It Goes Without Saying

Or, in Chinese, it go without say.  It ‘go’ whether it was yesterday, today or tomorrow. We don’t say ‘I go; I went; I am going; I will go’, we say, ‘I go, I go, I go, I go’.

Words are stubborn old things in Chinese; they don’t take to changes well, or at all.  An apple is an apple, ten apples are ten ‘apple’, the noun does not change according to the quantity.  If you ate ten apples yesterday, you ‘eat’ ten ‘apple’ yesterday, in Chinese. The verb does not change according to when the action occurs.

We say, ‘where he go?’ instead of ‘where is he going?’ If he is going to the cinema, we say ‘he go cinema’; we don’t go for so many words, because we already have too many words.   Chinese is concise, if not precise.

We don’t have separate words for gender or age of animals: sheep, lamb, ewe are 羊,chicken, hen, cockerel, chicks are all 雞。If we are pushed to be more specific, we may add 母 (mother) to indicate the female, like 母雞 for hen but no specific terms to indicate gender, such as ewe, sow or cow.

We try to be economical with our language in every way, except when it comes to family.  We make sure we all know where we stand.  Your siblings 兄,弟,姊,妹 are your older brother, younger brother, older sister and younger sister. An uncle is not just an uncle, there is a term for your father’s older brother 伯父, your father’s younger brother 叔父, your mother’s  brother 舅父, the husband of your father’s sister 姑父 and the husband of your mother‘s sister,姨父。

So next time you hear a Chinese person say ‘I go see husband of father’s sister’ you’ll understand why.

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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10 Responses to It Goes Without Saying

  1. Fascinating Mary – and I would have thought it simply not correctly understanding English

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dalo 2013 says:

    Enjoyed this very much ~ I think this is why I enjoyed and learned Chinese pretty well, its grammar is negligible (at least to communicate) and I think it is a very logical language :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mattb325 says:

    It’s such an amazing language – if I had my time over, I would have studied Mandarin/Cantonese at school rather than the French and German (the only thing on offer) that were taught when I was young.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cynthia says:

    I am really enjoying these posts about the Chinese language, Mary. It’s fun to look at the characters and see how they relate to the words. The cultural references are very interesting too

    Liked by 1 person

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