Archive for Dialects

Seven flavors

Jichang Lulu reports that an eating establishment in London has chosen the name qī wèi 柒味 ("seven flavors").  This comes via Yuan Chan on Twitter:

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Central government control over words for grandmother

Recently there was quite a ruckus over the correct word to be used for "maternal grandmother" in second-graders' textbooks in Shanghai:

"Much Ado About Grandma: Textbook Change Sparks Linguistic Debate:  Critics call ‘waipo’ to ‘laolao’ change ‘cultural hegemony’ from the north", Kenrick Davis, Sixth Tone (6/22/18)

"A debate over the word for ‘grandmother’ in China exposes a linguistic and political rift", Echo Huang and Ziyi Tang, Quartz (6/26/18)

The big controversy was over whether students should be taught to say "lǎolao 姥姥" or "wàipó 外婆", both of which mean "maternal grandmother".

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Fub

The University of Pennsylvania is instituting a Two-Step Verification for PennKey WebLogins. Up till now, our PennKey for login consisted of a Username and Password. After much effort and practice, I finally mastered that. Now, however, for the sake of greater security, after using our PennKey to log in, we will in addition be asked to go through a second step that requires us to enter a randomly generated number that will be sent to us via cell phone.

That really freaked me out, since I don't have a cell phone.

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North Korean English

Remarkable video from the DPRK:

"Kim Jong Un meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo & releases 3 U.S. prisoners [English]"

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Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers, part 2

Half a day after the first part of this series, "Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers" (5/4/18), was posted, someone unhelpfully and snarkily asked, "…but are we sure he used the English word 'dialect'?"

That's not the point.

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Zora Neale Hurston and Kossula

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North Korean with a Swiss German accent?

The video embedded in this article features North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un speaking at the historic summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone yesterday:

"Hang on, what language is Kim Jong-un speaking?  Livestreaming reveals that the North Korean leader has a unique ‘Swiss-influenced’ accent, a result of his years studying at a German-language boarding school near Bern", Crystal Tai, SCMP (4/27/18).

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Yibin, Sichuanese, Cantonese, Mandarin…; topolect, dialect, language

From Charles Belov:

My Apple Music subscription served me a folk-pop hip-hop song "Yibin BBQ" by Yishi Band at the tail end of a playlist mostly made up of rock from the former Yugoslavian republics.

Googling this band reveals that they sing in a dialect called Yibin.

I thought I heard a final consonant stop at 0:57-58 and 1:10 but I imagine that's a mishearing as the Wikipedia entry for Sichuan dialect does not list any consonant stops as possible finals. Also, as someone who doesn't know Mandarin, I fear this could be standard Mandarin without my knowing it. That said, when I try to match the first few words, what they rap doesn't quite match the printed lyric, and in particular, the character for the number one appears in the printed lyric and I'm hearing something that sounds like the number one in Cantonese and not in standard Mandarin.

(I took three semesters of Cantonese but never became fluent.)

I couldn't find this on YouTube and hope you either have streaming or know someone who can stream this for you.  Hope you can find and enjoy this.

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Mighty Maithili, monstrous Mandarin

In case you're in need of some intensely elegiac and panegyric reading material, this lovely volume just might fit the bill:

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Webster’s Second and Webster’s Third: Editors going against stereotype

One of the most well-known pieces of lexicographic history is the controversy that greeted the publication of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Whereas the predecessor of W3, Webster’s Second New etc., had been regarded as authoritatively prescriptive, W3 was condemned in the popular media for its descriptive approach, the widespread perception of which can be boiled down to “anything goes.” (For the details, see The Story of Webster’s Third by Herbert Morton and The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner.)

I recently came across two articles that seem to be largely unknown but deserve wider attention— one by the General Editor of W2 (Thomas Knott), and the other by the Editor-in-Chief of W3 (Philip Gove). Each article is notable by itself because it fleshes out the author’s attitude toward usage and correctness, and does so in a way that undermines the stereotype that is associated with the dictionary each one worked on. And when the two articles are considered together, they suggest that despite the very different reputation of the two dictionaries, the authors’ attitudes toward usage and correctness probably weren’t far apart.

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Easy to Laugh

My friend James Cathey sent me an eyebrow-raiser this morning: “Here is a sentence that stopped me in my tracks: "Robinson, who has a warm voice and is easy to laugh, has a way of setting the record straight …"   (TIME: March 12, 2018, p. 50)"

Jim says he could never say "is easy to laugh" in any context that he can think of, and asks “What is going on here?”

I could never say that either, but then I was also surprised at some of the meanings Russian reflexives (and Polish, etc) can have — not only reflexive, reciprocal, and 'unaccusative' (the door opened, etc), but also transitives with missing object and a 'habitual' meaning — I heard it used standardly for 'that dog bites'.

So “easy to laugh” feels to me not totally impossible, and maybe related to the connection between 'These plates break easily' from a transitive and 'He laughs easily' from an intransitive. In the literature I've seen plenty of discussion of the 'break easily' cases and don't remember seeing any of the 'laugh easily' cases.

Maybe also relevant that “laughable” is one of the relatively few -able words formed from an intransitive? But the sense of “laughable” is very different, seems related to a transitive ‘laugh at’ sense, whereas this one is clearly based on intransitive ‘laugh’.

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Anti-MSM sentiment in Sichuan

Photograph of a slide shown during a lecture at a university in Sichuan:

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"Projects we need financed": Pittsburghian?

My Wall Street Journal column this week looks at the history of the word rider, inspired by Frances McDormand's cryptic use of the phrase "inclusion rider" at the end of her acceptance speech at the Oscars on Sunday, after she won the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. (Link to WSJ column here — if paywalled, follow my Twitter link here.) But just before she got to "inclusion rider," McDormand offered another linguistically intriguing nugget. Here's how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported it:

On Sunday, she asked all of the women nominees in Hollywood's Dolby Theatre to stand and reminded them to tell their stories.
Laughing, she said in the Pittsburgh vernacular, "Look around ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed." 

You can hear the relevant bit at the end of this clip.

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