English Elocution in China
Spoken Mandarin and spoken English are polysyllabic languages, unlike Classical Chinese and our imagined Song Dynasty English, which employ complex monosyllabic language patterns. How can characters indicate the stressed and unstressed vowels of spoken English?
Stressed vowels are longer than unstressed vowels, so Chinese characters used to indicate longer vowel sounds are doubled while unstressed vowels are represented by a single character.
Screenshots from Pinying mobile app.
Pronunciation was only one aspect of performing conformity in Victorian English. Poetry recitation required precise pronunciation and gestures. How could these have been taught in the late Qing Dynasty?
Since the Victorian Imperial Knowledge Systems required conformity to be performed by the body, agents of English Colonialism could have employed the newly invented technologies of animation, like the zoetrope, to disseminate learning materials linking pronunciation to the body rather than the page.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the rime table tradition collapsed along with the Imperial Examination System. The opportunity to create a stable phonetic bridge between Chinese characters and English was lost. Chinese merchants trading with the English gave rise to the current systems used to roughly approximate non-Chinese word sounds. This system has caused the innumerable problems faced by the nearly half a billion foreign language learners in China today.
Pinying, a system patented in 2016 has converted the rime table tradition into a stable phonetic bridge between English and Chinese.