Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Behold, a Humble Particle!

An indispensable Cantonese expression is 你食咗飯未呀? sik6 zo2 faan6 mei6 aa3? “Have you eaten yet?” It’s a common greeting, with a very similar equivalent in Taishanese. (See the lesson 12 dialogue.)

The corresponding phrase in Taishanese is almost exactly the same, 你食嗲飯未呀 你吃嗲飯未呀? Ni hiak-e fàn mì a? Some of the tones are (predictably) different. You should also notice that the Cantonese word 咗 zo6 is replaced with the Taishanese word 嗲 e. In my opinion, it sounds very schwa-like (but that’s just my opinion). What’s the meaning of 咗/嗲?—I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Another way to write this particle is with the character 誒, which Deng Jun uses in the Kaiping Dictionary. I’ve never really thought about writing this word before, or if it has the same meaning in Taishanese as the word 咗 in Cantonese.

So, I’m just curious for my occasional blog readers—how do you write this word in Chinese? How would you transcribe it in English? Does it have the same meaning as 咗 in Cantonese?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 13 Dialogue

This lesson is about describing one’s positive experience.

1 A: 你識唔識講台山話呀? Ni sīk m̈-sīk gōng Họi-San wà* a?
  B: 識,我識講少少。 Sīk, ngoi sīk gōng sīau sīau.
  A: 該尼飯好唔好吃呀? Kwọi nāi fàn hō m̈-hō hiak a?
2 A: 好,該尼飯好吃。 Hō, kwọi nāi fàn hō hiak.
  B: 好,該尼飯好吃。 Hō, kwọi nāi fàn hō hiak.
3 A: 該尼茶好唔好飲呢? Kwọi nāi chä hō m̈-hō ngīm nē?
  B: 唔好,該尼茶唔好飲。 M̈-hō, kwọi nāi chä m̈-hō ngīm.
4 A: 該齣戲好唔好睇呀? Kwọi chūt hi hō m̈-hō hāi a?
  B: 好,嚀齣戲好好睇。 Hō, nịng chūt hi hō hō hāi.
5 A: 該尼音樂好唔好聽呢? Kwọi nāi yim-ngùk hō m̈-hō hiang nē?
  B: 唔好,該尼音樂唔係好好聽。 M̈-hō, kwọi nāi yim-ngùk m̈-hài hō hō hiang.
6 A: 嚀條路好唔好行呀? Nịng hïau lù hō m̈-hō häng a?
  B: 好,該條路幾好行。 Hō, kwọi hïau lù gī hō häng.
7 A: 該間屋好唔好住呢? Kwọi gan ūk hō m̈-hō jì nē?
  B: 唔好,嚀間屋唔係幾好住。 M̈-hō, nịng gan ūk m̈-hài gī-hō jì.
8 A: 嚀樽香水好唔好聞呀? Nịng dụn hiang-sūi hō m̈-hō mün a?
  B: 好,該樽香水非常之好聞。 Hō, kwọi dụn hiang-sūi fi-sïang ji hō mün.
9 A: 該件衫好唔好着呢? Kwọi gìng sạm hō m̈-hō jiak nē?
  B: 唔好,嚀件衫常之唔好着。 M̈-hō, nịng gìng sạm fi-sïang ji m̈-hō jiak.
10 A: 你講台山話講得好好。 Ni gōng Höi-San wà* gōng-ak hō hō.
  B: 唔敢當,唔敢當。 M̈-gām ong, m̈-gām ong.

The main grammar point in this lesson is the ability to create adjectives by adding 好 before the verb. The resulting adjective means “good” in a way that’s related to a specific type of experience.

For example, 吃 hiak means “eat” and 好吃 hō-hiak means “tasty” or “delicious.” You can even translate this word less effusively as “good”—but specifically related to eating. So if I ask if your food is good, the key question would be:「好唔好吃?」

The other derived words in this lesson are 好飲 hō-ngīm “good (to drink),” 好行 hō-häng “good (to walk),” 好睇 hō-hāi “good (to watch),” 好聽 hō-hiang “good (to listen to),” 好住 hō-ji “good (to live in),” 好聞 hō-mün “good (to smell)” and 好着 hō-jiak “good (to wear).”

Remember that these are adjectives, so if you want to say “very tasty,” you add 好 : 好好吃 hō hō-hiak!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 13 Vocabulary

This lesson is all about positive experience. You can think of the list below as pairs of verbs and nouns that describe certain very common experiences like drinking tea, watching a movie or going for a walk.

  1. 唔好 · m̈-hō · don’t, had better not, not good
  2. 請 · tīang (tīng) · please, to invite, to request
  3. 飲 · ngīm · to drink
  4. 茶 · chä · tea
  5. 齣(出) · chūt · (classifier), out, to exit, to put out
  6. 戲 · hi · show, movie, to make fun of
  7. 睇 · hāi · to see, visit
  8. 音樂 · yim-ngòk · music
  9. 聽 · hiang · to listen, obey
  10. 條 · hïau · (classifier)
  11. 路 · lù · road, way, path
  12. 行路 · häng lù · to walk
  13. 住 · jì · to reside, to live
  14. 樽 · dụn · bottle
  15. 香水 · hiang-sūi · perfume
  16. 聞 · mün · to smell, to hear
  17. 衫 · sạm · coat, dress
  18. 着衫 · jiak sạm · to dress, to wear
  19. 坐 · tu · to sit
  20. 廣東 · Gwōng-Ung Guangdong/Canton Province

Here’s a new phrase in the dialogue that missed the vocabulary list.

  • 唔敢當 · m̈-gām ong · I dare not (accept the praise/honor)

A few of the words also have different pronunciations in the Kaiping dictionary.

  • 請 · tēn · please, to invite, to request
  • 飲 · ngēm · to drink
  • 戲 · hei · show, movie, to make fun of
  • 聽 · hiang (hen) · to listen, obey
  • 條 · hïu · (classifier)
  • 廣東 · Gōng-Ung Guangdong/Canton Province

Do you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions? Let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 12 Dialogue

For future reference, I need to read the dialogues first before commenting on the vocabulary. This chapter is all about comparisons. From the vocabulary list, I thought it would be about time, but I was way off!

1 A: 你吃嗲飯未呀? Ni hiak-e fàn mì a?
  B: 我吃嗲囉。你呢? Ngoi hiak-e lō. Ni nē?
  A: 我未吃。 Ngoi mì hiak.
2 A: 乃一枝粉筆長過該一枝粉筆呀? Nại yīt-ji fūn-bīt chïang-gwo kwọi yīt-ji fūn-bīt a?
  B: 嚀一枝粉筆長過該一枝粉筆。 Nịng yīt-ji fūn-bīt chïang-gwo kwọi yīt-ji fūn-bīt.
3 A: 乃個個鉛筆短過我個鉛筆? Nại-gwoi gwoi yön-bīt ōn-gwo ngoi gwoi yön-bīt?
  B: 你個鉛筆短過我個短筆。 Ni gwoi yön-bīt ōn-gwo ngoi gwoi yön-bīt.
4 A: 乃一晚比較今晚冷尼呀? Nại yīt-mạn bī-gau gim-mạn lang nāi a?
  B: 昨晚比較今晚冷尼。 Dok-mạn bī-gau gim-mạn lang nāi.
5 A: 乃日比較今日暖尼呀? Nại ngìt bī-gau gim-ngìt non nāi a?
  B: 昨日比較今日暖尼。 Dok-ngìt bīt-gau gim-ngìt non nāi.
6 A: 乃個尼錢比你尼錢多好多? Nại gwoi nāi tïng* bī ni nāi tïng* u hō u?
  B: 佢尼錢比我尼錢多好多。 Kui nāi tïng* bī ngoi nāi tïng* u hō u.
7 A: 乃個個仔女比你個仔女少好多呢? Nại-gwoi gwoi dōi-nūi bī ni gwoi dōi-nūi sīau hō u nē?
  B: 佢個仔女比我個仔女少好多。 Kui gwoi dōi-nūi bī ngoi gwoi dōi-nūi sīau hō u.
8 A: 佢個三伩仔有冇我個三伩仔該聰明呀? Kui gwoi lham-mīn-dōi yiu-mo ngoi gwoi lham-mīn-dōi kwọi tung-mïng a?
  B: 有,佢個三伩仔有你個三伩仔該聰明。 Yiu, kui gwoi lham-mīn-dōi yiu ni gwoi lham-mīn-dōi kwọi tung-mïng.
9 A: 我同你同佢,乃個最高,乃個至矮呢? Ngoi hüng ni hüng kui, nại gwoi dui go, nại gwoi ji āi nē?
  B: 你同我同佢,你最高,我至矮。 Ni hüng ngoi hüng kui, ni dui go, ngoi ji āi.
10 A: 逽幾時走呀? Nìak gī-sị* dāu a?
  B: 哦今日走。逽尼? Ngọi gim-ngìt dāu. Nìak nē?
  B: 哦今晚走。 Ngọi gim-mạn dāu.

I counted five different constructions used in this passage to express comparisons. Here they are one-by-one:

A Adj-過 B

You see this construction in exchanges 2 and 3. The construction is similar to the English comparison, as in, “I am taller than you.” In Taishanese you’d say,「我高過你」ngoi go-gwo nei.

A 比較 B Adj-尼

This construction has two parts. The first is 比較 bī-gau “compared to.” The second is adding 尼 nāi to the end of an adjective to express comparison, similar to “-er” in English. For example, 高尼 go-nāi means “taller,” 冷尼 lang-nāi means “colder,” and 多尼 u-nāi means “more” (i.e. many + er = more). You generally use 尼 nāi if you’re saying that “A is X-er” (e.g.「佢高尼」kui go-nāi), and 過 gwo for comparing two things “A is X-er than B” (e.g.「佢高過我」kui go-gwo ngoi).

But then there’s 比(較) bī(-gau). This word (literally, “compare”) allows you to compare two entities and also use 尼 nāi. You can think of the structure as roughly akin to English, “A, compared to B, is X-er.” To run with the same example,「佢比較我高尼」kui bī-gau ngoi go-nāi.

A 比 B Adj-好多

You can replace 尼 nāi with 好多 hō-u “much” to express a greater degree of comparison. In examples 6 and 7, 好多 hō-u is used to modify 多 u “many” and 少 sīau (i.e. 多好多 u hō-u “much more” and 少好多 sīau hō-u “much less”).

A 有冇 B 該-Adj

The 有冇 yiu-mo construction judges whether two things are comparable, but not necessarily exactly the same. The question in example 8 can thus be translated as, “Is his child as smart as my child?” (佢個三伩仔有冇我個三伩仔該聰明呀? kui gwoi lham-mīn-dōi yiu-mo ngoi gwoi lham-mīn-dōi kwọi tung-mïng?). The response is, “Yes” (有 yiu), implying that the child is at least as smart.

A 最/至-Adj

The last two constructions convey superlatives—often words that end in “est” like “best,” “tallest,” “smartest,” etc. You can convey the superlative by preceding the adjective with either 最 dui or 至 ji. I don’t know the difference between these; especially as both are used in example 9: 你最高,我至矮 ni dui go, ngoi ji āi “You are (the) tallest, I am (the) shortest.” If any readers have a particular insight here, any comments would be much appreciated.

Again, please feel free to let me know of any questions, comments or suggestions you might have. I am far from a native speaker, so the input of the handful of regular readers here helps me at least as much as it helps other readers who might stop by. I also found a ton of typos just before posting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more flew under the rader, waiting for a diligent reader to catch!