In "Inside the world of Chinese science fiction, with 'Three Body Problem' translator Ken Liu" (Quartz, 12/2/16), Nikhil Sonnad conducts an interview with the sci-fi author and translator of the Sān tǐ 三体 (Three-Body [Problem]) series by Liú Cíxīn 刘慈欣.
Archive for Vernacular
When, about 40 years ago, I first read the "Basic Annals of Xiang Yu (232-202 BC)" ( Xiàngyǔ běnjì 項羽本紀) in the The Scribe's Records (Shǐjì 史記, ca. 94), the foundation for the 24 official dynastic histories that followed it, I was struck by this sentence: `Yúshì Xiàng wáng dà hū chí xià, Hàn jūn jiē pīmí, suì zhǎn Hàn yī jiāng.'「於是項王大呼馳下，漢軍皆披靡，遂斬漢一將。」("Then King Xiang shouted loudly and galloped down, causing all of the Han army [to flee] pell-mell, whereupon he cut down one of the Han generals".)
Misreading "agriculture" as "clothing"
This video of Chairman Xi making a horrendous gaffe was just posted on YouTube:
Radio Free Asia has published an article about a wheelchair ridden human rights activist named Li Biyun:
The article is accompanied by this extraordinary photograph:
In a comment to "Pinyin literature contest" (6/30/16), DG asked an excellent, reasonable question:
I am not a Chinese speaker, so I am wondering if the requirement that it's not originally written in Chinese characters is a sort of honor code, or is there some way to tell from the pinyin submission?
From December 13-17, 2015, I participated in an international workshop at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS) on the Edmond J. Safra campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The title of the workshop was "A Lasting Vision: Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters". Here's the workshop website.
The workshop was about Sanskrit poetics, especially as detailed in the Kāvyādarśa (simplified transliteration: Kavyadarsha; Mirror of Poetry) of Daṇḍin (circa AD 7th c.), the earliest surviving systematic treatment of poetics in Sanskrit.
Listen to what the Chinese scout in this video says at :43. My first impression was that it sounds like he is speaking Cantonese, not Mandarin.
Listening to people around Beijing over the past few days, I've noticed a couple of things about a common Chinese word. The Wiktionary gloss for 对 (dui4) suggests the pattern:
Yes! Correct! I agree!; The word is used often in spoken language. It is common to repeat the word three times when you want to make clear that you understand and agree.
My impression is that a single duì is common, and three-fold repetition is also common, and sometimes even five in a row (grouped 3+2?), but not two or four. (I think I heard a double duì once, but it was more like two phrases "duì, duì".)
I just received this note from a colleague:
I found a document on the Hong Kong Education Bureau's website that says: "Xiānggǎng de qíngkuàng shì yǐ Zhōngwén wéi mǔyǔ 香港的情況是以中文為母語" ("The situation in Hong Kong takes Chinese as the Mother Tongue").
Zhōngwén 中文 ("Chinese") is a rather curious, ambiguous, and imprecise term since it can essentially mean just about any kind of Chinese. I think using it to refer to a person's so-called mother tongue is especially dubious and sneaky.
This reminds me … of something Jerry Norman was wont to say, i.e., that there were three good criteria for identifying Mandarin and deciding how old the family is. These are the concurrent presence of the third person pronoun tā, the negative bù, and the subordinative particle de/di. Jerry called languages of this type “Tabudish”, and he sometimes used this name for them in correspondence with me. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »