Chinese and English, both spoken and written, are widely used in the world. Listverse*1 research published in 2008 reveals that there are 508 million English speakers, which ranked the language as second most spoken. And Mandarin (official Chinese) is used by more than one billion people. Therefore almost one fourth of the world\u2019s population*2 is using these two languages as a means of daily communication.
It is lucky enough that my first and second language is Chinese and English respectively, and that both languages are so influential in human civilization. This influence is surely effectuated from the cultural and economic development of the Chinese and English speaking communities. Therefore it is not surprised that President Obama of USA and Chairman Hu Jintao of PRC become the top two of the world\u2019s most powerful people based on the ranking published by Forbes.com most recently*3.
It is expected there will be increasing people to use and learn these two languages, on which a better understanding would be therefore essential. The following of this essay will serve to introduce their background and information based on linguistic approach.
The history of English is commenced in the 5th century AD when three Germanic tribes arrived at and dominated in the British Isles. One of the tribes, the Angles, introduced Englisc, which we call English now, to the inhabitants. The British then adopted English gradually as their first language.
There was no writing system to record the spoken English for nearly five centuries until the Christian missionaries from Ireland brought the Latin alphabets to Britain in the 10th century. (Katsiavriades, Kryss, and Qureshi, Talaat.) That was how the English writing system began in practice. Under this system, English words, originally presented by utterance only, can then be coined by the countless combinations of alphabets; and can become a long\u2013lasting record. Each Latin alphabet represents a special phoneme, and each combination of alphabets creates a new vocabulary and records its counterpart of sounds, to become a complete version of form, sound and meaning altogether. (Robert Poletto, Stefanie Jannedy, and Tracey L. Weldon)
The Chinese language, with its variety of dialects and a history dated back to unknown thousands of years ago, is one of the few oldest languages in the world. Its origin was still unknown, but archaeologists hinted that it might be traced to the Dawenkou culture around 4100 BC.
Though the spoken Chinese might differ in their ancient and contemporary pronunciation, the rule of which remains the same throughout the time evolution \u2013 it is monosyllable and tonal. It means that each Chinese word has just one syllable and that different tones distinguish different meanings. For example, the consonant \u201cm\u201d and vowel \u201ca\u201d create the single and same sound but can be distinguished from different tones:
The Chinese characters are claimed to be invented by a legendary figure \u201cCangjie\u201d in circa 2600 BC, under the rule of the famous clan leader, Huang\u2013di. However, the oldest Chinese inscriptions were found on pieces of oracles and bones discovered in 1899, and proved to have been produced in Shang Dynasty during the 12th and 11th Century BC. These Oracle bone scripts are believed to be the precursors of the modern Chinese characters. (William G. Boltz, Early Chinese Writing)
The writing system of Chinese is called Logography, which is derived from pictograph and ideograph. It has no alphabet or letter but the words are formed by up\u2013strokes, straight or left down\u2013strokes, dots, dashes, twists and hooks. Under this system, every Chinese character is a symbol with its independent structure, form and meaning. Though
a sound is represented, it can never be spelt, provided the pinyin, the combination of consonant and vowel, is known. (Robert Poletto, Stefanie Jannedy, and Tracey L. Weldon) The following illustrates some typical examples:
On the grammar section, the aspects in English are quite unique. There are special rules for the composition of an English sentence. Any violation of these rules would lead to a defaulted sentence and incomplete meaning. These rules are vital for the correct usage of English.
It is noticed that the English verbs are \u201cinflected\u201d in the past and perfect tenses. And there are regular verbs, the plain forms which simply add \u201ced\u201d; and irregular verbs changing significantly (Baruch College 276), such as:
The latter is the rules for articles. Articles are the words that precede a noun to show the type of reference for the noun; it also indicates the volume or the numerical scope for that noun. (Baruch College 326) Here are some examples.
In the first example, \u201ca\u201d or \u201can\u201d, before a noun which begins with a consonant or vowel respectively, is used to show that the noun is singular. In the second example, the plural number of a noun is expressed by putting a \u201cquantity indicator\u201d before and \u201cs\u201d or \u201ces\u201d after the noun. In the third example, \u201cthe\u201d is used before a singular or plural noun (or noun phrase) to illustrate the noun\u2019s type of reference.
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