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A Group of Students Learn to Speak Chinese Homophones by Collecting Materials and Preparing Topics

Recently, some students who are learning Chinese in China organized a small Chinese language group to learn to speak Chinese together. This week, their topic is homophone phenomena in Chinese.

They found that the homophone phenomena are quite common in China. During the process of learning Chinese in China, they have seen these happen in their daily life, such as advertisements, puzzles, internet slangs and literature works, etc. They are most interested in two patterns of the homophones. One is noumenon and harmonic body showing the same meaning, the other is noumenon and harmonic body having their personal meanings.

For the first one, the definition is that both the noumenon and the harmonic body in homophone take part in the expression of semantics and show the same meaning. The typical representative is transliterated words with similar meaning. And some internet homophonic words also belong to this pattern.

The feature of transliterated alien words is that they use the combination of Chinese morphemes to imitate the pronunciation of foreign words and when they are combined together, these Chinese morphemes represent certain meanings, which is accordance with the original meaning of the foreign words or closely related. After knowing the definition and feature of these words, these students who are learning to speak Chinese in group collected some words. For example, the word “绷带” combines “绷” and “带” together to imitate the English pronunciation “bandage” and “绷带” has the meaning of “belt used to binding” which is accordance with its English original meaning. Other words they collected, like “嬉皮士” (hippies) and “引得” (index) are the same. After knowing this regulation about homophone, these students concluded many homophonic words and expressions.

Talking about internet homophonic words, the most familiar one for these students who are learning to speak Chinese is the word “美眉”. This word means “妹妹” in internet language and is always used to address girls and the two morphemes “美” and “眉” are all related to girls in Chinese. Therefore, this word contains the meaning of beautiful ladies, which gets semantic connection with the noumenon “妹妹” of homophone.

The group of students really wants to learn to speak Chinese well. To prepare for this topic, they even looked up some literature works and found some homophone phenomena in them. These phenomena are different from the former ones, for the noumenon and harmonic body appear in sentence at the same time and used as sentence elements respectively to express different meanings. Because of the homophones of noumenon and harmonic body, they can form unique rhetoric effects. For example, in the sentence “八十年代郎才女貌,九十年代郎财女貌”, “才” and “财” are homophonic; the former “郎才女貌” represents the original meaning of the idiom, while the meaning is completely changed when it uses homophonic “财” to replace the noumenon “才”.

In addition to this, another special homophone phenomenon was found by a student who learns to speak Chinese by listening to Chinese comic dialogues. In one piece of Chinese comic dialogues, A says, “我不会跳舞。” then B answers, “你会跳六。” B utilizes homophone to comprehend “舞” as the number “五” on purpose and takes the advantage to say “跳六” in order to reach a comic effect. Although “五” and “舞” are homophonic, this harmonic body “五” doesn’t appear in the dialogue, but becomes the number “六” behind it. Some people call this kind of words which are produced on the basement of harmonic body and related with it as “relevant body”.

Through this preparation for the topic of homophone phenomena, the group of students really learnt a lot. They not only learnt some interesting homophonic words, but also felt the richness of Chinese language.

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