Archive for Orthography

First grade science card: Pinyin degraded

Science card given out to first grade students in Shenzhen, China:

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Indirect question marks?

Theresa May's 2/10/2019 letter to Jeremy Corbyn includes a sentence ending in a question mark that caught Graeme Orr's attention:

As I explained when we met, the Political Declaration explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union – no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors and no checks on rules of origin (paragraph 23). However, it also recognises the development of the UK's independent trade policy beyond our economic partnership with the EU (paragraph 17). I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals? I can reassure you that securing frictionless trade in goods and agri-food products is one of our key negotiating objectives (for precisely the reasons you give – protecting jobs that depend on integrated supply chains and avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland). The fundamental negotiating challenge here is the EU's position that completely frictionless trade is only possible if the UK stays in the single market. This would mean accepting free movement, which Labour's 2017 General Election manifesto made clear you do not support.

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Mountain Mao

From an anonymous contributor in Taiwan:

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Stroke order

A notoriously complex Sinograph:

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Pinyin for phonetic annotation

One more reason for me to love Wikipedia.

I just noticed in this article on Chinese honorifics that some example sentences are phonetically annotated with Pinyin.  Not only that, it observes properly spaced word division, which must be technically difficult to achieve.  Furthermore, the Pinyin annotations are appropriately small, yet clear.

I don't know how widespread this usage has become in Wikipedia or elsewhere, but I can tell you that learning about it this morning brought me great joy.

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The inevitability (or not) of diacritical marks

Recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania:

"Printers’ Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents"
Katie Chenoweth, Princeton University
Monday, 22 October 2018 – 5:15 PM
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania
Sponsored by: Penn Libraries

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Vietnamese nail shop

Charles Below writes:

As a follow-up to "Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18), I saw this sign about a block or two away on a closed nail salon. I note the stray dot over the I in NAILS.  The surname I've redacted is, I believe, Irish.

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Ask Language Log: Prosodic hyphens and italics

From Alex Baumans:

Miss Cayley's Adventures, a delightful novel by Grant Allen from 1899, is about Lois Cayley, who is left penniless after her stepfather dies (actually, she gets tuppence) and sets out to make her way in the world trusting to her wits and luck. She meets an American inventor-entrepeneur who wants her to demonstrate his bicycle in the German military trials.

Why I am sending you this, is the treatment of American English. Grant Allen takes care to give his characters a recognisable voice, with lots of local colour (stereotyping them at the same time, but this is a popular nineteenth-century novel). I am no native speaker nor a specialist in historical dialects of the US, but I can't for the life of me imagine what this is supposed to have sounded like. The hyphens and italics would seem to point towards some peculiar intonation or word-stress. There are 'phonetic' spellings such as 'ketch' or 'jest', and probably some Americanisms, that I no longer recognise as such. It doesn't sound like any variety of American English I'm familiar with. 

So, I thought it might interest you to see what an American sounded like to the British a hundred years ago. Perhaps you have a better idea what this is all about.

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Capitalization

Alan Levinovitz, "Trump’s bizarre understanding of Capitalization is surprisingly Strategic", Washington Post 5/23/2018:

On Monday, President Trump let loose a string of triumphant tweets about China that featured one of his strangest linguistic quirks:

“On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time.”

“China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made.”

“Under our potential deal with China they will purchase from our Great American Farmers practically as much as our Farmers can produce.”

Rule-bound English speakers only capitalize titles, proper nouns, and a few other exceptional words. But for Trump, Farmers, Barriers and Borders are standard fare. In fact, when it comes to abusing letter case, the China tweets look positively restrained compared to this classic from April: “Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL”

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English spelling reform

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[. ] or [. ]?

You may have thought that idea of rhinoceroses peeving about semicolons (when they're not snorting and snuffing) was silly. But the comments on Mark's post Peeving and breeding have devolved to a level of even greater silliness: the pressing question of whether to type one space after a period or two.

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Pinyin in 1961 propaganda poster art

From Geoff Dawson:

On display in a current exhibition at the National Library of Australia.

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Ask Language Log: "Strange Writing"

TJJ from Napa CA writes:

Dr. Dan Jurafsky at Stanford suggested I contact you.  I have a statue I purchased years ago from a Humane Society fundraiser sale.  It is made of some sort of stone and has a rabbit on one side and some strange writing on the bottom.  It looks like it might be Bengali or Gujarati.  I'm curious to know what language it is and what it says but have no idea how to find out.

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