Friday, September 01, 2006

From the lost papers of Dr.Cornelius Mucus (Vienna), eminent Sinologist, preserved for posterity by the astonishing memory of Murr

Some inadequacies of Mandarin ChineseThe language has no words for ‘yes’ and ‘no’.Agreement or disagreement is signaled by repeating the verb, or repeating it with the addition of a negative prefix. This keeps you on your toes as you have to remember the auxiliary spoken by the other person. The catch all ‘duei’ (‘right’) is not always appropriate.

'Question' and ‘problem’ are expressed with the same word.This means that conceptually, an inquiry is problematic and should be avoided. Hence nothing is ever questioned, nothing ever changes and nothing ever improves.

'make someone do something’ and ‘let someone do something’ are expressed with the same chunkThis means that there is no conceptual distinction between obligations and freedoms.

The language is absurdly tautologous, with phrases like ‘drive car’, ‘sing song’, and ‘blue colour’.
Clarification is offered in trivial areas where none is really needed, while more important areas of meaning which are shrouded in ambiguity and crying out for further explication (such as gender and time) are ignored. The most important point is so frequently missed, and prioritization unknown.

There is no distinction between ‘he’ and ‘she’ and their pro forms.Which means that if you are gossiping about two people of either sex, your listener has no real idea of whom you are talking about. What does this reveal about gender relations? That women are completely invisible, or that gender difference itself is completely invisible?

The writing system is totally inadequate and should be scrapped in its entirety.
In the primeval linguistic choice of how to represent spoken sounds graphically, the West chose to represent phonemes by an alphabet, while the East chose to represent meanings through pictures. From this mistake (an example of Neanderthal intellectual laziness?) stems the entire, contrasting histories of our hemispheres, with the Western capacity for adaptability, flexibility and horizontal, adaptive thought, its capacity for metaphor, and the Eastern necessity for the vertical preservation of received knowledge, its imprisonment by metonymy. This contrast inherent in our two linguistic systems appears also in -and perhaps causes- our incompatible conceptual systems.


Serafim said...

Indeed, Professor Mucus, who perished horribly at the savage hands of the spiritists who rose up against the foreign presence in China during the Boxer Rebellion, and who often appears to me out of the ether, joins me in praising the unparalleled memory of Murr.

I, too, wonder if the Chinese are not sometimes deliberately obscurantist - even where their own children are concerned - when I consider that it takes these same children many years to master the written language.

And the utter refusal to accept responsibility for the mistakes of the past, even those so recent as the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square is a matter of some concern, not only to Professor Mucus, but to all of China's neighbours, including its culturally predominately Chinese neighbors - and other entities, both political and ethereal.

keylawk said...

The absence of YES/ NO.

NO YES or YES NO. In boot camp (courtesy of hard-shelled Uncle Sam) a Drill Sargeant (no less) tried to get a Yes or a No from me, and I had to explain to the poor fellow that there is No Such Thing. Even when there is a "word for it", the Word does not make IT true, or real or even possible. But look at the differences between analog and digital Data. Having the "word for it" opens up the virtual world. Not content with "not having it", the Yes/No language systems not only create new data, but an entirely new universe. Not "new" in the sense of Real, but in the sense of created. In the beginning was the Word, and it was Yes AND No.... Ah did I mention thanking you for excellent and useful observations. Any more about Mandarin metaphors?