Accented Chinese Characters

How does one convey accent in written Chinese? Is it even possible to do that in Chinese?

Over at LL (I promise I do read other sites) there’s a discussion going about ‘Trainspotting‘* voices in Chinese. Would it be possible to write Trainspotting – with its multiple accents, voices, idiolects – in Chinese? The original post mentions Lao She and that he ‘used to complain that it was impossible for him to write many of his favorite Pekingese expressions in Chinese characters’. Some commenters have given examples, but they all seem to be *lexical* items unique to certain areas or dialects and not ways to actually express phonetic characteristics of dialects.

I noticed that my wife likes to *type* Sichuanese with her friends. What’s most interesting is that they use characters expressly for their phonetic value and ignore their semantic value. A character with a  phonetic value (in Mandarin) similar to Sichuanese  is used, regardless of its semantic value, to express Sichuanese. That is a rather unwieldy sentence, but rather than parse it (or me rewrite it), it’s probably easier to look at some examples.

Character            Pron. in Mandarin                 target meaning

切                                qie                                               去

老                                lao                                               了

黑                                hei                                                很

逗是                           dzou si                                         就是

(也                             ye                                                耶)

(三                              sa/a                                            啊 special to CD)

Examples: 我要切耍                 我要去‘耍’ 玩

走老                                                       走了

There’s many more examples, and that’s not even mentioning the lexical differences, e.g. 杂个,浪个,莫 etc etc.

I find it interesting that my wife’s generation (early 30s) seem to think of Chinese characters as intrinsically Mandarin. That is, the characters’ REAL pronunciation is standard Mandarin, and Sichuanese has no writing system.

Returning to the original question: Sichuanese speakers (probably below a certain age) would understand what 我切老 means, but would someone from Shandong or Suzhou or anywhere else?


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