Archive for Writing systems

More on Chinese telegraph codes

John McVey was rooting around in Language Log for recent posts about telegraphic codes, and stumbled upon this:

"Chinese Telegraph Code (CTC)" (5/24/15)

What we learned there is that the CTC consists of 10,000 numbers arbitrarily assigned to the same amount of characters, one number per character.

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Women's words

In Wired (2/1/16), Liz Stinson has an article titled "This Little Red Book Confronts Sexism in the Chinese Language" (the text is accompanied by a total of 8 slides).

It begins:

Activism can take many forms. In the case of Women’s Words, it takes the form of a little red dictionary. The tiny book is the work of Karmen Hui, Tan Sueh Li, and Tan Zi Hao of Malaysian design collective TypoKaki. On its pages you’ll find made-up words and phrases—Chinese characters that, through their unusual arrangement and alteration, subvert the sexism ingrained in Mandarin.

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The neural basis of Chinese morphological processing

In "Chinese characters and the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis " (1/7/16), we read about experimental results debunking " a myth that Chinese languages were predominantly processed by the right hemisphere, compared with alphabetic languages processed by the left hemisphere…."

Now, a team of scientists from Zaozhuang University, Beijing Normal University, and the University of Illinois have published the results of an experiment that offers additional evidence in favor of these findings:

Lijuan Zou, Jerome L. Packard, Zhichao Xia, Youyi Liu, and Hua Shu, "Neural Correlates of Morphological Processing: Evidence from Chinese", Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 January 2016.

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Inching toward digraphia, with a note on the universality myth

The subject of digraphia in China often comes up in our discussions about the Chinese writing system on Language Log (always be sure to check the comments on the posts, because much good material is often added in them), e.g.:

"Digraphia and intentional miswriting " (3/12/15)

"Substituting Pinyin for unknown Chinese characters " (12/3/13)

"Creeping Romanization in Chinese " (8/30/12)

"Character amnesia and the emergence of digraphia " (9/25/13)

"Dumpling ingredients and character amnesia " (10/18/14)

"Which is worse? " (1/21/16)

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Which is worse?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post with with the title "English or Mandarin as the World Language?" (5/2/14).  The purpose of that post was basically to call attention to Geoff Pullum's fine Lingua Franca article titled "There Was No Committee" (4/30/14).  It was all about English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in non-English-speaking countries, and included a glance at Mandarin as a possible alternative.

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More rare characters in Taiwan

Not too long ago, we looked at some "Difficult Taiwanese characters" (11/8/15).  By "difficult Taiwanese characters", I am referring to sinographs that literate Mandarin speakers are unfamiliar with.

The same situation obtains for Cantonese.  See, for example:

"Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages " (9/25/15)

"Cantonese novels " (8/20/13)

"Hong Kong Multilingualism and Polyscriptalism " (7/26/10)

"Mutual Intelligibility of Sinitic Languages " (3/6/09)

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Both Chinese and Japanese; neither Japanese nor Chinese

An ad for a new product of a Hong Kong cake shop went viral for taking pseudo-Japanese to the extreme:

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Chinese characters and the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis

Report of the results of a study that I've been long awaiting:

"Different languages spark same brain activity: study"

by Chen Wei-han Taipei Times (1/6/16)

TOPIC OF DEBATE:
  An NTNU [National Taiwan Normal University] psychology professor said the results debunk a myth that Chinese and alphabetic languages are processed by different sides of the brain

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Snapshot punishment

Photograph of highway sign from Jinghong (Thai Chiang Rung) in Sibsongbanna / Sipsong Panna / Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, PRC:

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Is it necessary to invent a new Chinese character for "ivory"?

In a recent post, we discussed the creation of hitherto unknown Chinese characters:

"How to generate fake Chinese characters automatically" (12/30/15)

In that post and in other Language Log posts, we have mentioned how artists and language enthusiasts sometimes make completely new characters, whether out of whimsy or out of a genuine felt need (as though there were not already enough characters).

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Diminutives and reduplicatives in Chinese

It would seem natural that all languages have diminutives, but how diminutives are formed in different languages must vary considerably.  In most cases that I'm aware of in Indo-European languages, the addition of a special suffix denoting smallness or connoting endearment is typical, but in other cases there are more complicated mechanisms at play.  The most elaborate system of diminutives I know of is Russian, where common given names are not only made into diminutives in irregular ways, they are then profusely elaborated (with some forms indicating doubled diminutiveness):  thus, Aleksander –> Sasha, Sashka, Sashen'ka, Sashechka, Sanya, Shura, Sashok.  Keeping track of all these variants was always one of the biggest challenges I faced in reading Russian novels.

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How to generate fake Chinese characters automatically

On the otoro blog, there is another amazing article about sinograms:

"Recurrent Net Dreams Up Fake Chinese Characters in Vector Format with TensorFlow" (12/28/15)

I say "another amazing article" because, just a week ago, in "Character building is costly and time consuming" (12/22/15), we looked at a fascinating report on the vast amount of labor necessary to build fonts made up of real Chinese characters.  Basically, the latter report examined the history of Chinese characters and then explained how typographers create new fonts comprising all the characters necessary for printing books, newspapers, magazines, advertising copy, and so forth.

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Use the rest room beautifully

This is a photograph of a sign above a urinal at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies taken by Joseph Williams who was there for a Japanese test.  Besides the Japanglish, it's interesting that spaces are added between the words.  And there are no kanji.

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