Measure words and formality
In cases where there are many acceptable measure words, one of which is 个, does it sound formal to use another measure word in daily speech?
Take for example the word 村庄, cūnzhuāng, "village". According to nciku, there are three acceptable measure words: 处 chù, 个 gè and 座 zuò. I find the 个 pretty bland and unevocative. I'd much rather use for example 处. But I know that 个 is used a lot more in colloquial speech than in formal and written sentences. Does this mean that if I say 一处村庄, I will sound formal?
Are there general rules here, or does it vary depending on the word?
changyeDecember 02, 2009, 07:29 AM
"村庄" is already a formal word, so I think it won't make much difference whether you use "个" or "处/座". Probably "一座村庄" is the most "balanced" in formality, hehe. Incidentally, "一个村子" is most commonly used in conversation.
simonpetterssonDecember 02, 2009, 12:34 PM
nciku and cedict sometimes have measure word colloquations.
There's an awesome book (only book on Chinese I've ever felt was worthwhile) called Cheng & Tsui's Measure Word Dictionary. It's hardly comprehensive, but it lists measure words and common nouns that go with them, as well as common nouns and their measure words (listed by English and by Pinyin). It is not, however, dictionary-sized. But it's great for learning the most useful stuff. I'm memorizing it alphabetically (though I skip stuff that seems not so useful).
changyeDecember 02, 2009, 08:15 AM
I believe the guys in the dialogue must be 知识分子，who were sent to investigage historical remains in the desert by Beijing University. Their conversation is a little too "educational" considering such a desperate situation, hehe.
P/S. I think "一个村庄" is acceptable in writing and a formal speech.
zoey_counselorDecember 02, 2009, 08:27 AM
处 is often used for homestead and mistake.eg:
座 is often used for high building，mountain，bridges 。eg:
个 can be used for most of things .
changyeDecember 02, 2009, 08:35 AM
You have to get a good Chinese dictionary. One of mines says, 村子 is informal and commonly used in conversation. 村庄 is more formal than 村子 and often used in writing. 村落 is a written word and mainly used in literature.
simonpetterssonDecember 02, 2009, 08:44 AM
But should I really have to look up every word I learn with ChinesePod in a dictionary? (This is my way of saying "I wish ChinesePod was clearer on this stuff!")
Also, I think this has been talked about before and the consensus was that it seems only Japanese dictionaries mark the formal words.
bodaweiDecember 02, 2009, 08:45 AM
个 gè is more colourful and evocative than you might think. In the mouth of a native speaker it is used with relish. Say it with gusto, stressing the 4th tone. Have fun with it.
simonpetterssonDecember 02, 2009, 08:02 AM
Dang man, I did not expect two dudes dying in the desert to be formal with each other. ChinesePod might need some sort of formality indicator.
Do you have any comment on the general issue? Does using non-个 measure words where 个 is acceptable make you sound formal?
simonpetterssonDecember 02, 2009, 09:09 AM
Bodawei, no way, man. 个 is generic, common. Therefore boring. But I don't want to sound stiff, so I might have to look for other ways to add colour to my speech.
Changye, yeah, I don't care much about that specific word. What worries me (slightly) is the general issue of not knowing how to use the language. This is, of course, a transient problem, as exposure to native media will give me a feel for this sort of thing. But until the time when I can consume large amounts of stuff in Chinese, I run the risk of sounding strange.
Then again, I don't think ChinesePod teaches me the really formal words. It's all dialogues. Meh, never mind.
But still, nobody has answered my question: "Does using non-个 measure words where 个 is acceptable make you sound formal?" Even a "That's impossible to say on a general basis" answer would be appreciated.
RJDecember 02, 2009, 10:13 AM
The Chinese embrace a vagueness we sometimes struggle with. I have not only found it difficlut to get answers to some questions, but often no one can grasp why I am even asking such a thing. Let it go, I doubt anyone in China will judge you based on your measure words. This is a good thing, well, maybe. :-)
changyeDecember 02, 2009, 11:11 AM
It depends...........perhaps. For example, "刷子" (brush) can take two measure words, 个 and 把, but I don't think "一把刷子" is more formal than "一个刷子". The point is that using "把" (grip) can make the phrase a little more "graphic", which is an important function of measure words.
By the same token, "一座楼" might connote more "large/heavy" than "一个楼" does to native people. As for "村庄", I feel that "一处村庄" is more formal than "一个村庄" because the character "处" is often used for formal words, such as 公证处 and 难处. I don't know about "一座村庄".
bodaweiDecember 02, 2009, 11:47 AM
"Does using non-个 measure words where 个 is acceptable make you sound formal?"
I would like to turn your question around to:
"Does using 个, where 个 is not wrong but there is a common non-个 alternative, make me sound like a rank beginner?" (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)
But if you are looking for some level of acceptance (as is implied by your concern about sounding too formal) you could better spend your time learning several common non-个 measure words. You are likely to sound like a beginner for years, and getting some common non-个 measure words into the conversation gives you language kudos. Makes you feel good. More so than using a relatively obscure non-个 measure word where 个 is fairly commonly used anyway, and certainly acceptable. Some people may be impressed that you 努力学习 but to many people you may sound a little 'bookish'. Specially if all you know is obscure measure words.
Hope that makes sense.
go_manlyDecember 02, 2009, 12:03 PM
Has anyone ever found an exhaustive list of measure words, and the nouns they get used with?
Alternatively a dictionary that gives the common measure words used with each noun?
The Yellowbridge online dictionary refers to common measure words for many nouns, but many nouns are lacking such reference. I would like to think that the omissions all take ge, but I doubt that is the case.
(Hey, I just noticed we've been given more time to edit our comments)
changyeDecember 02, 2009, 08:58 AM
Don't take things too seriously. Although 村庄 is more formal than 村子, this doesn't mean you can't use 村庄 in conversation. I think "the dialogue in the desert" is fully acceptable for conversation.