Earlier this year, Language Log readers contributed to the elucidation of "South Asian wrestling terms" (3/1/16).
Archive for Lexicon and lexicography
I recall that, as a graduate student in Sinology, one of the most troublesome tasks was figuring out how to romanize the names of Japanese authors, the titles of their works, place names, technical terms, and so forth. Overall, Japanese Sinological (not to mention Indological and other fields) scholarship is outstanding, so we have to consult it, and when we cite Japanese works, we need to be able to romanize names, titles, and so forth to reflect their Japanese pronunciations.
Richard Warmington has pointed out that "affinity" is a contronym (a word with two opposite or contradictory meanings). Another example of a contronym is "sanction", which can signify both "penalty for disobeying a law" and "permission or approval for an action". Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Just a couple of weeks ago, we learned about 19 Singaporean expressions that had been newly added to the OED:
"New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED" (5/12/16)
Among these expressions was "Chinese helicopter", which was characterized as "derogatory" and defined as "a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who has limited knowledge of English".
Here are the lists:
[The following is a guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei.]
The Old Chinese reconstruction of Gong Hwang-cherng and James Matisoff is not only internally consistent, but can be shown to have a Tibeto-Burman counterpart through Sino-Tibetan comparative studies. Gong Hwang-cherng's Collected Papers on Sino-Tibetan Linguistics 龚煌城, Hàn-Zàngyǔ yánjiū lùnwén jí《汉藏语研究论文集》(2002) has about 300 cognate sets — involving Old Chinese, Written Tibetan, Written Burmese, and reconstructed Tangut. I am writing a paper whose purpose is to unite Gong's work with Zàng-Miǎn yǔzú yǔyán cíhuì《藏缅语族语言词汇》(Lexicon of Tibeto-Burman languages), edited by Huang Bufan 黄布凡 (1992). So far I have 142 cognate sets and can testify that Gong's cognate sets on the whole hold water.
That's the title of a book by the formidable British Sinologue, Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935).
In the early 1890s, Herbert Giles perfected the system of romanization for Mandarin that had initially been devised by Thomas Wade around the middle of the 19th-century, which is why it is called Wade-Giles. This was the standard romanization of Mandarin in the English-speaking world for nearly a century, until it was displaced by Hanyu Pinyin when the People's Republic of China secured its acceptance by the United Nations and the International Organization for Standardization.
C. C. Cheng, emeritus professor of computational linguistics at the University of Illinois, estimates that the human lexicon has a de facto storage limit of 8,000 lexical items (referred to in n. 12 on p. 301 of Jerry Packard's The Morphology of Chinese: A Linguistic and Cognitive Approach [Cambridge University Press, 2000]).