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#1
Old 03-31-2000, 08:53 PM
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Location: MA, USA
Posts: 100
Does any one know why they spell "Tao" like that? Phonetically it is pronounced "Dow", so why not spell it that way? It would avoid a lot of confusion as well as bad pronunciation, and I bet the Chinese would never know that we changed the it. Its just never made sense to me. Its not like the word started out with English alphabetical characters. The word must have originally been spelled with Chinese characters and later interpreted into English. So who was the genius who decided on the English spelling and gave us "Taoism"?
#2
Old 03-31-2000, 09:01 PM
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The Anglicization of Chinese underwent a huge overhaul about 20 years ago. Peking became Bejing. Mao Tse-tung became Mao Zedung. There may actually be a new way of spelling Tao (Dao? Dow?) that popular culture just never adjusted to.
#3
Old 03-31-2000, 09:06 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Columbus, OH
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There was another recent question on the subject of Romanizing the Chinese language, regarding spelling in the current Pinyin system, vs. the older Wade-Giles system. In pinyin, the spelling is daoism. I suppose that words that have become embedded in English with Wade-Giles spelling will keep it. Here is some more information:
edepot.com/taoroman.html
#4
Old 03-31-2000, 09:08 PM
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I have actually seen Tao spelt "Dao" in print although I can't remember where exactly...
#5
Old 03-31-2000, 09:45 PM
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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota US
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The T vs. D problem isn't just in Chinese either. The exact way that Arabs pronounce the name of the Prophet has been rendered in English as Muhammad, Mahomet, and various other spellings. Basicly you have this consonant that to English speakers is so heavily accented that it's hard to specify.


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#6
Old 03-31-2000, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by guitarmax_99:
Does any one know why they spell "Tao" like that? Phonetically it is pronounced "Dow", so why not spell it that way? It would avoid a lot of confusion as well as bad pronunciation, and I bet the Chinese would never know that we changed the it. Its just never made sense to me. Its not like the word started out with English alphabetical characters. The word must have originally been spelled with Chinese characters and later interpreted into English. So who was the genius who decided on the English spelling and gave us "Taoism"?
#7
Old 03-31-2000, 09:48 PM
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Thanks Gilligan. Excellent post and great link.
#8
Old 04-01-2000, 03:02 AM
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Join Date: Aug 1999
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According to the Sinologist at The Field Museum of Natural History, the actual correct pronunciation in Mandarin is somewhere inbetween "dao" and "tao." It's a sound that simply doesn't exist in English, and so we just take our best stab at it. The commonly agreed-upon "best stab" changes over the years, but actually either pronunciation would be acceptable.

And of course, Mandarin is just one of numerous languages / dialects in China. Some pronoounce it closer to "T", others closer to "D". Depends who you ask. (I saw an interview with the mayor of Shanghai who, speaking in his native tongue, refered to "Peiking" rather than "Beijing.")

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#9
Old 04-01-2000, 07:45 AM
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In Mandarin (the only Chinese language about I can claim a reasonable claim about knowing diddly), the meaning is not carried by voice (essentially: whether or not the vocal cords are involved), but by aspiration (essentially: whether or not the sound is produced with a little puff of air at the end).

In English, initial voiceless stops ('p', 't', 'k') are almost always aspirated. Medial voiceless stops, and voiced stops ('d', 'b', 'g') are not.

A good approximation of the unaspirated initial stop in the Mandarin can be made by English-speakers by whispering "dow". No aspiration (since the initial sound is a "d"), but no voice, either (since it's in a whisper).

In Wade-Giles romanization, it was decided to represent aspiration by a following apostrophe (thus, "Ch'ing"). In pinyin and Yale romanization, unaspirated stops are represented by voiced stops (in fact, since voice is essentially meaningless, Mandarin speakers can and do pronounce it voiced on occasion. It sounds a bit "off", but not so much that it's worthy of comment unless the speaker always does it).

A side note: the Roman alphabet evolved to encode Latin, and spread to the languages of northern and western Europe, and thence to the languages with which those were in contact, because, during the Low Middle Ages, literate people were likely to be literate only in Latin, not in the vernacular. The Roman alphabet doesn't do a very good job of encoding English, either, but over the last 1,500 years, we've gotten so accustomed to its limitations that we don't notice them any nore.

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