Archive for Names

Questionable Sino-Mongolian toponymy

News article from Xinhua (1/16/18, by Quan Xiaoshu, Qu Ting, Cao Pengyuan):

"Ancient tripartite-city of Xiongnu a special religious and meeting site: archaeologists"

It starts:

The ruins of an ancient tripartite-city, known as Sanlian City, in midwest Mongolia's Khermental City, demonstrates that the Xiongnu tribe used to perform religious ceremonies and hold alliance meetings there.

Bathrobe comments:

Now, it may be due to my poor web research skills, but I'm having considerable difficulty finding any Sanlian city or even a Khermental city in Mongolia outside of the Xinhua news article.

Is this another mangled news story where Chinese news reporters are too incompetent (or maybe arrogant) to check the names of geographical places outside of China? I'm also wondering at the thickskinned-ness of calling the archaeological site of a non-Chinese culture in a foreign country by a name so transparently Chinese as "Sanlian".

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Ask Language Log: Are East Asian first names gendered?

The question comes from George Amis:

I wonder– are first names gendered in Mandarin?  That is, is it possible to tell that Tse-tung or Wai-wai are masculine names? Given the extraordinary proliferation of Chinese first names, I rather doubt it. And what is the case with Japanese first names? Here, I suspect that the names are gendered, although of course I don't know.

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The Last Lesson — in Mongolian

The Chinese government has prohibited  Mongolian language instruction in all schools in the Mongolian areas of Xinjiang:  "Southern Mongolia: Instruction in Mongolian Language Banned in All Schools", Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization (1/3/18).

The last school in the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to provide education in the Mongolian language, the Bayangol No. 3 High School, has banned its usage as language of instruction. According to the region’s Education Department, the ethnic language can be offered as an elective course, but all main courses must be taught in Chinese. This clearly demonstrates that bilingual education is no longer existent which sparked further outrage when articles and internet posts discussing this situation were removed by Chinese authorities. Southern Mongolians are deeply concerned and outraged by this as they feel their nation is being reduced to a Chinese colony.

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If you can't say something nice…

This is a guest post by Kirby Conrod.

[Note from Mark Liberman: Kirby Conrod seriously misinterprets (and/or misrepresents) the post they attack, and makes false assertions about its author's opinions and practices. Eric Bakovic should have recognized this, and it was wrong for him to have posted the piece rather than trying to remedy the misunderstandings privately. See "Courtesy and personal pronoun choice", 12/6/2017, and "Linguists and change", 12/15/2017, for an attempt to balance the scales.]


I'm sorry to see that the venerable Geoff Pullum is so desperately behind the times. I don't mean to be snarky, I genuinely am sad about it. It's not just a matter of being un-hip to the cool new language change in progress (singular "they" is making inroads syntactically in the types of antecedents speakers will use it with), but rather a methodological and disciplinary unhipness that really makes me feel bad.

First, let me address the rudeness: if a senior colleague of mine pulled this kind of self-conscious "he is–sorry, they are" on me in a professional setting, I'd file a complaint. If they did it in a casual setting, I'd have a nasty word for them. That's the kind of snide, intentional misgendering that I am not okay with. In writing, Pullum clearly has the ability to force a use of "they" even if he finds it distasteful. To do otherwise is profoundly disrespectful and borderline hostile, even as a supposedly self-effacing joke about his own grammar. It would've been easy to make the point of his difficulty in writing that sentence without using the wrong pronoun for anyone–and Pullum should seriously self-interrogate on why he thinks "he" would have been the alternative, anyways.

With that out of the way, I'll go into the linguistics first, then the methods.

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A letter saying they won

Evidence continues to pile up that singular they is naturally used in standard English whenever the antecedent is indefinite or quantifier-like (not a personal name, for example) and the sex of whoever it might turn out to identify is completely immaterial. My correspondent Daniel Sterman thought, and I thought too, that there was evidence of this being true now even in the writing of journalists. Sterman spotted this in an article by John Bowden, writing in The Hill, concerning Temple University PhD candidate Phillip Garcia, who has won the position of judge of election in Ward 21, Division 10, Philadelphia:

A Philadelphia resident was shocked to receive a letter Friday saying they won an election earlier in the month — apparently because no one else cast a vote.

"I literally yelled 'what the hell' when I opened the letter," Phillip Garcia told The Hill. "I've written my name in a few times during elections when no one else is listed for a position. It's just been a thing I do, with no expectation of, like, actually making an impact on the vote."

But we were wrong here (this post has been corrected in the past hour).

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Trumpchi, the car

Now comes news of a Chinese car with an unusual name that is aiming to enter the American market:

"China to Export Trumpchi Cars to U.S., Maybe With a New Name", by Keith Bradsher, NYT (11/17/17).

GUANGZHOU, China — The cars are called Trumpchi (though their Chinese maker insists the name is just a coincidence).

Various models of Trumpchi cars have been motoring down Chinese roads for the past seven years. But even after the United States elected a real estate tycoon with a similar name as president, the world ignored them.

But if the distinctive Trumpchi name has nothing to do with that of our President, where in the world did it come from?

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How to pronounce the name of the president of Catalonia

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Guys and gals: Or, why the "Chinese" are called "Han"

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi 汉子" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn 汉 / 漢" and some of the many collocations into which it enters.

To situate Language Log readers with some basic terms they likely already know, we may begin with Hànyǔ 汉语 ("Sinitic", lit., "Han language"), Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic spelling"), and Hànzì 汉字 ("Sinograph, Sinogram", i.e., "Chinese character").  All of these terms incorporate, as their initial element, the morpheme "Hàn 汉 / 漢".  Where does it come from, and what does it mean?

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East Asian Trumponyms

Last year, we looked at various transcriptions of Trump's surname:

Now, in "Why China Won’t Pressure North Korea as Much as Trump Wants," New Yorker (Sept. 19, 2017), Evan Osnos writes:

Chinese intellectuals have taken to joking that “Telangpu”—which is one of the Chinese pronunciations of Trump’s name—sounds like “te meipu,” which means clueless or lacking a plan.

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Bichetr

Receipt for yesterday's lunch:

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Hurricane naming policy change

I think it's becoming clear that alternating male and female personal names to individuate Atlantic tropical cyclones is not a good idea. These storms are becoming far too nasty. Calling a storm "Harvey" makes it sound like your friendly uncle who always comes over on the Fourth of July and flirts with your mom. And "Irma" sounds like a dancer that he once knew when he was in Berlin. Science tells us that these devastating meteorological events are probably going to get worse in coming years. (Ann Coulter says that as a potential cause of increased violence in hurricanes, climate change is less plausible than God's anger at Houston for having elected a lesbian mayor; but let's face it, Ann Coulter is a few bricks short of a full intellectual hod.) Hurricanes need uglier names. You can't get Miami to evacuate by telling people that "Irma" is coming.

Accordingly, next year the National Hurricane Center is planning to name tropical cyclonic storms and hurricanes after unpleasant diseases and medical conditions. Think about it. The state governor tells you a hurricane named Dracunculiasis is coming down on you, you're gonna start packing the station wagon. So as the season progresses, the following will be the named storms in 2018.

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Me So Hungry

Do Victor's posts stoke your appetite for fine foods? Feast on these:

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"Donald" in Scottish Gaelic

A one-second audio of "Dòmhnall".

It's the <mh> that nasalizes the vowel. Supposedly this nasalizing effect is still found in some Irish Gaelic.

If you have 4 minutes, a great animation of a folktale in Nova Scotia Gaelic with a main character named "Dòmhnall". Very peculiar sounding!

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