Archive for Writing

Why Chinese write "9" backwards

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Stroke order of Chinese characters

Here on Language Log, we have often encountered the problem of stroke order and total number of strokes used in writing Sinographs (see the section on "Readings" below).  In this post, I would like to approach this problem from a discussion of how to write two seemingly simple characters:

tū 凸 ("convex; protude; bulge out")

āo 凹 ("concave; hollow; sunken")    

Although I don't like to use the expression "ideograph" or "ideogram" for Chinese characters in general, since only a tiny proportion of them are actually ideographic in nature, these two really are ideographs.  I find these two characters cute, and actually have long harbored a secret affection for 凸 and 凹.  They are amusing and attractive — until you try to write them according to the rules of Chinese brush strokes and stroke order.  Then all hell breaks loose.

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Chaotic calligraphy

In the middle of last month, I participated in a double book launch by Cambria Press in Singapore (links here, here, and here).  The event was held at one of Singapore's most outstanding art galleries, called iPreciation (links here and here).  This is what I saw as soon as I walked in the door:

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Spectral Sinographs

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Massive miswriting

"Can Chinese Write Their Own Language?" | ASIAN BOSS (7/19/18)

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No dictation

The boy in the photos below is Alexander Aurelius Wang.  He is one of our youngest fans in Shenzhen.  He doesn't like writing characters from dictation (tīngxiě 听写 / 聽寫):

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Really weird sinographs, part 2

Some of the commenters to the first part of this series seem to be making the case that many of the characters chosen by Scott Wilson for his SoraNews24 article are not so weird after all.  I beg to differ.  I think that all of the characters he chose are truly strange, awesomely odd.  Even those who are skeptics admit that the loopy and curvy ones are unusual.  But I think that Wilson has done a good job of picking out weird characters from Morohashi, and as noted in the o.p., there are thousands more that might be thought of as weird.

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Really weird sinographs

Scott Wilson has written an entertaining, and I dare say edifying, article on "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest kanji ever 【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (10/6/16) — sorry I missed it when it first came out.  Wilson refers to the "Top 5 strangest kanji", but he actually treats nearly three times that many.  The reason he emphasizes "5" is so that he can stick with his theme of W.T.F., cf.:

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most difficult kanji ever【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (8/4/16)

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 kanji with the longest readings【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (4/20/17)

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Mystical Taoist Sinographs

Jason Cox, who sent the following photograph to me, says that his "uncle-in-law has this all over the place":

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Pinyin for daily use

Self-explanatory screen shot:

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Mixed-script letter written by an adult

The two notes below, as described in this article (in Chinese) were written around the same time and under similar circumstances.

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Sinitic is a group of languages, not a single language

Pro-Cantonese sign in Hong Kong:


A man holds a sign professing his love for Cantonese as he attends a Hong Kong rally in 2010 against mainland China’s bid to champion Mandarin over Cantonese. Picture: AFP

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"I don't like kanji"

Claro's tweet:

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