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I noticed that Chinese language uses very little punctuation, especially missing out spaces between words. Because of this feature, is it possible to build sentences where if you skip one (or more) characters from the beginning, you get entirely different meaning? Are there any popular examples?

EDIT: I keep getting answers which are not what I mean. I expected to find out whether there are sentences that start with a multi-character word that after removing the first character, make a new multi-character word, shifting the meaning completely. So, for example, with spaces added, AB CD EF would become BC DE F.

  • 没有他的帮助,你就不能成功 (try remove the first) – fefe Jun 23 '18 at 23:54
  • After the edit: you don't have to remove a character. 南京市/长江/大桥 vs 南京/市长/江大桥 – fefe Jun 25 '18 at 3:33
  • Another : 乒乓球拍/卖完/啦 vs 乒乓球/拍卖/完/啦 – fefe Jun 25 '18 at 3:46
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How about these:

"(美國人)對大麻合化意見不一" -- "(Americans) have different opinions on the legalization of marijuana"

"(國人)對大麻合化意見不 一" -- "(Citizens of this country) have different opinions on the legalization of marijuana"

~

"(德意志)崩潰" -- "(German) collapse"

"(意志)崩潰" -- "(will/ spirit) collapse"

~

"(從)[馬上]下來" -- "come down (from) [the horse back]"

"[馬上] 下來" -- "come down [immediately]"

~

"(從來就)有免費飯" -- "There's (always been) free meal"

"(來)[就]有免費飯" -- "There's free meal [whenever] you (come)"

  • Hello! I appreciate the response but it looks like my question was pretty difficult to phrase. I added an "edit" section in the question, hoping that it clarifies it. – d33tah Jun 24 '18 at 20:19
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    @d33tah 德意志 is a three characters word for 'Germany', removed 德, we get 意志, which means 'will' or spirit. Isn't that what you wanted? 美國人 and 國人 are both legit term; 從馬上 (from the horse back) and 馬上(immediately) have completely different meanings, what else do you need? – Tang Ho Jun 24 '18 at 22:29
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Yes, there are tons of them. If you skip a crucial character, of course it's going to change the meaning entirely. It has nothing to do with punctuation, but everything to do with the semantics of the character(s) you're leaving out.

If you leave out the negative marker "不", the sentence will mean the opposite of what you intend to say. For examples:

我不是中國人 becomes 我是中國人。

我沒有錢 becomes 我有錢。

This also happens in English. If you skip the negative marker "not" or "no",

"I am not Chinese" becomes "I am Chinese".

"I have no money" becomes "I have money".

You can actually ask your question in any language, and the answer is going to be yes. So I am not entirely sure what exactly you meant to ask, but I am just taking your question at face value.

  • Hi! Sorry, I guess I should have made it a clearer. I ment characters skipped from the beginning specifically that are a part of multi-character word. – d33tah Jun 23 '18 at 22:05
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Absolutely, here is a perfect example:

今日杨叔叔来我家玩妈妈,说我做完作业后,可以吃点心。然后,杨叔叔夸我作业做的好,于是抱起了我妈,妈叫叔叔小心一点,之后叔叔又亲了我妈妈,也亲了我。

... with the correct punctuations:

今天杨叔叔来我家玩,妈妈说我做完作业后可以吃点心。然后,杨叔叔夸我作业做得好,于是抱起了我,妈妈叫叔叔小心点,之后叔叔又亲了我,妈妈也亲了我。

  • Hi! Sorry, I guess I should have made it a clearer. I ment characters skipped from the beginning specifically that are a part of multi-character word. – d33tah Jun 23 '18 at 22:05
  • @d33tah How about: “乐高的积木很好看” vs "高的积木很好看“ – hello_harry Jun 23 '18 at 23:20
  • That's pretty much what I meant, but I was hoping that the change to the sentence would be more fundamental, as each next character would be a part of a new word now. – d33tah Jun 23 '18 at 23:26
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I don't know why you ask for this. But the one I can think of is:

音乐对人生的意义 vs 乐对人生的意义

Music to life vs laugh to life

  • Hello! I appreciate the response but it looks like my question was pretty difficult to phrase. I added an "edit" section in the question, hoping that it clarifies it. – d33tah Jun 24 '18 at 20:19
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Most "multi character words", particularly two-character combos, become single character "words" when characters are cut off. They might often sound a bit weird in context (because of a style mixup - "single character words" are a feature of 文言文 rather than 白话).

Given Chinese does not have very rigid grammar like, say, English, the resulting sentences will often/usually make sense.

PS. Note I use quotes, because I currently do not believe the notion of "words" from Indo-European linguistics applies much to Chinese. Chinese has 字, some of them are more often used together than others. But this is a personal opinion and I'm not a linguist. Ask 趙元任.

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