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This tiny article was originally published in an experimental publication called Xin Tang / New China, edited by Dr. Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania. Xin Tang was experimental in being published in Romanized Chinese, without Chinese characters. (That would technically have been illegal in China or Taiwan, but the magazine was published in Pennsylvania.)
Normally the Romanization used was Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 without tone marks, which generally worked far better than my expectations. (I offer a tirade about tone marks on another page of this web site. Link)
I was invited to offer an article demonstrating the use of Guóyǔ Luómǎzì 国语罗马字 literally "National Language Romanized Script," more often called descriptively “tonal spelling,” of which I was an enthusiastic user, and which was the unused but technically official standard of the Republic of China from the 1920s through the mid 1980s. In Guóyǔ Luómǎzì, Guóyǔ Luómǎzì is spelled Gwoyeu Romatzyh and the name is often abbreviated GR.
I decided to devote the article to praise for GR’s guiding genius, Y. R. Chao (Zhào Yuánrèn 赵元任, or in GR JAW Yuanrenn), one of the greatest applied linguists of all time, from whom, although I never met him, I learned that insightful practice can and should trump blinkered theory.
I composed the article in English, and it was translated into Chinese by a Xin Tang editor, after which I romanized it in GR; then the whole thing was proofed by the very executive editor, Dr. Victor H. Mair. (A couple mistakes were introduced in the final typing, which I have corrected here, while no doubt introducing more, unfortunately.)
Because the GR version was the point of the thing, I have retained it in the web version. Because readers of Xin Tang were thought unlikely to be able to decipher the GR version standing alone, the original article was printed in facing pages of English and Romanized Chinese. Here the two texts also face each other, although I have inserted more paragraph breaks to facilitate on-line reading.
GR is merely an historical curiosity at this point, one of those good ideas that never took off, a flag that no one salutes any more. I use it behind the scenes in names of computer files or occasionally program variables because I like always to preserve the tone information. But this web site, like all the world, uses Hànyǔ Pīnyīn for its public face. The world, after all, moves on.
On this page, Chinese names and words in the English version and the bibliography have usually have been converted to Pīnyīn (with tones!). I regret that I do not know the characters for the name of the translator, Zhāng Lìqīng or for a couple of names in the bibliography.
The original reference is:
- JORDAN, David K [JIAU Dawey]
- 1986 “Jaw Yuanrenn yeu Wenhuah Renleyshyue-jia” (“Y. R. Chao & the Cultural Anthropologist”). Xin Tang (Swarthmore, PA) 7: 72-79.
|Y. R. Chao [Zhào Yuánrèn 赵元任] was a linguist, not an anthropologist. Furthermore, I never met him. Nevertheless he probably had a more important influence on my career as an anthropologist than most of my anthropology teachers did.||Jaw Yuanrenn sh yeuyanshyue-jia, bush renleyshyue-jia. Tsyyway, woo tsornglai mei jiannguoh ta. Keesh ta shianq g renleyshyue-jia shyhde duey woode shyhyeh yeou keen dah de yiingsheang, yeesheu bii woo duobann de renley-shyue laoshy duey woo de yiingsheang hair dah.|
|For example, my understanding of Chinese phonology (which tempered my view of phonology in general) is due to his introduction to the subject in the Mathews dictionary (Mathews 1943) and in the introduction to his own dictionary (Chao & Yang 1948).||Biifang shuo, woo duey Jongwen shengyunn-shyue de leaujiee (duannliann le woo duey iban shengyunn-shyue de kannfaa) sh you ta geei Maishyh Tsyrdean (Mathews 1943) hann ta tzyhjii de tzyhdean (Jaw jyi Yang 1948) suoo shiee de daoyan yiin-chiilai de.|
|My approach to understanding Chinese society owes much to his articles on how Chinese talk and think about things in various semantic fields. And my starting point for understanding Chinese words and phrases has always been his dictionary or his reference grammar (1968). For a non-anthropologist, and a person I never met, he has had a surprisingly haunting role in my life. (Indeed, when I arrived in Taipei last year  and bought a small radio, the first program I tuned in was playing a song composed by Y. R. Chao (Liú & Zhào 1984]!)||Heen duo woo yonqlai rennshyh Jonggwo shehhuey de fangfaa yaw gueigong yu ta taoluenn Jonggwo-ren tzay gehjoong gehyanq tsyryih liingyuh-lii tzeeme shuohuah sykao de wenjang. Binqchiee woo duey Jongwen tsyrhuey de chubuh liijiee yee tzoong sh tsorng tade tzyhdean huohj yeufaa tsankao shu (1968) jwoshoou. Ta bush renleyshyue-jia, woo yee tsornglai mei yuhjiann-guoh ta, keesh tzay woode shengminq-lii ta chiueh jiaw ren chyjing de yiingraoj woo. (Dihx chiuehx, chiuhnian woo daw Tairbeei yiihow, mae le ig sheau shou’inji; daakai i-ting, dih-ig jyemuh jiowsh Jaw Yuanrenn Ss tzuoh de gecheu [Liou jyi Jaw 1984]!)|
|It is characteristic of Chao’s work that he is unusually alert to what could exist in a language, but does not, and he learned and taught much about Chinese by careful consideration of how Chinese speakers disallow certain logically possible utterances.||Jaw Ss juhtzuoh de tehseh sh duey ig yeuyan-lii keeneng tswentzay chiueh binq bu tswentzay de fangmiann tehbye jiingjyue; ta tzyyshih kaoliuh Jonggwo-ren shuohuah do shyrhow ruher pairchwu luojyi-shanq keeneng tswentzay de huahyeu; ta jiowsh jehyanq de leaujiee Jongwen, jiawshow Jongwen.|
|For example, Chao begins his 1959 collection of Táidà 台大 [National Taiwan University] lectures with an essay entitled “Yǔyánxué gēn gēn Yǔyánxue Yǒu Guānxì de Xiē Wèntí” 语言学跟跟语言学有关系的些问题 (“Linguistics With With Which Linguistics is Related Questions”). In the introduction to the collection, Chao describes the reaction to the two “gēn” 跟 (“With”) in the title when he first proposed the talk. The title, he insisted, was perfectly logical, merely uncolloquial in Chinese (which was the point of it — it would have made acceptable German, he points out). But both poster printers and newspaper reporters persisted in deleting one of the “gēn,” reducing the title to nonsense, but producing a more colloquial sounding phrase.||Biifang shuo, 1959 nian, ta baa tzay Tairdah yanjeang de gaotz bianjyi cherng shu de shyrhow jiow yonq i-pian jiawtzuoh “Yeuyan-shyue Gen Gen Yeuyan-shyue Yeou-guanshih de Shie Wenntyi” lai tzuoh kaitour. Tzay jeybeen wenjyi de daoyan-lii, Jaw Ss miaushuh ta jiannyih neyg yanjeang de shyrhow, dahjia duey tyimuh-lii leangg “gen” tzyh de faanyinq. Jaw Ss jianchyi neyg tyimuh wannchyuan fwuher luojyi, jyy bu fwuher Jongwen de koouyeu bahle. (Jeh jenqhao sh Jaw Ss yaw shuo de i-dean: ta jyy chulai torngyanq de chyngkuanq tzay Derwen-lii jiow keeyii bey jieshow.) Keesh yinnshua haebaw de ren hann jihjee dou guhjyr de baa chyi-jong de ig “gen” tzyh chiuhdiaw le; jieeguoo tyimuh cherngle hwushuo-badaw, dannsh ting-chiilai heen shuenn’eel.|
|Chao’s interest in the logic inherent in language, and how it intersects with the knocking about that language takes in the course of everyday use, led him to produce a wide range of articles that have been unusual both in their rigor and in their view of Chinese as an active spoken language, full of dialectical variation, and reflecting the speaker’s social position, state of mind, and even political leanings.||Jaw Ss de shinqchiuh tzay yeuyan de tianran luojyi-shinq hann jeyjoong luojyi-shinq ruhar gen ryhcharng de tarnhuah huhshiang penqjuanq jioucharn. Jeh rang ta shieechu le heen duo fannwei feicharng goang de wenjang. Jehshie venjang rennwei Jongwen sh heen jijyi de hwo yeuyan, chongmaan le duotsae-duotzy de fangyan-shinq; binqchiee keeyii faanyinq shuohuah-ren de shehhuey dihwey, sysheang juanqkuanq, shennjyh jenqjyh chingshianq. Jehyanq de guandean hann Jaw Ss shieetzuoh tayduh de yanjiin dou heen bu shyuncharng.|
|His essay on “Chinese Terms of Address” (1956)* both anticipated and outdistanced the “new ethnography” that was to become popular among anthropologists in the middle 1960’s.
*-Chao’s English articles cited here may all be found in his collected essays (1976). Pagination, when cited, is to that edition.
Tade wenjang “Jongwen de Chenghu-tsyr” (1956)* budann yuhshian kannjiann, binqchiee chauguoh liowshyr nianday-jongchyi lioushyng tzay renleyshyue-jia jongjian de “shin renjoong-shyue”.
*-Been pian suoo yiinshuh de Jaw Ss de Ingwen wenjang dou keeyii tzay ta 1976 mien de jaodaw. Yehshuh yee dou annjaw jehg luennwenjyi.
|Reading this essay, I was led to realize how complex the “definition” of a term must be if it is to be useful to understanding the society that uses it. In an important way lexicography and ethnography are closely related. It is a very special kind of lexicography, however, which is capable of serving as adequate ethnography.||Kannle jeypian wenjang, woo tsair leaujiee-daw ruguoo yaw ig tsyrl de yihx duey bangjuh rennshyh yonq tade neyg shehhuey yeouyonq, wey jeyg tsyrl shiah dinqyih jiow duome nan a. Tzay heen jonqyaw de fangmiann, tsyrhuey-shyue hann renjoong-shyue dou yeou mihchieh de guanshih. Buguoh, jyy yeou heen tehbye de tsyrhuey-shyue keeyii bey danqtzuoh chongfenn de renjoong-shyue.|
|Sociolinguistics was an inherent aspect of Chao’s view of language long before specialist researchers began to use that term to identify a specific discipline. On Chao’s coattails, I also thought “sociolinguistically” before it was popular. Indeed, having read Chao’s essays about Chinese dialects, and working as an anthropologist specializing in Chinese culture, I have come to harbor dark suspicions about anyone who approached the Chinese language from any other perspective!||Tzao tzay yanjiow juanjia-men shyyyong “shehhuey-yeuyan-shyue” jeyg mingtsyr lai jianndinq i-men tehshu shyueke yiichyan, jeyjoong shehhuey-yeuyan-shyue de guanniann jiow yiijing sh Jaw Ss yeuyan guandean-lii de ig guhyeou tehseh. Woo jeyg Jaw Ss de sheau genban shihshian yee sh heen “shehhuey-yeuyan-shyue nahyanq de” sykao wenntyi. Dyichiueh, tzuohwei ig juangong Jonggwo wenhuah de renleyshyue-jee kannle Jaw Ss guanyu Jonggwo fangyan de wenjang, woo duey yonq rennher byede guanniann lai tanntao Jonggwo yeuyan de rennher ren dou bawj shenx de hwaiyi.|
|Over the past two decades I have reflected that most of an ethnographer’s task in understanding and describing a society can be understood as developing a better and better understanding of how the people he studies use language. In my own case, fieldwork in cultural anthropology (folk religion, in particular) has necessarily been inseparable from field study of language use. I dare not say that Y. R. Chao would be proud of me! But certainly my sense of what is a “reasonable” way to go about studying Chinese society has been clearly influenced by him.||Guohchiuh ellshyr nian lai, woo tzoong rennwei ig renjoongshyue-jia yaw leaujiee hann miaushiee ig shehhuey de dah buhfenn gongtzuoh keeyii shuo jiowsh ibuh-ibuh de duey ta yaw yanjiow de ren tzeeme shyyyonq yeuyan yeou genq hao de leaujiee. Jiow woo tzyhjii de chyngkuanq lai shuo, wenhuah renley-shyue (tehbye sh minjian tzongjiaw) de shyrdih yanjiow gen yeuyan de shyrdih yanjiow idinq buneng fenjia. Woo bugaan shuo Jaw Ss huey wey woo gaandaw jiaw`aw. Keesh woode sherme shyh duey Jonggvo shehhuey de “herlii” yanjiow de kannfaa chiueh heen chingchuu de idinq sh shoudaw le tade yiingsheanq.|
|Chao’s interest in the logic and philosophy of language did not lead him away from concern with practical applications. Chao was one of a small band of influential Chinese language planners —the best known of the others are Lin Yutang [Lin Yeu-tarng 林语堂] and Hu Shih [Hú Shì 胡适]— responsible for the brilliant language reforms in the early decades just after the Chinese revolution that saw the introduction of Báihuà 白话 [colloquial] literature, the selection of a kind of standardized Pekingese as a national standard language, the successful propagation of the National Phonetic Alphabet, and the unsuccessful propagation of the equally ingenious Gwoyeu Romatzyh system of romanization.||Jaw Ss duey yeuyan luojyi hann jershyue de shinqchiuh binq meiyeou rang ta gen yeuyan de shyrjih yinqyonq fenkai. Ta sh Jonggwo shaoshuh yeou-yiingsheang-lih de yeuyan gaeger-jee jyi --- byede tzuey juhming de gaeger-jee sh Lin Yeutarng hann Hwu Shyh. Tamen duey Jonggwo Shinhay Germinq yiihow jiishyr nian-jian de chuseh yeuwen gaeger gongtzuoh tzuohchu le heen dah de gonqshiann. Tamen jiehshaw Bairhuah wenshyue; sheuandinq i-joong biaujoen-huah de Beeijing-huah tzuohwei Gwoyeu. Tamen heen chernggong de shiuanchwan le Juh’in Fwuhaw. Tamen yee shiuanchwan yonq torngyanq yeou-chuanqtzaw-lih de Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh (Romatzyh) tzuohwei Jonggwo de pin’in wentzyh, keeshi mei chernggong.|
|The logic of language “modernization” has probably nowhere been more meticulously examined or relentlessly pursued than in China, and Chao was one of the most creative planners. For the anthropologist one of the most interesting aspects of language planning in China has been the fact that it could be carried out at all (a feat possible only in this century —Jordan 1986) and the fact that it proceeded rapidly and efficiently while happily ignoring principles of language planning that theoreticians elsewhere believed critical.||Duey yeuyan “shiannday-huah” lwojyi de sheenchar hann jueichyou, dahgay meiyeou rennher dihfang bii Jonggwo genq jingchiueh chehdii; erl Jaw Ss sh tzuey yeou chuanqjiann de gaeger-jee jy i. Duey ig renleyshyue-jia lai shuo, Jonggwo wentzyh jihhuah-lii tzuey yeou-yihsy de ig fangmiann jiowsh Jonggwo de wentzyh jihhuah jiuran yeou shyrshiann de keeneng (jyy neng chushiann tzay been shyhjih —jiann Jordan 1986 de wenjang— binqchiee tzay bugoan chyita dihfang yeuyan jihhuah liiluenn-jia shiangshinn de ishie guanjiann yuantzer de chyngkuanq-shiah, Jonggwo de wengae gongtzuoh-jee jiuran keeyii shinqgau tsaelieh de baa gongtzuoh jinnshyng de heen kuay, heen yeou-shiawliuh.|
|There are still linguists who argue that “the best writing system represents each phoneme by one and only one character,” and Unesco has long advocated that elementary-school education in the students’ “mother tongue” be a fundamental obligation of every public school system.||Shianntzay hair yeou yeuyanshyue-jia rennwei “tzuey hao de shushiee shihtoong sh ig tzyhmuu jyy daybeao ig insuh; ig insuh jyy yeou ig tzyhmuu”. Lianhergwo Wenjiaw Tzuujy charngchi yiilai jiow juujang meei-suoo gonglih shiaoshyue de ig genbeen tzerrenn jiowsh yonq shyuesheng de “muuyeu” lai jiayshyue.|
|However the Chinese language planners developed three writing systems: standardized characters, the National Phonetic Alphabet, and Gwoyeu Romatzyh, none of which were isomorphic with phonemes, but each of which was responsive to the pressure of more important issues, such as the tradition of Chinese characters, or such as the limited number of Mandarin syllabic types, allowing shortcuts in the alphabetical systems.||Buguoh, Jonggwo de yeuwen jihhuah-jee fajaan-chu san-joong shushiee shihtoong: biaujoen de fangkuay-tzyh; Zhuh’in Fwuhaw; Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh. Sanjee jy jong, meiyeou ig fwuher “ig tzyhmuu jyy daybeau ig insuh… “ de yuantzer, dannsh dou duey genq jongyaw de kehtyi tzuohchule faanyinq: shianq fangkuay-tzyh de chwantoong hann Guanhuah injye shyngshyh shuhlianq de yeoushiann; elljee de tswentzay ranq pin’in Jongwen yeou jyejinq kee tzoou.|
|Similarly, to educate elementary-school children first in non-Mandarin and then in Mandarin was an unnecessary delay in their Mandarin education, given that (1) Chinese schoolchildren are traditionally extremely diligent and do not require much “coaxing,” (2) the national standard dialect was at once prestigious and phonologicaly less complex than what is spoken natively by learners, and (3) nationalistic sentiment and economic rationality combined to provide strong impetus (at least to parents) to favor immediate teaching of the new national standard.||Shiangsyh de kehtyi sh: shian yonq fangyan, tsair yonq Gwoyeu jiau sheaushyue de erltorng sh i-joong meiyeou bihyaw de lanqfey. Liiyou sh: (1) Jonggwo shyuetorng shianglai feicharng yonqgong, yonqbujaur sherme tehbye de “yowdao”, (2) Gwoyeu de shengwanq heen gau, binqchiee tzay yeu’in-shanq yee meiyeou erltorng tzyhjii de fangyan nehme fuhtzar, (3) mintzwu renntorng de gaanchyng hann jingjih shiuyaw de jyjyue herbing-chiilai, jiow geei lihkeh shyue shin de biaojoen Gwoyeu tyigong le (jyyshao duey erltorng de fuhmuu-men ) heen chyang de tsyhji.|
|In other words, the simplistic formulae that still seem to make sense in linguistics classes or on Unesco drawing boards were ignored by Chinese language planners because in fact they made less sense for China than other courses of action did. (How strange that neither linguists nor Unesco paid attention!) The sociolinguistic sensitivities and better rounded view of what was likely to be relevant led Chao and the other planners to decisions that would not have been predicted by purer theorists.||Huann jiuh huah shuo, sweiran yeou shie guohfenn jeandan de yeuyan-shyue gongshyh muhchyan hair tzay yeuyan-shyue de kehtarng-lii huohj Lianhergwo Wenjiaw Tzuujy de jiawshyue jihhuah-jong chiij tzuohyonq, Jonggwo de yeuwen gaeger-jee chiueh tsorng i kaishyy jiow bu liitsae jeyshie guohfenn jeandann de gongshyh; inwey jeyshie gongshyh shyrjih-shanq duey Jonggwo dyichiueh meiyeou sherme yihx. (Yeuyanshyue-jia hann Lianhergwo Wenjiaw Tzuujy dou mei juhyih daw jeyjian shyll, duome chyiguay!) Duey shehhuey yeuyan-shyue de lingmiin jyjyue hann biijeau jenqchiueh de liaojiee sherme gen Jongwen keeneng yeou guanshih de kannfaa rang Jaw Ss hann byede gaeger-jee tzuohchu le sheuduo chwen liiluenn-jia yuhliaw budaw de jyuedinq.|
|(Not all the decisions were easy. In “What is Correct Chinese?” Chao reports that between 1919 and 1932 China had a hypothetical national language that nobody could speak but him; in 1932 it vas “quietly revised” to approach Peking speech more closely. “Thus, at one stroke, were created more than one million potential teachers instead of only one.” [p. 80])||(Jeyshie jyuedinq binq bush dou heen rongyih tzuohchu de. Tzay “Sherme sh Jenqchyue de Jongwen?” jehpian wenjang-lii, Jaw Ss bawdao shuo: 1919 nian daw 1932 nian, Jonggwo yeou ig jyyyeou ta ig-ren huey shuo de jeasheh-chulai de gwoyeu. Jeyg gwoyeu tzay 1932 nian “chiaux de jinnshyng le shiougae”, biann de gen Beeijing-huah genq jiejinn. “Intsyy, i-shiahtz chaanshengle ibae-duo wann g yeou-chyanlih de laoshy, erl bush jyy ig.” [Jiann dih-80 yeh.])|
|The moral in both these examples is the same: “total accountability” — Chao’s goal for himself in trying to understand linguistic usage, whether of a word or of an entire style of speech -- results in bringing up a lot of considerations; and a course of action (or an academic article) is likely to go astray if it ignores them.||Yiishanq leangg lihtz de jingshern dou iyanq: “jueichyou jeenggeh de keekaw-shinq”. Jeh yee sh Jaw Ss shyhj leaujiee yeuyan yonqfaa erl wey tzyhjii lihshiah de gehren muhbeau, naa pah sh ig tsyr huohj chyuanbuh de hueyhuah fangshyh dou rutsyy. Jeh yee rang ren duey sheuduo kehtyi jiayii sykao; erl jyuedinq rennher shyngdonq de fangshianq (huohj shiee shyueshuh luennwen), ruguoo bu juhyih jeyshie kehtyi jiow heen keeneng tzooujinn chyitwu.|
|My third copy of Chao & Yang [Liansheng]’s (1948) Concise dictionary of Spoken Chinese is now in tatters. Unfortunately, after I buy my next copy it will take several days to copy all my notes from the old copy into the new one. Limited as this little dictionary is intended to be, it is more thorough in its usage and dialect information than most of the larger ones I have used, and the authors’ care to make every detail convenient for the reader makes it twice or three times as fast to consult as any other character dictionary.||Woode dih-san been Jaw Ss hann Yang Liansheng Ss herbian de Gwoyeu Tzyhdean (1948) shianntzay yiijing pohlann bukan. Tzaugau de sh woo mae le dih-syh been yiihow, deei hua hao-jii tian tsair neng baa jiow tzyhdean-shanq suooyeou de biijih chau daw shin tzyhdean-shanq. Sweiran jeybeen tzyhdean sh weyle yeou-shiann de yonqtwu erl biantzoan de, dannshyh tzay yonqfaa hann duey fangyan de shinnshi tyigong-shanq, jeybeen tzyhdean bii woo yonq de dah-duoshuh dah tsyrdean genq chehdii. Tzuohjee wey fangbiann shyyyonq-jee erl feyshin buhjyh de anpair yee rang jeh-been tzyhdean tzay shyyyonq-shanq bii rennher byede fankuay-tzyh tzyhdean kuay leang-san bey.|
|Each time I use it (or write in it or curse it) I am reminded of the centrality of language in social life, and of the importance of incorporating an understanding of language in our analysis of human society. That is a message I learned principally from Y. R. Chao, even though I never met him.||Woo meei-tsyh yonq jehbeen tzyhdean (huohj tzay shanqtour shiee biijih, huohj jowmah ta), jeybeen tzyhdean dou tyishiing woo yeuyan sh shehhuey shenghwo jongshin de jeyg tehshinq, binqchiee hair tyishiing woo: fenshi renlei shehhuey de shyrhow, fenshi-jee duey yeuyan de leaujiee sh heen jonqyaw de. Jeyg rennshyh juuyaw sh Jaw Ss jiaw geei woo de, sweiran woo tsornglai mei-yuhjiann-guoh ta.|
|Oh yes, I also use Gwoyeu Romatzyh for all my research notes. That is not because it has anything to do with Y. R. Chao; it is because it is a superb system. On the other hand, it was from his writings that I learned to use it.||Duey le: Woo yanjiow biijih lii de Jongwen tsyr dou sh yonq Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh shiee de. Jeh gen Jaw Ss beenren dao meiyeou sherme guanshih, erl sh inwey Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh sh ig feicharng iouyueh de fang’ann. Buguoh, woo chiueh sh tsorng Jaw Ss de juhtzuoh shyuehuey le tzeeme shyyyonq Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh de.|
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