'Dialect' similarities

This is kind of a tough question that I’ve been wondering about for some time. Maybe someone who knows 2 or more Chinese languages can help me.

Ok you know how certain chracters have identical or similr pronounciations based on the phonetic element of the written chracter right? Like 清情請精靜 etc are all pronouced jing or qing with various different tones, because of the phonetic element 青.

Now if I were to take these chracters and read their cantonese pronounciations (or Taiwanese, Shanghaiese etc) would they again all sound similar? Finally are the differences in other Chinese languages more or less pronounced than they are in Mandarin?

There might be similarities, but it depends on the evolution of the syllable in that particular dialect.

Mandarin is actually a wacky dialect as these things go. Cantonese, Shanghainese and Taiwanese (Minnan) are more conservative. Get somebody to read you a couple of the “300 Tang Poems” in Taiwanese sometime, if you can – it’s much easier to imagine how they would have sounded back when.

There were also some phonetic changes related to what happened to the “entering tone” of Ancient Chinese. Mandarin really developed along a different pathway, which is why the other dialects mostly have more tones. You can also see Mandarin dialect areas with just 3 tones instead of 4, for example, in some places in the ML (so I was told in grad school, at least – I haven’t been there personally to check it out, I’m not that bad!!)

Now, as for details – don’t ask me, please! I had to memorize and regurgitate the process of consonantal evolution from Archaic Chinese through Ancient Chinese to Modern Mandarin for my qualifying exams, and I promptly did what the Taiwanese students do: “huan gei lao shi” – gave it back to the teacher (i.e., forgot it).

I find that having some general idea about the sounds of Ancient Chinese helps a little bit in the area of Minnan, but the most facilitating way to handle Minnan for me is to pretend I was drunk speaking Mandarin.

Sorry, Bri – only a half-serious answer, best I can do on a Sunday!


You might do like me, sit in on the Chinese historical phonology
course, [sheng1yun4xue2], which you should be able to find as part of
the 3rd year classes of the Chinese Dept. at your local university
here in Taiwan. I sat in for several years in the front row of many
such classes at three Taizhong universities and their grad. depts.

Anyway, with the perspective of sheng1yun4xue2, all the dialects’
sounds suddenly make sense.

http://www.chinalanguage.com can tell you how characters are
pronounced in different “dialects”.

I can’t see or type Chinese to Oriented, as Oriented apparently uses
Unicode, and as I don’t use IE or Microsoft, I guess I’m stuck with
Big5. Anyway, that’s why I don’t dare to enter Chinese here. I guess
not as new fangled yet that I should be. I will type sheng1yun4xue2
here: "