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Lorinth’s log - 劳伦的博客

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lorinth
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Belgium
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443 posts - 581 votes 
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 Message 289 of 408
24 March 2014 at 12:21pm | IP Logged 
As part of the March team challenge, I’ve continued studying part of the 《三字经》 (see message #280, dated 13 March 2014). This time, I’ve focussed on the syntax and I’ve written fairly long, technical and detailed comments. You are warned. If someone who’s more knowledgeable than I am in this subject (which should be easy) happens to read this, feel free to suggest corrections but be understanding: this is mostly the endeavour of a misguided dilettante and I’m just trying to document my learning process, not to write anything serious about ancient/classical Chinese.

So on with my observations.

In many cases, the syntax of the 《三字经》 is surprisingly close to that of modern Chinese. Here are a few examples right at the beginning of the book:


1. 人之初,性本善。

Time phrase (When people are borne) + subject ([their] nature) + adverb (fundamentally) + stative verb (is good).

2. 性相近,
subject (Nature) + adverb (mutually) + stative verb (is near)
习相远。
subject (Habits) + adverb (mutually) + stative verb (is far)

3. 苟不教,性乃迁。

An if-clause marked with particles (苟......乃) that are different from modern Chinese (which would say 如果.......就 for instance) but that go by two, just like in modern Chinese: “If [one] does not study, then [one’s] nature changes”.

4. 教之道,贵以专。

This one is more complicated, because of the second part. The first part is a noun clause “The way of the study”. So it’s probably the subject of the verb 贵, which I’d render as “has value”. And then comes 以专, which I understand as “by way of /using concentration“ .

5. 昔孟母择邻处。

Here comes a more narrative part which I wouldn’t have understood without historical explanations. But syntactically, it is rather simple and equivalent to a modern Chinese sentence: 昔 time adverb (“In ancient times”) + 孟母 subject (“the mother of Mencius”) + verb 择 (“chose”) + object 邻处 (“the place of neighbours”, ie “the neighbourhood”).

6. 子不学,断机杼。

Two correlated clauses, ie a structure that is also frequent in modern Chinese: [When] [her] child (子) [would] not study, [she] broke (断) the shuttle from the loom (机杼). The subject of the main clause is not expressed but it has to be the same as in the previous sentence, ie Mencius’ mother.

And on it goes. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have understood without the help of comments (in modern Chinese) and translations. The main problems include:

- as ancient Chinese is monosyllabic and as characters may have many meanings, it’s often hard to choose what meaning makes more sense

- of course the meaning and/or function of characters may have changed over time

- as many many linguistic features are not expressed (eg the subject, the logical relationship between different clauses…), the meaning is often not clear, all the more so if, at the previous stage, the reader has had doubts about the true meaning of one or several characters

- there are quite a lot of simple enumerations, such as: 马牛羊,鸡犬豕。此六畜,人所饲。 Horse, ox, sheep, chicken, dog, pig. These six animals are raised by men. 所 is a passive marker, which can also be the case in modern Chinese. Another example of enumeration:: 一而十, 十而百。 百而千,千而万。

- parallelism plays a very important role. For instance: 父子恩, 夫妇从。 “Father son kindness. Husband wife obedience”. I may be naive but I believe that this sentence is only apparently sexist: the parallelism between sentences shows that you should not interpret as “there must be kindness from the father towards his son and obedience from the husband to his wife”. In the patriarchal society of 700 years ago, that would make no sense. Hence, the right interpretation should be “there should be mutual kindness between father and son, and mutual “obedience” between husband and wife” (I’ve seen it translated as “harmony”). In addition, if 子 and 妇 were objects, they should be after the verbs 恩 and 从. Hence 父子 and 夫妇 are both subjects of their respective verb.

- particles are a big problem. I have a whole book dedicated to the “empty words of classical Chinese”. The problem with those is that they often have many different and even contradictory uses. Example: 兄则友, 弟则恭。Elder brother (or “brothers?”) hence is friendly (?) Younger brother (or “brothers”?) hence (?) is repectful. I’ve seen 则 interpreted as a postpostion meaning “from” “on the part of”: “[there must be] friendliness from elder brothers and respect from younger brothers”. But that’s not a meaning I can find in my book about ancient Chinese particles, nor in the authoritative Grand Ricci dictionary, which gives many many meanings of 则, as a verb, a noun, a conjunction, etc. Plus, you need to interpret 友 and 恭 as nouns, which they are not (in modern Chinese anyway). So in such cases, I just have to accept that I’m not yet ready to understand every detail.

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lorinth
Tetraglot
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Belgium
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 Message 290 of 408
25 March 2014 at 10:27am | IP Logged 
I worked some more on the ChinesePod podcast about 寄宿家庭, and then I made the same exercise with another upper intermediate lesson, about 假货, i.e. (1) listening (2) concluding I didn't understand much apart from the general topic (3) loading the mp3 file in Audacity (4) listening repeatedly, cutting, looping, etc. (5) transcribing. This time, my transcription was a bit less accurate, mainly because of several words I didn't know, but it was acceptable nevertheless and my comprehension was much improved after the Audacity chore. This seems to be a very useful exercise. In the future, I hope I can have the time (it takes quite long) and the courage (it is quite tedious) to do that as many times as necessary.

I finished reading the first 3rd grade textbook. There are four books in all for each grade. It was an instructive read, that allows to have a peek at the sort of stuff Chinese kids are taught, and the way it is taught. Now I'd like to read something else before I dive in volume 2 for that grade. But, as always when I'm finished with a book, I will probably spend a few days hesitating between books before making a choice.

In the meantime, I read a micro story from a book I bought second hand some time ago. It's a paperback called “L'enfant au milieu du lit” and it contains 55 stories, 2-3 page long, with translations in French. I also read a story from vol. 2 of my third grade textbook, but that does not mean I will go on with it. I have many more options:-)

Edited by lorinth on 25 March 2014 at 10:28am

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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 291 of 408
27 March 2014 at 10:06am | IP Logged 
To quote myself:

lorinth wrote:
as always when I'm finished with a book, I will probably spend a few days hesitating between books before making a choice.


I didn't last that long. Inspired by some posts on Ninibo's log, I started reading 第十二夜-万灵节之死 and, as I had some more free time than usual, I read 20 pages in one sitting. Now I'm reading a part that's more complicated for my level (and I have less time), so it will be slower. But it's been a very enjoyable read up to now. Note that 万灵节之死 is vol. 2. I couldn't get my hands on a paper version of vol. 1 and I want to make a conscious effort to wean myself from the cosy environment of ebooks and easy dictionary lookups.

Ninibo's posts

I stumbled upon an interesting book about language learning that seems to be familiar to many people around here, i.e. "The Word Brain". I haven't read it in full, but this excerpt definitely rings a bell:

Quote:
Be careful: over several years, steady reading practise can lead to a strange syndrome that is highly prevalent among academics. These people are fluent at reading the scientific literature about medicine, philosophy, music, or philology, but don’t understand a person talking about the very same topics and using the very same words. Their eyes work, but their ears don’t. The diagnosis? Eye-ear dissociation. The cause? Inappropriate training of the auditory brain cortex (…). People can be perfect readers, but, at the same time, poor listeners. (The contrary – the ears understand, but the eyes cannot read – exists too: illiteracy.) To neuroscientists, this is not surprising; eyes and ears are different entry ports for distinct elaboration and storage sites in the brain. Training the visual brain areas at the back of the head (…) has little influence on the performance of the auditory brain areas. Surprise: what seemed to be a single task – learning a new language – turns out to be a multi-task project for your word brain.


Link to PDF
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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 292 of 408
31 March 2014 at 9:40am | IP Logged 
I've worked on a 慢速中文 podcast about 北漂. Then, I took advantage of a three-hour drive to study four intermediate level Chinesepod podcasts, no less, about 黄牛,中国蛋糕,安全座椅 and 打车软件.

Intermediate level podcasts have become fairly easy, though I'd like to understand more details on first listening. Hence it remains beneficial to listen repeatedly, loop through more difficult sentences, lookup the occasional unknown word, etc. At this point, I use these intermediate level podcasts to "activate" (from the point of view of listening comprehension) words and structures that I already know (from the point of view of reading comprehension).

I've read more of 璇儿's 第12夜-万灵节之死。 I've read 74 pages in 6 days, while commuting. I believe I've never read at such a fast pace. The language is accessible enough for intermediate learners and the story is engrossing, although there's a sense of déjà vu to it, with a group of people stranded in a very remote, derelict power station and dying one after the other, in some horrible way.


Edited by lorinth on 31 March 2014 at 9:41am

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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 293 of 408
03 April 2014 at 9:19am | IP Logged 
To quote myself:

lorinth wrote:
Intermediate level podcasts have become fairly easy


Haha, what a joke. Yesterday, I worked on yet another intermediate level podcast and I understood next to nothing. Ah, well.

Anyway, in spite of this, I worked on two more podcasts, about 二维码 and 宅男女神 (that was the depressing one).

I've read 115 pages of 璇儿's 第12夜-万灵节之死。

Even if I haven't mentioned it recently, I keep on studying vocab lists (with Pleco) and characters (with Skritter) daily, though I've fallen behind with Skritter this week and have a backlog of over 300 characters in the queue.

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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 294 of 408
08 April 2014 at 9:44am | IP Logged 
Voilà, I've finished reading 第12夜-万灵节之死, i.e. a 175-page novel in just under two weeks. I believe I've never read that fast in Chinese. That novel is perfect for intermediate level learners: the language is occasionally challenging but not too difficult, so you can read extensively and intensively in turns, and the plot is interesting so you want to go on reading. I liked the mixture between a detective story and a ghost story. I'm not sure I understood all the details when the crimes were eventually explained, but I don't usually read detective stories and, on the few occasions when I did read such novels in my own mother tongue, I didn't understand either, so I'm not too worried :-)

Reading this novel was also an achievement for me because I've committed to read more paper books and less e-books, in order to wean myself from popup dictionaries, which are so convenient that I tend to rely too much on them and not enough on my brains and plain old vocab learning. So I read this novel on paper, mostly, while switching to the e-version only when it was more convenient.

As a reminder, the novel is available online here

I have another book of the same series on my shelf, but first, on with the second textbook in the series for Chinese 3rd graders. The few pages I've read this morning in the metro came as a surprise: they were actually more difficult than the novel I've just finished yesterday.
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Expugnator
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 Message 295 of 408
08 April 2014 at 5:51pm | IP Logged 
Is the integral text of the novel at that page?
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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 296 of 408
08 April 2014 at 9:48pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
Is the integral text of the novel at that page?


Yes, it's quite short (under 100,000 characters), so it's normal to have everything displayed on one long page. I've read both versions in parallel, so I'm fairly sure they are identical. In addition, I haven't noticed any scan/OCR glitches, as is often the case with online Chinese novels.


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