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This is from the story 《猫经》 in the May edition of 《意林》:

像人一样,猫也有猫相。凡是长毛的,都不容易养育,毛掉得一家都是,怎么清理也不干净。而且这些猫种常患病,命也短。要养的话,最重要的是要选头大的,大头猫永远是比较可爱的。 (photo of original text; digital version)

I'm not sure if the part in bold refers to "every cat with long fur" (when 长毛 is pronounced chánɡmáo) as opposed to short fur, or "every cat which grows fur" (when 长毛 is pronounced zhǎnɡmáo) as opposed to hairless cats. I'm not sure if it's possible to unambiguously determine the correct meaning here.

Question: In the above, is 长 pronounced chánɡ or zhǎnɡ?

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  • “長” means long, in this sentence 😸 Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 7:33

5 Answers 5

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而且这些猫种常患病,命也短。 Besides, those cats are often sick and short-lived.

Judging by the whole story, the cats can't be hairy cats because not all hairy cats are often sick and short-lived. Actually, most breeds of shorthair cats live a long healthy life.

But there is some debate about the longevity of long-haired cats.

Also:

毛掉得一家都是,怎么清理也不干净。 Hair falls all over the house, no matter how you clean it

This is the biggest problem of long-haired cats. Families with short-haired cats are usually not bothered by cat shedding.

IMHO, this paragraph is discussing the differences between long-haired and short-haired cats. Hence, 长 should be pronounced as chánɡ here.

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  • I agree with this. Just to be clear to OP, there is no way to tell which meaning or pronounciation to use from the term itself. A perfect example of why context is king in chinese.
    – zagrycha
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 16:40
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Well, from the context, it should be pronounced chánɡ, means long fur cat. Since it's talking about cat, as most of cats do have soft fur/hair, it doesn't make scene to say "the furffy cat is hard to pet...".

Even though...well...Chinese is not the language with clear logic...but still...

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Although the author is most probably talking about cats with long hair (chánɡmáo), there are hairless cats. Thus, we cannot say with certainly that the author is not talking about cats with hair (zhǎnɡmáo).

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Without context, it is impossible to determine the correct meaning, Zhang3Mao2 de Dong4Wu4 hai shi Chang2Mao2 de Dong4Wu4.

Not surprising that words can be ambiguous in a sentence, both in writing form and oral form. We often solve the puzzle with its context.

Because it mentioned that 毛掉得一家都是,怎么清理也不干净, we can unambiguously determine that the author is talking about Chang2Mao2 de Dong4Wu4. There would be much less problem cleaning the room if you have a short-haired animal.

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The simple translation is:

"The same as humans (with long hair), the long fur/hair cats are more troublesome to care for because of the never-ending task of cleaning their loose furs/hairs... "

So, here, 长毛的 should be pronounced as "cháng máo de".

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