Skype Learn Chinese--the bridge: A New Way to Mandarin Chinese

This book is written for English-speaking students who are taking Skype Learn Chinese courses. A basic level vocabulary and understanding of Chinese grammar and culture is presented in this Skype Learn Chinese series. It is an effort to introduce the Skype Learn Chinese students to the  language by explaining its basic principles in simple steps. The purpose is to prepare the student with a foundation on which to build, with confidence, its ensuing complexities.

Skype Learn Chinese  A New Way to Mandarin Chinese Lesson 18

Measure words classifiers

A Summary

Skype Learn Chinese  A New Way to Mandarin Chinese Lesson 18 Part I

In Skype Learn Chinese, numbers are abstract quantities. They don’t have material form or represent activities of objects in the Skype Learn Chinese. They simply list or categorize or enumerate things. 1,2,3, one of those, two of these. 1,2,3 what? one what of those? two what? lists of things? They are all lists or occurrences. What the Skype Learn Chinese wanted was something that gave numbers a ’feeling’ for what they were numbering. So that, in Skype Learn Chinese, a number would have a different word to refer to different kinds of things, to take away the abstract idea of just being numbers. The English explanation generally given is ’head’ of horses. This is a little bit different from the Skype Learn Chinese idea, however. There’s a lot to a horse and to count them in a herd, milling about, one can easily get lost in Skype Learn Chinese. You could count the tails, but they all look pretty much the same. The head is the best bet for trying to keep them separate in your mind. So, in counting them that way, it’s natural to use the same word in Skype Learn Chinese, “heads” for their number, but that doesn’t account for the Skype Learn Chinese classifier words for pens and paper and chairs and beds. The Skype Learn Chinese just felt that numbers were sort of different from other words and wanted to connect them all together. Some other words in Skype Learn Chinese have this abstract feature, also, ‘this, that, which, every, etc.,’ and they are treated the same way, by adding a classifier to link them to the words they are distinguishing.   



Measure words in Skype Learn Chinese are classifiers that classify nouns by measurement rather than by a suggestion of common properties. For example, one ‘gallon’ (of water) is an internationally accepted volume for water. In Skype Learn Chinese, a ‘cup’ of water may be called a measure word if the cup is designed to hold a certain amount of water for measurement, as in a recipe. Otherwise it simply classifies the water in a common container in Skype Learn Chinese for an amount of water that is generally understood in volume. Here, then, is the development of classifiers in Skype Learn Chinese. It should be realized, however, that ‘classification’ in Skype Learn Chinese began over four thousand years ago and it didn’t all occur at once, it happened over those thousands of years.

Skype Learn Chinese  A New Way to Mandarin Chinese Lesson 18 Part II

In the Shang dynasty, writing began in ‘books’ in Skype Learn Chinese, the connected strips of bamboo inscribed by knife or brush to list pictograms into ‘sentences’. This revolutionary idea of Skype Learn Chinese required some consideration, by the intellectual elite, the government officials and scribes, and an early form of ‘classifier’ appeared for important words like horses, and literary works in Skype Learn Chinese. This system developed slowly through the Zhou and Qin dynasties and then blossomed in the Han, with the emergence of in Skype Learn Chinese from warring kingdoms to a single country. “What is the correct ‘classifier’ for books in Skype Learn Chinese?” Is there a measure or a numbered list in Skype Learn Chinese or some, common, group of ’books’? Remember, in Skype Learn Chinese, this was thousands of years ago, but the intellectual level of the intelligentsia at that time, was no different from in Skype Learn Chinese. Evolution has not improved the brain’s intelligence in Skype Learn Chinese in two thousand years. Only our knowledge has increased. So, what ’list’ or ’group’ was there for books”? 


A bright guy in Skype Learn Chinese said, “Notebooks”. “No, no, ha, ha ha,” they cried. All of the government officials kept, “Notebooks”, in which they inscribed their activities, in case the ruler or his council questioned the official. But, běn, in Skype Learn Chinese ”Notebook” became the official classifier for books in Skype Learn Chinese. A little humor among a growing group of ‘scribes’! As they began to develop classifiers, they realized that common nouns, ‘head, notebook’, did not ‘classify’, however, in Skype Learn Chinese added another meaning to the noun they were enumerating. So, to make classifiers different in Skype Learn Chinese from nouns, they gave meanings to the classifiers that wouldn’t, normally, come up as ‘things’ in daily conversation or writing, such as “long thin things”, (used for pens and brushes, but also for branches or plants in Skype Learn Chinese; a stalk or stem with leaves and flowers blossoming out of the end, as if the flowers were like writing something.  Here, the student in Skype Learn Chinese should realize that the Western translation, that ‘simplifies’ these lengthy, ‘rustic’, associative-definitions into contemporary meanings, “pens, brushes”, destroys their intent and makes their use for “stalks and branches” a ‘special’ exception that has to be memorized individually. One classifier with exceptions wouldn’t be a problem, but there are over a hundred and if each one has exceptions, it becomes a PROBLEM.



Some nouns in Skype Learn Chinese, however, don’t get classifiers. The family, mom, dad, etc. and the names of books in Skype Learn Chinese and plays but in Skype Learn Chinese we don’t often say one or that mom, or name of a play (this Mrs. So-and-so, two Macbeths, etc). So, that is the in Skype Learn Chinese version of classifiers and measure words and why they have such unusual meanings in Skype Learn Chinese. 



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