Saturday, June 11, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 15 Dialogue

This lesson expands on the last lesson’s discussion of location. You can find the vocabulary list for this dialogue here.

1 A: 請問陳小姐到該嗎? Tīng mùn Chïn Lhīau-Dē o kwọi ma?
  B: 對唔住,佢唔到該。有乜事呢? Ui-m̈-jì, kui m̈-o kwọi*. Yiu mōt lhù nē?
  A: 冇乜。我來坐吓喲。 Mo mōt. Ngoi löi tu hạ yìak.
2 A: 正話你坐喺乃呀? Jing-wà ni tu hāi nại* a?
  B: 正話我坐喺該張梳化。 Jing-wà ngoi tu hāi kwọi jiang sō-fạ*.
3 A: 佢該時企到乃呢? Kui kwọi-sị* ki o nại* nē?
  B: 佢該時企到地。 Kui kwọi-sị* ki o ì*.
4 A: 昨晚逽瞓到乃呀? Dòk-mạn* nìak fun o nại* a?
  B: 昨晚哦瞓到嚀屐屋企。 Dòk-mạn ngọi fun o nịng bùng ūk-kī.
5 A: 乃個該時凭到嚀塳牆。 Nại* gwoi kwọi-sị* bàng o nịng bùng tïang* nē?
  B: 黄先生該時凭到嚀塳牆。 Wöng Lhing-Sang kwọi-sị* bàng o nịng bùng tïang*.
6 A: 正話該本簿放到乃呀? Jing-wà kwọi bōn bù* fong o nại* a?
  B: 正話該本簿放到嚀張枱。 Jing-wà kwọi bōn bù* fong o nịng jiang họi*.
7 A: 嚀張枱該時跌到乃呢? Nịng jiang họi* kwọi-sị* ik o nại* nē?
  B: 嚀張枱該時跌到嚀間班房。 Nịng jiang họi* kwọi-sị* ik o nịng gan ban-fọng*.
8 A: 該張床放到乃呀? Kwọi jiang chöng fong o nại* a?
  B: 該張床放到嚀間房。 Kwọi jiang chöng fong o nịng gan fọng*.
9 A: 你個褸漏到乃呢? Ni gwoi lau* làu o nại* nē?
  B: 我個褸漏到嚀間樓。 Ngoi gwoi lau* làu o nịng gan läu*.
10 A: 請問黄先生到該住嗎? Tīng mùn Wöng Lhing-Sang o kwọi* ji ma?
  B: 啊!佢唔到該住。 Ò! Kui m̈-o kwọi* ji.
  A: 佢到乃住呀? Kui o nại* ji a?
  B: 佢到佢個朋友嚀住。 Kui o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng ji.

There are several grammar points, and I’ll try to cover them all.

V + 到

The last lesson introduced the words 到 o and 喺 hāi, which mean “at” or “to be at.” These words have a similar structure to the word 俾 ī “to” or “to give” such that in the absence of another verb, these words take on the work of both the verb and preposition (see lesson nine). For example:

佢到乃呀? Kui o nại* a? “Where is he?”
佢企到乃呢? Kui ki o nại* nē? “Where is he standing?”

In both expressions, 到乃 o nại refers to the English “where.” The word 到 o is necessary because you are talking about the location of where something is (at).

Object to Subject Order

There is a special structure for certain verbs of movement. When the main verb is transitive—such as 放 fong “to put,” 跌/的 ik “to put,” or 漏 làu “to lose”—then the verb’s subject can be dropped and replaced by the object. Pay attention to the structure of the following sentences.

Kwọi bōn bù* fong o nịng jiang họi*.
“This notebook is placed on that table.”

Nịng jiang họi* ik o nịng gan ban-fọng*.
“That table is placed in that classroom.”

Ngoi gwoi lau* làu o nịng gan läu*.
“My coat is left in that building.”

These sentences with the object-as-subject all also include a phrase about location.

His Place

Note the last line in the dialogue, specifically the phrase 到佢個朋友嚀 o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng “at his friend’s place.” This is the same structure used in the last lesson (到我該 o ngoi kwọi “at my place”). It’s a very useful and simple phrase.

Ask Politely

If you have something to ask, you can begin your question with 請問 tīng mùn to be polite.

It’s Nothing

The way to say “nothing” is with a structure similar to “not … what.” In example 1, the term used is 冇乜 mo mōt “there’s nothing”—literally, “not have what.”


There are a couple grammar points that I feel unsure about. First, What is the correct meaning of this object-to-subject structure? Tough I use this structure often, I neither give it much thought nor speak well enough to have any strong judgments on what’s acceptable.

My second question has to do with the last sentences, where the prepositional phrases are all placed before 住 ji “to live” (i.e. 到該住 o kwọi* ji, 到乃住 o nại* ji and 到佢個朋友嚀住 o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng ji). Must the prepositional phrase always precede 住 ji? Are there other verbs like this? (I have many questions on this subject.)

Questions? Suggestions? Corrections? Let me know in the comments—especially if you notice a typo, or if I simply wrote something wrong.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 15 Vocabulary

This lesson builds on lesson 14 with a more involved discussion about location. You’ll be introduced to new verbs and structures. As in the previous lesson, pronunciations in brackets indicate Kaiping Dictionary pronunciations.

  1. 問 · mùn · to ask, inquire
  2. 來 · lọi · to come, in order to
  3. 吓 · hạ · a moment, short while, verb suffix
  4. 喲 · yìak · final particle, only
  5. 正話 · jing-wà [jen-wà] · just, just now
  6. 梳化 · sō-fạ* · sofa
  7. 企 · ki [kei] · to stand
  8. 地 · ì [èi] · floor, ground
  9. 瞓 · fun · to sleep, lie down
  10. 凭 · bàng · to lean on
  11. 塳 · bùng · classifier for wall (牆)
  12. 跌 · ik [et] · to put, place
  13. 床 · chöng · bed, couch
  14. 放 · fong · to put, place, release
  15. 房 · fọng* · room
  16. 褸 · lau* · overcoat
  17. 漏 · làu · to lose, leave behind, neglect, omit, leak
  18. 樓 · läu* · building, house
  19. 啊 · ò! · interjection

The new word that perplexed me is ik “to put, place.” The Basic Course transcribes this word with a novel Chinese character, combining the radical 口 with the character 跌. I failed to find this word in the Kaiping Character Dictionary by looking up variants of ik in the pronunciation table. There’s the distinct likelihood that I am overlooking something which is glaringly obvious to native speakers.

Do you know this word?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taishanese Romanization

Romanizations are important for indicating Taishanese pronunciation. Many different romanization schemes have been used from the International Phonetic Alphabet to the Wade-Giles-like scheme in the DLI Basic Course or the Pinyin-like scheme in the Kaiping Character Dictionary 开平方音字典. My preferred transcription scheme is more or less a hybrid of the latter two. This romanization can be easily explained in terms of consonants, vowels and tones.

There are 20 consonants (previously discussed here and here). The table below organizes the consonants such that consonants produced with the lips are at the top, those produced with the tip of the tongue in the middle, and those produced with the back of the tongue at the bottom. (The last row is actually those produced with both the lips and back of the tongue simultaneously.)

b p m f  
d t n lh l
j ch   s y
g k ng h  
gw kw     w

Most of these consonants should be straightforward for English speakers to pronounce, save the lateral fricative, lh. It’s the consonant in 四 lhi “four.”

The vowels (which I’ve touched on briefly) are at once simpler and maddeningly more complex. There are five basic vowels:

a e i o u

In some dialects, there is another schwa-like vowel quality, similar to the a in about or in the Cantonese word 乜 mat. This vowel is usually a predicable variant of one of the vowels above. For example, when occurring before t, this vowel is usually a variant of e, as in 的 et (for some accents). Likewise, when occurring before ng, this vowel is usually a variant of u, as in 東 ung (for some accents).

These vowels combine into six diphthongs, formed by appending i or u to the vowels above. (For the linguistics geeks, the front vowels pair with u, while the back vowels pair with i. The central(ish) vowel a pairs with both i and u.)

au eu iu
ai oi ui

There is, in fact, yet one more diphthong: ia. This diphthong corresponds to the vowel e, so in these accents, words like 車, 吃 and 聽 are pronounced chia, hiak and hiang. Furthermore, the diphthong eu then becomes a triphthong: iau.

The tricky part is that, although one can transcribe all Taishanese with this five-vowel framework, the vowels trade places (sort of like musical chairs) from one accent to another. The most famous of these vowel shifts is the I-E shift. Where some dialects have the i sound (as in 四 lhi or 心 lhim), other dialects have an ei or e sound (as in 四 lhei or 心 lhem). (Damn, ei is yet another diphthong!)

Rather than propose a single way to transcribe a word like 四—lhi or lhei?—I am simply proposing that these five simple vowels are able to accommodate the full range of vowel qualities, even across various accents.

Lastly, there are five basic tones. I’ve written about these at length here and here. The table below provides the tones, their description, and an example written both in Chinese and in this romanization scheme.

1 2 3 4 5
mid-level high-level low-level low-falling high-falling
hau hāu häu hạu hàu

Diacritics are used to denote the tones. The macron, trema, underdot and grave accent respectively denote the high level tone, the low level tone, the low falling tone and the mid falling tone. The mid level tone is indicated by the lack of any diacritic.

These tones could all alternatively be written without any diacritic. Instead of a diacritic, one could use the tone number, so the five vowels could be written with a following number. I chose to write this number superscripted for my aesthetic.

hau1 hau2 hau3 hau4 hau5

In addition to these basic tones, there are changed tones. The mid and low level tones can become rising tones (mid rising and low rising), while the falling tones can become dipping tones (low dipping and mid dipping). Since these changed tones are derived from the base tones, I simply indicate the changed tone with the addition of an asterisk (*). Thus, a word like kwọi “this” undergoes the tone change to become kwọi* “here,” where the combination of the underdot and asterisk indicates a low-dipping tone. (These words could also be written as kwoi4 and kwoi4*.)

It’s a bit of a mess, but that’s my romanization scheme in a nutshell.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 14 Dialogue

This dialogue has two key words to pay attention to: 到 o “at” and 該 kwọi “this” or kwọi* “here.” If you aren’t familiar with the words in the dialogue below, you can check out the translations in the lesson fourteen vocabulary list.

1 A: 你吃煙嗎? Ni hiak yien* ma?
  B: 多謝,多謝。我吃煙。 U-dè, u-dè. Ngoi m̈-hiak yien*.
2 A: 陳先生到該嗎? Chïn Lhing-Sang o kwọi* ma?
  B: 到該,陳先生到該。 O kwọi*, Chïn Lhing-Sang o kwọi*.
3 A: 李小姐該時到該嗎? Lī Lhīau-dē kwọi-sị* o kwọi* ma?
  B: 唔到該,李小姐該時唔到該。 M̈-o kwọi*, Lī Lhīau-dē kwọi-sị* m̈-o kwọi*.
4 A: 黄先生個朋友到唔到該呀? Wöng Lhing-Sang gwoi päng-yịu o m̈-o kwọi* a?
  B: 到該,黄先生個朋友到該。 O-kwọi*, Wöng Lhing-Sang gwoi päng-yịu o kwọi*.
5 A: 李夫人個父親現在到唔到該呢? Lī Fu-Ngịn* gwoi fù-tin yìen-dòi o m̈-o kwọi* nē?
  B: 唔到該,李夫人個父親現在唔到該。 M̈-o kwọi*, Lī Fu-Ngịn* gwoi fù-tin yìen-dòi m̈-o kwọi*.
6 A: 黄小姐個母親到乃呀? Wöng Lhīau-dē gwoi mụ-tin o nại* a?
  B: 黄小姐個母親到嚀。 Wöng Lhīau-dē gwoi mụ-tin o nịng*.
7 A: 你個女該時到乃呀? Ni gwoi nūi kwọi-sị* o nại* nē?
  B: 我個女該時到該。 Ngoi gwoi nūi kwọi-sị* o kwọi*.
8 A: 佢個仔幾時到該呀? Kui gwoi dōi gi-sị* o kwọi* a?
  B: 佢個仔今日到該。 Kui gwoi dōi gim-ngìt o kwọi*.
9 A: 你個女朋友今日幾時到該呢? Ni gwoi nūi päng-yịu gim-ngìt gi-sị* o kwọi* nē?
  B: 我個女朋友今日下午到該。 Ngoi gwoi nūi päng-yịu gim-ngìt hà-ṇg o kwọi*.
10 A: 到我該吃餐便飯,好嗎? O ngoi kwọi* hiak tan bìng fàn, hō ma?
  B: 唔好囉。多謝嘥囉。唔好客氣囉。 M̈-hō lō. U-dè-lhai lo. M̈-hō hak-hi lō.

In the above dialogue, the word 到 o means either “at” or “to be at.” This word has several other meanings, but these other meanings are not important one for the purpose of this lesson.

We first encountered the word 該 kwọi “this” in lesson four. In this dialogue the word appears in the term 該時 kwọi-sị* “now” (literally, “this time”).

You also see the term used to mean “here”—but with a different tone. The tone of kwọi is low-falling, while the tone of kwọi* “here” is low-dipping; it begins low-falling, then rises to the same pitch as a high tone. In a numeric transcription of Chao’s tone letters, this tone could be transcribed: 215.

The word 該 kwọi* can also indicate a place. In example 10, the word 該 kwọi* is part of the expression 我該 ngoi kwọi*, meaning “my place.”

Please don’t hesitate to leave any questions, comments or suggestions below!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 14 Vocabulary

This lesson’s dialogue focuses on asking questions about where people are. You’ll get a lot of practice with the various uses of the word kwọi, which I’ve been transcribing as 該. The vocabulary list is below; romanization in brackets indicates the pronunciation in the Kaiping dictionary.

  1. 小姐 · lhīau-dē [lhīu-dīe] · Miss, young lady
  2. 朋友 · päng-yịu [päng-yịu, häng-yịu] · friend
  3. 女朋友 · nūi-päng-yịu · girl friend
  4. 陳 · Chïn · surname
  5. 母親 · mụ-tin [mụ-ten] · mother
  6. 父親(老大,老民)· fù-tin (lō-ài*, lō-mīn) [fù-ten] · father
  7. 仔 · dōi · son
  8. 女 · nūi · daughter
  9. 處 · chụi · place suffix
  10. 該時 · kwọi-sï [kọi-sï] · now, at this time
  11. 現在 · yìan-dòi [yèn-dòi] · now, at this time
  12. 下午 (下晝)· hà-ṇg (hà-jịu) · afternoon, p.m.
  13. 餐 · tan* · meal, (classifier)
  14. 便飯 · bìng-fàn [vìn-fàn] · meal (humble form)
  15. 煙 · yian* [yen*] · cigarette, tobacco, smoke
  16. 多謝 · u-dè [u-dìe] · thank you, thanks, many thanks
  17. 到(喺)· o (hāi) · at
  18. 囉 · lo (lok) · final particle
  19. 嘥 · lhaai · verb suffix, entirely, completely, all
  20. 客氣 · hak-hi [hak-hei] · to stand on ceremony

Plus the following phrase:

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

Does anyone know the second character for the term lō-mīn “father”?

Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome!