Archive for Writing systems

Kanji as commodity

On Friday, April 27, I participated in "Seeking a Future for East Asia’s Past:  A Workshop on Sinographic Sphere Studies" at Boston University.  Among the participants was Terry Kawashima who talked about the commodification and fetishization of kanji.  The following paragraphs are a revised version of a portion of her remarks:

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Graphic antipairs

Currently on the internet in China, there is a flurry of discussion on characters that are mirror, flipped, reversed, or inverted images of each other.  Here are some of the examples that have been cited (except for the last two sets, which were added by me to illustrate other types of minimal differences):

chǎng 厂 ("factory") || yí, 乁, ancient form of yí 移 ("move; shift") or 及 ("and; reach to")

piàn 片 ("sheet; piece; slice") || pán 爿 ("half of a tree trunk")

yù 玉 ("jade") || sù 玊 ("jade with a blemish; a jade worker; a surname")

chì 翅 ("wing; fin") || chì 翄 ("wing; fin"), a variant of chì 翅 ("wing; fin")!!

chǎng 昶 ("bright; long day; expansive; surname") ||  ǎi 昹 ("name of a star")

zè 仄 ("narrow; oblique tones in prosody; a feeling of unease") || wáng 亾 ("death; destroyed; lost perished"), an early variant of wáng 亡; another early variant is 兦

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German with pseudo-Vietnamese diacritics

Klaus Nuber spotted this poster of an ad in Germany with German text spruced up with Vietnamese diacritics:

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Mighty Maithili, monstrous Mandarin

In case you're in need of some intensely elegiac and panegyric reading material, this lovely volume just might fit the bill:

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Pinyin for daily use

Self-explanatory screen shot:

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Multilingual tea packaging

David Langeneckert thought that I "might find this mashup of languages interesting", and indeed I do!

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Writing topolects with Chinese characters

While Chinese characters are inimical to the full writing of the topolects, they occasionally can be used to convey a sense of certain aspects of various local or regional forms of speech.

Here are some examples from the Northeast / Dongbei:

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Another use for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols

A couple of weeks ago, we asked:  "The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?" (3/12/18)

The general response to that post was no, not by a long shot.

Now, in addition to all the other things one can do with bopomofo, one can use it to confound PRC trolls, as described in this article in Chinese.

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Naming Nihonium

The naming of the recently discovered synthetic chemical element Nihonium offers an interesting opportunity to reflect upon the policies, practices, and principles of scientific terminology.  Nihonium has the atomic number 113.  It was first reported to have been created in 2003, but it did not have a formal name until November, 2016, when "nihonium" was made official.

"Nihonium" is an internationally recognized term, but what is it called in various languages having diverse phonological and scriptal characteristics?

French — Nihonium

German — Nihonium

Italian — Nihonio

Spanish — Nihonio

Vietnamese — Nihoni

Russian — Nikhoniĭ Нихоний

Japanese — Nihoniumu ニホニウム

Korean — Nihonyum 니호늄

Chinese — Nǐ 鉨

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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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