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  #1  
Old 10-19-2003, 08:41 AM
zuma zuma is offline
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When and why did Calcutta become Kolkata?

I was reading an article on CNN about Mother Teresa, and was surprised to discover that Calcutta is now known as Kolkata.

I'd guess that the new spelling is closer to how it is actually pronounced?
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  #2  
Old 10-19-2003, 08:48 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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For starters:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcutta
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  #3  
Old 10-19-2003, 09:03 AM
Dreaming of Maria Callas Dreaming of Maria Callas is offline
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A number of cities have changed their name after independence to escape from their "slave names" imposed by colonial authorities. Also in India, "Bombay" (a name of Portugese origin) has become "Mumbai".

In Ukraine, the usual name in the West for its capital was "Kiev". However, this is a transliteration from the Russian name of the city, and since Ukrainian is the sole official language of the country it can seem offensive. Thus, more and more the new transliteration from the Ukrainian "Kyiv" is seen.

This is not a new phenomenon. See "Formosa" becoming "Taiwan", or "Siam" becoming "Thailand."

UnuMondo
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  #4  
Old 10-19-2003, 06:42 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Quote:
"slave names" imposed by colonial authorities.
I don't think that this kind of terminology is called for in the case of Indian place names. After all, cities like Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were actually founded and built by the colonists themselves. If there had been an existing settlement, it was quite small.

Second, the linguistic reality of India is such that the pronunciation of place names will vary depending on whom you're talking to.

Third, in many cases, the locals still stick to what you call the "slave name." Most people in Mumbai refer to their city as "Bombay." Most people in the holy city of Varanasi still refer to their city as "Benares," a name that was changed officially almost 60 years ago. Clearly, they don't view the name as a "slave name."

Fourth, there is often a considerable amount of doubt regarding whether names such as "Bombay" and "Madras" (now officially "Chennai") were actually "imposed" by colonials or were derived from native languages.

But, yes, the spelling "Kolkata" more closely reflects the Bengali pronunciation of the name of the city. The native Calcuttan pronunciation is slightly different -- "Kolikata." The name "Calcutta" is still widely used in vernacular speech of Calcutta. You will find Calcuttans using all three pronunciations.

(Personally, I believe that place names can validly be different from one language to another. If it's "Kolkata" in Bengali, there's no reason why it can't be "Calcutta" in English. Similarly, if it's "Moldova" in Moldavian Romanian, there's no reason why it can't be "Moldavia" or "Bessarabia" in English.)
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  #5  
Old 10-19-2003, 08:21 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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acsenray, I am in total agreement with you. The Chinese can call their capital Beijing and in English it is Peking. They call foreign places by their Chinese names not by their local names. If the English language has a name for a place then it is perfectly good to use it and I cannot see why we need to learn the local names.
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  #6  
Old 10-19-2003, 08:59 PM
Monty Monty is offline
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Bad example there, sailor. "Beijing" AND "Peking" both are pronounced identically as their difference is merely the translitaration system used.

However, I am in agreement with you on the first half of your last sentence.
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  #7  
Old 10-19-2003, 09:32 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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Well you might pronounce them identically but you would be the only person I have ever heard pronounce Beijing and Peking identically. How can you pronounce the P and the B the same? How can you pronounce the K and the J the same? and where did the I go?
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  #8  
Old 10-19-2003, 10:18 PM
Monty Monty is offline
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You're missing the point, sailor. The point is that those two words are Chinese words with the Chinese system of transliteration into a roman-based alphabet. The difference between the two is not in sound; it's in the choice of transliteration system.
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  #9  
Old 10-19-2003, 10:26 PM
Monty Monty is offline
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Minor correction to my last posting above: The PinYin system is Chinese and is the currently preferred system.

AS to your question as how one can pronunce the P and the B the same, that site says that for Pinyin:
Quote:
b is pronounced like the English 'p'
Feel free to read the rest of it for correct information on how to read.

The other, now not preferred, transliteration system was the Wade-Giles (aka Wade) system.
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  #10  
Old 10-19-2003, 11:04 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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nitpic, Actually, Monty, in Wade Giles, the pre-pinyin defacto standard romanization, "Peking" is correct. However, being a linguist, you would understand that Wade Giles also used a apostrophe to denote an aspiration point.

Just about every layman that ever saw Wade Giles didn't realize that "P" was pronounced something akin to a "B" sound and "P apostrophe" pronounced akin to a "P" sound.
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  #11  
Old 10-19-2003, 11:06 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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Sorry but I still do not understand what you mean. The English pronunciation of "Peking" is *very* different from the Chinese proninciation of "Beijing". Very different. Peking is pronounced in English as it is written and that is not how the Chinese pronounce it.
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  #12  
Old 10-19-2003, 11:55 PM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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I always thought (without basis, come to think of it) that Peking and Beijing were the same written characters pronounced in two different Chinese dialects. Is it in fact the same exact sound with different transliteration systems?

p.s. There's a famous story that when the Japanese government revised the official transliteration system, the passenger ship Chichibu Maru was forced to change its name to Titibu Maru. It was pointed out that Titibu Maru was an inappropriate name, and the name had to be changed to something completely different (Kamakura Maru).
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  #13  
Old 10-20-2003, 12:12 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by sailor
Peking is pronounced in English as it is written...
Yes, except as China Guy has just pointed out, it was never supposed to be pronounced that way in English. Instead English-speakers were supposed to be familiar with the Wade-Giles transliteration standards and were supposed to realize that it wasn't pronounced as it was spelled . Anymore than "ennui" wasn't pronounced "in-newy". Of course not many folks in the west do understand the pronunciation rules for that system...

The Wade-Giles system is almost guaranteed to be mispronounced by anyone who is not a Mandarin speaker. For example, in the Wade-Giles system the sounds of the English letters b and p are represented as p and p ', respectively.

The Wade-Giles spelling for Beijing is Peking but the pronunciation of Peking was never peh-king except in the West. In the Wade-Giles system the pronunciation of Peking is the same as pinyin Beijing.


From here: http://www2.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/chinalan.htm

For a reverse bit of confusion, in pinyin the official name of the Manchu dynasty is Qing. In Wade-Giles it is Ch'ing. The pronunciation of both are the same. It's just that in Pinyin q = ch, in Wade-Giles ch' = ch ( and confoundingly ch with no ' = j ).

Quote:
Originally posted by scr4
Is it in fact the same exact sound with different transliteration systems?
Yep. So I understand.

- Tamerlane
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  #14  
Old 10-20-2003, 12:31 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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>> Yes, except as China Guy has just pointed out, it was never supposed to be pronounced that way in English

Well, what was "supposed" to be and what is are two different things. The fact is that, not only in English but in most European languages, the name of the capital of China is Peking or Pekin and has been that for some centuries now. The fact that it is a corruption of the Chinese name is quite irrelevant at this point. It is a different word altogether in a different language altogether and the same can be said about most of the hundreds or thousands of geographic names in English which are different from the local names.

What do you call Hong Kong? Hong Kong is a corruption of the local, native, name. How about Canton? How about Italy? How about Spain? How about Germany? How about. . . well, you get the idea.

English speakers have English geographical names for other countries and cities just like people who speak other languages have their own names for foreign countries and cities. If the Chinese can have their own name for America and its cities so can English-speaking people call Peking whatever they want.

Frankly, the concept that "Peking" is wrong because it originated as a corruption of another word seems to me quite pedantic. Most of the words of any language are an evolution of other words but they are perfectly valid or we must go back to speaking middle English or high German or Sanskrit or whatever they spoke in the beginning of the world.

Sherry wine is named after the town in southern Spain where it is made. The word "Sherry" is a corruption of the local name as it was hundreds of years ago. Then the English and the Sanish names evolved in different directions and today there is no similarity between them. You could say the word Sherry is wrong on two accounts: it is a corruption of a local name and it is outdated and the correct name today is Jerez. And that would be extremely true if you were speaking Spanish but in English, Sherry is the correct term.

English speakers define the English language and nobody else.
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  #15  
Old 10-20-2003, 12:40 AM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is offline
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So...how are we supposed to pronounce Beijing/Peking? "Pey Zhng," or something?
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  #16  
Old 10-20-2003, 12:50 AM
gouda gouda is offline
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Kolkotta is the state capital of West Bengal, and Bengalis have always called the city Kolkotta. The name change is reflective of that as much as it is an attempt to shrug off the city's colonial legacy. The name 'Calcutta' probably came about from a British inability to ponounce the name as it was meant to be. As of today, most non-Bengalis still prefer to call the city Calcutta, or affectionately 'Cal'.

Just as Mumbai is still referred to by most as Bombay. Maharashtrians (Bombay is the state capital of Maharashtra) have always called the city Mumbai, and the name change was reflective of that. The origins of the name Bombay perhaps come from when Francis Almeida sailed into the harbour of the island - the Portugese eventually came to call it Bom Bahia (the Good Bay).

And the same goes for Chennai. Tamilians have always called the city Chennai, and non-Tamilians continue to call the city Madras. I don't know the origins of 'Madras' though.
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  #17  
Old 10-20-2003, 12:52 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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Well, if you want to be fastidiously correct, you should translate the name literally into English as "North Capital". Then you have Nanking: South Capital, HongKong: Fragrant Harbor, etc. Nobody will know what the heck you are talking about but you will show them how knowledgeable you are.
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  #18  
Old 10-20-2003, 01:10 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by sailor

English speakers define the English language and nobody else.
Well, the first English speakers to write "Peking", pronounced it as "Beijing" . But if you consider that excessively pedantic, fair enough .

- Tamerlane
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  #19  
Old 10-20-2003, 06:14 AM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tamerlane
Well, the first English speakers to write "Peking", pronounced it as "Beijing" .
Bwahahahahahahaahahahahaha
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  #20  
Old 10-20-2003, 06:29 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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I've always had a theory that the English pronunciation of certain Chinese words and names is such because it was filtered through the medium of Cantonese (due to trade connections in HK, Canton and Macau) - the Canto pronunciation of Beijing being close to "Bak-ging", which is a hell of a lot more like "Peking" than "Beijing" is. On reading this thread, I am prepared to admit I'm full of gau-si.
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  #21  
Old 10-20-2003, 06:35 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by China Guy
Bwahahahahahahaahahahahaha
Well, such was my assumption, anyway .

- Tamerlane
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  #22  
Old 10-20-2003, 07:17 AM
Dreaming of Maria Callas Dreaming of Maria Callas is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by jjimm
I've always had a theory that the English pronunciation of certain Chinese words and names is such because it was filtered through the medium of Cantonese (due to trade connections in HK, Canton and Macau) - the Canto pronunciation of Beijing being close to "Bak-ging", which is a hell of a lot more like "Peking" than "Beijing" is. On reading this thread, I am prepared to admit I'm full of gau-si.
I'd advise reading about the Wade-Giles system of transliteration. It was in no way "filtered through Cantonese". The letter "K" in Wade-Giles was sincerely intended to represent the sound which in Pinyin is "j". Thus we have Peking - Beijing, and Tao Te King - Daodejing.

UnuMondo
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  #23  
Old 10-20-2003, 07:58 AM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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As for when: according to the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C., the name was officially changed in December of 2000. I ran across this while doing research for my column on the Black Hole of Calcutta/Kolkata.

http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mblackhole.html
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  #24  
Old 10-20-2003, 08:03 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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I concede incorrectness of theory.
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  #25  
Old 10-20-2003, 09:24 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Quote:
Kolkotta is the state capital of West Bengal, and Bengalis have always called the city Kolkotta.
No, Bengalis have never called the city "Kolkotta." The pronunciation is closer to the current spelling, "Kolkata." It's an "ah," not an "o," and it's a single "t."

Quote:
The name change is reflective of that as much as it is an attempt to shrug off the city's colonial legacy.
The motivations for the name change are numerous and complex and more related to local politics than to cultural pride.

Quote:
The name 'Calcutta' probably came about from a British inability to ponounce the name as it was meant to be.
Let's please shrug off this notion of "inability." It was the Anglicised pronunciation of some word. Which word it was is not precisely known, although the most widely accepted theory is that the original word was "Kalighat" (the step of Kali), which is still the name of an important place in the city. If so, then the Anglicized pronunciation "Calcutta" is no more "wrong" (and perhaps less so) than the Bengali pronuncation "Kolkata."
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  #26  
Old 10-20-2003, 10:46 AM
Algernon Algernon is offline
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For what it's worth, when I was in India a couple of years ago my hosts referred to a city named Kolkata (pronounced Koll' kah tah, with the emphasis on the first syllable). Since in the U.S. I had always heard it referred to as Calcutta (Kal kut' ah), it took quite a while before I understood that Kolkata and Calcutta were the same city.

And everyone (all my Indian hosts) referred to Madras (old name) as Channai (new name), yet they also referred to Bombay as Bombay rather than the new name of Mumbai. (The company I worked for at the time had offices in both Channai and Mumbai. We were encouraged by the HR department to use these new names. I found that a bit puzzling since the people who actually lived there didn't consistently use the new names.)

As far as Peking/Beijing is concerned, I never hear Peking anymore in the U.S. Everyone says Beijing. Not sure when the change came, but I think it started with the newscasters.
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  #27  
Old 10-20-2003, 11:24 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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It seems to me that the Pinyin system is not good for native English speakers. So far as I am concerned, "b" is not a good transliteration for an unaspirated [p]. In that sense, Wade-Giles seems much better.

So far as Indian name changes goes, the postal service announced a couple of years ago (soon after the Mumbai and Chennai changes, I believe) that it would not recognise any further name changes for the purpose of addressing letters.
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  #28  
Old 10-20-2003, 11:32 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Quote:
For what it's worth, when I was in India a couple of years ago my hosts referred to a city named Kolkata (pronounced Koll' kah tah, with the emphasis on the first syllable). Since in the U.S. I had always heard it referred to as Calcutta (Kal kut' ah), it took quite a while before I understood that Kolkata and Calcutta were the same city.
I'm suprised. In Calcutta itself, Calcutta and Kolkata are used interchangeably in conversation and in writing (that is, as has been noted before, where it isn't simply shortened to "Cal"). The tendency is to use "Calcutta" when speaking English and "Kolkata" when speaking Bengali, although this rule is not consistently applied. Only for official and formal purposes (like news broadcasts) is "Kolkata" stuck to consistently.
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  #29  
Old 10-20-2003, 11:56 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by acsenray
It seems to me that the Pinyin system is not good for native English speakers. So far as I am concerned, "b" is not a good transliteration for an unaspirated [p]. In that sense, Wade-Giles seems much better.
Pinyin was invented for the benefit of the Chinese people. It is not intended for English speakers. The values of some letters (like Q) have nothing to do with thier values in English or other Western languages. Not to mention that English is possibly the worst representative of the values given to the Latin alphabet and Spanish, Italian and Romanina would be much more representative.

The B in Beijing sounds like a B to me but B and P are so close that they can be mistaken and even exchanged sometimes. It sems to me a P is a B with a bit more force in the "explosive part".

Try reading the following out aloud to someone and tell them to write it down: "I need a drink. I think I'll go down to the par". I doubt anyone would pick on the P in par. They will hear a B.

The capital of Formosa is variously spelled as Taipei or Taibei. Taibei is correct hanyu pinyin (the same bei = north). I do not think you can tell the difference by pronouncing it with a P or with a B. They sound practically the same.

Individual accents and regional variations produce wider variety of pronunciations than the subtle difference between P and B in Beijing.
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  #30  
Old 10-20-2003, 01:44 PM
Monty Monty is offline
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I'd dearly love to see a citation, sailor, that Pinyin was invented for the benefit of the Chinese--especially since the Chinese are kind of into writing Chinese in Chinese.
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  #31  
Old 10-20-2003, 05:40 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Monty
I'd dearly love to see a citation, sailor, that Pinyin was invented for the benefit of the Chinese--especially since the Chinese are kind of into writing Chinese in Chinese.
What makes you believe otherwise? Do you really think the chinese developed pinyin for the benefit of Americans? It was developed in the 1950s. Do you really think it was developed to help Americans?

Pinyin is the last of several attempts to replace Chinese characters with a phonetic alphabet with the purpose of simplyfing reading. http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/chine...t/history.html It was developed in the 1950s and officially adopted in 1958. The Lonely Planet guide says:
Quote:
The original idea was to eventually do away with Chinese characters. However, tradition dies hard and the idea has been abandoned.
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  #32  
Old 10-20-2003, 11:59 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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To continue the hijack

Sailor, I'm going to have to disagree on Taipei versus Taibei. If one pronounces "Taipei" on the mainland, few if any people will know what you're talking about. However, pronounced "Taibei" and most people will know it's the capital of Taiwan. I personally cringe each and every time I hear someone pronounce it Taipei.

Not quite sure how one can think that B and P are interchangeable sounds. "The big bee went back of the bar" or "The pig pea went pack of the par."
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  #33  
Old 10-21-2003, 12:48 AM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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Using locals to determain pronounciation may be difficult. After all did you ever hear a person from The Bronx or Brooklyn pronounce New York?
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  #34  
Old 10-21-2003, 01:52 AM
Dragonblink Dragonblink is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by sailor
It sems to me a P is a B with a bit more force in the "explosive part".
Actually, to be precise, the difference is one of voicing. Your vocal cords vibrate when you say a B, but not when you say a P. Complicating matters for English speakers is the fact that when a P comes at the beginning of a word it is always aspirated -- note the difference between the P in pot and the P in spot. There are many languages where the presence or absence of aspiration on a letter can change the meaning of a word, much like how in English the voicing makes the difference between a par and a bar.

I've heard someone slowly speak words whose only difference was a lack of aspiration on the P that started it -- the P did sound more like a B compared to P's I'm used to starting words, but more like a P when compared to an actual B.

-- Dragonblink, Linguistics Major Extraordinaire.
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  #35  
Old 10-21-2003, 01:54 AM
Dragonblink Dragonblink is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dragonblink
when a P comes at the beginning of a word it is always aspirated
Eek! I mean, when it comes at the beginning of an English word, when spoken by a native speaker of most dialects.
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  #36  
Old 10-21-2003, 02:31 AM
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UNUMONDO-Wade-giles is used for gwau-eu (mandarin). The system for cantonese is yale, or yale modifyied. THere for in cantonese it is pronounced bak-eing (or close)

_____________________________________
Spelling and grammer subject to change with out notice

I told you the spelling may change!!
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  #37  
Old 10-21-2003, 03:23 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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sailor, I think you might be thinking of zhuyin.
Quote:
the national phonetic system of the Republic of China (based on Taiwan) for teaching the Chinese languages, especially Mandarin to illiterate Mandarin-speaking children
According to this page at the University of Michigan:
Quote:
[Pinyin] is yet another attempt at teaching Chinese pronunciation to foreigners
That's not to say that Pinyin hasn't proved tremendously useful to China since its adoption (postal sorting, computer data entry), but I don't think that was the primary reason for its existence.
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Old 10-21-2003, 06:25 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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jjim, that page can say whatever it wants but all the evidence I have and common sense tell me that Hanyu Pinyin was not developed for teaching foreigners. Just think about it.

In 1949 the Communist revolution finally succeeds in China after years of struggles and civil war. The new Communist government starts developing and implementing revolutionary policies of change. And one of them is to develop a system of writing to help foreigners learn Chinese? Come on! This was a time when China practically shut itself off from the world. It closed all its embassies abroad. I cannot believe they were interested in teaching English tio any foreigners.

Russian experts were coming to China in droves to help the new government in every aspect. Russian experts recommended simplifying the writing system and, in fact, first proposed they adopt the cyrillic alphabet but the Chinese decided to adopt the Latin alphabet as more suitable. Still, Hanyu Pinyin was developed with the help and advice of Russian experts. Are you telling me the circumstances would lead you to believe it was done for the benefit of foreigners? What foreigners? It makes no sense to me. It makes much more sense to me to believe the communist government wanted to simplify and rationalize the writing just like they were doing with their sweeping reforms in every other field.

Hanyu Pinyin did not finally replace Chinese characters for the same reason the metric system did not replace the American system of units. Custom dies hard. Replacing the old system of writing would require several generations being equally familiar with both.
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  #39  
Old 10-21-2003, 10:11 AM
moriah moriah is offline
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Istanbul was once Constantinople. Seems rather Byzantine to me.


Peace,

moriah of Pahree and Moonchin.
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  #40  
Old 10-21-2003, 10:18 AM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dragonblink
There are many languages where the presence or absence of aspiration on a letter can change the meaning of a word, much like how in English the voicing makes the difference between a par and a bar.

I've heard someone slowly speak words whose only difference was a lack of aspiration on the P that started it -- the P did sound more like a B compared to P's I'm used to starting words, but more like a P when compared to an actual B.

-- Dragonblink, Linguistics Major Extraordinaire.
Thai has a three-way distinction in its stop consonants: voiceless aspirated /ph/, voiceless unaspirated /p/, voiced unaspirated /b/.

It all depends on when the stop's closure is released compared to when the vocal cords begin to vibrate. If the vocal cord vibrations begin after the closure is released, the result is a voiceless aspirate. If the vocal cord vibrations begin roughly simultaneously with the closure release, the result is a voiceless non-aspirate. If the vocal cord vibrations begin before the closure is released, the result is a voiced non-aspirate.
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  #41  
Old 10-21-2003, 10:33 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Bengali and other Indo-Aryan languages have all four possibilities -- voiced and unvoiced, each with aspirated and unaspirated forms. There are all phonemes, so it can make a difference in the meaning of words.
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