Archive for Transcription

Aunt Perilla

Photograph of a packet of seeds purchased by Dara Connolly's wife in a Daiso 100-yen shop in Japan:

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The future of Cantonese, part 2

During the month of May, we witnessed a major flare-up in Hong Kong over the status of Cantonese:

"Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers" (5/4/18) — with references to more than two dozen earlier posts on Cantonese relevant to today's topic; in toto, the number of LLog posts touching on one or another aspect of Cantonese is far greater than those listed at the end of this 5/4/18 post

"Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers, part 2" (5/7/18)

"The Future of Cantonese" (5/27/18)

All of this has prompted Verna Yu to ask "Can Cantonese survive?", America (6/5/18).

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Makudonarudo

Here's an amusing Japanglish song by a Malaysian Chinese hip hop recording artist who is called Namewee:

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"Despacito" transcribed with Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English syllables

This amazing song from Taiwan seems to have been inspired by some Japanese cultural practices, which we will explore later in this post.

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The Future of Cantonese

[This is a guest post by Robert S. Bauer]

HK’s Cantonese language continues to attract attention and be a topic of discussion.

Two Mondays ago (May 14, 2018) I was a guest discussant on RTHK Radio 3's Backchat programme.

The topic was "The Future of Cantonese" (in Hong Kong).

In addition to the two main hosts, Hugh Chiverton and Mike Rowse, the following people joined in the discussion:

Simon Liang, Member, Societas Linguistica Hongkongensis (a group promoting the correct usage of Cantonese)

Peter Gordon, Editor, Asian Review of Books; and Language Critic

Benjamin Au Yeung, TV host and Linguist

Robert Bauer, Honorary Linguistics Professor, University of Hong Kong

Li Hui, University of Hong Kong

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Korean "gapjil"

Watching the embedded video in this article, "Korean Air Chairman Fires Two Daughters Over Rage Incidents" (Bloomberg News [April 22, 2018, 8:45 PM EDT]),

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"Subway" in Chinese

Jeff DeMarco saw this sign in Chengdu:

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The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?

Just as all school children in the PRC learn to read and write through Hanyu Pinyin ("Sinitic spelling"), the official romanization on the mainland, so do all school children in Taiwan learn to read and write with the aid of what is commonly referred to as "Bopomofo ㄅㄆㄇㄈ "), after the first four letters of this semisyllabary.  The system has many other names, including "Zhùyīn fúhào 注音符號" ("[Mandarin] Phonetic Symbols"), its current formal designation, as well as earlier names such as Guóyīn Zìmǔ 國音字母 ("Phonetic Alphabet of the National Language") and Zhùyīn Zìmǔ 註音字母 ( "Phonetic Alphabet" or "Annotated Phonetic Letters").  From the plethora of names, you can get an idea of what sort of system it is.  I usually think of it as a cross between an alphabet and a syllabary.

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Putin in Russian, Mandarin, and English

I'm at Yale University attending a workshop on Tangut.  So you ask, "What is 'Tangut'?"  Relevant Wikipedia articles:

  • Tangut people, an ancient ethnic group in Northwest China, not Tibetan people.
  • Tangut language, the extinct language spoken by the Tangut people, not Tibetan language.
  • Tangut script, the writing system used to write the Tangut language
  • Western Xia (1038–1227), also known as the Tangut Empire, a state founded by the Tangut people

Enough of Tangut for now.  I will write a separate post on Tangut language and script later on.  Meanwhile, since the majority of specialists on Tangut are Russian, and several Russians are participating in this workshop, I've heard them refer to the president of their country with a pronunciation that is rather different from what we say it in English, but more nearly resembles the way his surname is spoken in Mandarin.

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Questionable Sino-Mongolian toponymy

News article from Xinhua (1/16/18, by Quan Xiaoshu, Qu Ting, Cao Pengyuan):

"Ancient tripartite-city of Xiongnu a special religious and meeting site: archaeologists"

It starts:

The ruins of an ancient tripartite-city, known as Sanlian City, in midwest Mongolia's Khermental City, demonstrates that the Xiongnu tribe used to perform religious ceremonies and hold alliance meetings there.

Bathrobe comments:

Now, it may be due to my poor web research skills, but I'm having considerable difficulty finding any Sanlian city or even a Khermental city in Mongolia outside of the Xinhua news article.

Is this another mangled news story where Chinese news reporters are too incompetent (or maybe arrogant) to check the names of geographical places outside of China? I'm also wondering at the thickskinned-ness of calling the archaeological site of a non-Chinese culture in a foreign country by a name so transparently Chinese as "Sanlian".

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Zhou Youguang's 112th birthday

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Horse conquers dragon

French President Emmanuel Macron presented a horse to Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Vesuvius, an 8-yr old gelding from the 'Garde Republicaine'.

Now, Macron's name in Chinese is transcribed as "Mǎkèlóng 马克龙" (lit., "horse subdues / overcomes / conquers / surmounts dragon").

Make of it what you will.

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Mistranscribed character

Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) is one of the most famous painters in the history of Chinese art.  Many of his priceless works still exist, and he was even honored by having a 167 kilometer-diameter feature on Mercury (132.4° west, 87.3° south), the "Chao Meng-Fu crater", named after him.

When Zhao Mengfu's name came up in a discussion on connoisseurship in one of my classes a few days ago, I almost fell off my chair upon hearing a graduate student from mainland China pronounce it as "Zhao Mengtiao".  Where did she learn that strange pronunciation for this ultrafamous artist's name?  Did she hear it from her teachers?  Her classmates?  Or was she just making a wild guess based on what she thought the ostensible phonophore, zhào 兆, would yield?  However she came up with "Zhao Mengtiao", the effect upon hearing it would be akin to hearing someone say "Michelanjump" or "Leonardo da Jump".

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