Archive for Topolects

Why "zebra"?

So asked Michael Rank in the comments section to this post:

"Triple topolectal reprimand" (5/29/16)

That's a very good question.

It's a common expression among Wuhan speakers, a pet phrase for men and women alike, almost as though it were a sort of mantra or dharani.  If you ask them what it means, they will probably tell you that they themselves don't know, in which case you might get the impression that it's a modal or expletive without specific semantic content.

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Triple topolectal reprimand

One of the most annoying things about being in China is that people will cut in front of you in lines when you're waiting for a bus, to buy a train ticket, or whatever. If you wish to achieve your aim, sooner or later you learn that you have to take defensive / offensive measures (I learned to spread my legs wide and put my elbows out). I also realized that it would help if I called the queue cutters out — loudly — in Mandarin. But what if the queue cutter pretends that he / she doesn't understand Mandarin? Watch:

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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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Tones and the alphabet

The question of whether tones are added to alphabet words used in Sinitic languages arose in the discussion that followed this post:

"Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation" (4/25/16)

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LipsyncHK

Near the Star Ferry terminal on the Hong Kong Island side, Bea Lam noticed a number of fantastic, huge, colorful posters plastered on the walls as part of a “LipsyncHK” project that showcases Cantonese phrases and encourages visitors to try them out.  Bea was (very happily) surprised to see this large and open demonstration of Cantonese pride in a government-sponsored project, given the political environment.

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Accents, dialects, topolects, and languages — United Kingdom, Australia, and China

Normally I wouldn't want to call attention to a program as vapid as the one transcribed in the "quasi-blog" post linked to below, but the intelligent, critical comments that are interspersed by the blogger make it an instructive exercise after all.

"An interview about Chinese accents:  How cross-cultural differences led to a conversation conducted totally at cross-purposes" (3/23/16)

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Uyghur, Cantonese, and other valuable languages of China

In the Sinosphere section of yesterday's NYT, there's a thought-provoking article by Didi Kirsten Tatlow titled "Speak Uighur? Have Good Vision? China’s Security Services Want You" (2/19/16).

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Hissy fit

I am fond of this expression and have often wondered how it arose.  In my own mind, I have always associated it with the hissing of a cat and hysteria, but never took the time to try to figure out where it really came from.  Today someone directly asked me about the origins of this quaint expression and proposed a novel solution, which I will present at the end of this post.  First, however, let's look at current surmises concerning the problem.

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A new expression in Cantonese

Next Media's Apple Daily (1/23/16) had an article with this headline:

Gǎngdàshēng guà xīn xiàomíng kàng chìhuà

港大生掛「新校名」抗赤化

"Hong Kong University students hang [a banner with] the 'new school name' to resist redification"

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Shandong lisp

Nick Kaldis writes:

I am wondering if your collective knowledge of Gaomi Shandongese and dialectology can clear something up for me. My late beloved father-in-law, Tóng Jìguāng 佟繼侊, from Gaomi county, would pronounce something like an thi sandong len for "俺是山東人“ [VHM:  MSM pron. ǎn shì Shāndōng rén ("I'm a Shandongese")]. My question is: is the lisp in 是 common in Shandongese? And, is there a specific word for "lisp[ing]" (of the letter/sound "s") in Chinese?

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More rare characters in Taiwan

Not too long ago, we looked at some "Difficult Taiwanese characters" (11/8/15).  By "difficult Taiwanese characters", I am referring to sinographs that literate Mandarin speakers are unfamiliar with.

The same situation obtains for Cantonese.  See, for example:

"Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages " (9/25/15)

"Cantonese novels " (8/20/13)

"Hong Kong Multilingualism and Polyscriptalism " (7/26/10)

"Mutual Intelligibility of Sinitic Languages " (3/6/09)

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"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.

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Chinese scout

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.

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