It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that “shuing”!
David Moser uses the question of how would someone scat sing in Mandarin Chinese to start off an exploration of what Chinese characters can’t do well (and what Pinyin can).
Here’s an excerpt:
English has numerous conventions for representing casual oral speech: “Are you kiddin’ me?” “Whaddya wanna do tonight, Marty?” “I’m gettin’ outta here!” “Gimme that.” And so on. Such spelling conventions have been employed in the literature of most alphabetic traditions for hundreds of years, and are often an invaluable link to the vernaculars of the past. English-language writers from Mark Twain to James Joyce have used the flexibility of the alphabet to vividly re-created various speech worlds in their works. It is, in fact, hard to imagine how much of the literature of the West could have been produced without recourse to such devices.
Chinese characters, by contrast, cannot reproduce the equivalent elisions and blends of colloquial Chinese, except in rare cases, and only at the level of the syllable…. The result is that China effectively has no tradition of realistically notating vernacular speech. Wenyanwen ???, classical Chinese, exerted a virtual stranglehold on written literature up until the early twentieth century, and even then, most writers did not attempt to accurately represent common speech, despite the appearance of an occasional Lao She or Ba Jin. But even if such writers had so desired, working within the Chinese system of writing, they could never have notated the sounds of the language around them with the same kind of vivid verisimilitude of the following examples in English….
Read the whole article, here on Pinyin Info: Some Things Chinese Characters Can’t Do-Be-Do-Be-Do.
And if you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out another work by Moser: Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard, which is one of Pinyin Info’s most popular readings.