Archive for Transcription

Devilishly difficult "dialect"

Are some languages innately more difficult than others?  In "Difficult languages" (1/2/10), Bill Poser addressed this question from various angles.  I've heard it said that Georgian is incredibly difficult because it possesses an "impossible" verbal system, has ergativity and other features that make for "interesting" learning, and so forth.  Yet, in comparison with some of the North Caucasian languages (whose relationship to K'art'velian [or South Caucasian], the language family to which Georgian belongs — along with Svan, Chan/Megrelian/Mingrelian/Laz, is perhaps more an areal phenomenon than a genetic relationship), it is relatively simple. The North Caucasian languages have an abundance of phonemes and an even more complex grammatical system.  John Colarusso has written an excellent grammar of Kabardinian, which gives a good idea of the complexity of this Northwest Caucasian language.

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Printing error on a Chinese lunch delivery bag

Eric Pelzl sent in this photograph of a bag from a lunch delivery that contains an interesting printing error:

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Rōmaji dialog between "bread" and "tea"

The following photograph shows a chalkboard sign inside of a Kobe cafe that is entirely written in rōmaji (Roman letters), with superscript 2s representing reduplication:

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The politics of multilingualism in Hong Kong

The following article by Danny Mok appeared in today's South China Morning Post:

"Police? Jing Cha? Altered helmet may spell 'trouble' for city policeman" (5/19/15)

The article commenced with this photograph:

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Bopomofo vs. Pinyin

There has been a considerable amount of discussion concerning the relative merits of bopomofo and Pinyin in Taiwan in recent weeks.  A typical article in this vein is "Fèi zhùyīn fúhào jiàoxué, zǎo xué duōzhǒng pīnyīn xìtǒng 廢注音符號教學,早學多種拼音系統" ("Abandon teaching in Mandarin Phonetic Symbols; learn a variety of alphabetical systems from a young age") in Xiǎngxiǎng 想想 ("Thinking-Taiwan") (4/24/15).

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A proliferation of hyphens

In comments to "Suffer the consequences " (4/19/15), Jongseong Park and Bob Ramsey bemoaned what they considered to be the overuse of hyphens in the transliteration of Hangeul.  In a later comment, I explained that the hyphens between virtually all syllables in the transliterations were due to the Hangeul converter we've been using, which automatically inserts them.  In the future, we'll try to remove most of the hyphens.

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How to pronounce the surname "Tsien"

A prominent scholar of early Chinese writing and books at the University of Chicago recently passed away:

"T.H. Tsien, Scholar of Chinese Written Word, Dies at 105" (4/19/15)

The New York Times "pronouncer" for "Tsien" is "chee-AHN".  That is very far from the mark.  Even for those who are not familiar with the niceties of Chinese consonants and vowels, "chee-AHN" doesn't sound remotely right because "Tsien" (like the vast majority of Chinese surnames) is one syllable, but "chee-AHN" makes it seem to have two syllables.  Moreover, Chinese is tonal, whereas the "AHN" of the pronouncer makes it seem to have emphasis on the second, (non-existent) syllable.

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Japanese cocktail list

Tim Leonard sent in this most intriguing Japanese cocktail list, spotted by Regular Sandwiches:

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More on "duang"

A couple of weeks ago, we had an extensive discussion of Jackie Chan's famous expostulation about the wondrous effect of his shampoo that went viral on the Chinese internet.

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Digraphia and intentional miswriting

I received the following message from David Moser on 6/2/11, but it got lost in my inbox until just now when I was able to retrieve it while cleaning out a bunch of old and unwanted messages:

Wow, talk about digraphia!  I just got this text message on my cell phone here in Beijing:

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Asian (con)fusion

Michael Robinson sent in the following photograph of a restaurant which I believe is in the Inner Richmond section of San Francisco:

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Zhou Youguang, 109 and going strong

A year ago, I wrote "Zhou Youguang, Father of Pinyin" (1/14/14) to celebrate Zhou xiansheng's 108th birthday and his many accomplishments in language reform and applied linguistics.  Included in that post were a portrait of ZYG in his study and numerous links concerning the man and his works.

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Fat shaming (?) in Rōmaji

Nathan Hopson found this poster hanging up all over student bulletin boards at Nagoya University in Japan:

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