Archive for Transcription

Missing G's

Michael Cannings sent in this photograph of a package of shelf mushrooms aka bracket fungi used in Chinese traditional medicine:

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"Sherlock Holmes" and "clubfoot" in Chinese

Over at China Economic Review, Hudson Lockett has written an interesting piece worthy of the celebrated British sleuth:

"The game is afoot! Why Chinese Sherlock fans are as confused as everyone else" (1/3/16)

It's all about how the Chinese term — mǎtí nèifān zú 马蹄内翻足 — for a congenital deformity referred to in English as "clubfoot" (talipes equinovarus [CTEV]) figures in the "slaveringly awaited"

New Year’s Day special episode of the series starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Chinese names for the Lena River

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

The usual Chinese name for the Lena River is 勒拿河 Lèná hé. That's not a particularly felicitous transcription. Lèná rhymes with 圣赫勒拿 Shèng Hèlèná i.e. St Helena; it fails to reflect the palatalisation of the l in the Russian name. An alternative name transcribes the syllable ле with 列 liè, following the usual practice.

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Still more on "Daesh"

After Tim Friese's comment at the end of our last post on Daesh, I almost didn't want to think about the word again, much less write about it.  But then I came across this article by Matthew Weaver in The Guardian:

"Syria debate: the linguistic battle over what to call Islamic State.  David Cameron has started calling the group Daesh – a name based on a derogatory Arabic acronym – leading to heated exchanges among MPs" (12/2/15)

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More on "Daesh"

We've had a recent post on the pronunciation of this lightning rod of a word.

"Pronouncing 'Daesh' " (11/15/15)

From a colleague:

Guthrie's article* states:

"And the vowel which begins the word 'islaamiyya' becomes an 'a' sound when differently positioned in a word, hence the acronym being pronounced 'da’ish' when written in Arabic, and  the 'a' coming over into our transliteration of the acronym."

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Tibetan –> Chinese –> Chinglish, ch. 2

This is a sequel to "Tibetan –> Chinese –> Chinglish " (11/11/15).

(‘Alone, Popecity’ 独克宗, a street sign on National Highway 214 at the entrance to Shangri-La, 2015. Photo: William Ratz)

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Phonetikana

On the DramaFever website, Brendan Fitzgibbons has an interesting article that shows how "New font lets anyone learn Japanese" (10/17/14):

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Pinyin spam text message

From David Moser:

Just got this spam text, all in pinyin, to avoid spam detectors. The usual spam offering fake certificates and chops, plus their Weixin contact. What's novel is the tone markings, don't see that very often.

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Global imaginary Chinese

Two or three days ago, I received the following call for papers:

"CFP The Chinese Script and its Global Imaginary" (H-Asia 10/7/15)

This is for a conference that will be held in New Zealand on April 1, 2016.  Perhaps they do not celebrate April Fools' Day in New Zealand.  Otherwise, I would have wondered whether this were some sort of hoax.

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"Academician who survived Stalin's purges… fish"

Dmitriy Genzel sent in this photograph of an item on a Chinese menu:


(From here.)

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Sound rules

Stephen Halsey, who is spending the year in Taiwan doing research, observed an interesting linguistic phenomenon that shows the predominance of sound over symbol, even in the writing of Chinese, where the symbols are complex and semantically "heavy" in comparison to phonetic scripts like the Roman alphabet or bopomofo / zhuyin fuhao (Mandarin phonetic symbols), where the symbols are simple and semantically "light".

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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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