- Website: https://www.sas.upenn.edu/ealc/mair
Posts by Victor Mair:
- "An old name for Singapore" (9/6/16)
Surprisingly few words have been borrowed from Mandarin into English in recent years. Most of the Sinitic borrowings in English — and there are not many — are from other topolects (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc.), and they occurred nearly a century or more ago.
"Chinese loans in English" (7/10/13)
Since the founding of the PRC, most of the terminology borrowed into English from Chinese has come via loan translations, e.g., "paper tiger" and "running dog". There are a few transcribed terms, such as "guanxi" ("networking; relationships"), though I doubt that they are very well known outside of the relatively narrow field of China specialists.
I was stunned when I read this op-ed piece in the NYT yesterday (10/24/16): "China's Digital Soft Power Play". In it, the author, Jing Tsu (a professor of Chinese literature and culture at Yale), writes:
This month, the Chinese government plans to introduce codes for some 3,000 Chinese characters as part of a grand project, known as the China Font Bank, to digitize 500,000 characters previously unavailable in electronic form. Until now, only 80,388 characters have been encoded in the international computing standard, Unicode.
The project highlights 100,000 characters from the country’s 56 ethnic minorities, and another 100,000 rare and ancient characters from China’s written corpus. Deploying almost 30 companies, institutions and universities, it’s the largest state-funded digitization project ever undertaken.
This Mandarin news program was broadcast on July 13, 2016 by Èluósī bīnhǎi xīnwén 俄罗斯滨海新闻 ("Russian Coastal News").
There's a new article on linguistic borrowing by Jane C. Hu in Quartz (10/23/16): "The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries". The article originally had a better title: "Phono-semantic matching is corporate America's best option when trying to rebrand for new countries".
I spotted this very impressive warning at Siesta Key beach in Sarasota, Florida yesterday morning:
We have already studied an old name for Singapore on the back of an envelope dating to 1901:
Now, Ruben de Jong, relying on the works of Dutch scholars, has discovered several others.
Nathan Hopson came across a marvelous Japanese word from the interwar period the other day: naihoku ナイホク.
[This is a guest post by David Moser]
We're in the midst of moving to a new apartment. Yuck. So I'm packing boxes with our ayi, who is from Anhui province, and has been helping us with cooking and cleaning house for a few years now. I think she has at least a middle school education, but probably high school as well.
A father speaks
[This is a guest post by Alex Wang, following up his remarks in "Learning to read and write Chinese" (7/11/16).]
The more I learn Chinese to teach my younger son Chinese reading and writing the more I realize for lack of better word how “ridiculous” it is for a “significant / modern” country to use such a reading and writing system. Perhaps I may be wrong because I’m not informed.
To provide some background, I grew up speaking only Chinese in the house. I went to Saturday school for a few years to learn a little bit of reading and writing but mostly forgot all of it by the time I came to Shenzhen 9 years ago. I did not learn pinyin; I was taught Bopomofo which I have forgotten entirely. I say this so that you understand my relative fluency in the spoken language. On reading characters, I can now recognize perhaps several hundred.
This is a photograph of a page from an essay written by a third grade student at an elementary school in Suining, Sichuan Province, China:
When we published the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from Hawaii in 1996, the original American edition had this definition for Lin Biao: "veteran Communist military leader; Mao Zedong's designated successor until his mysterious death".
Imagine our surprise when we discovered in the licensed edition of the dictionary from Shanghai the following definition: "veteran Communist military leader; ringleader of counterrevolutionary group (during Cultural Revolution)".
The following video was posted to YouTube on 10/11/16: