Archive for Bilingualism

Secret bilingual language

My wife and I used to have a private language that was full of bilingual, cryptic references such as the following:

Yáo Shùn Yǔ 尧舜禹 (the names of three ancient, wise, Chinese rulers) || sānmíngzhì 三明治 (“three wise rulers”), the Chinese transcription of English “sandwich”.

Thus, if we wished to ask each other, “Do you want to eat a sandwich?”, we might say “Nǐ yào bùyào chī yī ge Yáo Shùn Yǔ? 你要不要吃一个尧舜禹?”.  That sort of word play was usually just for fun or to avoid a word that was transcribed into Mandarin from some other language.

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Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago:

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German in America

There’s a Germantown in Philadelphia and a German Village in Columbus, Ohio.  in Fredericksburg (the birthplace of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz) and in New Braunfels, they speak Texas German, and in Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities in many states, they speak  Pennsylvania Dutch / German (Deitsch, Pennsylvania Deitsch, Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch, Hinterwäldler-Deutsch).

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Beyond fluff

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Rapaganda

The Chinese government has grown mildly addicted to the use of rap for disseminating propaganda.  I’m going to call this new variety “rapaganda”, but I am not the first to do so.  The use of this portmanteau word might have started here:

Chinese Communist Party Modernizes its Message — With Rap-aganda” (China Real Time Report, WSJ, 12/29/15)

WSJ’s China Real Time Report just used it again:

Video: China’s New ‘Rap-aganda’ Tells You What President Xi Cares About ” (3/10/17)

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Siri in Korea

The bizarre political scandal that just led to the impeachment of South Korea’s president” (Jennifer Williams, Vox, 3/9/17)


Protestors wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (R) and her confidante Choi Soon-Sil (L) pose for a performance during a rally denouncing a scandal over President Park’s aide in Seoul on October 27, 2016. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

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Topolectal traffic sign

This has apparently been around for awhile, but I’m seeing it now for the first time:

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Creeping English in Chinese

Many years ago, I predicted that — due to the exigencies of technological change and the increasing tempo of life — China would willy-nilly gravitate either toward romanization of Mandarin (and the other Sinitic languages) or the gradual adoption of English for many aspects of written communication (e.g., business, science, medicine) because they are perceived as faster and more efficient.  In truth, I thought, and still do think, that there would be a transitional period during which both processes transpired, though naturally Chinese characters would continue to be used as well.  The evidence with which we are daily confronted, much of it presented in Language Log posts, confirms that my suspicions are being borne out.

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The Annoying PPP (past-perfect progressive)

It’s only January, yet we may have already seen this year’s winner in the category of Misapprehensions about Chinese Characters and the Nature of Language.  It appears in Xiaolu Guo’s “‘Is this what the west is really like?’ How it felt to leave China for Britain” (The Guardian, 1/10/17).  Ms. Guo’s long essay, an adapted extract from her forthcoming Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up, is preceded by this dismal epigraph:

Desperate to find somewhere she could live and work as she wished, moved from Beijing to London in 2002. But from the weather to the language and the people, nothing was as she expected.

Poor Xiaolu Guo!

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All the way with U in 2016/7

From Li Wei on Facebook:

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A bilingual, biscriptal pun in Belgium

Alex Baumans sent in this photograph of the logo of a Korean food truck in Belgium, run by one San-Ho Park Correwyn:

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Trevor Noah reflects on language and identity

In my introductory undergraduate course on English words, and in most undergraduate introductory courses on linguistics, students are invited to reflect on language and identity—how the way you speak communicates information about who you are—which they are typically very interested in. This isn’t my beat, professionally speaking, but as a linguist I have a duty to help my students think through some of these issues (and, if they get interested, point them in the right direction to get really educated). To get started, I often play this one-minute clip of a Meshach Taylor Fresh Air interview from 1990, which is usually a good starting point for some discussion.

But Fresh Air (yes I’m a Terry Gross fangirl) also recently ran an interview with the biracial South African host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, which contained this ten-minute motherlode of a reflection on multilingualism, language choice, racism, acceptable targets of mimicry, vocabulary size, Trump’s communicative abilities, resentment of accented speech… whew. I’m just going to leave it here for your edification and enjoyment. Maybe one of our more sociolinguistically expert Language Loggers will provide some more detailed commentary later. For my part — well, I just invite you to think about what kind of 500-word essay you’d write for a Ling 101 class with this 10-minute clip as your prompt.

To hear the whole interview, or read the transcript, visit the NPR Fresh Air page.

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English-Cantonese and Hokkien-Malay phrasebooks

Ryan of Singapore sent me photographs of a section from a Chinese almanac that amounts to a ten-page English phrasebook phonetically annotated in Cantonese. Here are two of the pages (as usual, click to embiggen):

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