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Chinese Language Forums - Chinese Etymology Institute • View topic - Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:40 am

Dr. Humphrey van Polanen Petel sent me a link about Dr. Thorsten Pattberg’s article “Language Imperialism, Concepts and Civilization: China versus The West “. That link is http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php? ... leId=28940 But, I am quoting the entire article below.

Thorsten Pattberg is a German scholar at the Institute of World Literature of Peking University and author of "The East-West Dichotomy" (2009) and "Shengren" (2011). His email is: pattberg@pku.edu.cn. Versions of this article appeared in Japan Times on Nov. 17, and in China Daily on Nov. 25. © 2011 Thorsten Pattberg

Dr. Pattberg wrote:Article: Language Imperialism, Concepts and Civilization: China versus The West

If you are an American or European citizen, chances are you've never heard about shengren [聖 人], minzhu [民 主]and wenming [文 明]. If one day you promote them, you might even be accused of culture treason.

That's because these are Chinese concepts. They are often conveniently translated as "philosophers," "democracy" and "civilization." In fact, they are none of those. They are something else. Something the West lacks in turn. But that is irritating for most Westerners, so in the past, foreign concepts were quickly removed from the books and records and, if possible, from the history of the world, which is a world dominated by the West. As the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once remarked, the East plays no part in the formation of the history of thought.

But let us step back a bit. Remember what school told us about the humanities? They are not the sciences! If the humanities were science, the vocabularies of the world's languages would add up, not overlap. Does that surprise you?

I estimate that there are over 35,000 Chinese words or phrases that cannot properly be translated into the English language. Words like yin and yang, kung fu and fengshui. Add to this another 35,000 Sanskrit terminology, mainly from India and Buddhism. Words like Buddha, bodhisattva and guru.

In a recent lecture at Peking University, the renowned linguist Gu Zhengkun explained that wenming describes a high level of ethics and gentleness of a people, while the English word "civilization" derives from a city people's mastery over materials and technology.

The correct Chinese translation of civilization should be chengshijishu-zhuyi. Wenming is better, but untranslatable. It has been around for some thousand years, too, while Europe's notion of "civilization" is a late 18th-century "invention."

Tourists and imperialists do not come to be taught. They call things the way they call things at home. Then they realize that the names are not correct.

In many countries, adopting Chinese terminology is a taboo. Even the most noble-minded thinkers, such as the Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse, warned the Germans that "we must not become Chinese [...], otherwise we'd adhere to a fetish."

Next is "democracy," a concept of Greek origin. The Hellenic "civilization" failed a long time ago, of course. It's gone, while China's wenming is still here, uninterruptedly so, after 5,000 years. "Democracy" originally had little to do with letting the mob vote, lesser even so for the mob to rule the country; on the contrary, it meant that various, powerful interest groups should fight over the resources, each by mobilizing their supporters of influential city dwellers.

While in China we still see a family-value based social order, in the West we find an interest group-based social order. In your family, you do not apply strict laws or make contracts; instead you induce a moral code. When among strangers who fight against other interest groups, you simply cannot trust them like your own family, so you need laws.

Up to the 20th century, the Europeans believed China was not a proper "civilization," because it had no police force, while China accused Europe of being without "wenming" because it lacked filial piety, tolerance, human gentleness and so on.

Finally, the shengren is the ideal personality and highest member in that family-based Chinese value tradition, a sage that has the highest moral standards, called de, who applies the principles of ren, li, yi, zhi and xin (and 10 more), and connects between all the people as if they were, metaphorically speaking, his family.

The modern Chinese word for philosopher, zhexuejia, is nowhere to be found in any of the Chinese classics. In fact, zhexuejia came to China via Japan, where it is pronounced tetsugakusha, after Nishi Amane first coined the word in 1874. Yet, the Western public is constantly told, through our highly subsidized China scholarship, that Confucius is a "philosopher" and that Confucian thought is "philosophy."

As Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist Slavoj Zizek once said: "The true victory (the true 'negation of the negation') occurs when the enemy talks your language." The West would be irrational to adopt Asian concepts. That would be like holding the candle to China. Moreover, the Middle Kingdom is notorious for assimilating all invading cultures in the past. Why queuing?

The "barbarians" always had superior weapons and technology, but, as Gu Hongming in 1920 noted, lacked true human intelligence. How's that? Well, it's a bit like Star Trek wisdom: If prehistoric humanity evolved from the beasts, then the most advanced human societies would be the least physically aggressive ones, no?

In 1697, the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz famously argued that the Chinese were far more advanced in the humanities than "we are." He never specified, but I think it is all revealed when he urged all Germans that they must not use foreign words, but use their own language instead (German is a compound language, so it's an infinite source), in order to build and enlarge the German-speaking world.

And so they did. And so the Germans rose to the top. As expected, the Germans, the descendants of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, called Confucius a "Heiliger" (a saint or holy man). Now, that's convenient. But is it correct scholarship?

Since the European languages have their own histories and traditions, they cannot sufficiently render Chinese concepts. The solution, I think, would be to not translate the most important foreign concepts at all, but adopt them.

So that next time in international relations we could discuss how we're going to improve minzhu in Europe, and how to help America's transition into a descent wenming.

Maybe the West just lacks shengren after all.
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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:43 am

The following is my email reply to Dr. Humphrey.

to Humphrey wrote:Dear Dr. Humphrey:

Thanks for sending me this link. I truly enjoyed it. It touched some
deep issues which are the major road blocks for a better world. We
should work together to smooth them out.

My work on Chinese etymology (CE) is purely scientific and linguistic
without any of those politic concerns. And, I believe that the true
science of CE will eventually smooth out some of those politic
divides.

Thanks again.

Tienzen Gong
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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:48 am

The following is my email to Dr. Pattberg, inviting him to have a discussion


to Dr. Pattberg wrote:Dear Dr. Thorsten Pattberg:

I enjoyed your article "Language Imperialism, Concepts and Civilization: China versus The West" and would like to invite you to visit our Chinese Language forum and review the article "Chinese character set is pseudoscience, 汉 字 是 伪 科 学!" at general-discussion/chinese-character-set-is-pseudoscience-t15.html

Yours,
Tienzen Gong
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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:50 am

The following is an email from Dr. Humphrey.

Humphrey wrote:Dear Tienzen,

No concern is ever in isolation. Perhaps you could help by explicating the etymology of those terms?

Tienzen
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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:53 am

The following is my email reply to Dr. Humphrey.

to Humphrey wrote:Dear Dr. Humphrey:

This is a good idea. But, it will take me some time to do it.

I will make it a thread at ChineseLanguageForum. I will inform you when it is done. Then, the original author can join in if he wishes.

Sincerely Yours,
Tienzen Gong

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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:09 pm

In Dr. Thorsten Pattberg’s article, "Language Imperialism, Concepts and Civilization: China versus The West", it consists of two points.

One, the language imperialism. And, I am quoting his words below.

Dr. Pattberg wrote:As the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once remarked, the East plays no part in the formation of the history of thought.

In many countries, adopting Chinese terminology is a taboo. Even the most noble-minded thinkers, such as the Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse, warned the Germans that "we must not become Chinese [...], otherwise we'd adhere to a fetish."

As Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist Slavoj Zizek once said: "The true victory (the true 'negation of the negation') occurs when the enemy talks your language." The West would be irrational to adopt Asian concepts. That would be like holding the candle to China. Moreover, the Middle Kingdom is notorious for assimilating all invading cultures in the past. Why queuing?

In 1697, the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz famously argued ... , but I think it is all revealed when he urged all Germans that they must not use foreign words, but use their own language instead (German is a compound language, so it's an infinite source), in order to build and enlarge the German-speaking world.


These words are so true, and I have no comment on them. As this new Chinese etymology is true science and linguistics, it will eventually crash this linguistics imperialism nonsense, at least, in linguistics.






Two, the impossibility of correct translation between two languages. The following is Dr. Pattberg’s words.

Dr. Pattberg wrote:In a recent lecture at Peking University, the renowned linguist Gu Zhengkun explained that wenming describes a high level of ethics and gentleness of a people, while the English word "civilization" derives from a city people's mastery over materials and technology.

The correct Chinese translation of civilization should be chengshijishu-zhuyi. Wenming is better, but untranslatable. It has been around for some thousand years, too, while Europe's notion of "civilization" is a late 18th-century "invention."

While in China we still see a family-value based social order, in the West we find an interest group-based social order. In your family, you do not apply strict laws or make contracts; instead you induce a moral code. When among strangers who fight against other interest groups, you simply cannot trust them like your own family, so you need laws.

Since the European languages have their own histories and traditions, they cannot sufficiently render Chinese concepts. The solution, I think, would be to not translate the most important foreign concepts at all, but adopt them.


These are genuine points, and I will not elaborate them any further. However, I will discuss the Chinese etymology of the three phrases and one word (mentioned by Dr. Pattberg in his article) below in my next post.

Democracy (民 主) minzhu

civilization (文 明) Wenming

Sage (聖 人) shengren

highest moral standards, called de (德)
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Re: Language Imperialism: China versus The West

Postby Tienzen » Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:01 pm

Tienzen wrote:... However, I will discuss the Chinese etymology of the three phrases and one word (mentioned by Dr. Pattberg in his article) below in my next post.

Democracy (民 主) minzhu

civilization (文 明) Wenming

Sage (聖 人) shengren

highest moral standards, called de (德)


Many are saying that this new etymology is not new at all, as the radicals are known for thousands years. If you share the above view, you should read the articles below first.

1. The history of despising the Chinese character set (The slogan during the 1950s, 漢 字 不 廢, 中 國 必 亡 ,without abandoning Chinese character system, China will surely vanish.)
http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... acter.html


2. Chinese language in the eyes of some great Western Sinologists
http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... great.html

3. Dr. Joseph Needham's view on Chinese language
http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... inese.html

4. “The Columbia History of the World” on Chinese characters
http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... inese.html

5. The proper perspective of this new Chinese etymology
http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... inese.html


If you read those articles above, you should know that the linguistics imperialism will eventually crumble inside the academic world.

In linguistics, there are two opposite forces working together to reach a harmonic and unifying whole.

Aim one (A1), every item or concept wants to be precisely identified with a language symbol.
Aim two (A2), every language symbol wants to have a vivid life roaming and entangling with a huge world.

So, one word one meaning is an ideal for a language. Yet, on the other hand, every word wants to play as many roles as possible. Can these two opposite aims be achieved harmonically into a unifying whole? The answer is a big Yes. And, the Chinese character system is one of the good examples. In Chinese system, it is done with a three tier hierarchies.

Tier one: Word roots, every word root has a unique meaning (with only a few exceptions), one root one meaning. Thus, the aim one (A1) is achieved.

Tier two: Characters, every character (composed of word roots) can play as many roles as possible, one symbol with many meanings. Thus, the aim two (A2) is achieved.

Tier three: Word phrase (composed of two or more characters), every word phrase has one and only one meaning. The aim one (A1) is regained after the diversification in the tier two.

After knowing this three tier structure, we can begin to discuss the etymology of those characters and word phrases. The meaning of each character discussed below is its original (innate) meaning, arising from it composing roots. Yet, every character can acquire many new meanings after its birth, and they are not discussed here if it is not needed.

1. 民, is Image (body) over 比 (compare or colleague) . In China, the king calls himself as 寡 (lonely person), that is, no one is king’s colleague, nor be able to compare to him. So, 民 is a person (body) in multitude, that is, a commoner, a citizen.

2. 主 , is Image (Heaven or heavenly) fused with 王 (King), that is, the Lord who makes the decisions.

So, 民 主 means that the commoners are lords, making the decisions.

3. 文, is Image (Heaven or heavenly) over 乂 (crisscross) , that is, the heavenly signs, such as the tree rings, the landscapes. Any original “pattern” is 文.

4. 明, the left radical is not 日 (Sun) but is Image (the window), the right radical is 月 (Moon). In the ancient time, it is blindly dark in the night. But, when the Moon light comes in from the window, things become visible. 明 means visible.

So, 文 明 means that the heavenly things (moral or laws) becomes visible and understood, such as the establishment of science and knowledge.
There is another closely related phrase (文 化), as “culture” in English. 化 is transform or transformation. That is, when the 文 (the heavenly moral or laws) has been transformed by human, it is 文 化. In fact, human does not truly create but transform the heavenly laws.


5. 聖 (holy sage) is made of three radicals, 耳 (ear), 口 (mouth) and 壬. In fact, there are two words written as 壬. In the word 任 (responsibility), the center line of 壬 is longer than the bottom line, and it means duty or works of duty. Another word (the bottom radical of 聖) has a center line shorter than the bottom line, such as the lower radical of 呈 (逞, 程, 郢 …), but it is not implemented in the computer fonts and cannot be printed out. This radical means the growth from earth as the bottom radical of it is 土 (earth) while the bottom radical of 壬 is 士 (scholar). So, 壬 means duty and responsibility, such as in the word 廷 (the courtyard) . Therefore, 聖 depicts a scene of an ear (耳) and a mouth (口) and a nicely growing field. Thus, the decoding of 聖 is a person who is listening to Heaven and speaking (teaching) to commoners for getting a plentifully growing earth (to feed the people). Therefore, a 聖 is a holy sage.

Thus, 聖 人 (shengren) must be a person,
a. He has ear to know heavenly laws.
b. He has the ability to teach commoners.
c. He can improve the lives of the whole humanity.

6. 德 (highest moral standards, called de), the left root is Image (small step or action). The right radical has four root, the top one is 十 (perfect) over Image (a net) over 一 (one or united) over 心 (heart). That is, one heart is perfectly covered by a net, meaning “one-mindedness”. So, 德 is an “action” done wholeheartedly. There are many moral standards in China, such as 仁, 義, 禮, etc.. So, 德 is not a moral standard itself but is the “action” of those moralities.
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