I have also asked school teachers about [learning pinyin first without direct contact with Chinese characters] and they told me that the main reason why schools are unable to do so is that this mode of teaching, which involves the separation of language and characters, requires more manpower and is not feasible for the time being.
Yes, the difficulty of experimenting with innovative or otherwise different teaching methods within a conservative environment is difficult, and we've talked about this before. I'm very lucky that my teachers were willing to engage in different ways of teaching us, unlike some other classes i have heard about. The lack of resources for pinyin-first teaching, and the difficulty in splitting classes more finely based on skill than one class per general level make this likely not to change for some time.
The representation of ideogram text, Chinese, is very much alone (I'm not sure there are any other languages).
Of course egyptian hieroglyphs, sumerian cuneiform, mayan writing, and the first bamum script were logographic. None of those are used anymore. Cuneiform evolved into many of the western writing systems. Bamum is interesting because it was rapidly developed over only a decade or so into a syllabic system. Hieroglyphs quickly became more phonetic focused.
But we have also already disagreed on other logographs, and your suggestion that mathematics is its own language might help you find one :) The numerals and various mathematical symbols can certainly considered to be logographic.
That said, i take your point. Chinese has remained remarkably strong in its form.
Regarding your section in blue, it raises some very interesting points and i believe there is a lot of truth. However i want to make it clear that my primary focus is romanisation purely because pinyin as a more alphabetic system has the most momentum within the chinese speaking world. I personally think that zhuyin is a better system (although i think that it too has flaws). I don't think that zhuyin in this thought experiment changes much, and i don't think that anywhere else using a script other than latin should change it too.
For the sake of "efficiency" and "popularity", we want to easily "transform" something that has been passed down for thousands of years.
I think that efficiency and popularity somewhat simplifies the reasoning. I mentioned Lu Xun before, who certainly had some thought of efficiency in mind, but that was to bring about a chinese renaissance more than to copy the western renaissance, at least the way i interpret it. I have read that there was also some significant consideration of making esperanto the national language at one point, and i am so glad that that didn't happen.
it's all the more important that we guard this ladder to the past.
Again, i completely agree. That said, as Zhao Yuanren implied with his poem, using a new script for everyday use doesn't mean using it for classical and ancient texts, and it also doesn't mean getting rid of it completely. In the west, latin is a dead language, but it is still respected and studied, and having that knowledge helps us to learn a lot about the past (and about etymology!). In the uk, many people still love to read unabridged editions of shakespeare and chaucer, despite the significant differences in spelling that can render some words and passages rather difficult to understand.
could I also say that for beginners, it would be much faster to learn IPA directly and be exposed to English texts that way?
Yes and no. Many learners of english could certainly benefit from being properly taught the sounds in english, whichever version they want to learn. IPA could help with that, or it could not, i'm not totally certain. But beyond that no, i don't think that learning english via ipa is not the best approach because ipa is too precise. As i briefly mentioned, pinyin is not ipa for chinese, ipa is ipa for chinese. Pinyin is english for chinese. An american and a brit would pronounce "water" differently given the same written form. Similarly, a beijing and a sichuanese would pronounce "zhonghua" differently given the same hanzi, or pinyin. Whereas anyone trained in how to pronounce ipa should pronounce any word the same regardless of their origin.
I do wonder what would happen to the regional accents in china if pinyin replaced hanzi. Ignoring cantonese as it clearly is separate from the standard mandarin i want to discuss, how would an alphabet affect the zh ch sh - z c s phenomenon, and other such changes? It's not like these kind of things aren't found in english. My home region pronounces -ng differently to the rest of the uk as an example.
Also an anecdotal point is that i have been told by quite a few people that they prefer american english to british english because the accent better reflects the spelling. Noah webster pushed hard (by writing the definitive dictionary and tangling up his ideas for reform with the concept of american pride) for simplified writing, and is the reason american english uses -or instead of -our, z instead of s, and some other quality of life changes.
I find it interesting that you responded to my "peanut" with "student".
That wasn't a great example. Even so, spaces are quite a recent innovation in latin script and i think that they really help to stop difficulties like that one. What i want to get across is that when you say "the character can be used with or without meaning", this to me sounds like a very rudimentary syllabary rather than logography.
I've given this example before: 老三，老陈，老师，老人
There is also the word [...] which can have two interpretations.
I don't think this is unique to chinese in any stretch. To tackle these both at once, like i said, "old man" in english has two meanings depending on context, and "old" only means old in one of them.
I'm unsure of your point here, because it seems to me that adding spaces "wo yao kaoya" vs "wo yao kao ya" would simplify things. Is the idea that "kaoya" is actually always a single "word" with the distinct meanings "a roasted duck" and "to roast a duck"? I don't know if it's relevant but some tenses in english result in the same situation.
I also just thought regarding the ipa point: english "i wanna [want a] roast duck" and "i wanna [want to] roast duck" would have the same ipa in my accent :)
To end, i want to return to two points. The first is that i think that things will be a lot less difficult most of the time than you imagine, because many of the concerns you brought up rarely happen in speech, which is what pinyin most closely resembles. If this system were implemented, i am sure that standard rules for spacing, tones, and such would gradually become a more organic system and themselves help to rule out discrepancies.
The second is that i truly don't want to replace hanzi with pinyin, i just think it's a very interesting thing to bring up because of the strong voices on both sides, in all sorts of fields of expertise.
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