Archive for Transcription

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (34)

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).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 3

Previous posts in the series:

"Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions " (3/8/16)
"Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 2 " (3/12/16)

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:

"Of felt hats, feathers, macaroni, and weasels " (3/13/16)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 2

Part 1 in this series was posted here on 3/8/16 and dealt with a sword called Mòyé 鏌鋣 / 莫邪.  The post was followed by a vigorous discussion that revealed the existence of a large number of words for "sword" in other languages that sound like the reconstructed Old Sinitic form (roughly *mˤak-ja or /makzæ/), stretching westward across Eurasia.  Surprisingly, such words were found prominently in Slavic and Finno-Ugrian languages, but these were determined to be of Germanic origin.  There were also parallels in Caucasian languages.  All of this strongly suggested the possibility that further research along these lines would be rewarding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions

In "The hand of god" (3/4/16), I cited a Chinese text in which the term Mòyé 鏌鋣 (the name of a famous sword in antiquity) came up.  The translation I provided rendered that term as "Excalibur", which caught the attention of a couple of commenters who wondered how one could get from Mòyé 鏌鋣 to "Excalibur", when all that Google Translate could offer is "ROBOT 鋣".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (33)

Missing G's

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

"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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

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."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (23)

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Phonetikana

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)