Writing an interrupted word in a picto/ideo-graph language like Chinese?

In English, if a word is interru- (yes? what is it?) interrupted before it is finished we can write it like that, with the incomplete word’s meaning staying intact/known. In a language like Chinese, is there a way to write out a picto/ideograph such that it is shown to be interrupted mid-speech?

I’m imagining that I would write out the whole character, and then go back and erase the last few strokes or full concepts depicted toward the end of how the character is naturally read to be understood.

thank you for your help, and my browser doesn’t like to show non-english(standard?) characters, they are just a bunch of broken boxes.

Plenty of words in Chinese are polysyllabic. Why wouldn’t you write the first one or two syllables and then, say “…” before writing another word?

Sorry, I don’t actually know anything about Chinese or whatever language. I jut saw something like this http://latcomm.com/2013/03/chinese-character-for-listen-embedded-meanings/ Chinese character for “listen” and its further embedded meanings and I wondered if there are real grammar rules in Chinese so it could be written in a book in a vaguely analogous way to “Hey, lis… ‘No! You listen to me!’”

That is really interesting to hear that Chinese words are polysyllabic and can be broken down. Would each of the 5 components (ear, king, ten and eye, one, heart) count as a syllable each?

No, the elements in a Chinese character do not correspond to its pronunciation in any sort of linear fashion. Neither do the individual strokes. One element might indicate the sound, and the rest may hint at the meaning, but the character has to be taken as a whole.

In English, since the letters do generally correspond to the sound in sequence, you can interrupt the sequence of the written word to represent an interruption of the spoken word, but trying that with a Chinese character would be like writing a slanted line with a short horizontal line coming out of the middle (a partial letter “A”) and expecting the reader to understand that it means someone died while saying “A”…it would seem nonsensical.

If you had some specific instance where you wanted to indicate someone being interrupted in the middle of writing a character, I suppose you could do what you are describing, but it would have to be in the context of being written on paper, not while being spoken.

I would be surprised if Chinese has a way to indicate an interruption besides stopping a written utterance in mid sentence.

What you are calling components are called radicals in Chinese. A character is composed of radicals. Radicals are made of strokes. That character for listen would be pronounced as one syllable. But it could be combined with other characters to make more words having to do with hearing/listening. For instance, the word gù (顾) means to look around. gù kè means customer. That would be written as two characters: 顾 客

A simpler piggyback question to maybe get us started towards answering the OP …

In English and many European languages we have quote symbols or indenting standards that we use to distinguish between expositional writing and writing that’s meant to represent dialog. e.g.

“Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Some bunny.”
“Some bunny who?”
“Some bunny who’s clueless about Chinese othography.”

So … How do the Chinese indicate text is dialog rather than exposition?

Once we understand that we’ll have a handle to start to look into how they represent animal sounds, onomatopoeia, half-words, grunts, etc. Of which the OP’s question is just a special case.

It would be more than surprising, to put it mildly, if over the last few millennia literate Chinese have not a) wanted to depict in writing the breakdown of oral phonics (i.e., interrupted speech of a character, or sounds of a non-human) and b) have not devised a commonly understood graphical representation of the same.

Just because some guys went alphabetic and others didn’t is not evidence of a cognitive (Chinese?) wall within human experience and the technology of literacy.

Quotation Marks in every language. Well, a lot of them at least.

Actually, I can’t think of a way to interrupt someone mid word in Chinese. Keep in mind each Chinese word is one syllable, so how would you interrupt one syllable? For example, the sentence “Hey, listen to me”, could be written as “Wei, ni ting wo shuo”. If I wanted to indicate that I was interrupted halfway through the sentence, I would probably write “wei, ni ting wo-”.

I’ve never had a written sentence represented phonically in chinese - it’s just not how written chinese works. There are iconographs that represent the phonics (see bopomofo), but they’re not used to represent speech in text, and are I believe a recent invention.

Perhaps someone more fluent can confirm, but in Japanese:

While it is partially a logographic language, I am unaware of any way to do it using kanji, and it would almost certainly occur using the syllabic hiragana and katakana symbols (where each symbol is a vowel or consonant+vowel sound, but not a concept). The sokuon (っ / ッ; smaller version of tsu つ / ツ) is normally used to indicate a long consonant, but at the end of a sentence in less formal practice can represent the sentence being cut off.

This is the correct answer. You don’t interrupt someone during a character, since each is only a syllable anyway, but you would leave out the rest of them.

Something like:
你在做什麼?! 哦,我懂了.
(What are you doing?! Oh, I see.)

Could become:
你在做…?! 哦,我懂了.
(What are you…?! Oh, I see.)

If you can’t see the characters, look at this image instead: http://i.imgur.com/lVJMOVG.png

It might help to think about how to interrupt English with really short, monosyllabic words:
“He is a wee caterpillar”. You wouldn’t interrupt it like “He is a we–” because there’s just not information there for the reader to understand what the rest of it was supposed to be. Even “He is a wee cat–” isn’t enough. So you don’t interrupt it until there’s enough context for the reader to understand the rest of the sentence: “He is a wee caterpil–”, maybe. (Of course, context could be provided before or after that sentence to make the interruption happen sooner.)

Chinese is the same way, except every character is that brief. An idea only takes 1-3 syllables to express, usually closer to 1 than 3.

Chinese words can most definitely be more than one syllable. Each character is only ene, but many words are put together with two or more characters.

If you say “He is Taiwanese.”


Tā shì táiwānrén

Where táiwānrén is three characters. I’ll have to ask my wife how they handle it.

I’ve seen that in manga (comics).

I suppose you’re right in that tai wan ren means “taiwanese” if translated, but keep in mind that each of “tai” “wan” “ren” are separate ideographs in chinese writing. So it’s still not a phonetic “split” in the sense that the OP is asking - if for example you were interrupted and “tai wan ren” was interrupted as “tai wan-”, the complete ideographs for “tai” and “wan” would be written.

Even if you were interrupted at “tai-”, the complete ideograph for “tai” would be written - 台 (which by itself would be read as “tai” and mean something like “platform” or “dais”. It would not be phonetic.

What is the meaning of a “word” in Chinese? I never knew Chinese could have words.

How does stuttering manifest itself in Chinese, and how is it represented on the page?

You’re thinking of the problem too narrowly by conceiving of it only as something a writer of fiction would deal with. Think instead of a transcript of someone’s remarks, or something like a deposition. A speaker might get interrupted at any point in a word, whether or not it’s clear what word they intended to say.

ETA: Off-topic, I feel odd addressing you by pressing “Submit Reply”. I guess it’s better than “Submit, Reply”. :smiley:

Note that in Japanese, the same characters typically have both polysyllabic and monosyllabic readings. For 林 there is rin and hayashi, as an example. I don’t recall how they handled it, but they do have syllabary to write partial words.

Sure. But you were mistaken that Chinese words are monosyllabic. Each ideograph is, but not words.

You are also wrong that tai wan ren means “taiwanese” if translated because it does not magically pick up a meaning only after being rendered into another language.

Chinese speakers can split words phonetically, they would say “ta-” for example, but I don’t know how they would write it, if they do. I’ll ask my wife.

How could they possible not? How does one express concepts and objects in a language without words? Here’s a random definition of “word” from a dictionary.

Why wouldn’t Chinese have them?

As a native speaker, I’m mildly offended, but I’ll play along.

“Word” is most commonly translated as “zi”, but this is probably better translated as “character” or “ideograph”. So when you say “Chinese words”, there is some level of assumption already in place. I glossed over it by saying that yes, when translated “tai wan ren” is a single English word, Taiwanese, but in the native tongue it would be three “zi”. As regarding the question of the OP, what is relevant is that you would not interrupt a “zi”. Each “zi” would be written in full, and there is no way of phonetically representing half a “zi”, apart from maybe bopomofo or hanyu pin yin, neither of which are commonly used in Chinese text other than in language instruction manuals.

Stuttering in Chinese when spoken (as far as I have heard) could take the form of either repeated characters, or incomplete character sounds. For example, the sentence wo shi shui (literally, “I am who”, or “who am I”) when spoken by someone with a stutter could sound like “w-w-w-w-w- w-wo shi shui”. I have not seen this in writing (I don’t read Chinese novels), but I expect it would take the form of “wo-wo-wo-wo-wo shi shui”, or in written chinese, “我-我-我-我-我-我是谁?”

The artist might put the spoken part in BOLD and the unspoken part in FAINT…

Big and small might also work. The writing may be placed either side of the action that cuts off the words…