Hakka Characters

If one were to write Hakka language as a romanised block of text, then this is fairly straightforward because only letters to represent sounds and tone marks will be needed to record it. However, as Hakka is an important branch of the Chinese family of language it ought to be able to write the language down in Chinese characters or hanzi in a Hakka venacular form. This fairly innocuous concept, the writing of Hakka in Chinese characters, is a little more complicated than meets the eye.

In standard written Chinese it can be read as it is written, word for word. As a writing style it is almost universally used in the Chinese community of the mainland of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore and around the world. Books in all subjects adhere to this common writing style, although there is the use of locale specific slang here and there.

To an illiterate listener, when the standard style of writing is read out, it sounds formal, stilted and unlike their spoken venacular dialect. Standard Chinese looks and sounds similar to Mandarin, and if read in spoken Mandarin, it would follow the syntax almost invariably in the construction of sentences. For other languages of Chinese it can differ considerably from the spoken dialectal venacular of southern China.

All Chinese dialects share a common vocabulary, and often new items of vocabulary enter modern Chinese dialects via the written media and they become used in the venacular for as long as it is fashionable. The vocabulary that dialects do not share with standard Chinese introduces a number of problems to the writer.

First and foremost is what characters do these items of vocabulary take on, and are they semantically correct? Do we need to look for more ancient characters which have become outdated in order to reassign the vocabulary item to it, as it has similar meanings? If the dialectal vocabulary are actually fossilised pronunciations from an earlier stage of Chinese linguistical history, and thus can share the same character, how does a reader reading an all hanzi text know what sound it ought to have in that particular context? 吾 我 予 余 台 卬 身 朕 汝 女 爾 若 乃 而 戎 之 其 彼 伊 厥 渠 𠊎 x2028E 131726 ngai2