Lately, we have discussed the Westernization of Chinese languages in several posts, but now, midst the nationalistic fervor of widespread anti-Japanese demonstrations and movements of ships around the Senkakus, comes news of government-sponsored de-Westernization.
According to these new directives from the Ministry of Railways, henceforth Běijīng nán zhàn 北京南站 will be "BeiJingNan Railway Station", not "Beijing South Railway Station", as it is now, and so on for train stations in other parts of the city. Mind you, these signs are meant for foreigners, so one wonders what someone who knows no Chinese and wants to find Beijing South Railway Station will think when confronted with "BeiJingNan Railway Station". Furthermore, the InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion (patented by Mark Swofford) is downright bizarre, as is the runningthingstogetherinplaceandstreetnames (trademark of Mark Swofford; this is the opposite of the sep a ra tion of all syl la bles on signs and la bels that one sometimes encounters in China). In any event, the change from "Beijing South Railway Station" to "BeiJingNan Railway Station" is supposed to constitute a nativist victory over alien English, since English "South" has been replaced by Pinyin "Nan". Never mind that the equally offensive "Railway Station" still survives.
If this is de-Westernization, I must say that it is both lame and misguided. In addition, it is mere tokenism designed to mollify the conservative nationalists who despise any taint of Western languages seeping into Chinese languages. But surely the ultra-patriots must remain sorely dissatisfied, since Hanyu Pinyin itself consists of Roman letters.
Most Chinese I have consulted would parse 北京南站 thus: Běijīng nán zhàn, which the majority would further render with capitals as Běijīng Nán Zhàn, since it is a place name. Incidentally, zhàn 站 ("station") is short for huǒchē zhàn 火车站 ("railway station"). N.B.: Mandarin zhàn 站 ("station") < Mongolian jam ("courier / post station"), and see this learned note from Peter Golden.
[Thanks to Maiheng Dietrich, Jiajia Wang, Gianni Wan, Jing Wen, and Liwei Jiao]