Friday, June 01, 2007

sichuanhua primer

I've already got about seventeen pages of the sichuanhua primer written and so far it's both lots of fun and incredibly useful. My listening comprehension is improving rapidly and hopefully it will be up to my putonghua level in another four or five months.

Why is it necessary to actually work on studying sichuanhua, and why do some people skilled in putonghua understand absolutely nothing at all (and that includes many native Mandarin speakers)? Well, let me give you a few examples from what I've learned over the past couple of weeks:
1. Sichuanhua has five tones--the four tones you find in putonghua and a fifth tone that is special to sichuanhua. The sichuanhua tone is like the first tone in putonghua, but at a much lower pitch.

2. The tones in sichuanhua and putonghua are often reversed--for instance, third tone becomes fourth tone, and fourth tone becomes third tone.

3. Sichuanhua has four distinct consonant, vowel, and diphthong sounds that do not exist in Mandarin, including a truly terrifying pseudo-consonant sound that I've chosen to represent as "ng."

4. There are a total of 12 consonant, vowel, and diphthong changes from putonghua to sichuanhua, including not only the frequently seen CH-->C, ZH-->Z, SH-->S, but also a number of other changes, such as the dropping of any "N" that follows an "A" vowel sound.
To deal with all of these changes I've come up with a makeshift sichuanhua pinyin that so far seems to work quite well. My only problem is that I don't know how to add a fifth tone to words, and thus have resorted to putting an asterisk after each syllable that uses the fifth tone (for example, Sichuanhua Primer--四川话入门 --in my pinyin system looks like this: sǐcuáhhuǎ rǔmen*.) Does anyone have any suggestions on how to add a fifth tonal mark to vowels?

Also, just generally speaking, if any reader anywhere is interested in this definitely let me know--once this is posted I'd love to work collaboratively with other people interested in learning sichuanhua.

I'll post the first part of the primer in about three or four weeks, including audio files--well, so long as I can find a good file-hosting service.

PS--On an unrelated note, I won't be able to reply to comments until blogspot is unblocked in China. Although I can log in without a problem and can view my page through a proxy, for some reason none of these proxies allow me to leave comments. Weird.



Anonymous China Law Blog said...

There is NO chance of my learning sichuanhua at my age, but I find your blogging on this fascinating.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was it "Balzac and the Little Seamstress" that was in Sichuanhua or am I thinking of another movie?

6:55 AM  

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