    * Aramaic-> Greek-> Latin-> dark age in west -> Spanish-> French-> English-> Mandarin?
    Here are some of the technical and economic advances that changed the dominate language in the past:

    First good calendar & ability to write business contract and records, then
    Clear definitions, precise logic, democracy for most educated men, then
    Powerful well organized army with faster and larger ships then
    Gold from the new world (but that rapid 100+ fold increase in currency eventually destroyed Spanish economy) then
    The French lead renaissance, the technical and social arts and scientific method, then
    Clock for longitude determination at sea, steam engine & powered loom, for three fold lower price of textile delivered any where in the world than local production costs.
    But England declined with WWI & II damage and transferred leadership in global commerce from British empire to USA which got stronger production capacity without war damage during those wars.

    Now: China has the best economic system – a hybrid of free market consumer goods guided by Adam Smith´s “invisible hand” and engineers making long range infrastructure investments even if no return comes for a decade. PLUS a population that saves a huge fraction of their incomes allowing these long term investments to be done instead of consuming more than they produce as US and EU have done (with Germany a possible exception)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2012
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Bullshit. I followed your rules, sued your examples, dealt directly with your assertion in your words, and no one refereed - the demonstration needed no ruling.
    To get a more meaningful physical comparison - the tones, like syllables, take time and effort. To count syllables and overlook tones is to invalidate your comparison.

    No, nothing personal, they're not my problem - it's one of the obstacles you cited as afflicting, your example, Szechuan. It is one more among the several problems any dialect of Mandarin has in becoming a world language. I simply pointed out the obvious - the obstacles of its nature facing Szechuan, according to you, in taking over China, are even more significant in opposing putonghua spreading over the planet.

    You are missing the point. China, like Europe, has no common language, was the point. Without massive and coordinated effort by a powerful authoritarian central government, English might well be as likely a candidate as putonghua for that language - within China itself, never mind the rest of the planet.

    No, "they" don't. And the ones who do don't think the languages are therefore low class - a resonant, attractive voice speaking Spanish does not sound like Stone Age grunting to an American, neither does Yoruba or the accent it lends to English.

    You never dealt with it at all - just repeated your assertion, later. It wasn't subtle - your assertion (that prepositions in English are essentially meaningless noise words) is strange in its blatant, obvious unreality. It's not just wrong, but bizarrely out of touch with simple and obvious and demonstrated fact.

    Meanwhile, the dominant economic powers on the North American continent spoke French and Spanish, for hundreds of years, without establishing them as the common tongue. The Romans and Normans ruled England for many generations, as dominant economic and military powers, without establishing their languages as the common ones for cross cultural communication among any but a tiny elite.

    It's possible that putonghua will come to be the world language, but I think it as likely that the Chinese will adopt English - suitably modified, of course - as their common language.

    That's a small problem, if any - each culture picking up English can simply use its own tones of voice within the culture, and dispense with subtleties and emotion when bridging cultural barriers - the language works without them.

    That is not clear. Although a language must of necessity be widely spread and introduced to foreign peoples to become widely spoken by disparate folk, implying economic influence at minimum, the converse does not hold: We have many examples of conquering empire and dominant economic entity not establishing its native or original language among the conquered or dominated. The Mongol empire, for example, established its language only where the native speakers themselves emigrated and settled. The Roman empire did not spread Latin among traders and other common folk, it became the common language of elite intellectual discussion after it was dead, as a side effect of its use in Christian religions. And no dialect of Mandarin has become the standard language of commerce and cross-cultural communication even in China, let alone across the swaths of SE Asia economically dominated by China for a thousand years.

    Let's hold off on that assessment - see, say, if their bankers will fuck up, as Japan's did when so many (including themselves) were crowning them as the heirs to America's empire, as Spain's did, as America's did, as England's did, and so forth, OK? Right now they are showing some of the familiar classic signs of upcoming banking troubles - secrecy, centralized power, nepotism, chauvinism, the formation of a small financial elite not subject to outside auditing or market correction.
  13. superstring01 Moderator

    Then what is your prediction for India?

    Thus my question about your ability to read.

  14. Shadow1 Valued Senior Member

    English is not going to die any time soon, and it may last, even if it is no longer a dominiant language in the world, it will be in the west.
    Even if Chian took over, people will still use and learn English for buisness and etc... Chinese is too difficult to be used globally, even Chinese people themselves don't master it intill they study it alot.

    On the other hand, the world is changing, it will no longer be a unipole world, there will be multiple poles, and many powers.
    Chinese on the rise, USA who knows what's next, most likely to collapse with depts crises and the whole world with it, inless it starts new wars, but even if the whole world falls, new powers will still rise, and Asia will be the new dragon, just like there is the west today.

    So Chinese mainly, and other asian languages (wich are clearly alot easier), even Indian language, may become known, but English will still survive somehow.
    Arabic also will not be a major language, or a language of science or buisness anytime soon, but it will survive, and we certinly can tell nothing about this, we don't know what will happen next in the arab world, both in the Middle East, and in North Africa wich is clearly have less tensions, esspecially with the rise of revolutions (both real and fake revolutions), the arab world may start having some powers and small unification and advantually wars between them as always happens (like in Europe, before becoming united, unions started and powers started to rise, struggling with each other, but the different case is, that europeans were alone, there was no one to intervent in their buiness, it was like, a family fued), so the future of this language is unclear, but it will survive.
    One other reason it will, with arabs or not, is that about 1/3 of the world's population follow Islam, and Quran is only in Arabic (inless you are talking about some translations, wich are rather translation and explenation of verses, wich differs from one version to another, and not exactly the same as the original), so this may be another reason why it will survive.
    English however, is not the only language used in bible, but it is a divine language on internet, most of the internet content is in English, not to mention all the world buiness, the whole world speaks English.

    I think that the bottom of line is, that in the new world, there will not be one world power and one world language, perhaps we can consider that a transitory phase to another phase of a global dominion, or to another world war and maybe a global disaster and who knows what's next. I guess that globalisation and technology that removed boundaries between cultures, and even started to form a global culture threatening every culture's specifications and unique feathures, will somehow make a reversed effect, instead of opening the world's cultures to each other and perhaps, pathing the way for a global dominiance, it will create enclosed blocks and powers.
    Try to think about it like a family, after all, the country, is just a family, just on a larger scale, and on a longer time period.
    When some new member enters the family life and live with them, like a new father, a new adopted kid, etc... some old members of the family will feel threatened sometimes , and will try to protect hes belongings, and refusing to share hes room that belonged onyl to him for a long time.
    You can think of wars like that, & even like a monopoly game, sometimes when you play monopoly...

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    But I don't think that the world powers are so stupid to self destruct using nuclear weapons and destroying Earth and human civilisation as we know(well, maybe inless a power is already falling and still having nuclear bombs, so it's last shot is to make everyone fall with it)..Or are they?
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    On part (1):I think that is nearly 100% false or soon will be, but will defer to Fraggle et. al. on this. I don´t mean that there will not remain strong dialects with local variation for 100+ years but now that there are more users of the internet in China than in N. America (US+Canada+ Mexico) and high speed rail is tying China together almost all can understand the standard version of Mandarin plus the “Go West” economic drive than has sent many from the coastal areas to the interior and produced at least 50% greater GDP growth there compared to the formerly dominate coastal region, which now has sever labor shortages. Also important in reaching a standardize Mandarin goal is fact that many local school teachers in rural areas are not well educated themselves so most rural schools now have internet distributed "distant learning" programs every day in the standardized Mandarin. In some small mountain villages not yet on the grid, the school´s photovoltaic/battery system is the only electric energy in the village. The CCP and the Chinese people themselves, place great emphasis on quality education for all. - Contrast that with US´s local funding of schools where poor communities have terrible schools.

    On part (2): again I´m not well versed, but agree that for many centuries, China was the dominate military power in Asia and the technical leaders of the world while Europe was in the dark ages. To put it crudely: Chinese astronomers were recording precisely the location and time of solar eclipse on paper when Europeans had none and did not know to wipe their ass. These old records let us know accurately the long term rate of tidal slowing of Earth´s rotation (The cities where they were seen are ~500miles East of where they would have been seen if the day were not growing longer.)

    Returning to the point: That´s not the economically dominate trading China I speak of. It only began three decades ago and still is in the rapid expansion phase, especially in trade with other Asian and Mid East nations or Africa. Their annual trade is growing > 25% in all these areas. Before that, for China was a sequence of regional dictatorship, sometimes quite large, whose armies mainly took things they wanted from the lesser powers that did not pay tribute to be left in peace. Much like the Spanish conquistadors took gold from South American Indians. To the extent that these Indians learned Spanish, that was the doings of the “tag along” priests. – Not the exploitive economic dominance.

    The Mongols, under Gingus Kan got as far west as BudaPest*, with the same extractive taking what they wanted. For their language to have become dominate in the region they raped, they would have needed to be like modern China. - Trading and investing in local infrastructure, building mines, roads, power grids, ports, dams etc. (More than half of all the world´s hydro-electric / flood control projects now being built are being built in Africa by Chinese!) There are 300,000 Chinese working only in Angola and 12 billion dollars has been invested there by China in the last 5 years. Most Chinese workers have contracts for a year or two but many stay after their contract is over. After coordination with local police, China now can operated as the police in Angola arresting people and if they are Chinese, send them back to China for trial. Slowly oil and mineral rich Angola is becoming a Chinese colony. That is how you “export your language” not by extractive conquest as old China did to many Asian nations for a 1000 years.
    Agreed: China could “blow it.” But that is not likely and the problems you mention are quite common in the USA too. In some cases worse. For example the still uncleared “toxic trash” held mainly by Fanny and Freddy May is greater than the bad paper held by local Chinese banks. Furthermore, most of this bad paper is very productive – a different and better way to provide food, shelter and clothing for those who cannot pull their own weight economically. (Low IQ, physically handicapped, old and thus ill educated, chronically sick, etc.) They get jobs (along with others) in the low profitability (or even money losing) State owned Enterprises, SOEs few of which are “economically viable” and will never pay back the bad paper loans they received from banks. But look at the bigger picture, contrasting it with the US solution to supporting those who cannot make it in the US economy:

    These SOEs do produce products and pay salaries. Perhaps they need 10% subsidy to keep operating. Also up to 2% of the SOE´s funds may be skimmed of by the managers - Part of why China is adding millionares faster than the rest of the world is. The SOE may sell production items for 90% of the production cost. Terribly economically inefficient by US business standards. However, in the US, 1 in 7 is living on food stamps and 1 in 3 is getting some “needs based” financial aid from the government. (The "Needs based" test does not include the Social Security or Medicare payments the US government also must make.)

    The system used in the US to feed, cloth, and house, those that cannot pull their own weight economically is ~10 times more costly, ~10 time less efficient than the one via SOEs used in China where there are no food stamps and essentially no hand outs of government funds except to the sick. In China, 2/3 of hospital costs and most medicines are paid by the government and only 1/3 by the sick and hospital patients. This is a recent change – until a few years ago, it was the other way around. Patient paid 2/3 of the costs. The CCP made this change in a basically failed effort to get the Chinese to save less and spend more to grow the domestic economy faster. (It “failed” as the Chinese, many of who remember periods of mass starvation still save ~50% of their incomes. Also keeping saving rate high is the one child policy and the cultural rule that man must own a house before a girl will marry him. I.e. there are four parents are saving to help buy it (or apartment) as they want a grandchild to spoil. Thus Chinese mortgages, if any is used, are typically 25% or less of the apartment cost.) Before 2005, 99% of Chinese did not even know what a "credit card" is!

    SUMMARY: Yes China´s banks lend to economically inefficient (in the narrow western view) SOEs and hold a lot of bad paper, which the central government must periodically make good by buying it up. Sort of like Freddy & Fanny´s bad paper held (the “toxic trash”) but on a lesser scale. However, this system of support for those who cannot earn their own way costs the broader society only (or less than?) 10% of what the US system of hand outs to the non-working does.

    Hence, your argument that Chinese banks holding bad paper from loans to economically inefficient SOEs will collapse (as Lehman etc. did) and bring down the society´s economic progress applies 10 times more to the US with it 1.5 trillion annual deficits. I.e. US almost did collapse in 2008 and will the next time big banks fail as nothing has fundamentally changed in the US banking system, as printing press money at rate FED is doing always destroys its value in the end. I.e. US has kicked the can of collapse down the road a few years with “thin air money” but not solved the fundamental problems. Bank that were “too big to fail” have grown even bigger as the weaker ones were eaten by the stronger ones.

    * Pest is the city on the west side of the Danube (Buda is on the East side) In Pest, there is an about twice life size statue of Gingus Kan - I could not read the Hungarian text carved into the base, but was amazed to see it in a place of honor there. The WWII memorial grounds in Buda has a notable statue too. The text on its enormous base is duplicated in Russian so I could read that it glorified Stalin as if he by himself he drove the German forces out. That bronze image of Stalin must have stood 50 feet tall, but only the two enormous boots remain, making quite an effective statement in their silence.

    BTW since we are discussing language, I´ll note that back when I was in Hungry, I noted that three languages warn you not to drink the hand washing water in bathrooms, etc. - Hungarian, Russian & German, but English was never used back then.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2012
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There's an enormous qualitative difference between the set of six tones in the Sichuan dialect of Mandarin and the set of four tones in the standard Beijing dialect. It takes very little skill, effort or time to nail a tone with a high, low, rising or falling pitch, in speech or comprehension of speech. A tone-deaf person can do that. Once you add a middle tone, or a tone that rises from mid to high and another that rises from low to mid, you've made the problem exponentially more difficult. I lived with a Sichuan speaker for two years and I am still not quite sure what the extra tones of her dialect even are (and I'm a musician!) but I learned the four tones of Beijing dialect in one hour. After all, we put tones into our speech; they're not phonemic but they transmit information about how we feel. In any case, as I pointed out in my previous post, the syllables of Mandarin are so compact and flow so easily, with their [c]v[c/s] format, compared to a syllable like "strengths" (yeah I picked the most difficult one that sprang to mind, but it's a surprisingly common word these days), that the tones do not result in Mandarin being especially difficult to pronounce. It still easily matches the information-transfer rate of English or Spanish without having to be rushed.

    If you saw "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which was shown in Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles rather than dubbed, the speed of the dialog was China's theatrical standard, slightly slower than vernacular speech, with all of the tones clearly enunciated rather than neutralized when permissible. This is the same way people talk on radio and TV, and when giving speeches. It's also the way non-native speakers talk. If you followed the English subtitles you'd notice that the information transfer rate was just about identical to the English translation if it were spoken in American dialect. (The Brits talk faster than we do. Some of this is simply going faster, but a lot of it is the elision of syllables, such as the A in the suffix -ary. I'd like to poll non-native speakers to see if they find American movies easier to understand than British.)

    You're avoiding the point I made: Mandarin is far easier for other Chinese speakers to learn than a truly foreign language, because the syntax, grammar and vocabulary are identical and only the pronunciation is different. My Sichuan-speaking girlfriend's family moved to Hong Kong when she was young and they were all speaking fluent and correct Cantonese within six months. (And Cantonese is one of the most difficult Chinese languages, perhaps second only to Fujian.) No average Chinese citizen could come close to that with English.

    I've tested it and collaborated with other native speakers who have had real-life experience listening to people who use the dart-board technique for choosing prepositions. They all agree with me: Nine times out of ten it makes no difference. I'm curious about the "demonstrated fact" that you cite in opposition. Sure, I'm exaggerating, but my point stands that prepositions are a crappy way to express relationships--because there is only a limited set of them, developed in the Stone Age, and we only succeed in adding about two new ones per century. ("Absent" and "regarding" are the two I can think of from the 20th century. The former could be diagrammed as an adjective and the latter as a participle.) Considering all the new kinds of relationships that have developed during the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Era and Information Age, I call this a hindrance.

    This is why we have watched English speakers invent an entire new way of building words to express relationships: the noun-adjective compound such as user-friendly, fuel-efficient, labor-intensive. A few of these compounds already existed (e.g. trouble-free), but the 20th century saw an explosion of them. This is English in action, adding a new grammar rule to get around the handicap of an inadequate set of prepositions. This is not too different from the Chinese way: they use nouns and verbs.

    Those languages were established within their own regions during their period of ascendency. French is in fact still the official language in Quebec and a common vernacular language in Louisiana. As for the Spanish-governed Southwest, it was simply overrun by anglophones from the other side of the USA and the hispanophones were marginalized. It was a desert with a low population density, after all. Spanish is certainly making a comeback there today.

    The Roman Empire collapsed before they had a chance to completely Romanize the Britons as they did the Franks, Iberians and Dacians, with the handicap of a later start on a non-contiguous land mass.

    The Norman period in Angle Land is a complicated one I wish I knew more about. But not being contiguous was a problem for them too. For reasons I'm not sure anyone has analyzed completely, after 200-300 years, just about the point you'd expect French to have descended down to the man in the street, the Norman rulers assimilated and adopted the language of their subjects. It's not exactly wrong to say that the Norman occupation never ended; it was certainly never overthrown. There has been generational continuity in British government since then and even today many English people have French surnames, although often anglicized to be unrecognizable.

    This is not a unique phenomenon. The Mongols did the same thing after conquering China, as someone (you?) already pointed out. The most amazing instance of this was Aramaic becoming the official and vernacular language of Babylon, even though the Aramaeans were a powerless captive people who quickly vanished into the Melting Pot. Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the Middle East for more than two millennia after the people for whom it was named were forgotten.

    But not as well as Chinese. Chinese speakers have spent generations developing precise ways of expressing their feelings in words. English speakers have not.

    As I noted earlier, when people from different states in India meet, they speak English rather than Hindi, which has the bad cachet of being the regional language of the national capital.

    Are you suggesting that Japanese, for example, is easier to learn than Chinese? If so, you're out of your mind!

    Eh. The Bible was once only available in Latin. Even religions change.

    Mankind is clearly merging into a single global civilization. The type of government is of course impossible to predict. Perhaps it will be a hegemony like today's Europe or an uncomfortably unified people like the USSR.

    In any case, as I pointed out before, the 22nd century will obviously be noted for real-time computerized translation, so there will be little pressure on people to give up their birth language with all the cultural motifs it carries with it.

    The problem is that we still have the neural programming of our Stone Age ancestors, since only a few hundred generations separate us from them and that's not long enough for our brains to be reprogrammed by the evolution of DNA. Each one of us still has a caveman inside, and every day we have to override his instinctive behavior with reasoned and learned behavior. He only feels instinctive kinship with his immediate family of a few dozen nomadic hunter-gatherers. We have done our best to extend that feeling of kinship, first to a larger group of people in a village whom we knew but not intimately, then to hundreds of anonymous strangers in a city, then to people we never met in a state, and now to people on the other side of the planet who are nothing more than abstractions. And as I've noted before, we've been wildly successful at this: Americans wept for Neda Aga Soltan when she was gunned down by agents of a tyrannical theocratic government, even though our own government has been brainwashing us for thirty years into believing that Iranians are our enemies.

    Nonetheless, it's also not difficult for people to fall into Stone Age habits and hate each other. When a few individuals do it we scold them or, in the worst cases, throw their butts in prison. But occasionally an entire population does it and we have what we call "war." Over the last three generations we've seen the scope and body count of war diminish greatly. Only time will tell if this trend will continue. This is the key to a one-world civilization.

    The problem is that there are still some Stone Age religions around that teach people that nothing that happens on Earth is important because they will be rewarded in Heaven. This gives them permission to kill each other because death is not "permanent."
  17. superstring01 Moderator

    The 22nd century? Try the early 21st century!

    People just don't understand the logarithmic growth in computing power. Right now there are real-time apps that you can download to translate. The technology is extremely clunky, but this is 2012. The instant-translation technology will be common by 2020. It will be universal by 2030. Given the billions upon billions spent annually on telephone technology and all the power being crammed into these gadgets, the interconnected nature of them, the massive investment in technologies warn on the eye and in the ear, it's unlikely this conversation will even be relevant beyond 2025.

    I am confident that within your lifetime, Fraggle, you're bear witness to the first inkling of permanently attached technologies. These already exist; created--in the beginning--for those with sensory handicaps, and then slowly making their way into the consumer realm. By the time of my passing, I'm confident that there'll be implants to resolve this very question.

  18. Shadow1 Valued Senior Member

    Yes, Chinese may be easier in grammar, but the caracters are a pain in the ass.
    I am not saying that japanese easier because it sounds so, but because I was learning it, I didnt keep up with it anyway (since it is of no big use or need here), but I memorized the caracters fast, and the grammer is also not that hard.
  19. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Possibly true, but it will be made in China and very likely the first models will output Mandarin.
  20. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    When I was a kid living in West Virginia, a school board held a public meeting to see if French should be offered in High School. One old man was "again it." He stood up, waving his bible in hand and said: "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, its all our kids need." So the news paper reported - I was not at the meeting.
  21. superstring01 Moderator

    Possible. Or it could be made in Vietnam or Indonesia or India or Bangladesh or Pakistan. Or, ORRRRR, it will be made in Africa which is the new destination for manufacturing after the Asian economies reach a point where the ROI won't be nearly as nice as it is in the Dark Continent. They aren't--after all--making any more dirt poor nations.

  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Those places are and will be making the low value added items China once made, but no longer can (labor costs too high now). China is moving up the value chain to eat the US´s lunch with production of high value added items, not going out of business. I.e. they make more cars, more TVs, cameras, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. (and batteries for same) than US does now, in part because their domestic market for most of the items is already larger and rapidly growing.

    Not right now, but if I´m correct that there is to be a run on the dollar on or before Halloween 2014 quickly followed by world´s worst & longest lasting depression in US and EU, perhaps cheap labor will be plentiful again (before end of 2015).

    Did you notices that many Greeks are now migrating to Germany & Scandinavia with their toilet brushes as they can get work there cleaning public toilets? When out of work and food costs more than you can pay, even Americans will do anything needed to eat, but with nearly one hand gun per adult in the US that may not be working for their food.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Oops! Why did I write that?

    My life expectancy today is about 20 years so you may be right.

    Frankly I'm more interested in the somatic realm. Getting rid of these aches and pains, restoring a little more strength and mobility.

    A cure for Alzheimer's would be nice.

    We older people have the most money and the most votes so you'd think they'd be pandering to us.

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    Japanese uses 2,000 Chinese characters so there's not much of an advantage. In fact, they also use two phonetic syllabaries, which arguably make it worse because you have to know whether what you're writing should be written in kanji (the Japanese phonetic rendition of Chinese han zi), or in hiragana, which is used for inflections and short native Japanese words, or in katakana, which is used for foreign words and acronyms.

    Chinese at least has a phonetic writing system completely developed and waiting for implementation--which will happen once the majority of the population is fluent in Mandarin. The Japanese are in many ways more traditional than the Chinese, so they'll probably preserve the Chinese writing system long after the Chinese themselves discard it. The same way we Americans lovingly retain inches, pounds, gallons, acres, BTUs and Fahrenheit when the British themselves have gone metric.

    If you think Japanese grammar is easy you'll think Chinese grammar is a piece of cake. And if you memorized the standard set of Chinese characters used in Japanese, you can already read Chinese at about the eighth- or ninth-grade level.

    That's an old joke that's been making the rounds for centuries.

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    When people say "against" in Southern dialect we write it agin' (which is how it's pronounced), to distinguish it from the adverb "again."

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