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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
Chinese is the primary language of approximately one fourth of the world population.
In China, Chinese is used by a good 95 percent of the population. This includes
most Chinese citizens that are ethnically Han, Hui (Chinese Muslim) and Manchu,
also an increasing number of ethnic minority members that are losing proficiency
in their own languages. In addition, Chinese is predominant in numerous Chinese
communities outside China and is well represented in international communication.
In linguistic terms, the label “Chinese” covers ten distinct languages traditionally
referred to as “dialects” or “dialect groups” for ethno-political reasons:
The following have been recently identified in addition:
Jin (Jinyu; previously part
Hui (Huiyu; previously part
Ping (Pinghua; previously
mostly part of Yue)
divinatory ideographs scratched into bone
to abstract brush art on cloth and paper—
Chinese writing is unparalleled.
Each one of these
has a large array of dialects, some with poor mutual comprehensibility. For
centuries, official cohesion among the Chinese people has been facilitated
by the use of a common, neutral, ideographically based writing system and a
written style based on Ancient and Middle Chinese. In the beginning of the
20th century, with the end of the millennia-old chain of Chinese imperial dynasties,
a decline, and a new written and spoken common language based on Mandarin dialects
came to be developed—thereby sacrificing neutrality. However, the ancient script remains in use, although
a simplified version as well as a Western-alphabet-based auxiliary script have
been developed on the Chinese mainland and have been formally adopted in Singapore
(where the native language of most Chinese is not Mandarin but Min).
The only community of Chinese speakers that does not use the Chinese script
Muslim Dungan (Hui)
Asia; they write their Mandarin dialects with the Cyrillic alphabet, without
Classical Chinese is
an archaic, dialectically neutral national literary language in which most
of precontemporary Chinese literature is composed.
It is only read aloud in recitation and is then pronounced either in Mandarin
or in the speaker’s native variety. Many Classical Chinese phrases are used
in Modern Chinese. However, Classical Chinese itself, though still studied
and read and indeed a basic requirement in most branches of Chinese studies,
has not been used much in composition since the beginning of the 20th century,
especially since the middle of the 20th century.
as a native language throughout Northern China, is the largest Chinese language
with regard to speaker number and geographic area, and it is also the dominant
language in China (including Taiwan) as well as among Singapore’s Chinese. It is the
China’s lingua franca, serving as a second language
China (including ethnic minorities)
and increasingly among Chinese people outside China.
due to large-scale absorption of non-Chinese people among Northern Chinese
populations throughout history,
happens to be the Chinese language that has changed most of all, certainly
with regard to phonology. Like all Chinese languages,
it is tonal, but
have “only” four tones (as shown in our transliterations), some as many as five, and
a few northwestern dialects have only three, two or none at all, most likely
types of non-Chinese
Northern Mandarin dialects have retroflex consonants (pronounced with the tip
of the tongue curled
upward or even backward). (These sounds are spelled sh, r, ch and zh in Pinying orthography, as opposed to dento-alveolar x, q and j, and dental s, c and z.) Retroflexion is particularly strong in the non-standard dialects of Greater
Beijing (Peking) and surrounding areas. To a somewhat lesser extent it is a feature
in what is generally considered prestigeous Standard Mandarin of Mainland China.
Outside this area, few people use retroflex consonants, and the non-distinction
between retroflex and dental consonants increases the number of homophones in
Mandarin areas, in Taiwan and in
instance, zhèsìshísì shŏu cí ‘these forty-four poems’ is outside the Northern Mandarin range pronounced as if spelled zèsìsísì sŏu cí, all of which are permissible Mandarin syllables too.) Retroflexion is more
clearly heard in the narration of the second Mandarin
translation presented here, not surprisingly so, as the speaker is from Tianjin, a large
port city situated a relatively short distance east of Beijing.