AndrewAndrew wrote:Plus, words such as 之 would have been familiar to Hokkiens from generations past, so there is historical continuity in usage.
Sure, but I wouldn't want to suggest valuing familiarity with a certain character too high since the character set that at least PR and TW Hokkiens will be most familiar with has probably become the Mandarin one by now. I know quite a few people from both the PRC and TW who have more trouble reading literary Chinese than I do (though I guess nobody would have a problem understanding 之, even if it were only because it's used to a certain extent in Mandarin, too), so I guess historical continuity wouldn't be of much value to them.
amhoanna wrote:找 is only rarely otherwise used in Hoklo, for the word cãu (TO GIVE CHANGE).
Right, I had not thought of tsāu-tsînn. This of course makes 尋 a better choice, I totally agree. But this is something that goes beyond the question whether or not we should dismiss the possibility of borrowing characters from Mandarin from the start. In my eyes, being biased against Mandarin characters just because their Mandarin is no different from being biased against characters from other language such as Japanese, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Korean, or what have you. If there are other factors that make one character superior to others (such as the possible ambiguities, or maybe one of the characters is read in a similar way to the Hokkien word), that's another question, but I don't see why we should dismiss a set of characters from the very beginning. But obviously we are arguing in a circle which leads to nothing, so maybe we should just agree to disagree on this matter
amhoanna wrote:Apologies to aBun for writing so much English, which is non-native for him... I would gladly write in Hoklo, but Sim and Andrew and others tend to fade out when I do that.
While that would be a great opportunity to practice, Hokkien is equally non-native to me and my proficiency in English is a lot better than any other language besides my mother tongue, so don't worry about me Plus, isn't English non-native to you as well? Or did you grow up bilingually?
Ah-bin wrote:Somewhere (I'm not quite sure where) I came across the idea that the script was already quite different from the spoken language it was representing even in the time of Confucius, and that the one-character-to-one-syllable rule that developed in the writing system actually ended up influencing the way compound words were created in the spoken language. There is a nice detailed discussion of this question in the Columbia History of Chinese Literature[/] which I don't have time to dig into just yet. Perhaps it was Jerry Norman's [i]Chinese where I read it?
Well I have the feeling that scripts usually tend to be quite conservative, both in orthography (we only have to look at English for that) and style, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Chinese they wrote wasn't exactly the way they would speak. Plus, Chinese characters at the very least don't spell out the sub-syllabic morphemes ofwhich I think scientists are pretty sure that early stages of Chinese had quite a few, and some of which are today still reflected in tone changes (in Mandarin for example 食shí "to eat" and sì "to feed", 衣yī "clothing" and yì "to clothe", but I don't know the pronunciations of the respective latter meanings (maybe sì "to feed" is the tshī which is sometimes written 飼?)). But I somehow don't see the ancient Chinese come up with a kind of writing that had absolutely nothing to do with what they spoke.
Ah-bin wrote:And the "problem" is made many times worse with the advent of the computer age. It was least serious in the purely handwritten age, where a "new/dialect" character (or several competing forms) could just arise from informal usage (personal correspondence, etc), until "statistics / society" settled on one form, by an organic process. Even in the age of woodblock printing, any press could just carve a new character if they felt like it. Once movable metal fonts were common, this obviously became much more of a problem. And now, with the Unicode Consortium, you would have to first convince some *national* body that a new character is desired, then wait 3-5 years while that national body submits it to the Unicode Consortium and the Consortium approves it, then wait several more years before font designers implement it so that it can be displayed, and even then, you have to wait yet again, until "input method programs" support it.
I agree, characters pose a lot of difficulties especially in processing them with computers. But I also think characters have one huge advantage especially when it comes to finding a standard orthography for dialects. For example, one of the reasons why there is no standard orthography for Low German is that there are so many different ways of pronouncing certain words. If one variant calls a cow "Kau" (the pronunciation being the same as English "cow") and another one says "Koo" (the vowel being about like the -ow in English "low"), then what should be decided on as the standard orthography? But one were to write 牛, then everybody could decide for themselves if they want to pronounce it as "kau" or "koo". Likewise, there would be no fighting among Hokkiens about the way to spell for example the word "fish" even though there are at least three different ways of pronouncing it. One can just write 魚 and people can see for themselves if they want to read hî, hû or hîr.