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LANGUAGE]
217
CHINA

these reasons, all examples of phraseology in this article will be given in Pekingese.

So far, stress has been laid chiefly on the dissimilarity of the dialects. On the other hand, it must be remembered that they proceed from the same parent stem, are spoken by members of the same race, and are united by the bond of writing which is the common possession of all, and cannot be regarded as derived from one more than from another. They also share alike in the two most salient features of Chinese as a whole: (1) they are all monosyllabic, that is, each individual word consists of only one syllable; and (2) they are strikingly poor in vocables, or separate sounds for the conveyance of speech. The number of these vocables varies from between 800 and 900 in Cantonese to no more than 420 in the vernacular of Peking. This scanty number, however, is eked out by interposing an aspirate between certain initial consonants and the vowel, so that for instance p‘u is distinguished from pu. The latter is pronounced with little or no emission of breath, the “p” approximating the farther north one goes (e.g. at Niuchwang) more closely to a “b.” The aspirated p‘u is pronounced more like our interjection “Pooh!” To the Chinese ear, the difference between the two is very marked. It will be found, as a rule, that an Englishman imparts a slight aspirate to his p’s, t’s, k’s and ch’s, and therefore has greater difficulty with the unaspirated words in Chinese. The aspirates are better learned by the ear than by the eye, but in one way or another it is essential that they be mastered by any one who wishes to make himself intelligible to the native.

The influence of the Mongolian population, assisted by the progress of time, has slowly but surely diminished the number of vocables in Pekingese. Thus the initials ts and k, when followed by the vowel i (with its continental value) have gradually become softer and more assimilated to each other, and are now all pronounced ch. Again, all consonantal endings in t and k, such as survive in Cantonese and other dialects, have entirely disappeared from Pekingese, and n and ng are the only final consonants remaining. Vowel sounds, on the other hand, have been proportionately developed, such compounds as ao, ia, iao, iu, ie, ua occurring with especial frequency. (It must be understood, of course, that the above are only equivalents, not in all cases very exact, for the sounds of a non-alphabetic language.)

An immediate consequence of this paucity of vocables is that one and the same sound has to do duty for different words. Reckoning the number of words that an educated man would want to use in conversation at something over four thousand, it is obvious that there will be an average of ten meanings to each sound employed. Some sounds may have fewer meanings attached to them, but others will have many more. Thus the following represent only a fraction of the total number of words pronounced shih (something like the “shi” in shirt): 史 “history,” 使 “to employ,” 屍 “a corpse,” 市 “a market,” 師 “an army,” 獅 “a lion,” 恃 “to rely on,” 侍 “to wait on,” 詩 “poetry,” 時 “time,” 識 “to know,” 施 “to bestow,” 是 “to be,” 實 “solid,” 失 “to lose,” 示 “to proclaim,” 視 “to look at,” 十 “ten,” 拾 “to pick up,” 石 “stone,” 世 “generation,” 食 “to eat,” 室 “a house,” 氏 “a clan,” 始 “beginning,” 釋 “to let go,” 試 “to test,” 事 “affair,” 勢 “power,” 士 “officer,” 誓 “to swear,” 逝 “to pass away,” 適 “to happen.” It would be manifestly impossible to speak without ambiguity, or indeed to make oneself intelligible at all, unless there were some means of supplementing this deficiency of sounds. As a matter of fact, several devices are employed through the combination of which confusion is avoided. One of these devices is the coupling of words in pairs in order to express a single idea. There is a word 哥 ko which means “elder brother.” But in speaking, the sound ko alone would not always be easily understood in this sense. One must either reduplicate it and say ko-ko, or prefix 大 (ta, “great”) and say ta-ko. Simple reduplication is mostly confined to family appellations and such adverbial phrases as 慢 慢 man-man, “slowly.” But there is a much larger class of pairs, in which each of the two components has the same meaning. Examples are: 恐 怕 k‘ung-p‘a, “to be afraid,” 告 訴 kao-su, “to tell,” 樹 木 shu-mu, “tree,” 皮 膚 p‘i-fu, “skin,” 滿 盈 man-ying, “full,” 孤 獨 ku-tu, “solitary.” Sometimes the two parts are not exactly synonymous, but together make up the sense required. Thus in 衣 裳 i-shang, “clothes,” i denotes more particularly clothes worn on the upper part of the body, and shang those on the lower part. 鳳 凰 fêng-huang is the name of a fabulous bird, fêng being the male, and huang the female. In another very large class of expressions, the first word serves to limit and determine the special meaning of the second: 奶 皮 “milk-skin,” “cream”; 火 腿 “fire-leg,” “ham”; 燈 籠 “lamp-cage,” “lantern”; 海 腰 “sea-waist,” “strait.” There are, besides, a number of phrases which are harder to classify. Thus, 虎 hu means “tiger.” But in any case where ambiguity might arise, lao-hu, “old tiger,” is used instead of the monosyllable. 狐 (another hu) is “fox,” and 狸 li, an animal belonging to the smaller cat tribe. Together, hu-li, they form the usual term for fox. 知 道 chih tao is literally “to know the way,” but has come to be used simply for the verb “to know.” These pairs or two-word phrases are of such frequent occurrence, that the Chinese spoken language might almost be described as bi-syllabic. Something similar is seen in the extensive use of suffixes or enclitics, attached to many of the commonest nouns. 女 is the word for “girl,” but in speech 女 子 nü-tzŭ or 女 兒 nü-‘rh is the form used. 子 and 兒 both mean child, and must originally have been diminutives. A fairly close parallel is afforded by the German suffix chen, as in Mädchen. The suffix 兒, it may be remarked, belongs especially to the Peking vernacular. Then, the use of so-called numeratives will often give some sort of clue as to the class of objects in which a substantive may be found. When in pidgin English we speak of “one piecee man” or “three piecee dollar,” the word piecee is simply a Chinese numerative in English dress. Even in ordinary English, people do not say “four cattle” but “four head of cattle.” But in Chinese the use of numeratives is quite a distinctive feature of the language. The commonest of them, 個 ko, can be used indifferently in connexion with almost any class of things, animal, vegetable or mineral. But there are other numeratives—at least 20 or 30 in everyday use—which are strictly reserved for limited classes of things with specific attributes. 枚 mei, for instance, is the numerative of circular objects such as coins and rings; 顆 k‘o of small globular objects—pearls, grains of rice, &c.; 口 k‘ou classifies things which have a mouth—bags, boxes and so forth; 件 chien is used of all kinds of affairs; 張 chang of chairs and sheets of paper; 隻 chih (literally half a pair) is the numerative for various animals, parts of the body, articles of clothing and ships; 把 pa for things which are grasped by a handle, such as fans and knives.

This by no means exhausts the list of devices by which the difficulties of a monosyllabic language are successfully overcome. Mention need only be made, however, of the system of “tones,” which, as the most curious and important of all, has been kept for the last.

The tones may be defined as regular modulations of the voice by means of which different inflections can be imparted to the same sound. They may be compared with the half-involuntary modulations which express emotional The tones. feeling in our words. To the foreign ear, a Chinese sentence spoken slowly with the tones clearly brought out has a certain sing-song effect. If we speak of the tones as a “device” adopted in order to increase the number of vocables, this must be understood rather as a convenient way of explaining their practical function than as a scientific account of their origin. It is absurd to suppose the tones were deliberately invented in order to fit each written character with a separate sound. A tone may be said to be as much an integral part of the word to which it belongs as the sound itself; like the sound, too, it is not fixed once and for all, but is in a constant, though very gradual, state of evolution. This fact is proved by the great differences of