Archive for Writing systems

A new, complex polysyllabic kanji

We've seen many a polysyllabic Sinograph on Language Log (check the Readings below).  The one presented here is perhaps more creative and intriguing than any previously encountered:

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Sinographs for "tea"

It is common for Chinese to claim that their ancestors have been drinking tea for five thousand years, as with so many other aspects of their culture.  I always had my doubts about that supposed hoary antiquity, and after many years of research, Erling Hoh and I wrote a book on the subject titled The True History of Tea (Thames & Hudson, 2009) in which we showed that tea-drinking did not become common in the East Asian Heartland until after the mid-8th century AD, when Lu Yu (733-804) wrote his groundbreaking Classic of Tea (ca. 760-762) describing and legitimizing the infusion.

Since people in the Chinese heartland were not regularly drinking Camellia sinensis qua tea before the mid-8th century, I long suspected that they did not have a Sinograph for tea (MSM chá) either.  Rather, based on my reading of texts and inscriptions dating from the 7th c. AD and earlier, I hypothesized that the character now used for "tea", namely chá 茶, was a sort of rebranding (by removing one tiny horizontal stroke) of another character, tú 荼 ("bitter vegetable").

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Visual puns in K-pop

The newest release from K-pop group Apink is called "Eung Eung", written %%.

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Sino-English graphic tour de force

Jeff DeMarco saw this on Facebook:

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Creeping Romanization in Chinese, part 4

Overheard

After a race, one Beijing marathon runner asks another:

pb le méiyǒu  pb了沒有…? ("did you meet / match / make your personal best?")

méiyǒu 沒有 ("no")

wǒ de pb shì… 我的pb是… ("my personal best is…")

I don't even know if "pb" is used this way in English, but such usage of Romanization (abbreviations, words, phrases), which often amounts to Englishization, are widespread in China, particularly on social media.

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"Hong Kong is (not) China"

From the Los Angeles Loyolan, the student newspaper of Loyola Marymount University:

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Really weird sinographs, part 4

A video introducing 70 obscure Chinese characters (shēngpì zì 生僻字):

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A new Sinograph

On being ugly and poor, with an added note on consumerism.

Every so often, for one reason or another, somebody creates a completely new Chinese character.  Here's the latest:

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The wrong way to write Chinese characters

This is one of the best, general, brief introductions to the challenges of the Chinese writing system I know of:

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Xina

Lately, since Xi Jinping made himself President for Life of the People's Republic of China, wags and wits have taken to calling the country over which he rules "Xina".

It turns out that this is the Catalan word for "China".  Curious to know how Xina is pronounced in Catalan, I looked it up on Wiktionary:

  • Balearic, Central /ˈʃi.nə/
  • Valencian /ˈt͡ʃi.na/

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Creeping Romanization in Chinese, part 3

A highly educated Chinese colleague sent me the following note:

More Chinese phrases with Latin alphabet, such as C位, diss, etc. have become quite popular. Even one of my friends who is so intoxicated by the beauty of the Chinese classic language used "diss" in her WeChat post. She could have used any of the Chinese words such as wǔrǔ 侮辱 or dǐhuǐ 诋毁 to express her idea, but she chose "diss" instead. It was quite a surprise. I feel reluctant to use this kind of word, especially in writing.

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Of knots, pimples, and Sinitic reconstructions

A couple of months ago, we talked about gēda 疙瘩, which is one of those very cool, two syllable Sinitic words, neither of whose syllables means anything by itself (i.e., not only is it a disyllabic lexeme, it is also a disyllabic morpheme).  Furthermore, gēda 疙瘩 is highly polysemous, with the following meanings:  "pimple; knot; swelling on the skin; lump; nodule; blotch; a knot in one's body or heart (–> hangup; problem; preoccupation)".

See "Too hard to translate soup" (9/2/18).

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Writing characters and writing letters

A few days ago, I wrote the following titles on the blackboard in my "Poetry and Prose" class:

Dà Táng Sānzàng qǔjīng shīhuà 大唐三藏取經詩話 (Poetic Tale of Tripitaka of the Great Tang Fetching Scriptures)

Yóuxiān kū 遊仙窟 (The Grotto of Playful Transcendants)

Guānshìyīn yìngyàn jì 觀世音應驗記 (Records of the Verifications of Responses by Avalokiteśvara)

As I was rapidly writing the strokes of the characters — click click click tick tick tack tack click clack tick tack — I suddenly became aware of how different the writing sounded from when I write something in Roman letters.  Not only did writing characters sound very different from the way writing letters sounds, the two types of script have a very different kinetic feel to them.

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