Archive for Lexicon and lexicography

Knife and fork

Nathan Hopson came across a marvelous Japanese word from the interwar period the other day:  naihoku ナイホク.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

The reality of censorship in the PRC

When we published the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from Hawaii in 1996, the original American edition had this definition for Lin Biao:  "veteran Communist military leader; Mao Zedong's designated successor until his mysterious death".

Imagine our surprise when we discovered in the licensed edition of the dictionary from Shanghai the following definition:  "veteran Communist military leader; ringleader of counterrevolutionary group (during Cultural Revolution)".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

"Arrival is a tree that is still to come"

Thanks to Chinese characters, we are inundated with such preposterous profundities.

In the day before yesterday's UK Observer, there is an article by Claire Armitstead titled "Madeleine Thien: ‘In China, you learn a lot from what people don’t tell you:  The Man Booker-shortlisted writer on a solitary childhood in Canada and daring to question the Chinese regime" (10/8/16).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Can Japanese read Chinese, and vice versa?

Comments (27)

Heart residue

Stuart Luppescu writes:

I recently ate at a yakiniku 焼肉 ("grilled meat") place in Kyoto that serves only chicken and pork — rather atypical. One menu item was kokoronokori 心残り. I asked the server what that was, and was told it was the flesh, blood vessels, and fat around the heart that is left over when they prepare the heart to be served. Since I am a gaijin 外人 ("foreigner"), they gave me a menu that had the entries with English glosses. For this one they wrote "regret" — they had obviously relied on Google Translate for their rendering. After I left I realized I should have taken a picture and sent it to you, but this message will have to do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Lu Gusun, lexicographer and Shakespeare scholar (1940-2016)

Among many other accounts in English and in Chinese of Lu Gusun's 陆谷孙 passing on July 28, there are two articles in Shanghai Daily that are worthy of mention.  Yesterday, there was an initial, brief announcement,

"Noted English literature professor Lu Gusun passes away at 76" (7/28/16) by Chen Huizhi.

Today, there is a much longer article by Chen Huizhi and Wang Yanlin, "Lu Gusun, celebrated professor and lexicographer, dies aged 76" (7/29/16).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

"Enter the Dangal"

Earlier this year, Language Log readers contributed to the elucidation of "South Asian wrestling terms" (3/1/16).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Affinity — a curiously multivalent term

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 »

Comments (28)

"Chinese helicopter" under attack

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".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED

"The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added 19 Singaporean terms and 13 Hong Kong terms in its latest update."  So reports BBC News in "Singapore terms join Oxford English Dictionary" (5/12/16)

Here are the lists:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Old Sinitic reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman cognates

[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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Chinese without a teacher

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)