China's answer to "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo"

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#1
http://www.mmtaylor.net/Literacy_Book/DOCS/05.html

In Chinese it is possible to compose a whole paragraph that consists of a string of homophones, as in the following oft-quoted example.

Shi shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi, shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi shi. Shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi shi. Shi shi shi shi.

translation:

"A poet named Shi lived in a stone house and liked to eat lion flesh and he vowed to eat ten of them. He used to go to the market in search of lions and one day chanced to see ten of them there. Shi killed the lions with arrows and picked up their bodies carrying them back to his stone house. His house was dripping with water so he requested that his servants proceed to dry it. Then he began to try to eat the bodies of the ten lions. It was only then he realized that these were in fact ten lions made of stone. Try to explain the riddle. "
 
#31
These aren't homophones unless you ignore tone. Which is acceptable in English, but not in Chinese. They are not written the same, they do not sound the same.

The only place this would seem "the same" would be in pinyin.
 
#32
This is way cooler than the English analogues. Also, some of you guys should learn how to pronounce pinyin. It's not "shee" or "shi--," it's "shuh."


These aren't homophones unless you ignore tone. Which is acceptable in English, but not in Chinese. They are not written the same, they do not sound the same.

The only place this would seem "the same" would be in pinyin.
They are "the same" enough for the Chinese to recognize the novelty in it, and hence write the poem (and similar such).
 
#33
These aren't homophones unless you ignore tone. Which is acceptable in English, but not in Chinese. They are not written the same, they do not sound the same.

The only place this would seem "the same" would be in pinyin.
well, the 'poem' wouldn't exist if they (assuming a chinese person created this) didn't think there was some similarities.

I remember someone in my chinese class did a presentation with all 'ma' words.
 
#34
These aren't homophones unless you ignore tone. Which is acceptable in English, but not in Chinese. They are not written the same, they do not sound the same.

The only place this would seem "the same" would be in pinyin.
Yes, but there are homophones. Four ways to pronounce shi produces more than four possible characters, as shown in the text here.
 
#37
My personal favorite

"Wouldn't the sentence 'I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign' have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?"

Though, "I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know." (Groucho Marx) is great.
 
#39
These aren't homophones unless you ignore tone. Which is acceptable in English, but not in Chinese. They are not written the same, they do not sound the same.

The only place this would seem "the same" would be in pinyin.
This is partially true but not entirely accurate, because at least several of these characters have the same tonal value but a different meaning, and are therefore homophones according to your strict definition. Look at the second, fourth, sixth and seventh characters on line 1, then the corresponding pinyin. But you are right that tone is phonemic in Chinese but not in English, so the analogy to the English "buffalo" sentence is not completely equivalent. There is something interesting going on with the stress pattern of the English example and the overall intonation, but that is attributable more to the rules of English prosody than to the phonemic values of English.
 
#40
I remember someone in my chinese class did a presentation with all 'ma' words.
Yes, but there are homophones. Four ways to pronounce shi produces more than four possible characters, as shown in the text here.
Right, but I would argue it's only because of pinyin. It wouldn't be nearly as recognizable without that -- and pinyin only exists because other languages exist.

It doesn't mean it's totally worthless. Just that this isn't as straightforward as the "Buffalo Buffalo" example -- more like the "had had" example, which only works if you ignore punctuation.
 
#41
This is partially true but not entirely accurate, because at least several of these characters have the same tonal value but a different meaning, and are therefore homophones according to your strict definition. Look at the second, fourth, sixth and seventh characters on line 1, then the corresponding pinyin. But you are right that tone is phonemic in Chinese but not in English, so the analogy to the English "buffalo" sentence is not completely equivalent. There is something interesting going on with the stress pattern of the English example and the overall intonation, but that is attributable more to the rules of English prosody than to the phonemic values of English.
Right, I don't mean to suggest there are absolutely no homophones, just that they aren't all homophones, which is the necessary metric for this sort of accomplishment to be fully without caveat. There are only 4 (+1) tones in Chinese; it would numerically impossible for this many unique words to be contained within that many tones.
 
#43
Right, but I would argue it's only because of pinyin. It wouldn't be nearly as recognizable without that -- and pinyin only exists because other languages exist.

It doesn't mean it's totally worthless. Just that this isn't as straightforward as the "Buffalo Buffalo" example -- more like the "had had" example, which only works if you ignore punctuation.
The pinyin is irrelevant, it just makes the character readable within a romanized lettering system. The sound is still the same. Homophony defines a sound and meaning relationship (i.e. equality in sound, disparity in meaning), it has nothing to do with with representation (which is homonymy).

Right, I don't mean to suggest there are absolutely no homophones, just that they aren't all homophones, which is the necessary metric for this sort of accomplishment to be fully without caveat. There are only 4 (+1) tones in Chinese; it would numerically impossible for this many unique words to be contained within that many tones.
OK this is clearer; they aren't all homophones, but some of them are.

Most people would be surprised by the amount of homophones in Chinese, though, even with the tones. They far outnumber those in English, because Chinese has a very limiting rule set governing the creation of syllables.
 
#44
The pinyin is irrelevant, it just makes the character readable within a romanized lettering system. The sound is still the same. Homophony defines a sound and meaning relationship (i.e. equality in sound, disparity in meaning), it has nothing to do with with representation (which is homonymy).
Pinyin is absolutely relevant. This sentence:

1) Does not look consistently identical when writing in Chinese.

2) Does not sound consistently identical when speaking Chinese.

It only looks identical when discussing Pinyin writing.

OK this is clearer; they aren't all homophones, but some of them are.
Which is obviously insufficient when the entire point is that every word is the same. Again, the words are only consistently identical when written in Pinyin.
 
#45
Pinyin is absolutely relevant. This sentence:

1) Does not look like the same word repeated when writing in Chinese (unlike "Buffallo Buffallo")

2) Does not sound like the same word when spoken.

It only looks correct when discussing Pinyin.

Which is obviously insufficient when the entire point is that every word is the same. Again, the words are only consistently identical when written in Pinyin.
Fair enough, I get your point now. It's not completely analogous to the English example, because obviously there are differences in the writing and tonal systems of both. There is homophony in the Chinese example but it is not complete for all the tones and it is also not homonymy.

But it's not perfect in the English example either, for instance, "buffalo" is not exactly the same as "Buffalo" graphically.
 
#47
yeah right, they probably just made up that sentence to beat the "buffalo" sentence and even then, the "shi" sentence project went bankrupt 5 times before completion due to corruption of those working on the project, not to mention the ecological atrocities that had to be covered up by the government, so as to save the project's face.

or something.
 
#49
This is not a response to my post. I can only assume you did not understand my point.
What did you mean by numeric impossibility then? I think it is a response.

If I take another interpretation of your point, there are 92 total characters in the poem (33 of them unique); but there are more than 92 unique Chinese characters with the pronunciation of "shi" (in varying tones).
 
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