Little Italian girl talking with her hands

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China VPN redux

Chapter 1

A professor in China who is collaborating with a famous American professor of Chinese literature wanted to read one of my Language Log (LL) posts because he had heard that it's being widely discussed around the world.  However, because of China's rigid censorship rules, he couldn't open the LL post.

The Chinese professor asked the American professor to help him gain access to my post.

The American professor asked me to help the Chinese professor.

I suggested to the Chinese professor to use a VPN.  Without a VPN, Chinese are not able to access LL, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Google, X, etc., etc.  In other words, without a VPN, Chinese are cut off from most of the information on the internet that is outside the Great Firewall, i.e., most of the cutting edge, valuable information in the world.

The Catch 22 is that it is a crime to use a VPN in China.

Can you imagine having to live in a benighted place like the PRC?

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No "good morning" and "good afternoon" in Romance Languages?

From François Lang:

I hope this isn't a well-known question. I searched LL for
"good morning" romance
and found nothing. So here goes.
(1) One can say "good evening" idiomatically in Romance languages, but not "good morning" or "good afternoon".
(2) However, all three are idiomatic in Germanic languages. 
I'm wondering if LL readers concur, and, if so, have any explanations of these two points.

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Government dampers on AI in the PRC

"China Puts Power of State Behind AI—and Risks Strangling It:  Government support helps China’s generative AI companies gain ground on U.S. competitors, but political controls threaten to weigh them down", by Lia Lin, WSJ (7/16/24)

Most generative AI models in China need to obtain the approval of the Cyberspace Administration of China before being released to the public. The internet regulator requires companies to prepare between 20,000 and 70,000 questions designed to test whether the models produce safe answers, according to people familiar with the matter. Companies must also submit a data set of 5,000 to 10,000 questions that the model will decline to answer, roughly half of which relate to political ideology and criticism of the Communist Party.

Generative AI operators have to halt services to users who ask improper questions three consecutive times or five times total in a single day.

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The true identity of the first Chinese translator of Lady Chatterley's Lover

There has long been a suspicion that the first Chinese translator of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928/1932), Ráo Shùyī 饒述一, about whom next to nothing is known, was actually the scholar and theoretician of aesthetics, Zhū Guāngqián 朱光潛 (1897-1986).

To give a little bit of background about the nature of the two translations of the novel, here is the abstract of a recent scholarly article comparing them:

This article discusses how sex-related content is rendered in two Chinese translations of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover: Rao Shuyi (1936) and Zhao Susu (2004). It is found that Rao's translation features explicitness, flexibility and Europeanization, while Zhao's translation features conservativeness and domestication. And the observed features in the two translations regarding sex-related content are explained from perspectives of social and historical background, translation purpose and intended readership, and patronage. Index Terms–Lady Chatterley's Lover, translation, sexuality

Zhu, Kun. "The Translation of Sex-related Content in Lady Chatterley's Lover in China." Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 10, no. 8, Aug. 2020, pp. 933+. Gale Literature Resource Center.

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"Fisherman Croc's desert song"?

Shannon McDonagh, "'What the Hell Is This?': Crocodile-Like Fossil Rewrites Triassic History", Newsweek 7/11/2024:

The groundbreaking discovery of the Benggwigwishingasuchus eremicarminis reveals the presence of waterside crocodile-like creatures around the globe during the Middle Triassic.

Broadly known as pseudosuchian archosaurs—four-legged, carnivorous beings with an armadillo-like coating—these creatures are now known to have existed coastally between 247.2 million and 237 million years ago.

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Japanese expressions for some paranormal phenomena

Japan Subculture Research Center.  A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.  Telepathy (以心伝心) and Other Coincidences (奇遇)
By jakeadelstein (Jul 10, 2024)

A generous helping of creepiness from Japan.  Here goes:

I was writing to a former intern at Japan Subculture Research Center, Fresca, and asked her to send me her thesis to read—just as she mailed me. I think I was two seconds ahead of her. It was a remarkable coincidence or maybe telepathy. Which got me interested in the many words for the complementary subjects in Japanese. So for your entertainment—here you are.

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IRL reverse dictionary

… or maybe I should say "associative memory"? Or whatever we should call the emerging modes of interaction with Meta Ray-Bans? Anyhow, here's a recently re-published Girls With Slingshots comic (original in 2008):

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Graphic Contexts Determine Characters' Functions

[This is a guest post by J. Marshall Unger.]

I do not believe it is useful, let alone necessary, to classify every character of a writing system as a phonogram, logogram, syllabogram, logosyllabogram, or any other kind of “gram.” Characters function logographically or phonographically depending on the degree to which they reflect the phonological, as opposed to the lexical, structure of the part of an utterance they are used to represent. One and the same character can function phonographically in one context, logographically in another, and in both ways in yet another. This is a consequence of what Martinet called the double articulation of language, i.e. Hockett’s duality of patterning or Hjemslev’s plereme/ceneme distinction. One may say for convenience that a character that functions logographically in a particular context is a logogram, but to the extent that doing so invites the unwary to think that logograms enjoy some sort of context-free existence in a Platonic universe of symbols, it is a bad idea.

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Irish eggcorns

A guest post, via email from Maitiú Ó Coimín:

I just watched the interview Rob's Words on YouTube did with you last year. You mentioned that you'd like to hear about eggcorns in other languages. I think I have two for you from my first language: Irish.

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Food in the works of Jane Austen as seen by early 20th-century Chinese

"How Jane Austen’s Early Chinese Translators Were Stumped by the Oddities of 19th-Century British Cuisine:  How do you get a reader in 1930s China to understand what a mince pie is?" By Saihong Li and William Hope, The Conversation (9/15/22) / Get Pocket.

Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) works are globally renowned, but they were unknown in China until 1935 when two different translations of Pride and Prejudice were published. Today, her novels are increasingly popular and have been translated into Chinese many times – notably there have been 60 different retranslations of Pride and Prejudice.

Translators face the creative balancing act of remaining faithful to the source text while also ensuring that the translation is a smooth, informative read. One intriguing task for translators of Austen has been how to describe the 19th-century British food featured in the many convivial sequences that shed light on characters through their social interaction.

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Top Chinese general loses his chastity

The internet has been in an uproar over the sacking by Xi Jinping of two of China's topmost military men.

Exclusive | "Was fallen Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe compromised by hostile force?  A rare form of words that the Communist Party normally only applies to those accused of betrayal was used in the indictment against him", by William Zheng, SCMP (7/10/24)

China’s fallen former defence minister Wei Fenghe may have been compromised by a hostile force as the peculiar wording of the official indictment hinted.

In an unprecedented move, Wei, along with his successor Li Shangfu, was officially impeached by the Politburo headed by President Xi Jinping on June 27. The duo were expelled from the party and could face further legal action.

[Since Wei and Li were in charge of the PLA Rocket Force, which gets into nuclear missiles and what not, the situation could not be more dire.  Maybe they did not accede to Xi's wishes regarding a launch.  Who knows?  No matter what, Xi was royally peeved.]

While Beijing has not revealed details of their offences, one particular phrase from the official impeachment against Wei caught the attention of seasoned Chinese experts.

Of the all top generals who fell in Xi’s war against corruption, Wei was the only one described as “zhongcheng shi jie” 忠诚失节 or “ being disloyal and losing one’s chastity”.

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OpenAI blocks API traffic from China

Screenshot of emails circulating on social media:


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