Archive for Diglossia and digraphia

Katakana in Australia

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Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago:

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Pinyin as subversive subtext

B JS sent in this interesting example of using Pinyin ("spelling") as a subtext for notional meaning rendered in characters from Baidu tieba [Post Bar] (though sometimes when I look for this post it seems to get scrubbed by the censors):

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PiaPiaPia

As soon as I saw the reports about the mobile PaPaPa vans roaming the streets of Chengdu (see "PaPaPa" [2/15/17]), I immediately thought of a similar expression with a similar meaning that I heard forty years ago.  On that occasion, someone described to me the actions of a man who was trying (unsuccessfully) to get an erection as "PiaPiaPia".  Since that was the first time I had heard that expression, I didn't know for sure what it meant, but I could pretty well guess.

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PaPaPa

My, my! What does the signage on this van in Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China) say?

From: "Chinese firm ordered to remove sexually suggestive Valentine’s Day advertisements" (SCMP, 2/15/17).

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A trilingual, biscriptal note (with emoji)

Message in a store window @ 826 Valencia, San Francisco:

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Why electronic machine translation services sometimes seem to fail

The inability of Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Baidu Fanyi, and other translation services to correctly render jī nián dàjí 鸡年大吉 ("may the / your year of the chicken be greatly auspicious!") in various languages points up a vital distinction that I have long wanted to make, and now is as good a time as ever.  Namely, just as you could not expect these translation services to handle Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, etc. (unless specifically and separately programmed to do so), we should not expect them to deal with Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese (LS / CC).

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Aravrit

Speaking of biscriptalism, Guy Almog called my attention to an interesting project called Aravrit (that is, Arabic + Hebrew [ivrit]).

From the home page:

Aravrit is a project of utopian nature. It presents a set of hybrid letters merging Hebrew and Arabic.

This new writing system is composed of an Arabic letter on the upper half and a Hebrew letter on the bottom half. The characteristic features of each letter were retained, however in both languages the fusion required some compromises to be made, yet maintaining readability and with limited detriment to the original script. In Aravrit, one can read the language he/she chooses, without ignoring the other one, which is always present.

Judging from Aravrit's Facebook page, many of the details of this new, hybrid script were inspired by features found on Yemenite manuscripts.

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Pure Pinyin

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.

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A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters, part 2

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:

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Pinyin memoirs

Chang Li-ching (my wife) wrote her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin):

Pīnyīn Rìjì Duǎnwén (Pinyin Diary Essays).

Li-ching specifically did NOT want her memoirs published in hanzi (Chinese characters).  She was passionately devoted to farmers and workers — like John DeFrancis — and she wrote her memoirs in Pinyin as a testimony of her devotion to them.

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Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender

From B JS:

Some interesting uses of the Roman letter third person pronoun “TA” to sidestep genders associated with the characters tā 他 ("he") and tā 她 ("she"); it seems useful enough to perhaps become a permanent fixture in the language, in contrast to more faddish-seeming things like “duang” (see here and here).  I kind of wish you could do this in English.

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The uses of Hanyu pinyin

Hànyǔ pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic Spelling") is the official romanization of the PRC.  It also comes with an official orthography which provides guidelines for word separation, punctuation, and how to deal with grammatical constructions.  An English translation of the basic orthographical rules by John Rohsenow can be found at the back of the various editions of the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from the University of Hawai'i Press.

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