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Chinese Punctuation Marks: Improvement or Breaking of the Rules?
Thread poster: Denyce Seow

Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 11:23
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
Nov 2, 2005

I'm working on a translation right now and it's quite a pain because I keep getting sentences that do not make sense. I believe the main problem lies in the author's use of punctuation. This is not the first time I encounter this difficulty. Personally I feel that people are caring less about punctuation rules. Well, I don't know much about them either but just by reading the sentences tells me the punctuation is wrong.

Here is one example:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:

Why is it not:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方。阿方说:

This is from Yu Hua's 许三观卖血记, so I am doubting if it is a punctuation mistake. Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce





[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-11-07 01:48]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-11-07 01:49]


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Zhoudan  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:23
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
中文标点符号比较随意 Nov 2, 2005

其实中文的标点符号所起的作用是换气,表意的功能当然也有,但比较弱,要知道以前的书籍都是没有标点符号的。

weiwei wrote:

I'm working on a translation right now and it's quite a pain because I keep getting sentences that do not make sense. I believe the main problem lies in the author's use of punctuation. This is not the first time I encounter this difficulty. Personally I feel that people are caring less about punctuation rules. Well, I don't know much about them either but just by reading the sentences tells me the punctuation is wrong.

Here is one example:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:

Why is it not:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方。阿方说:

This is from Yu Hua's 许三观卖血记, so I am doubting if it is a punctuation mistake. Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce





[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:23
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
the second is standard, Nov 2, 2005

But i dont see any problem for the first one either.

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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 11:23
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
This is a mild case. Nov 2, 2005

jyuan_us wrote:

But i dont see any problem for the first one either.


You should see those sentences that run five lines with twenty commas! Arghhhhh!!!


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Angus Woo
Local time: 11:23
Chinese to English
+ ...
It is not a question of right or wrong. Nov 3, 2005

weiwei wrote:

I'm working on a translation right now and it's quite a pain because I keep getting sentences that do not make sense. I believe the main problem lies in the author's use of punctuation. This is not the first time I encounter this difficulty. Personally I feel that people are caring less about punctuation rules. Well, I don't know much about them either but just by reading the sentences tells me the punctuation is wrong.

Here is one example:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:

Why is it not:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方。阿方说:

This is from Yu Hua's 许三观卖血记, so I am doubting if it is a punctuation mistake. Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce


[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]

Punctuation marks function only as instruments which in their own capacity only serve to help readers to better understand the tone of the writing. The proper use of punctuation marks would pepper the passage with a particular flavor the author intended.

And proper use of punctuation marks is of course recognized as part of a well organized passage.

Personally I think it is somewhat hard to judge by just looking at these two examples.


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Last Hermit
Local time: 11:23
Chinese to English
+ ...
Can you provide the preceding contexts? Nov 3, 2005

weiwei wrote:

I'm working on a translation right now and it's quite a pain because I keep getting sentences that do not make sense. I believe the main problem lies in the author's use of punctuation. This is not the first time I encounter this difficulty. Personally I feel that people are caring less about punctuation rules. Well, I don't know much about them either but just by reading the sentences tells me the punctuation is wrong.

Here is one example:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:

Why is it not:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方。阿方说:

This is from Yu Hua's 许三观卖血记, so I am doubting if it is a punctuation mistake. Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce





[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]


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Chinoise  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
I second your opinion... Nov 3, 2005

I 'd rather say that the second "阿方" is redundant than complain about the wrong usage of the comma preceding it.
Here's an excerpt from Yu Hua's 《许三观卖血记》:


 “我们卖血从来不带粮食,”十九岁的根龙说,“我们卖完血以后要上馆子去吃一盘炒猪肝,喝二两黄酒……”

  三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:“猪肝是补血的,黄酒是活血的……”

  许三观问:“你们说一次可以卖四百毫升的血,这四百毫升的血到底有多少?”

  阿方从口袋里拿出碗来,“看到这碗了吗?”

  “看到了。”

  “一次可以卖两碗。”

  “两碗?”许三观吸了一口气,“他们说吃进一碗饭,才只能长出几滴血来,这两碗血要吃多少碗饭啊?”

  阿方和根龙听后嘿嘿地笑了起来,阿方说:“光吃饭没有用,要吃炒猪肝,要喝一点黄酒。”

  “许三观,”根龙说,“你刚才是不是说我们西瓜少了?我告诉你,今天我们不卖瓜,这瓜是送人的……”

  阿方接过去说:“是送给李血头的。”

Angus WU wrote:
It is not a question of right or wrong.


[Edited at 2005-11-03 01:23]


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Chinoise  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
P.S. Nov 3, 2005

Not really...Weiwei, as a native English translator, your Chinese looks perfect to us.

IMO, it's the writer who needs to polish his Chinese. Thank goodness! No one here knows Yu Hua personally...:-)

weiwei wrote:

Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce





[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]


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chica nueva
Local time: 16:23
Chinese to English
Long sentences, punctuation and reading... Nov 4, 2005

weiwei wrote:

jyuan_us wrote:

But i dont see any problem for the first one either.


You should see those sentences that run five lines with twenty commas! Arghhhhh!!!


Punctuation, interesting topic...

Yeah, the long sentences. They are a bit of a challenge. I tend to use semi-colons quite a lot (like Jane Austen! - people praise her writing...). Those long sentences seem to hang off a head clause. I wish I had a bit better mastery over and training in those complex sentences - coordinate and subordinate clauses etc...some other languages structure their sentences like this I believe.I suspecti it is not much different to English,if you take that head clause as an opening statement (simple sentence).But I haven't gone into this in depth.

As for punctuation, it's just a convention I think. The ancient Chinese texts didn't have any you know, at least I don't think they did. classical poetry doesn't...punctuation seems to be a flexible thing, even optional, and it seems to vary from language to language, plus these things seem to change over time, so you get some 'artifacts' in the language...things are never static, look how texting and emails are changing things.

Vive le difference. I think the differences in writing conventions could make it more interesting for the translator...? and if not everything is obvious it could make reading more interesting and intuitive, ...? people would realise there isn't a one-to-one correspondence between languages and that people in different language groups have different ways of talking about (basically) the same things. Perhaps it's good for the profession!


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Chrissy Lu  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:23
English to Chinese
嗯,我觉得 Nov 4, 2005

我比较赞同前面有位人士的意见,中文里面的标点符号更多的是让人换气可以停顿一下。我个人写作的时候,如果觉得希望读者比较连贯地读下去,就用逗号,相反,如果觉得意思到了一个读者可以稍停一下的点,那么就用句号。如果上下文是一种连贯表达一个意思的过程,出现太多的句号,我觉得很怪。

啊,真是云里雾里,我自己都不知道自己在说什么了,可以跳过我的意见。呵呵


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 11:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
標點符號的使用 Nov 4, 2005

標點符號的使用,在每個語文裡都有其重要性,尤其在避免語意不清上有一定的作用。不過,這個題目相當複雜,需要舉出許多實例來具體談,時間上可能不太允許。

中文裡的標點符號使用在台灣和中國有相當的差別,但使用的目的應該是一致的。在標點符號的使用上也會顯示出個人寫作風格的不同。有些人會在小說裡故意使用錯誤的標點符號,造成滑稽突悌的效果。

以 Weiwei 舉的例子來說,我認為作者是無意識地犯錯。這個錯誤只是風格的小瑕疵,無傷大雅。我個人傾向於在第一個語意完整的部分後,使用句號或分號分開,但若後頭部分的主詞改為 "他",我則有可能使用逗號作為改換語氣的緩衝。

只要不造成誤解,中文裡一般對標點符號的使用並不太講究。其它語文也多少都有這種現象。


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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 11:23
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
再来一段 Nov 4, 2005

谢谢大家的指点。之前我写中文时总是战战兢兢,死怕把哪个逗号句号给放错,在论坛上读帖子时也非常留意句子里的标点符号,常问自己为什么某某人那么用法。现在我不管了…嘿嘿。

不是我钻牛角尖,但就是有段句子想问问大家。昨晚睡觉前读了鲁迅的《狂人日记》,里头有一段:“你们可以改了,从真心收起!要晓得将来容不得吃人的人,活在世上。” 这最后一个逗号用得有点怪,即使换气也换得不太舒服吧。是怎么一回事?


[Edited at 2005-11-04 19:54]


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 11:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
一個可能 Nov 5, 2005

weiwei wrote:

谢谢大家的指点。之前我写中文时总是战战兢兢,死怕把哪个逗号句号给放错,在论坛上读帖子时也非常留意句子里的标点符号,常问自己为什么某某人那么用法。现在我不管了…嘿嘿。

不是我钻牛角尖,但就是有段句子想问问大家。昨晚睡觉前读了鲁迅的《狂人日记》,里头有一段:“你们可以改了,从真心收起!要晓得将来容不得吃人的人,活在世上。” 这最后一个逗号用得有点怪,即使换气也换得不太舒服吧。是怎么一回事?


最後一句若用平述的寫法,應該是:"(人)活在世上,要曉得將來容不得吃人的人。" 魯迅的寫法是倒裝的寫法,把 "活在世上" 放到最後,有一個可能是要讓讀者或聽者費點兒神想一想。這是我的猜測,不一定正確。


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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 11:23
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Two possibilities Nov 5, 2005

Wenjer Leuschel wrote:

最後一句若用平述的寫法,應該是:"(人)活在世上,要曉得將來容不得吃人的人。" 魯迅的寫法是倒裝的寫法,把 "活在世上" 放到最後,有一個可能是要讓讀者或聽者費點兒神想一想。這是我的猜測,不一定正確。


I definitely agree with your interpretation. I think there are two possibilities:

1) (人)活在世上,要曉得將來容不得吃人的人。
2) 要曉得將來容不得吃人的人活在世上。

[Edited at 2005-11-06 01:49]


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Last Hermit
Local time: 11:23
Chinese to English
+ ...
窃以为,这个标点是错误的。 Nov 5, 2005

  如果是编辑或记者,使用这样的标点,是可以扣分或钱的。如果按出版社所执行的标准,这个错误计入出版物评分里面。不及格或被列为粗劣出版物,标点符号也是其中一个考量。我有同事,就因为经常给写作的人(实在不能称他们为“作家”)校对,而且水平相当高,使得经他校对过的作品获全国奖。

  标点符号的用法是有严格规定的,不能说我想怎么着就怎么着。这也是做学问所应有的态度--不管你觉得翻译是不是学问,有些标准是容不得我们随便乱改的。就以英文为例吧,"informations",在网上可找到一大摞,但不代表这种用法是正确的或可以接受的。
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&hl=zh-CN&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-17,GGLD:zh-CN&q="informations"

其它如“software”、“news”都是不可数名词,似乎已判了“死刑”,永不翻身之日。至于native speakers这样用,恐怕只能当“uneducated English”。而我们这些所谓“non-native speakers”,当然要跟随正式的或为大多数native speakers的说法,这是bottom line,没说的。

  有关国家标准用法,请参阅:
http://www.chineseedu.hku.hk/cmi/LanguageKnowledge/StandardLang/index.htm

  关于英文标点的用法,近年有本专论标点符号用法的书,居然荣登畅销书榜,教许多人始料不及。有兴趣的朋友,可读读这篇文章,并做做标点符号测验,看您能做对多少题?鄙人碰巧都做对了^)^

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/referenceandlanguages/story/0,6000,1097818,00.html






weiwei wrote:

I'm working on a translation right now and it's quite a pain because I keep getting sentences that do not make sense. I believe the main problem lies in the author's use of punctuation. This is not the first time I encounter this difficulty. Personally I feel that people are caring less about punctuation rules. Well, I don't know much about them either but just by reading the sentences tells me the punctuation is wrong.

Here is one example:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方,阿方说:

Why is it not:
三十多岁的那个人叫阿方。阿方说:

This is from Yu Hua's 许三观卖血记, so I am doubting if it is a punctuation mistake. Most probably it's me who needs to brush up on my Chinese skills....

Denyce





[Edited at 2005-11-02 13:02]


[Edited at 2005-11-05 18:02]


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