Hong Kong Cantonese in jeopardy

From a fluent speaker of Mandarin:

This past weekend, I watched the latest film from Marvel Studios: "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (an Asian superhero movie). I was rather surprised to hear about 30% of all lines spoken in Pǔtōnghuà 普通话 (Mandarin), especially when given that some scenes were set in Macau and characters from ancient Chinese villages. Although I could not find an article or commentary on this specific topic I was interested in, I did find this Reddit post—the author discusses how strange and peculiar the creators' decision to use Mandarin in particular is in the context of the movie. 

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"Classic Female Poison Earplugs" — Ask Language Log

Image and query from Hans Oddvar Vannes:

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Dinosaur wine tasting

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Gender fluidity in the classroom

Recent article on gender and language teaching:

How Language Classes Are Moving Past the Gender Binary

Languages that contain only “he” and “she” pronouns pose problems for communicating about gender identity. Here’s how some language teachers are helping.

By Molly Lipson, NYT     Sept. 1, 2021

Selections from the article:

Tal Janner-Klausner teaches Hebrew. There is nothing unusual about that, but the language presents a frustration that Mx. Janner-Klausner, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns in English, feels compelled to discuss with their students.

Hebrew, as well as French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and other languages, uses binary pronouns, which means that gender identities outside of he/she and male/female don’t exist in any formal capacity.

In Hebrew, even the word “they” is gendered. In French, “ils” refers to a group of men or a mixed-gender group, and “elles” refers to a group of all females. All nouns in gendered languages — including people — are categorized as either masculine or feminine, and any adjectives associated with these words must reflect that gender.

That presents a problem for students who are gender-nonconforming, and, of course, for the speakers of the language in general. Is it possible for learners of a gendered language to refer to themselves and others when their identities are not represented?

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English vocative pronouns

On my to-blog list since last month:


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Hemorrhoids outbreak

Article by Stephanie Chiang in Taiwan News (9/2/21):

"Chinese censorship: Media creator substitutes ‘hemorrhoids outbreak’ for ‘plague’

Mobile game developers having to make concessions to appease Chinese censors"

Censorship in the PRC is going from the ridiculous to the pathetic.  We have just been studying the government's attacks on "girlie men" and the authorities are also assailing "entertainment that is too entertaining".  Here's the latest chapter in the CCP handbook dedicated to eradicating everything that is immoral and improper.

Players of the Chinese role-playing mobile game "Entwined Love Across Time" posted screenshots ridiculing in-game dialogue that showed characters discussing the aftermath of a “hemorrhoids outbreak,” UDN reported on Sunday (Aug. 29).

After the screenshots were posted to Weibo (China’s Twitter equivalent), a user claiming to be the creator of the game replied that because censors forbade any mention of the word “plague,” he had replaced the word with “hemorrhoids.” This resulted in a bizarre in-game conversation in the story-based game, in which a character recounts living through “hemorrhoids,” which taught him that “hemorrhoids are not to be feared, as human nature is much more fearsome than hemorrhoids.”

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China's Japan

According to this website of stars with the surname Chu 楚, Sara Chu was born in Japan, China:

Chǔ Jǐn (Sara Chu), shēngrì:  1974 nián 10 yuè 29 rì (xīngqí'èr), chūshēng dì: Zhōngguó Rìběn, xīngzuò: Tiānxiēzuò

楚谨(Sara Chu),生日:1974年10月29日(星期二),出生地: 中国日本,星座:天蝎座

Chu Jin (Sara Chu), birthday: October 29, 1974 (Tuesday), place of birth:  Japan, China, constellation: Scorpio

I've never heard of Sara Chu, and I've never heard of a place in China called "Japan", but it's possible that I missed both of them.

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China jettisons English

So they say, but I wouldn't count on it.  We've heard this patriotic, isolationist tune sung countless times during the last thirty years or so (in fact, it happens every time preceding a national political meeting, but nothing ever comes of it).  The wealthy, privileged, elite, right up to and including Chairman Xi, keep spending a fortune to send their children to the comfort, safety, and English environment of the USA.  I know, because I've taught hundreds of them during the last twenty years and more.

"‘Reversing Gears’: China Increasingly Rejects English, and the World:

A movement against Western influence threatens to close off a nation that succeeded in part by welcoming new ideas."  By Li Yuan, NYT (9/9/21)

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Earworm of the week: Me and Bobby McGee

Here it is, by the great, the inimitable, the one and only Janis Joplin:

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Decolonizing Chinese fonts by probing the past

New article by Brian Ng in Rest of World (9/6/21):

"Revolutionary type: Meet the designer decolonizing Chinese fonts

Julius Hui, who has done custom work for companies like Tencent, wants to radically rethink Chinese fonts."

I find this article to be curiously counterintuitive:  Julius Hui, the font designer, wants to revolutionize Chinese typography by hearkening back to a time before modern (say, the last four or five hundred years) fonts for typesetting.  That would be like telling designers of modern fonts for northern European languages to go back to the 4th-century pre-Gothic script of Ulfilas (or Wulfila) to develop a "revolutionary" new script for English or for designers of modern fonts for southern European languages to go back to the uncial majuscule script of roughly the same time period that was used for Greek and Latin.

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"Kong Girl Phonetics"

New issue of Sino-Platonic Papers (no. 317 [August, 2021]):

“'Kong Girl Phonetics': Loose Cantonese Romanization in the 2019 Hong Kong Protest Movement,” by Ruth Wetters (free pdf)

Abstract

Cantonese in Hong Kong occupies a specific cultural and political niche, informed by the unique context of the Hong Kong identity. During the 2019 Hong Kong protests, protesters used modified Cantonese online to evade detection and cement their identity as Hong Kongers. One way in which this was achieved is through a new online vernacular, dubbed “Kong girl phonetics” Kong nui ping jam. This vernacular borrows from grassroots romanization, English phonetics, number substitutions, and bilingualism in English and Cantonese to exclude all readers except young Hong Kong people, who show high bilingualism and high tech literacy and share the vocabulary of protesters. This essay explores aspects of this protest vernacular through non-comprehensive analysis of a thread on LIHKG (Lineage: Hong Kong Golden) lin dang 連黨 that is the first recorded example of “Kong girl speech.”

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Korean language in Chinese film

Until Chairman Xi started going after the entertainment world, and especially foreign entertainment, the Chinese people were deeply enamored of Korean soap operas, boy bands, K-Pop girl groups, and so forth.  They idolized the Korean stars, watched their performances, and would even go on pilgrimages to important places associated with them.  Moreover, as with J-pop, manga, and anime, which inspired many young Chinese to learn Japanese language, so were Chinese youth inspired by Korean pop culture to learn Korean language.  So it is not altogether surprising to hear a Chinese film star switch into Korean.

First listen, and see if you can distinguish between the Mandarin and the Korean.  Below I'll give a rough account of the background to this scene.

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Ask Language Log: Caitlyn Jenner, Patriarch?

Julia Preseau wrote to ask about a phrase in Caitlyn Jenner's (5/5/2021) interview with Sean Hannity, where Jenner seems to say "I love this country, I'm a patriarch":

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