What are the 5 most spoken Languages in the world?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Asexperia, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    USA. Born in Chicago, spent most of my life in Los Angeles, currently in the Washington DC region.

    1943. A War Baby, three years too old to be a Baby Boomer.

    There's a sharper break between the S and the K in "ice cream." But this is the kind of phonetic subtlety that we learn as babies. I'm sure most of the people reading this are not consciously aware of it, even though it's the exact reason they can distinguish the two most of the time.

    It's very difficult to A) discern and B) learn these subtleties in a foreign language. Particularly if your own language doesn't have anything like it. Spanish, for example, deliberately runs words into each other, to speed up delivery and compensate for the much larger syllable count. The SK transitions in la escuela and las cosas are identical. But because the average word has more syllables than its English counterpart (escuela/school, cosa/thing) other methods can be used to identify where one word stops and the next begins.

    I don't know how popular a course it is. It seems to be a rite of passage for Hawaiian-born people who are not of Western ancestry: the Polynesians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and other peoples from the region have created their own Melting Pot. Many of them learn it slowly by immersion, although it is also used in more-or-less formal rituals, and Hawaiian-language songs are popular.

    That's pretty much what I've been preaching for decades. Running a sentence through my head in Chinese, a language with no genders, I wonder why I automatically refer to a doctor as "he" and a nurse as "she."

    At its peak in the 1920s, the most optimistic estimate was around ten million. Obviously all secondary speakers. Some of those people made a point of speaking Esperanto at home (particularly those who met through the movement and did not share the same primary language) so their children qualified as primary speakers (like George Soros, whom I already mentioned). But even the most enthusiastic supporters never claimed that there were a large number of them. I've never even seen an estimate.

    It's spelled Bantu in edited writing. Bantu is a branch (probably the largest) of the Niger-Congo language family, one of the world's largest and most-studied families. The roughly 250 Bantu languages cover the southern part of Africa, except for the large region of the Khoi-San languages, and the other Niger-Congo languages continue up around the Atlantic coast as well as through the center of the continent into the Sahara. Shona and Zulu, each with ten million speakers, have the largest populations of primary Bantu speakers.

    But Swahili, with about sixty million (used as a second language except by all but a few) is high on the list of the world's most-spoken languages, and certainly qualifies as an international language by its very nature. It arose on the shore of the Indian Ocean, and when Arab traders began making regular stops it became the language of trade, undergoing considerable modification including the borrowing of words from Arabic and many other sources
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  3. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    And? the question is how do the Japanese separate words and is it easy for English speakers to learn?

    I think it a little more fundamental then that: the testing goes both ways and found the same results no matter the primary and secondary language, which means it was not a specific language that was altering thought on way or another but that thinking in a different language forces the thinkers to be more methodical in their thoughts. I often have trouble with the he/she dilemma and notice it constantly, yet I don't speaking any other languages close to fluency.

    For your information I don't reply to statements I either agree with or already know.
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  5. Asexperia Valued Senior Member


    "There have been numerous objections to Esperanto over the years. For example, there have been criticism that Esperanto is not neutral enough, but also that it should convey a specific culture, which would make it less neutral; that Esperanto does not draw on a wide enough selection of the world's languages, but also that it should be more narrowly Western European".

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Esperanto
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't know enough about Japanese to answer that. I have been out of touch with the fluent American speaker I referred to for a long time.

    Frankly I don't think I could explain how native speakers separate words in Spanish, since it's a skill I've never acquired and it greatly inteferes with my ability to communicate.

    Ditto for German. I find it much easier to understand in speech than Spanish despite my much smaller vocabulary and considerably less opportunity to practice, but I can't quite explain why. I have a hunch that it might be the rather small and regular set of inflections which identify the end of many words. This could also be the case in the even more heavily-inflected Slavic languages.

    It's easier to explain in Chinese: every "word" has only one syllable, and they all end in a vowel, semivowel, N or NG. In case one word ends in N or a semivowel and the next begins with a vowel, they clearly mark the space with a slight pause to distinguish, say, wan an from wa nan. (NG cannot begin a word in Mandarin, although it does in other Chinese languages such as Cantonese.)

    Many monolingual people happen to be fascinated by their language so they think about it analytically. Still, there are surely many more aspects of one's language which affect one's way of thinking, that will become open to scrutiny when one learns another language. Particularly one that is considerably different, e.g., Chinese, Uzbek or Hopi versus our close cousins German or Swedish.

    For example, in English we can say, "I went to school on the bus after breakfast," and we can easily change the position of these three events on a whim. In Chinese you absolutely must describe them in the precise order in which they occurred: "I eat breakfast ride bus attend school."

    That's reasonable. This isn't a private conversation. Others are also reading.

    Esperanto is clearly an Indo-European language. The grammar and syntax are comfortably familiar to a speaker of English, Italian, Gaelic, Polish, Greek, Punjabi, Latvian or Farsi. The vocabulary is drawn primarily from Latin and the Romance languages with a heavy addition of Greek, because the European languages are full of Latin, French and Greek borrowings and neologisms--although Punjabi, Latvian and Farsi are not. A few English and Slavic words are tossed in to make us comfortable, although none from Punjabi, Latvian or Farsi.

    I corresponded for many years with a Finn, an Estonian and a Hungarian--all Finno-Ugric languages. They were so accustomed to all foreign languages having a completely unfamiliar vocabulary that they didn't complain about it, but rather were delighted that the grammar, although not what they were used to, was logical, completely regular, and rather simple compared to Russian and sensible compared to English.

    I still have a Japanese correspondent who learned Esperanto at about the same time he was learning English. He became fluent in the former several years before the latter, so he was quite pleased by it and never thought to complain about its unfamiliarity.

    The demise of Esperanto can surely be blamed squarely on the fact that absolutely no major national government ever advocated for it. Only the Bulgarians, Finns, Greeks, Croatians, etc., had strong national associations that promoted study and international conferences, because nobody anywhere could speak their language. But the Americans, French, Russians, etc., simply wanted everyone to learn their language so they wouldn't have to bother learning anybody else's.

    Nothing has changed today. However, computer translation is steadily improving. The day will come when you'll be able to read this post in Tagalog, Quechua or Basque. Real-time translation of spoken language will always have a time lag because you can't translate a sentence with 100% confidence until you've heard its very last word. But the U.N. makes do with that handicap so personal conversations surely will have no problem.

    At this point, people who want to be able to communicate orally without the time lag might very well resurrect Esperanto. Sweethearts, for example.

    "It is such a joy to have you here with me, feeling your breath, hearing your voice, sharing your space."

    -- Awkward pause --

    "Yes, this is a dream come true and I hope that it will never end."
  8. superstring01 Moderator


    And this is quite a turn for me.

    Given Africa's soon-to-be rise to prominence, the international cache of French as a language of culture and politics, I think French is prolly number 3.

  9. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    I been experimenting with ending words in my pet artificial language in diphthongs, triphthongs, polyphthongs and closed syllables such that these do not exist in any part of the word other than its ending. Do you think this would make it easy to recognize/ distinguish the end of words?

    We been over this, I shown you studies that prove that not every word in mandarin Chinese as only one syllable before:

    "Although classical Chinese appear to be to have been a monosyllabic language, modern Mandarin is no longer monosyllablic. Indeed, Mandarin has a very large number of polysyllablic words."

    From "Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar", page 13 - http://books.google.com/books?id=nj...epage&q=English mandarin monosyllabic&f=false

    I don't see how that changes the thinking of it.

    Ultimately yes, it appears computer translation will win out over any lingua franca or AxL, it is simply far less time consuming (and lazy) for humans to use a machine to translate then learn the language themselves. A machine can translate thousands of languages at a pace faster then any human, the only problem is accuracy of translation. It should be possible to achieve very accurate translations even without a conscious machine the problem is all the semantic relationships for words must be record and tabulated. A hellish proposition.
  10. Asexperia Valued Senior Member


    1- All vowels are pronounced

    montaña, pausadamente, ecuador, entretener

    2- The phonic emphasis varies in each word

    Matemáticas, camión, sinónimo

    3- It uses the two genres and the two numbers in nouns, adjectives and articles.

    El gato negro come la carne. (male and singular)
    Las gatas negras comen la carne. (female and plural)

    4- The adjective is placed after the name.

    La casa blanca. The white house.

    5- The verb is understood (person) when it removes a pronoun in the sentence.

    (Yo) camino en la acera. I walk on the sidewalk.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member


    Yes. I wasn't totally convinced then and I'm not totally convinced now.

    Every Chinese person knows that dian hua means "telephone," yet dian still means "lightning" or "electricity," and hua still means "speech" or "language."

    Every Chinese person may not know that yin means "sound" and yue means "happy." I'm making this assumption because no Chinese person I even met could explain what those syllables mean until Saint told me a couple of months ago on this board. They only know that yin yue means "music." Nonetheless, it's still a compound word because the components have meanings that combine to form the meaning of the compound.

    There are certainly other compounds whose derivations are lost to history, most notably (to me) dong xi, which literally means "east-west," but as a compound means "thing." Nonetheless Chinese people come up with a logical explanation that, after all, "thing" refers to absolutely anything that can be found from the East to the West, i.e., anywhere in the world. (Since in the past there was no known land east of China except a few culturally colonized nations like Japan and Korea, the rest of the world is referred to as "the West.")

    All the Chinese people I've known spoke of compound words as compound words. They didn't regard them as single, polysyllabic words.

    Perhaps the most convincing argument for this point of view is that in compound words only the tone of the first syllable is spoken clearly, and often the rest are reduced to a neutral tone. But this is not limited to compound words. In common expressions such as "how do you do" or "for what reason," the tones of all but the first syllable are also frequently given short shrift. And only in colloquial conversation. In formal speech, including movie dialog, all tones are pronounced perfectly.

    I'm not going to say that these people, who obviously know more about Chinese than I do, have to be wrong. But it wouldn't be the first time that an expert in linguistics was not an expert in psychology. They're not all Noam Chomsky.

    Huh? It requires you to organize your thoughts in a different sequence: time, rather than priority.

    Actually, although this is something that they teach us, they will admit that in daily life they rarely actually speak this way. They all say Yo camino en la acera, not Camino en la acera. Omitting the pronoun is something they do in poetry, including the lyrics of songs. And they do it in slang, or when they're angry. But in normal daily conversation, it's rather unusual.

    Even when they have a perfectly reasonable opportunity to decrease the number of syllables in their sentences, they don't take it! Perhaps it's because in high-speed speech, the missing pronouns would make it hard to identify the beginning and end of the words.
  12. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This makes absolutely no sense to me. Have you looked at a Chinese-English dictionary? The Fenn 5000 is the one I use, although it's an old edition that has hopefully been updated. It lists all 5,000 han zi that a well-educated Chinese is expected to know. Since Mandarin phonetics can only create 1,600 distinct syllables, this means that on the average there are three homonyms for each one--three different ways of writing a syllable.

    The Fenn is for foreigners, and is alphabetized by the Wade-Giles romanized spelling of the syllables.

    A dictionary for Chinese would more likely be sorted by their arcane way of hierarchically listing the characters: first by the "root," with all one-stroke roots coming first, followed by all two-stroke roots, etc., and don't ask me how they decide which six-stroke root gets to be first. The characters that all start with the same root are then sorted by the number of additional strokes required to write them. Again, if there are twelve characters with the same root and six extra strokes, don't ask me who decided which one is listed first. Since it's not easy for a foreigner to count strokes, it takes me about half an hour to find a character in this book, if I can find it at all. They do not order the morphemes by pronunciation, since these dictionaries serve all Chinese people and the words are pronunced much differently in Mandarin, Wu, Fujian, Shanghai, etc. I also have a more recent dictionary in Pin-yin romanization that is somewhat easier to use than the Fenn... except A) it was translated from a Chinese-German dictionary and B) it was produced by the Chinese government in the 1960s so it's top-heavy with Communist terminology and C) it was printed on a mimeograph.

    Anyway, the Fenn first lists a character by itself and gives its basic meaning or meanings. Then all compounds built on that character are listed, giving their English translation.

    My point is: every single character has a meaning, therefore all compound words can be broken down into the meanings of their elements. This doesn't always make sense, but it can always be done. There are no Chinese multi-syllable compounds that cannot be divided into intelligible units. The combination may not seem intelligible, but the units are. Americans may sniff at this and insist that, therefore, the units have no meaning, but Chinese people don't think like this. As I noted earlier, they will earnestly explain to you why a "thing" really is an "east-west."

    Don't trust me, eh?

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    Yes you can do this. Instead of saying "I eat breakfast ride bus" (or "board bus" in your anglophone's impossible-to-directly-translate-because-there-are-no-prepositions-in-Chinese syntax), you can say, "I eat breakfast; afterward (hou lai) I board bus."

    If you were determined to think like an anglophone, with time not progressing smoothly and inexorably over the millennia like a soothing balm, you could say, "I board bus, but (ke shi) earlier (yi chian) I eat breakfast."

    You just don't get it. People do not all think the same and that is reflected in their languages. People who speak Russian, French, German, Spanish, etc., are very uncomfortable with our language's single pronoun for "you." They want a choice between a familiar pronoun and a formal, polite pronoun. We don't think that way, although our ancestors did: thou/thee versus ye/you.
  14. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Now that makes no sense: how can it not always make sense yet can always be divided into intelligible units. If the units make sense alone, sure that understandable, "U" means "U", "B" means "B" but if they come together to make something that can't be understood without knowing what it was beforehand like "BUT" then its not a compound. Sure you can divide telephone into "Electric-Talk" but other words of theirs the compounding does not accuratly tell you what the new word means. More so when they say some of these polysyllable words they change the tone such that the comonants no longer have their normal tone and thus normal meaning, they might still write them using the characters as isolated words, but not say them as such.

    You can argue with the text book as such as it they clearly claim the otherwise.

    Well if it can be said like that then I don't see how it is evidence of it being thought of diffrently.

    I'm confused: are you saying we think temporally or them? If they can reoganize their sentances to non-tempral order as we can then how is their thinking on this subject diffrent?

    No shit, you have a tendancy to state the obvious as if your being condencending. The problem is I haven't seen you make a good argument of how they think diffrently only wave your hands saying they do.
  15. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

  16. Delphi Registered Senior Member

    Coming from a Russian background, I can attest to this. Farsi, too, as I learned from my time at DLI, is the same exact way. Eventually that goes away and you start to think like a Murkan.

    Fraggle, can you recommend a good book for learning Chinese (Mandarin) grammar?
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I'll take the word of several native speakers over a textbook. Was that textbook written by Chinese people or anglophones? Europeans have a long history of trying to make Chinese (and members of other language families) seem more similar to ours than they actually are. Until recently they even translated many verbs as prepositions because they couldn't accept the fact that a language can work just fine without them.

    It's a matter of preference, of which order comes to them naturally. For us, it's the importance of the activities. For them, it's the sequence in which they occurred.

    Sorry about that. I'm accustomed to teaching classes in which most of the people don't know the material or else they wouldn't be there. But the same is true here. I don't write a post as though the only person who's going to read it is the one whose post I'm responding to. There are other people participating in this thread, and perhaps a few others who are merely reading it.

    • Their verbs have no tenses. It's not important to them to specify whether "dog eat fish" takes place in the present, past or future.
    • Their nouns have no number. It's not important to them to specify whether it was one, two or many dogs, or one, two or many fish.
    • Their nouns and pronouns have no gender. It's not important to them to specify whether a waiter/waitress, or a person they refer to generically as he/she, is male or female. (Yes, they have invented a fanciful way to write a feminine version of ta (he/she) and ni (you), but they're rarely used, especially outside Taiwan in the postwar era.)
    • They have no prepositions. We think about relationships differently. We say "the food is in the box," they say "the food occupies the box's interior." We say "I am running toward the house, they say "I approach the house running."
    On the other hand, they have a fascination with quantifiers. Not five cows, two books, three tables, but five head of cattle, two volumes of book, three slabs of table. If you leave out the quantifier you have changed the meaning. Ni de san wei er, "your three sons," but ni de san er, "your third-born son." Si ge chuan, "four rivers," but Si chuan, "the province identified by its four rivers."

    Sorry, no. I studied it in a class and we didn't even use a textbook. Since then I can't say that I've seen one that impressed me.

    Nonetheless I know they exist. Assuming that the writer understands the material, all that really matters is whether he makes sense and connects with you. Look over the first couple of lessons and see whether you're comfortable with the style.

    Specific things I would look for:
    • If it says Chinese has prepositions, dump it.
    • It should categorize verbs as transitive (the dog ate the fish), stative (the bird is red, rather than insisting that "red" is an adjective and the verb "is" is understood as in Russian), or equative (I am an American). There are only a small handful of truly intransitive verbs, like wan, "play" and ju, "live."
  18. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    I'm a native speaker of English, I believe we can't describe the color for the sky or water, or confuse it with the color of grass, you must take my word as truth over a textbook which might claim distinguishing words exists.

    Now that is a slippery slope to go down: soon enough we could throw out all empirical evidence on languages by claiming researcher bias.

    Well then that has nothing to do with language, just culture.


    Explain to me how that is proof of different thinking? They might be thinking past, present or future, they are just not describing it, which they can if they need to just not with tenses, the same for numbers, gender. Propositions are the same way, if they are "running toward the house" they are thinking of what they are doing and though the words maybe different there is no evidence the thoughts are.

    Now on the question of russian pronouns, explain how they use "you" differently, sure they might have a whole bunch of cases, but I don't see how its different.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I didn't say that I would take the word of one speaker. And I didn't say that I would distrust all textooks, merely those which were written by non-native speakers. You haven't told me whether the textbook you cite was written by a Chinese linguist, a well-meaning Chinese layman, or an anglophone certain that no Asian could possibly be a good scholar.

    Some people regard linguistics as an even "softer" science than psychology or economics (no experimentation, for example) , so you'd probably get some agreement with that statement. In this case we can probably mitigate the effect of researcher bias by talking to researchers whose native languages fall into disparate families so at least they would not have the same bias.

    Since I'm not a professional linguist or even a graduate student in the subject, I have not had that opportunity. All I have to go on is the fact that until the recent explosion of well-educated Chinese immgrants to the USA, Chinese was explained to Americans using principles that we were told to throw out on the very first day of my community college Mandarin class with a native, Chinese-university-educated teacher.

    You say that as if there is no connection.

    English has one second-person pronoun: you. It is used for both singular and plural, for both our friends and those we treat with more respect. Russian has two: ty (ты) and vy (вы). Ty is used when speaking to one friend, family member, or other person with whom one is familar. Vy is used when speaking to multiple people, and/or when respect is intended. If the person is an elder, royal, etc., he would probably address you as ty, but if you're both being polite you both use vy.

    Spanish has four.
    • is singular, for friends, subordinates, close family members, pets, etc.
    • Usted (commonly written Ud. or Vd.) is singular, for strangers, superiors, royalty, etc. As in Russian, that person might address you as if the relationship is not symmetrical.
    • Ustedes (commonly written Uds. or Vds.) is plural, for those same strangers, superiors, royals, etc. if you're addressing two or more of them. This distinguishes Spanish from French, Russian, German, Czech, Swedish, Italian and most other European languages which have only one pronoun for both formal singular and plural.
    • Vosotros is the familiar plural, used in the past when addressing multiple friends, subordinates, siblings, pets, etc. However, today it is seldom used except in church and a few rural dialects. Ustedes has replaced it, and is now used as the plural form of "you," whether polite or familiar.
    Portuguese has the complete paradigm:
    • Você is the familiar singular, as in Spanish and Russian.
    • O senhor, a senhora, a senhorita (literally, "the gentleman, the lady, the unmarried lady"), is used as the polite singular.
    • The plural of those nouns-pressed-into-service-as-prounouns, os senhores, as senhoras, as senhoritas, is used as the formal plural.
    • Unlike Spanish, Portuguese also has a familiar plural, vocês, for addressing all of your siblings, all of your dogs and cats, your maid and gardener, and the saints--all at once if you happen to catch them in the same room.
    This is how various languages have much different ways of expressing "you."

    English used to have "thou" as the singular and "ye" as the plural. (The accusative case is "thee" and "you," and the possessive is "thy/thine" and "your/yours.") Eventually "ye" was lost and "you" became the nominative. As in many languages our ancestors felt the need for a polite pronoun so they commandeered "you" as the formal singular. A few centuries later they gave up on the distinction completely and began using "you" for everybody, except in the Bible.

    And among the Quakers. They still use the second-person singular, but in a perverse nod to history they discarded the nominative case, "thou" and use the accusative case "thee" in all roles, just as the rest of us do with "you" instead of the more proper "ye."
  20. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    I think it rather bigoted to assume that an anglophone, even an anglophone linguist can't accurate categories another language, even if they learn to speak it fluently (with or without accent). And wya would a layman speaker know better, they might not even be aware of how their language works of be able to explain it correctly.

    The writer of that book was a Charles N. Li, Born in china during the start of WW2, He apparently left to America post 1961, became a professor of linguistics by 1971, was a dean of the graduate division for UCSB, retired now.
    Here is his UCSB web site: http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/people/li.html
    Here is his autobiography: http://books.google.com/books?id=NhZJwTEu40UC&dq=inauthor:"Charles N. Li"&source=gbs_navlinks_s

    Is he Chinese enough for you bigoted criteria? Oh no his mind must have been polluted with anglophone ideas during his teenage years in Hong Kong, yeah, yeah right.

    The other author is as Sandra Thompson, another linguist professor from the same university, clearly an anglophone she must have polluted the book despite its Chinese linguist writer, with anglophone ideas.

    I would say its softer or in line with economics but not as soft as psychology, psychology is the most soft of sciences, lacking the most hard data, next in line is anthropology. Linguistics at least has huge data sets of words and interactions to work with in which mathematical models and state machines can be brought in to remove human bias/opinion. Thus if we have to tell a machine that two or more syllables compound words in mandarin have a meaning that is not directly derived from its compounding, then its not really a compound.

    Well that could have just been a teaching style.

    Can you prove otherwise. We have a problem of causation here: which is it?: The culture manipulating thought, or the language manipulating thought?

    So there is a intimate you and polite you, so what of it? In English we still do it at times, its the difference from saying "John come over here" to "Mr. Smith come over", we can clearly think in intimate, polite and estranged forms of "you", even if we aren't aware of it. here And yes I was aware of many different ways of expressing you in other languages, heck there at least 12 other ways, divided by two for singular and plural, and consisting of 6 different cases: Nominative Case, Accusative Case, Genitive Case, Dative Case, Instrumental Case, Prepositional Case

    Its interesting that some of the native speaking commentators disagree with that usage of Ty and Vy, clearly just being a native speaker does not give you infallible authorise on how the word is use because other native speakers may disagree, and then one of the two infallible must be wrong.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Perhaps. We Americans have always been suspicious of British scholarship. After all, they're the ones who a couple of centuries ago told us that English nouns can be declined by case just like Latin nouns--because they were simply translating Latin textbooks. Nominative: the boy; Genitive: of the boy; Dative: to the boy; Accusative: the boy; Vocative (my personal favorite): O boy!


    Fair enough.

    As I have noted a couple of times, Chinese people earnestly tell us that the meaning is indeed directly derived from its compounding. Whether or not that derivation is historically accurate, it's all they need to form the synapse that causes them to identify it as a compound.

    Surely both, and also both the language and the culture manipulating each other.

    Fair enough. Native anglophones with no aptitude, interest or training in linguistics are the ones who think that "dove" is the past tense of "dive" since "strove" is the past tense of "strive," and that the T in "often" should be pronounced because... well I've never figured that one out since they are bombarded with other silent letters every time they open a newspaper and should at least understand that English spelling is not exactly phonetic.
  22. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Chinese people like the writer of the book I found, who says otherwise? The Chinese linguist who wrote a book on Chinese grammar and laid out his multi-pointed argument that mandarin is not really monosyllabic, is wrong because layman speakers say otherwise? No the untrained native speakers know all! Heck the author even foresaw this, Page 14-15:

    "Because of consideration of typology, pedagogy, and history, then we suggest that Mandarin is not "monosyllabic" this is not to say that there will be 100% agreement among speakers or even certainty on the part of one speaker at to whether a given form, such as kan-jian 'see', for example, should be regarded a one word or two; there are such questionable cases in every language, and more of them in Mandarin because of the nature of compounding."

    Now certainly you can agree with him that many compound words in mandarin are compounds, but your saying ALL of them are: that not one polysyllabic word actually exists and that its ALL compounding. That kind of absolutism is dangerous, and someone of your age and experience should know better then believing in absolutes.

    Well yes of course, its a question of which is more dominate in its effect. If the culture respects status then its going to have different forms of 'you' for personal, formal and other usages, but does the use of many forms of 'you' make the culture respect status? Considering how the Russians overthrow the rich and dove into 60 years of communism I don't think so! What effects language has on thinking is minimal compared to what effect culture has on thinking.

    The problem is you see this as an anglophone problem and not a human problem: that very few humans have a firm grasp of what they are saying, not just English speakers.
  23. Asexperia Valued Senior Member

    I saw a video about introduction to Mandarin Chinese and two questions occurred to me.
    This language has four tones, are there any other languages ​​that use tones?
    Do the tones correspond only to the phonetics or to semantics too?

    谢谢!--- xiè xiè!

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