Archive for Writing systems

Roman letter shapes in Japanese

[A guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Recently, I encountered two examples of the intriguing use of roman letters in Japanese to describe various shapes and parts of the nether regions of human anatomy.

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Miswritten character on a Tokyo Metro sign

From Matthew Duggan:

As a Tokyo resident, I take an interest in the failing ability of those in China and Japan to write and distinguish characters due to computer use. [VHM:  See, inter alia, here, here, here, here, and here.]

I could write 1,000 characters at my peak, but with constant computer use I’m down to my address and a few other common ones.

 In that spirit, I thought you might like this news story.

The story Matthew linked to is in Japanese, but it features these two (perhaps not so) revealing photographs:

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Sino-Nipponica

Back in mid-December, 2013, I started assembling materials for a post about the differences between Chinese and Japanese writing.  I think that someone (I forget who) sent me a couple of links that stimulated me to think about this topic, and then I added some things of my own.  That was about as far as I got, though, so the would-be post was filed away in my drafts folder until I stumbled upon it today.

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Pinyin with Chinese characters

Matt Keefe came across this sign on a San Francisco streetcar in April:

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Pinyin without Chinese characters

Occasionally one encounters pinyin with no hanzi (Chinese characters); see at the bottom of this photograph taken by Randy Alexander at a small mall right across from the main entrance to Xiamen (Amoy) University:

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Using Sinitic characters in Korea

S. Robert Ramsey is professor of East Asian linguistics at the University of Maryland and author of the excellent book titled The Languages of China.  I often consult with Bob on matters pertaining to Korean and Japanese; he is a reliable source of information on these languages as well as on Chinese in its many varieties — both in their current circumstances and with regard to their historical evolution.

In a recent communication, Bob described a ceremony he attended in Seoul.  Since it touches on a subject that we have often discussed on Language Log — digraphia — I thought that I'd share it with colleagues here.

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Multiscriptal graffiti in Berlin

Gábor Ugray took this photo last week outside a Turkish-run Italian restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, a diverse mix between run-down and hip:

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A Dartmouth grad's contribution to the development of Hangul

The current issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine includes an article by Karl Schutz and Jun Bum Sun that made me sit bolt upright:

"The Chosŏn One:  The influence of Homer Hulbert, class of 1884, lives on in a country far from his home" (Jul-Aug, 2015).

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Polysyllabic characters revisited

In "'Double Happiness': symbol of Confucianism as a religion"  (6/8/15), we had a vigorous discussion over how to pronounce this character:  囍 ("double happiness").  Some participants and sources said that it should be pronounced the same as 喜 ("happy; joyful"), i.e., xǐ, while others held that it is pronounced with two syllables as shuāngxǐ.

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Digraphia and bilingualism in a Nissan ad

Photograph of a Chinese ad spotted in a Beijing elevator by David Moser, who also provided much of the analysis that follows:

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Writing English with Chinese characters

Sign on a pet-grooming place in Banqiao, Taiwan (contributed by Mark Swofford):

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Nondifferentiation of -n and -ng

In Shanghai, Tom Mazanec recently came across a listing for a kind of tea called Tiě Guāngyīn 铁光阴 (second from the bottom in the photo), which he thought might be a knockoff of the famous Tiě Guānyīn 铁观音. The picture was taken at a restaurant near Fudan University called Xiǎo Dōngběi 小东北 (the name of the restaurant [Xiǎo Dōngběi sīfang cài 小东北私房菜, at the top of the menu] is rather endearingly translated as "The small northeastern dishes").

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Chinese Telegraph Code (CTC)

Michael Rank has an interesting article on Scribd entitled "Chinese telegram, 1978" (5/22/2015).

It's about a 1978 telegram that he bought on eBay.  Here's a photograph:

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