Archive for Morphology

"Bāphre bāph!" — my favorite Nepali expression

As a Peace Corps volunteer in eastern Nepal (Bhojpur) from 1965-67, I became highly fluent in spoken Nepali.  I even dreamed in Nepali.

My Peace Corps buddies and I learned Nepali in Columbia, Missouri by the total immersion method, which I describe and demonstrate in this post:  "Learn Nepali" (9/21/16).

See also my comments to "Alien encounters" (9/15/16), especially this one, #7-8, and the links embedded therein.

I became enamored of many Nepali words and phrases, but my favorite of all is "bāphre bāph!", which corresponds roughly to "Wow", "OMG", etc. in English.

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"Bigfeet"?

Dana Millbank, "Goodbye, Republican Party. Hello, Bigfoot Party.", WaPo 7/31/2018:

By now, there are few in the political world who have not yeti heard about what’s going on in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia.

The Republican candidate in the race, Denver Riggleman, was discovered to have posted images of “Bigfoot erotica” on Instagram, with the furry fellow’s ample nether regions obscured. The candidate is also co-author of a 2006 book about Bigfoot hunting in which he describes “serious Bigfoot research” and includes an assertion that “Bigfoots like sex, too.”

Shouldn’t that be “Bigfeet”?

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Writing topolects with Chinese characters

While Chinese characters are inimical to the full writing of the topolects, they occasionally can be used to convey a sense of certain aspects of various local or regional forms of speech.

Here are some examples from the Northeast / Dongbei:

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Justin Bieber OK infix

What's going on here?  How did Justin Bieber become an infix (more precisely tmesis) inserted between the "O" and the "K" of "OK"? 

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A productive-ass suffix

Currently making the rounds is a video from Conan showing a standup appearance by the Finnish comedian Ismo Leikola. In his experience of learning English as a second language, he says, "I think the hardest word to truly master has been the word ass." He muses on the peculiar application of -ass as a slangy suffix in words like lazy-ass, long-ass, grown-ass, bad-ass, and dumb-ass.

Stan Carey discussed the video on the Strong Language blog ("A paradoxical-ass word"), and he links to Mark Liberman's 2014 roundup of scholarship on -ass (on Language Log and elsewhere), "Ignoble-ass citation practices."

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Language vigilantism

In "The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language:  As new lingo springs up and grammatical errors persist, one magazine is battling to maintain linguistic standards", Yin Yijun (Sixth Tone [1/19/18]) describes an unusual PRC journal:

Shanghai-based Yaowen Jiaozi — whose name literally translates as “biting phrases and chewing characters” — was established in 1995 and operates under the slogan: “Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously. Over the past 20 years, the magazine has amassed a long list of mistakes, from a nearly unnoticeable Chinese character error on a chopstick wrapper, to a series of mistakes author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan made in his award-winning works.

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Chinese pentaglot rap

A Shanghainese friend of a friend just sent him a link to a curious video, and he forwarded it to me.  It looks like a Nike-sponsored rap song with five different fāngyán 方言 ("topolects") and lots of English.

My friend asked, "I wonder to what degree the Hànzì 汉字 ("Chinese characters") in the subtitles match the actual lyrics."

The video comes via Bilibili, which sometimes seems to load very slowly.  It is also available on iQIYI and DigitaLing.  Subtitles are more clearly visible in the Bilibili and DigitaLing (last one) versions.

The main questions, at least for me, are which topolects are presented, how faithful the presentations are, and how well the subtitles represent what is being said.

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Morphological creativity: Shoedrobe

Forwarded by Alex Baumans, an email advertisement from Legend Footwear in London — "RESTOCK YOUR SHOEDROBE FOR WINTER!"

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Wall Street big

"Wall Street big, 49, killed by shark while diving in Costa Rica", Fox News (N.Y. Post) 11/4/2017:

A 49-year-old Wall Street private equity manager was killed by a tiger shark while diving with a group off a Costa Rican island, according to officials.

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Ask Language Log: Unnecessary disyllabism?

From Thorin Engeseth:

I was doing some reading this morning on the magpie, and the Wikipedia page states:

Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: 喜鹊; traditional Chinese: 喜鵲; pinyin: xǐquè, in which the first character means "happiness".

I'm almost entirely illiterate when it comes to the languages of China, so I took to Google Translate just to see how it would translate the two characters from both simplified and traditional script. In both, the first is translated as "like; to be happy", while the second is "magpie". My question is: if the second character itself can be translated as "magpie", if Google Translate is correct here, then is the first character still necessary?

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Keep on -inging

Jeff DeMarco writes:

From a Facebook post (timeline) by a young woman in HK:

卡拉ok ing ……😂🤣

GT deftly translates it as karaoke ing.

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Gender distinction in languages

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

It may be true that the problem of gender inequality is more severe in East Asian countries than in European countries. However, in terms of languages, Indo-European languages actually distinguish genders while East Asian languages traditionally do not.

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Sino-English grammatical hyper-redundancy

Adrian S. Thieret found this sign inside his brand new apartment complex in Shanghai a few days ago:

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