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Thread: CHINESE Culture and Language Help

  1. #21
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    Triple posting (sorry!), but it's for a question, I promise!

    I am currently trying to come up with a list of spells used in East Asia, with the primary language being Chinese (a cradle language for the region, much like Latin is for Western Europe).

    Anyway, I am studying the spell, Alohamora, and the source behind it. This is what I found.
    J. K. Rowling stated that the word was from the West African Sidiki dialect used in geomancy and has the literal meaning Friendly to thieves.
    Does anyone know of any Chinese, or general East Asia, expressions or legends that could be related to locks or something opening and closing? It would be great if the spell to lock and the spell to unlock to be somehow related to one another.

    It doesn't even have to be in Chinese necessrily. J.K. based this spell on an African language, not Latin.

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  2. #22
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    Not directly related to Molly's question but going off the idea that non-Western European or at least non-European people would not use Latin based spells...

    What would the Chinese use for spells? Give me a moment, I will explain.

    The Chinese written language does not show how words should be pronounced, since it is pictographic. On the one hand, this makes reading old texts somewhat easier. However, this makes it next to impossible to figure out how these old texts were originally pronounced.

    I believe that scholars have figured out that Tang Dynasty Chinese was probably closer to modern Cantonese than modern Mandarin, because some Tang poems rhyme when read in Cantonese and not in Mandarin.

    So. Would repetitive use keep "older" forms of Chinese alive in the form of spells? Or would they simply use modern Chinese?

  3. #23
    DeadManSeven
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    What's there to say that a spoken incantation with a wand is the prevalent form of magic outside of Europe? A wand and magic words is a pretty Euro-centric concept of a wizard, after all, and there's enough canon magical disciplines that don't appear to require verbal compotents (potions, herbology, divination, astrology) that you could make the case for Chinese "spells" not having to deal with things like pronounciation.

    On the other hand, having to learn the "correct" pronounciation of spells has a certain secret-knowledge, master-and-student, kung-fu-flick asthetic to it, so you'd be free to borrow liberally from any given martial arts movie; just substitute "spell" for "technique" and it's basically the same thing.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadManSeven
    On the other hand, having to learn the "correct" pronounciation of spells has a certain secret-knowledge, master-and-student, kung-fu-flick asthetic to it, so you'd be free to borrow liberally from any given martial arts movie; just substitute "spell" for "technique" and it's basically the same thing.
    I think that I have seen way too many kung fu movies of this exact kind to write a scene like that seriously though. It is a good idea though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Molly
    I am currently trying to come up with a list of spells used in East Asia, with the primary language being Chinese (a cradle language for the region, much like Latin is for Western Europe).
    As far as I can tell, "cradle language" means what you started speaking "from the cradle" not an origin language for other languages. The Sino-Tibetan family of languages covers the various Chinese dialects and Tibetan.

    W00t for tonal languages, anyone?

    In any case, Japanese and Korean apparently have independent origins from Chinese. They borrow words and writing systems but not origins. And a fair amount of South East Asia also isn't covered in the Sino-Tibetan family.

  5. #25
    Inverarity
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliveOil_Med
    I am currently trying to come up with a list of spells used in East Asia, with the primary language being Chinese (a cradle language for the region, much like Latin is for Western Europe).
    That is not correct.

    First, it's not even correct that Latin is the basis for Western European languages. It's the root of the Romance languages -- Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, etc. -- but not of the Germanic ones, including English. (English does have a lot of Romance influence, due to the Norman invasion, but it's fundamentally a Germanic language, not a Latinate one.)

    Second, Chinese does not have that role in Asia. It is true that Chinese was studied by the literate classes throughout most of Asia, because of China's huge cultural influence, but Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, etc., are not descended from Chinese. They have some loan words, but they are not in the same language family.

    It is likely that Chinese words would be prevalent in spells used throughout Asia, since Chinese sorcerers probably influenced everyone else.

  6. #26
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    Wow, Invararity feels like arguing today. Alright, I'll play.

    Second, Chinese does not have that role in Asia.
    Maybe not phonetically, but in East Asia, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese all use the system of kanji letters in their writing. In that way, it could be argued that the language are related. Maybe I should have considered my words more carefully when I wrote my post, but this was the original reasoning behind my decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeadManSeven
    On the other hand, having to learn the "correct" pronounciation of spells has a certain secret-knowledge, master-and-student, kung-fu-flick asthetic to it, so you'd be free to borrow liberally from any given martial arts movie; just substitute "spell" for "technique" and it's basically the same thing.
    And with this sort of reasoning, I think I find myself even more convinced that the Chinese language would have a great deal to do with spell casting in East Asia.

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  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molly
    Maybe not phonetically, but in East Asia, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese all use the system of kanji letters in their writing. In that way, it could be argued that the language are related. Maybe I should have considered my words more carefully when I wrote my post, but this was the original reasoning behind my decision.
    The languages are not related. Using the same ways to write does not mean the languages are related. Basque is written with the same characters as Spanish but it is not a Romance language, it has no relationship to Latin whatsoever.

    Many Native American languages did not have systems of writing so they adopted Roman letters; however, these languages are also not related to Latin.

    The way languages are considered "related" is if they share a common ancestry, not if they have similarities in characteristics. Chinese and one of the major languages of Ghana are both tonal but they are not related.

    Yes, culturally Korea and Japan have heavy ties to China and vice versa including many loan words. It is completely possible that spell casting came from China and spread to Korea and Japan. At the same time, I believe it is necessary to consider the effects of nationalism and "native" populations such as the Ainu of Japan, who may have different kinds of spell casting and may be oppressed by other people of Japan.

    If wizarding Korea and Japan have had the kinds of relationships that Muggle Korea and Japan have had with China then it makes sense that at some times they will appreciate their cultural similarities and other times they will loathe them and try to come up with different spells.

  8. #28
    Inverarity
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliveOil_Med
    Wow, Invararity feels like arguing today. Alright, I'll play.
    Wasn't arguing, actually. But if you want to argue with me, you should probably choose something I haven't actually studied to argue about.

    Maybe not phonetically, but in East Asia, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese all use the system of kanji letters in their writing. In that way, it could be argued that the language are related.
    It could be, but that argument would be incorrect.

    First of all, "kanji" is a Japanese word. It refers to the system of Chinese characters (or ideographs, but they are not "letters") which are used in Japanese writing. So if you refer to Chinese characters as "kanji," unless you are specifically referring to their use in Japanese text, you're incorrect.

    Second, Japanese and Korean does use some Chinese characters in classical and literary writing. Japanese uses a lot more; it's becoming rarer in Korean, where you'll still see some Chinese characters in newspapers and books, especially referring to old/classical terms, but most writing in Korean is entirely in hangul (the Korean alphabet). This is because originally, both Japan and Korea did borrow the Chinese writing system and adapted it (imperfectly and cumbersomely) to their own language. The results are kind of like written Gaelic, which is totally not suited for the Latin (i.e., English) alphabet, but that's what they had. (Gaelic is completely unrelated to English, just as Chinese is completely unrelated to Japanese and Korean. Koreans and Japanese will also argue that their languages are completely unrelated to each other, but if you've ever studied both, you know that the grammar is too similar to be a coincidence.)

    And with this sort of reasoning, I think I find myself even more convinced that the Chinese language would have a great deal to do with spell casting in East Asia.
    This is likely true, but not because the languages are related. Chinese culture and learning did spread out throughout Asia, and for centuries, China was regarded much the way Rome was in Europe, as the center of learning and civilization.

  9. #29
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    What do people think about Chinese wizards and witches using staves (in addition to or instead of) wands?

    I was thinking about what DeadManSeven said about Chinese wizards and witches not necessarily using wands and for some reason the thing that popped into my head was: "What about staves??"

    Any historical basis in actual Chinese myths and legends about magical people?
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  10. #30
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    I have no idea about Chinese culture or whether this is accurate, but in The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman, a character called Mary Malone uses what she says is a form of Chinese divination called the I Ching. I have no idea if this is culturally accurate or whether it is Chinese or whatever, but it might be something to consider in your story.

    Don't know whether I'm being helpful or not, but it just came into my mind and I thought I'd mention it.

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