Archive for Writing systems

The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?

Just as all school children in the PRC learn to read and write through Hanyu Pinyin ("Sinitic spelling"), the official romanization on the mainland, so do all school children in Taiwan learn to read and write with the aid of what is commonly referred to as "Bopomofo ㄅㄆㄇㄈ "), after the first four letters of this semisyllabary.  The system has many other names, including "Zhùyīn fúhào 注音符號" ("[Mandarin] Phonetic Symbols"), its current formal designation, as well as earlier names such as Guóyīn Zìmǔ 國音字母 ("Phonetic Alphabet of the National Language") and Zhùyīn Zìmǔ 註音字母 ( "Phonetic Alphabet" or "Annotated Phonetic Letters").  From the plethora of names, you can get an idea of what sort of system it is.  I usually think of it as a cross between an alphabet and a syllabary.

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Characterless future

Browser extensions sometimes can cause unexpected problems, e.g.:

"The Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks" (3/7/18).

Often, however, they can be very helpful if they do what you want them to do.

Jonathan Smith writes:

Do you use the web browser Chrome? If so try adding the extension "Convert Chinese to Pinyin (Mand)". It does a decent job converting Chinese-language web pages to word-spaced pinyin (with tone marks if desired) so one can pretend one lives in a characterless future :D

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Of dogs and Old Sinitic reconstructions

At the conclusion of "Barking roosters and crowing dogs" (2/18/18), I promised a more philologically oriented post to celebrate the advent of the lunar year of the dog.  This is it.  Concurrently, it is part of this long running series on Old Sinitic and Indo-European comparative reconstructions:

I will launch into this post with the following simple prefatory statement:

Half a century ago, the first time I encountered the Old Sinitic reconstruction of Mandarin quǎn 犬 ("dog"), Karlgren GSR 479 *k'iwən, I suspected that it might be related to an Indo-European word cognate with "canine" [<PIE *kwon-]).

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Hey Geoff (Pullum),…

In MS Word, buried deep in File|Options|Advanced|Compatibility Options|Layout is the option to check 'Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does'". If you use full justification, your document will look ugly unless you check that box.

Does that qualify as a form of nerdview?

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Precious Isle Taiwan

From the Twitter account of @zhaoxunlinghun:

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Taiwan independence posters in polysyllabic characters

Lisa in Toronto found these posters in Taipei at Cafe Macho in November. They say #newyearnewnation in one corner.

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Bilingual, biscriptal sign in Virginia

Sticker at a gas station near the Richmond airport, courtesy of Jonathan Smith:

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Ottoman Hebrew scroll

Or so it would seem, but the people who have looked at this scroll so far cannot make much sense of what's written on it.

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Chinese Communist Party biscriptalism

Hard core communist journal for Party members gets hip with English in the title of an article:

"@中共党员:  你该get的精神品质和追求!" (Qiúshì 求是 ["Seeking Truth"], 2018, #3)

I will translate and explicate the title fully below.  For the moment, it needs to be emphasized that this article was published in the CCP's leading theoretical journal, Qiúshì 求是 ("Seeking Truth"), which is said to be "yòu hóng yòu zhuān 又红又专 ("both red and expert", i.e., "both socialist-minded and professionally competent"). It appears in "Dǎodú 导读" ("Guided reading"), a column on the official website of the journal.  As far as communism in China goes, you can't get more serious than this.

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Tangut workshop at Yale

On the weekend of January 19-20, 2018, there was a Tangut Workshop at Yale University.  Organized by Valerie Hansen and sponsored by the Yale Council of East Asian Studies, this was an intense, exciting learning experience for the 35 or so people who were in the room most of the time.

Many readers may be scratching their heads and asking, "Tangut?  What's that?  And why should we at Language Log be concerned with it?"

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Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 4

Screenshot from Nikita Kuzmin's WeChat:

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Language vigilantism

In "The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language:  As new lingo springs up and grammatical errors persist, one magazine is battling to maintain linguistic standards", Yin Yijun (Sixth Tone [1/19/18]) describes an unusual PRC journal:

Shanghai-based Yaowen Jiaozi — whose name literally translates as “biting phrases and chewing characters” — was established in 1995 and operates under the slogan: “Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously. Over the past 20 years, the magazine has amassed a long list of mistakes, from a nearly unnoticeable Chinese character error on a chopstick wrapper, to a series of mistakes author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan made in his award-winning works.

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Further evidence of mixed script writing in Chinese

Michael Cannings relayed this tweet by Dave Flynn:

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