> -----Original Message-----
> From: Constructed Languages List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On
> Behalf Of Jörg Rhiemeier
> Sent: Wednesday, 21 February, 2001 4:02 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Chinese-based IAL?
> Danny Wier <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> [reasons to include Chinese roots in an auxlang]
> I see quite a problem with using Chinese word roots in an IAL.
> The vast majority of Chinese roots is monosyllabic, extensively relying
> on tones to distinguish meaning.  But meaning-relevant tones (or
> meaning-relevant suprasegmentals in general) are something I wouldn't
> touch with a 10-feet pole when I was to design an IAL as language
> learners tend to have difficulties getting them right.  I became aware
> of the problem when I briefly considered using Chinese roots in my
> very-low-priority 9-phoneme IAL project.  The roots would have to be
> transformed into a very different shape (adding more consonants, or
> making them at least bisyllabic - the only option in the 9-phoneme IAL
> which has only 21 different syllables) which would bend them beyond
> recognition in order to get along without tones.  Japanese, a language
> with a very small syllable inventory and no tones, did borrow roots from
> Chinese massively, but changed many of them beyond recognition and uses
> them mainly in compounds, where the many, many, many, many homophones
> can be partially disambiguated by context to a manageable level.

That's part of your problem, using nine phonemes?  No natlang has fewer than
12 or 13 (Rotokas and Hawaiian).

Also bear in mind that not only Japanese uses Chinese words (they seem to be
most like Hakka), but also Korean and Vietnamese.  If you look at Sergei
Starostin's fine database on Chinese characters (,
you notice a diversity of pronunciations for each Chinese character and also
Japanese and Vietnamese, but in neither case are the words "changed beyond
recognition".  (That goes only for Sino-Japanese words; native Japanese
words which are usually longer are not Chinese-derived.)

Herman Miller said what I wanted to say and said it better.  There would
have to be some changing of the phonetics in words like "yuan".  But in
practice today, most Chinese words *are* disyllabic, and three or more
syllables aren't hard to find either.

Also, bear in mind that not all the words are going to be Chinese; most are
probably going to be Esperanto/Ido/Novial-type words, mostly from English
and Spanish and a few from Russian.  I expect there to be a lot of Arabic
and Hindi as well.

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