Before getting into you assumptions I think it's best if we take a look at a post on Language Log from Victor Mair, a name students of Chinese are probably quite familiar with:
In my estimation, there is far too little genuine topolectal
literature in China. Throughout history, nearly everything has been
written either in one or another style of Literary Sinitic (Classical
Chinese) or in the national koine / lingua franca vernacular
(currently known as Pǔtōnghuà 普通话 [in Mainland China] / Guóyǔ 国语 [in
Taiwan] / Huáyǔ 华语 [in Southeast Asian countries]), i.e., Mandarin.
I wish that there were vibrant, vital written forms for Hokkien,
Shanghainese, Hakka, and many other varieties of Chinese, just as
there are for Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya / Odiya, and so forth in India.
Considering the plethora of spoken languages in China, I believe that
the development of corresponding written languages for at least the
major varieties would lead to mutual enrichment and invigoration,
including of the national language. While there have been some
sporadic efforts to write Taiwanese / Amoyese, a full-blown literary
tradition has never developed for that language (see Sino-Platonic
Papers #89, #92, and #172, as well as the works of Henning Klöter).
There have also been occasional efforts to incorporate a few words of
the local language in so-called Shanghainese literature, but it
usually amounts only to a sprinkling of Wu lexical items in what is
basically a Mandarin matrix. The situation for the other topolects is
even less, with next to none or no written form at all.
It is only in Cantonese that there has been anything approaching true
topolectal writing. I suspect that this has been possible mainly
because of the special sociopolitical conditions that obtained while
Hong Kong was a colony of the British Empire. Whatever the reason, I
am always pleased when I learn of evidence that written Cantonese is
clinging to life.
Consequently, I was delighted to learn about a recently published
novel in written Cantonese, called naam4 jan4*2 m4 ho2 ji5 kung4
男人唔可以窮 ("A man Ought not Be Poor" or "A Man Must not Be Poor"). It’s
interesting that the book originated in a series of posts on the
popular HK web forum HKGOLDEN (gou1 dang1 leon6 taan4 高登論壇), which is
part of a computer information portal.
Unsurprisingly, even though Hong Kong is supposedly a part of China,
HKGOLDEN is blocked by the Great Firewall in the PRC. The forum is
subject to severe hacking, and has periodically had to close for
repair and maintenance, but when the forum is open it flourishes.
I haven't been able to find much about the novel in English, but was
very happy to stumble upon this "Blog of Cantonese Resources" with an
article entitled " New Wave of Cantonese Literature: HKGolden
Literature". I recommend it heartily for basic information about "A
Man Must not Be Poor" and several related novels.
This page in Chinese is quite informative.
This discussion page shows the enthusiasm with which Cantonese
language literature is welcomed by readers.
Mandy Chan tells me that she has read several chapters of "A Man Must
not Be Poor" and that it is written completely in colloquial HK
Cantonese. She says that the storyline isn't quite her cup of tea,
but she can see how it "resonates" with what is called din6 ce1 naam4
电车男 ("train man") type of guys. The latter notion derives from
Japanese densha otoko 電車男 (movie, TV series, novel, manga, etc.),
which was very popular in Hong Kong.
The din6 ce1 naam4 电车男 / densha otoko 電車男 ("train man") is akin to the
zaak6 naam4 / taku otoko 宅男, i.e., otaku おたく/オタク.
Hong Kong street parlance tends to use gong2 naam4 港男 ("Hong Kong
man") these days to denote the same category of Hong Kong men who are
socially awkward and lacking in accomplishment, yet with a high degree
of self-esteem. The gong2 naam4 港男's mortal enemy is the gong2 neoi5/2
(note change in tone from original Mid-low Rising 5 to High Rising 2
to indicate colloquial pronunciation) 港女 — Mammonish, controlling,
loud (often foul-mouthed), socially aggressive,
old-but-still-pretending-to-be-"cute" (kawaii) type of HK woman.
The duk6 naam4 毒男 (lit., "poison man") acts in an even more
introverted fashion than the gong2 naam4 港男 ("Hong Kong man"), to the
point of being a "weirdo".
Extensive discussion of densha otoko 電車男 ("train man") and related
terms may be found in these Language Log posts and the comments to
Here is the relevant entry from the draft manuscript of the ABC
Cantonese-English Dictionary by Bob Bauer:
.hw zaak6 naam4 char 宅男 ps N. clf 個 go3, 條 tiu4 en lit. house male;
fig.; term was likely orig. borrowed from Jp. into TW. Man. in 2005 in
connection with the broadcast of the popular Jp. TV drama 電車男 densha
otoko 'train man'; term is similar in mng. to 毒男 duk6 naam4; sl. see
also 毒男 duk6 naam4 df nerd, geek, i.e. a young man who barricades
himself in his room at home and spends most of his time surfing the
internet on his computer, playing video games, avoiding face-to-face
interaction and communication with other people, esp., women, and
neglecting his physical appearance and personal hygiene exchar
佢面口青青，又奀奀瘦瘦，污頭垢面，成日屈住喺屋企唔出門口，成條宅男咁款 exrom keoi5 min6 hau2 ceng1 ceng1,
jau6 ngan1 ngan1 sau3 sau3, wu1 tau4 gau3 min6, seng4 jat6 wat1 zyu6
hai2 uk1 kei5/2 m4 ceot1 mun4 hau2, seng4 tiu4 zaak6 naam4 gam3 fun2
exeng He's both sickly pale and unhealthily skinny, his hair is dirty
and his face is oily, he shuts himself up in the house the whole day
and doesn't come out, he's such a complete nerd
The author's name is sit3 ho2 zing3 薛可正. It's his pen name and very
few people actually know what he looks like (the nature of the
HKGOLDEN forum membership is rather secretive).
Sit's tale isn't altogether unique, because you can find many such
stories on the HKGOLDEN forum, but one of the main differences with
Sit is that he managed to finish the entire novel within a reasonable
amount of time. The stories are written in episodes and it is very
common for an author to let his tale peter out. Incidentally, it
seems as though all the authors of the HKGOLDEN forum novels, at least
the ones I know about, are males.
Mandy once listened to a radio interview with Sit, in which he said
that the story is 70% "real" — meaning that it's not necessarily his
own biography, but it does contain episodes and occurrences that have
either happened to him or to people he knows. It seems that the
reason Sit has been able to attract so many "train men" followers is
because he is able to express their sense of helplessness and
Ineffectualness. But he writes about other things too, like his
relationship with his father.
While Sit's audience is made up of many gong2 naam4 港男 type guys, he
isn't writing about them per se, at least his portrayal of the main
character isn't about gong2 naam4 港男 vs. gong2 neoi5/2 港女 issues, yet
because his storyline is about the psychological struggle against
helplessness and ineffectualness, it resonates with many Hong Kong
men. Having the story written out in Hong Kong street Cantonese is a
big reason why the novel has received such disproportionate attention
on the Hong Kong cultural scene.
Mandy is also writing a historical romance in street Cantonese, but
it's not as easy as she thought it would be because she doesn't know
how to write out some of the slang words, and she gets a headache when
going over her own draft because she's not used to reading something
that is written purely in Cantonese. I wish her luck in her
I should say a few words about the gong2 neoi5/2 港女 phenomenon more
generally. Gong2 neoi5/2 港女 is not just about Hong Kong women, but a
specific kind of Hong Kong women. The creation of this category has
something to do with the sex-ratio imbalance in Hong Kong (more
females than males). To compound the problem, many Hong Kong men of
marriageable age prefer to "go north" (i.e., go to the mainland) to
find their spouses. Their defense is that mainland ladies are more
gentle and tender, etc. I suppose it's a matter of personal choice,
but in doing so they put down HK women (at least that's the way the
Hong Kong women perceive the situation). Because many Hong Kong women
regard themselves as being mentally tougher, more independent, and
less "scheming" than their mainland counterparts, the actions and
speech of some Hong Kong men cause tremendous anguish among Hong Kong
women. With the passage of time, it is no wonder that gong2 naam4 港男
and gong2 neoi5/2 港女 developed into oppositional terms as a way to
address this Thurberesque war of the sexes.
Perhaps it is time for the gong2 neoi5/2 港女 to start writing their own
Cantonese novels to defend themselves from the aspersions in all those
written by gong2 naam4 港男.
[Thanks to Bob Bauer, Simon Pettersson, and Wicky Tse]
Now if we take a look at your original assumptions:
Written Chinese is mainly used for Standard (Mandarin) Chinese.
Mostly other Chinese languages and/or dialects are mainly spoken and not written.
-A common misconception but obviously not the case.
Cantonese is probably the other language/dialect most written after Mandarin, and dialect words in Taiwan probably next most.
-Yes there seems to only be actual, complete writing only in Mandarin and Cantonese. Other topolects, like the article mentioned above, are basically Mandarin with sprinklings of topolectical words.
Most other Chinese languages and/or dialects have at least a few words which have no established related word in Mandarin. (This means related by etymology, not just the same meaning.)
-This is absolutely true on both fronts (etymology and meaning).
Where can I find some of the most common terms from any other Chinese (Sinitic) languages and/or dialects which do not have a standard hanzi character?
On this front I agree very much with what @Semaphore said in his/her answer. Many times talking about dialects, topolects or Chinese-based languages speakers will very quickly come out with the classic, "oh this is only spoken - it can not be written" phrase - which is actually just a very ignorant reply. Most of these so-called 'nonexistant' characters can actually be found fairly easily with some research. An example:
四川话 has the word ba4 dan1 (Sichuanese Pinyin): meaning 'bed sheet' - if you ask most people from the Sichuan area they should be able to understand this word (in the correct context, of course), but(!) if you ask them how to write it 99.99% of people do not have the slightest idea how to write it and will probably tell you "oh this is only spoken - it can not be written". 成都话方言词典 does, though, have an entry for this word using the following character for ba4:
and 单 for dan1.
While this may seem a little arbitrary - like they may have just made the character up themselves - the same character for ba4 can also be found in 《中华字海》:
and online at zisea[dot]com:
Both of which clearly indicate it's a Sichuanese character!!!
Why do natives not know their own language?
The basic answer this that topolects, dialects and all non-standard Chinese languages in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been suffocated, strangled and slaughtered to the best of the abilities of those in charge.
The Education Bureau in Hong Kong has claimed that Cantonese is not an official language.
Students are not allowed to speak anything other than Mandarin in modern day classrooms.
How can people expected to know their own languages?