Archive for Transcription

A confusion of languages and names

Xinjiang  新疆 (lit., "New Frontiers / Borders / Boundaries") is the northwesternmost and largest (one sixth of the whole country) among all of China's 34 provincial-level administrative units.  It got its present official name in the 1880s under the Manchus during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), but it has also been called, among other names, "Western Regions", Eastern Turkestan, and Uyghurstan.  When suitable, I prefer to refer to this region as Eastern Central Asia (ECA), since the latter designation is purely geographical in nature and has no political implications.

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She calls herself Angelababy

That's what practically everybody else calls her too.

There's a great article by Qian Jinghua in Sixth Tone (Fresh voices from today's China) titled "Call Me Angelababy, Maybe:  Ban on foreign names in Chinese-language press reveals fear of cultural fragility." (6/30/16)

It's about a phenomenally popular 27-year-old actress, model, and singer whose Chinese name is 楊穎, which is read as Yáng Yǐng in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) and Joeng4 Wing6 (conventional spelling Yeung Wing) in Cantonese.  Her father, from Hong Kong, is half Chinese and half German, her mother is Shanghainese.  Yang Ying's stage name, "Angelababy", by which virtually everyone knows her (most people are uncertain about her Chinese name or don't know it at all), comes from a combination of her English name "Angela" and her nickname "Baby".

So what's all the fuss over her name?

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Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 4

The last installment of this series, "Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 3" (6/30/16), contains links to many other Language Log posts relevant to this subject.

It is often difficult to fathom which English word is intended when it is transcribed in Chinese characters.  John Kieschnick called my attention to an especially challenging one:  ěrlílìjǐng 爾釐利景.  Before going on to the next page and before googling it, try to figure out what it is meant to "spell".  Scout's honor!  No peeking!

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Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 3

Hangzhou is handing out “crash course” manuals for residents to chat with international visitors at the G20 Summit in September, complete with Chinese character transcriptions of such beginner’s phrases as “Hangzhou, a paradise on Earth” and “orioles singing in the willows”:


Source

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Transformer Trump

From an anonymous colleague:


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Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 2

Michael Meng, China curator at the Yale University Library, discovered several rare books in Yale's Medical Historical Library that provide important evidence for the development of phoneticization of Chinese characters in the transcription of country names and personal names of foreigners.

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Chinese, Japanese, and Russian signs at Klagenfurt Botanical Gardens

Blake Shedd sent along a series of forty pictures of plant identification signs from the botanical garden in the small southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. He was rather impressed that the botanical garden staff went to the trouble of including non-Latin / non-German names for the plants.  And I was impressed at the remarkable documentation Blake provided by carefully and clearly photographing so many signs with essentially the same lighting and size.  There's no need for him to apologize ("leaning over roped-off areas to get shots resulted in a few blurry or less than ideal shots"). The green leaves appearing at the edges of some of the photographs, which are otherwise black and white, only serve to enhance the arboreal, herbaceous atmosphere evoked by reading the signs.

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What's in a name — Pikachu, Beikaciu, Pikaqiu?

Since I began writing blogs for Language Log around ten years ago, I have never received so many tips on what to write about as I have in response to the furor that has arisen over Nintendo's plan to change the Chinese names for some of the characters in their immensely popular Pokémon (ポケモン < Pokettomonsutā ポケットモンスター ["Pocket Monster"]) game series.

For example, much loved Pikachu (Pikachū ピカチュウ) was originally called Bei2kaat1ciu1 比卡超 in Hong Kong, which is very close to its Japanese name, Pikachu.  But now Nintendo wants to get rid of Bei2kaat1ciu1 比卡超 and force the people of Hong Kong to use the Mandarin name Píkǎqiū 皮卡丘.  This same policy extends to more than a hundred Pokemon characters, who will be renamed in accordance with Mandarin transcriptions.  You can imagine how alien that will sound to Cantonese speakers who have grown up with Pokemon characters having Cantonese names now to lose those intimate appellations in favor of names that have a Mandarin ring to them.

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Nothing to fear but… what?

In advance of tonight's Game 7 in the NBA Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Times recalls a similar Game 7 faced by the Chicago Bulls in 1998:

That spring, the top-seeded Bulls were taken to a seventh game by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Between Games 6 and 7, the Bulls’ coach, Phil Jackson, huddled with his players and told them not to fear failing.

“The fear is not losing,” Jackson told them. “The fear is not producing the effort needed.”

Phil Jackson is notoriously enigmatic (they don't call him the Zen master for nothing), but this pronouncement is particularly tough to unpack.

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Writing Shanghainese

The recent discussion of different ways of writing Chinese reminded Jeff K of two books of Shanghai expressions that he had come across.  See here for scans of a few pages.

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The uses of Hanyu pinyin

Hànyǔ pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic Spelling") is the official romanization of the PRC.  It also comes with an official orthography which provides guidelines for word separation, punctuation, and how to deal with grammatical constructions.  An English translation of the basic orthographical rules by John Rohsenow can be found at the back of the various editions of the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from the University of Hawai'i Press.

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Too cool!

I suppose it's been around for at least 5-10 years, but I just encountered the expression "tài shuǎng le 太爽了" in the English informal sense of "cool!".  With 409,000 ghits, it seems to be fairly widespread, though not all of those ghits are to the informal sense of the English word (see the numbered items below for a variety of other meanings for this expression).

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 4

Previous posts in the series:

As mentioned before, the following post is not about a sword or other type of weapon per se, but in terms of its ancient Eurasian outlook, it arguably belongs in the series:

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