Archive for Writing systems

Ken Liu reinvents Chinese characters

In "Inside the world of Chinese science fiction, with 'Three Body Problem' translator Ken Liu" (Quartz, 12/2/16), Nikhil Sonnad conducts an interview with the sci-fi author and translator of the Sān tǐ 三体 (Three-Body [Problem]) series by Liú Cíxīn 刘慈欣.

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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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Apostrophe in Hebrew

We've already looked at the use of an apostrophe in Hangul.  Now Wendy Heller has sent in this photograph of a shop sign in Haifa, Israel:

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Language vs. script

Many of the debates over Chinese language issues that keep coming up on Language Log and elsewhere may be attributed to a small number of basic misunderstandings and disagreements concerning the relationship between speech and writing.

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Intriguing Chinese sign spotted in London

From Donald Clarke:

The sign seems straightforwardly to be a warning that this is a "dangerous construction site".  The more you look at it, however, the more questions arise.

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Love Love Rock

The Love Love Rock festival, a music event in Xindian, New Taipei City, uses an interesting version of the character aì 愛 ("love") for its branding.  Certain elements of the character are duplicated (and some reversed) to convey the double 愛 (aìaì).

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Chinese typewriter redux

We have looked at the Chinese typewriter again and again:

"Chinese Typewriter" (6/30/09)

"Chinese typewriter, part 2" (4/17/11)

"Chinese character inputting" (10/17/15)

By now we are thoroughly familiar with this unwieldy contraption.  Given that it has long since been consigned to the museum, where it properly belongs, it is strange that some folks continue to tout it as the wave of the future in information processing.

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Yet another polysyllabic Chinese character

Via Jason Cox, a Facebook post by Pochung Pektiong Chen:

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Changing fashions in Chinese names

This morning, an instructor in Jiangsu province, who has been teaching Chinese Culture in college English classes for 12 years and has also been giving lectures on Chinese Culture to international students, wrote to ask about the possibility of becoming a visiting scholar at Penn for half a year.  She introduced herself to me as Lǐ Fǔluòwá 李甫洛娃.  Her name threw me for a loop.

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Paleographers, riches await you!

"Hefty award offered for deciphering oracle bone characters" (China Daily, 10/28/16):

The National Museum of Chinese Writing on Thursday launched an award program to encourage people from around the world to help decipher oracle bone inscriptions.

According to the museum based in Anyang City in central China's Henan Province, where oracle bones and script were discovered from the Ruins of Yin over 110 years ago, the program will offer 100,000 yuan ($14,700) for each unknown character to be deciphered.

Inscriptions on tortoise shells and animal bones represent the original characters of the Chinese written language. They date back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).

Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used writing system in the world. The logograms convey both meaning and pronunciation.

To date, archaeologists around the world have discovered some 4,000 bone inscription characters by studying 160,000 relics, but only 1,600 of the characters have been deciphered.

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How many more Chinese characters are needed?

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.

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More old names for Singapore

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.

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Pinyin in the kitchen

[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.

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