linguoboy wrote: Tengado wrote:
linguoboy wrote:When I starting learning Chinese, I had difficulty learning the use shang4 "above" and xia4 "below" to mean, respectively "last" and "next" with regard to time (e.g. shang4ci4 "last time", xia4xing1qi2 "next week").
I've never thought of this as oddness, or particulary difficult to imagine a reason for.
That's partly my point: These metaphors are so firmly embedded in the language that fluent speakers don't need to think about them; they are so "intuitive" that they find it difficult to imagine anyone having a problem with them.
I'm not really fluent (I'm not a native speaker, I just live in China) - and I was talking about when i first encountered the metaphors [hence "I've never
thought of it as odd], which was in lesson number 2 or 3 I think. When I first learnt them they didn't seem particularly bizarre - it seemed like writing on a paper. In an itinerary or schedule, the first things are at the top.
I doubt it has anything specifically to do with calendars, just the way they write: Chinese, like Western languages always started at the top and went down.
I wonder how much proof there is for or against this explanation. After all, I would be very surprised to find that the metaphor isn't found in Chinese prior to the advent of universal literacy. When does it first appear? What varieties of Chinese is it found in? Until recently, Korean and Japanese were often written in the same way; do these languages also make use of the same metaphor?
There desn't necessarily need to be universal literacy (something china still does not have. Go to old people in the countryside) - it just needs to pass into language from peopel who can write. How many of the English speakers today who say "hey, long time no see!" when they see an old friend actually learnt it by speaing pidgin while trading in Hong Kong? None, but the phrase has now spread from there. I don't know if Korean and Japanese use the same image, although just because an image is appropriate doesn't mean it ill be used. Japanese borrowed it's writing and verticality from Chinese, as did Korean, and they borrowed vocabulary too, not to mention oodles of Confucian texts. If the image exists it would be near impossible to decide if it was borrowed directly from te language, or developed independently from the borrowed script.
I have a chinese friend and when he talks about morning noon or night he gesticulates the "position" in the air in front of him - high for morning, low for night.
Ah, but this could just as well be a consequence
of the linguistic metaphor. I've seen people use a cutting motion to emphasise stopping an action. Is this simply a non-verbal expression of a cognitive metaphor that also appears in speech ("Cut that out!") or is it merely a concretisation of that verbal metaphor? It's tricky to argue either way.
And I wasn't. I was just saying he clearly visualises it as a static position on a vertical timeline, rather than a flow upwards as you were describing you did. Which incidentally (not that this was why I mentioned it) fits with the writing parallel.
Not too idiosyncratic, if you think about it
I understand what the reasons are, but I don't think this makes it less idiosyncratic. Korean and Japanese use the same system for numbering months, yet they don't require the use of a generic classifier before months and, therefore, don't treat "last month" or "next month" any differently than "last week" or "next week".
If they don't require classifiers before months then you can't compare the systems really. And In Chinese months and weeks can be treat the same - month requires the classifier because of the ambiguity I mentioned before. With weeks the classifier is optional and very commonly used. So last month and and last week are treat the same. The difference is the classifier can be dropped from one but not the other, the drop being barred by the potential ambiguity. That is no more idiosyncratic than the fact that Chinese has classifiers.
Notice how you need to resort to an entire diachronic explanation in order to explain the use of zuo2 and ming2 in Modern Chinese. (I disagree with your explanation of zuo2, btw. In Ancient Chinese, zuo2 means "yesterday" all by itself, so I prefer to think of zuo2tian1 as a clarifying compound parallel to dong1tian1 or liao2tian1.) That fits the definition of "idiosyncratic" pretty perfectly. Like the use of morgen in German, the development is reasonable and motivated, but simply not predictable, much less universal.
Umm, yes, I did indeed notice. It's quite hard to type all that obliviously. I also notice that I never actually gave any explanation whatsoever for zuo2
, btw, so I'm not entirely sure how you can disagree with it. I gave an explanation for ming
alone. That aside, and pretending you were actually talking about what i did say, I never said it wasn't idiosyncratic, I was just suggesting an explanation for the exception: ming
doesn't mean next, but has a specific meaning linked to days, which explaions why the general all purpose next of xia
isn't used. It isn't a totally random deviation, it has a reason. As does zuo
- it means yesterday on it's own, so why say "previous day" when there's a word for it already? I'm not entirely sure what your objection to my point was [The spurious zuo
notwithstanding]. When you say "Use of the Chinese terms is very idiosyncratic, too" I would understand that to mean that the use seems ratehr illogical and hard to understand - in the same way you explained use of shang
to be [whence the "too"]. I was explaining not that they were without exception, but that the exceptions were not that hard to understand and not too random and bizarre. There's nothing particularly weird and idiosyncratic about using a word for yesterday to mean yesterday, but not to mean last week.
I've never seen anyone actually mark a toneless word with a 5 before - is that something you learned somewhere or soemthing you did yourself fr completeness?
I'm surprised you don't know it. It's part of the Wade-Giles romanisation. Not only does my dictionary use it, but also my IME. How else do you look up words like 們 when using an indexing method arranged by pronunciation?
Wade-Giles. My favourite bastion of Victorian logic. But I'm intrigued as to why you're using the 5 here when everything you wrote was in pinyin not
Wade-Giles? The 5 is not a standard part of pinyin - toneless syllables are unmarked when pitchgraphs are written above the vowels, and I've never seen anyone else use a 5 when typing. They leave them similarly unmarked. I've never even heard it called the 5th tone - it's usually the light tone, or toneless. If you want to look up 們 you have two options - either go to the section of the dictionary for toneless words, denoted by the absence of a tone mark, or look it up in the second tone, which is the tone it has on it's own or in compounds like 我们的.
Another spatial reference nobody mentioned is the words for "the day after tomorrow", "the year after next", "the year before last", "the day before yesterday". They used the words hou "behind" for the day/year after, and qian "in front of" for the day/year before. So the future is either down 下xia or in front 前 qian, and the past is above 上 shang or behind 后 hou.
I didn't mention it because it's the same metaphor as found in English and, therefore, gives me no real trouble. I'm used to horizontal linear metaphors for time, just not vertical ones.
But is it really horizontal? If you were describing a vertical list of things, you would still also use 前 and 后. It's only the same metaphor as English by coincidence. 前 and 后 tell you more about the order as you go through them, rather than their absolute orientations. Behind you is only horizontal if you are facing horizontally. it gives youno trouble because you are shoe-horning it onto the way of thinking you are used to, which you can't easily do with 上 and 下, hence the difficulties and the floating gossamer blobs.
EDIT: And you fail to get the bonus prize bar of chocolate for pointing out that I muddled up 前 and 后. 前 is in the past, 后 is in the future. D'oh!
The day after tomorrow, the week after next is "behind" tomorrow/next week.