Mandarin: Deconstruction (A Beginner's POV)


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A presentation deconstructing the basics of standard Mandarin, from the point of view of a beginning learner (first semester Chinese at uni). The presentation looked at interesting features of the grammar, plurals, questions, how dates are handled, classifiers.

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  • Mandarin: Deconstruction (A Beginner's POV)

    1. 1. Mandarin Chinese Deconstruction: A Beginner’s POV - Parimal Satyal
    2. 2. Pǔtōnghuà ( ) Means ‘common speech’ ‘Standard Chinese’, based on the dialect of Mandarin spoken in Beijing Standardized spelling/pronunciation
    3. 3. Tonal! Tonal? 5 tones High, mid rising, dipping, high falling, ‘normal’ Different meanings Common example: “ma” mā ma mà mă ma? ( )
    4. 4. Sub-Vrb-Obj Like English in this regard Wo chi ying-guo cai I eat England-food (English food) But verb not always required
    5. 5. Nǐ hǎo ( ) The popular greeting Nǐ hǎo transliterates to: ‘You good’ Basic descriptive words (adjc) don’t require verbs (there are exceptions): Wo è le — I’m hungry Wo hen gāoxǐng — I’m happy
    6. 6. Minimalism Most ‘words’ are monosyllabic/dysyllabic Different words can sound the same (even the same tone) Same character can have different meanings (and pronunciations) Works: logic + context
    7. 7. Minimalist Grammar Chinese doesn’t like redundancy Anything–subject, object, pronoun–can be dropped if understood in context.
    8. 8. Wǒ hěn hǎo ( I very well. Wǒ mǎi diànhuà ( ) I buy phone (literally, electricity-words)
    9. 9. Logic diànhuà - phone is ‘electric-words’ diànnǎo - computer is ‘electric-brain’ diànyìng - movie is ‘electric-shadow’ Not entirely ‘new words’, but the combination itself is a new word, and doesn’t make sense separated. Essentially, these are new(er) words.
    10. 10. Xué (verb or noun) Wǒ xué zhōngwén ( ) I study Chinese Xiǎo xué ( ) Little-study meaning primary school. Zhōng xué ( ) Middle-study meaning middle-school. Dà xué ( ) Big-study meaning university.
    11. 11. No verb morphology Words don’t change, regardless of tense, voice, subject, plurality The words for big (dà, ), middle (zhōng, ) and small (xiǎo, ) can be added as a prefix to virtually anything that can be placed on an order of magnitude.
    12. 12. Plurals Xuéshēng ( )– Wǒ – I student(s) Wǒmen – we/us Xuéshēngmen ( )– Nǐ – you students Nǐmen – You (pl.) Péngyǒu ( ) – friend(s) Tā – him/her Péngyǒumen ( )– Tāmen – them friends
    13. 13. Time and Space Time/place words immediately after the subject Wǒ míngtiān qù shàng dà xué ( ) I tomorrow go up university.
    14. 14. China primarily uses their lunar calendar system. National holidays, harvesting day, festivals are all seem to occur on different days (of the Gregorian calendar) every year China has of course embraced the international solar calendar (Gregorian) and has a unbelievably simple way to refer to years, months, and days in this system.
    15. 15. Dates The year is written either as 2009, or 09, followed by nían ( ), months are referred to by the number of the month, x, followed by the word yuè ( )—months don’t individual names— date followed by hào ( , number ) or rì ( , sun) Order: 2009 5 31 .
    16. 16. Questions Straightforward: usually a matter of replacing, adding, or repeating something Jīntīan shì jǐyuè jǐhào? ( ) Jīntīan shì 5 yuè 31 hào. ( )
    17. 17. Yes/No Nǐ yǒu gēge ma? ( ) You have elder-brother question? Yǒu méiyǒu gēge? ( ) Have-no-have elder brother?
    18. 18. Classifers Classifiers/measure words when specifying quantity. The measure word is used after the number, or after demonstrative pronouns like zhè ( , this) or nà ( , that). Usually based on physical characteristics: zhāng is used for flat objects (paper, CDs) běn for bound stuff (books, magazines)
    19. 19. Examples Yí gè rén ( , 1 ge person) Sān zhāng zhǐ ( , 3 zhāng papers) Wǔ běn shū ( , 4 běn books) Bā kē shù ( , 8 kē trees)
    20. 20. More on my blog update-two-weeks-in or I’d love comments, ideas, feedback (if you were at the talk), random hellos.