Archive for Pronunciation

Mandarin morphosyllabic annotation of a Taiwanese sign

Public notice in a ward in Tainan, Taiwan:


(Source)

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Mandarin with a German accent

Christian Lindner opened his speech in Chinese at the 70th Federal Party Congress of the FDP:

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Ruby phonetic annotation for Cantonese

Jenny Chu sent in this photograph of an ad on a Hong Kong subway car:

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On swallowing and slurring in Pekingese

I called this old post to the attention of Yijie Zhang, a true native of Peking / Beijing / Beizhing:

"How they say 'Beijing' in Beijing" (8/18/08)

Yijie's reply:

I totally agree with you! There is indeed an enormous amount of slurring and swallowing of consonants in Pekingese, which is sometimes referred to as "tūn zìr 吞字儿" ("swallowing characters") or "tūn yīn 吞音" ("swallow sounds"). As a native Běijīng rén 北京人 ("Pekingese"), I remember a friend of mine from Jiangsu province once complained that it almost sounded like a trisyllabic word when I was saying a five-character phrase, and she always had to guess what I was saying (according to the vowel contours) because of my "tūn yīn 吞音" ("swallowing the sounds"). Other topolect speakers enumerated some of the most typical words of "tūn yīn 吞音" ("swallowing the sounds") in Pekingese:

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Why we say "Beizhing" and not "Beijing"

Well, I don't say "Beizhing", and I think it sounds ghastly, so much so that I cringe when I hear it and my flesh creeps.  I never could figure out why English speakers would use this hideous pronunciation when it would be so much easier, transparent, and direct just to pronounce the name the way it looks:  "bei-", like "bay", as in "Beirut" (we don't have any trouble with that, do we?), and "-jing" as in "jingle".  BEI- -JING!  Voilà!  We don't have to say "bei- -zhing".  I realize, though, that almost everybody, including many China specialists who surely know better, say "Beizhing", not "Beijing".

Finally, an anonymous curmudgeonly correspondent offers some reasons for how it came about:

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More misreadings by Xi Jinping

From a colleague (with Romanizations and translations added by VHM):

Two of Xi's recent báizì 白字 ("miswritten / mispronounced character") that the CCP propaganda machine tries awkwardly to cover up:

Reading “jīngzhàn xìnì 精湛细腻” ("consummately exquisite") as “jīng shén xìnì 精甚细腻" ("very refined and exquisite”).

Reading“shànyǎng 赡养” ("support; provide for") as “zhānyǎng 瞻仰” ("pay respect").

Xi has after all only xiǎoxué shuǐpíng wénhuà chéngdù 小学水平文化程度 ("primary school level of education"), as the late Li Rui 李锐 (1917-2019; Chinese historian and politician) had famously commented. Xi therefore shows traits of some deep inferiority complex.

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How to maintain first and second language skills

In the comments to "Cantonese as a Second Language" (4/22/19), there's an interesting discussion going on about how to maintain and / or acquire competency in more than one language.  This post started out as a comment to that thread, but it soon grew too long, so I've separated it off here.

My son was born in Taiwan and spent the first two years of his life in Taipei in an all-Mandarin household with lots of members (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, and two aunts), and plenty of other relatives in the Taipei area (more uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) — all mainlanders.  They all spoke Mandarin with him.

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Schadenfreudeful

A moment ago, I had occasion to use the word "schadenfreudeful" in a letter to someone. Wanting to see if anyone else had ever used this word, I did a Google search, and it yielded 149 ghits. I knew exactly how to say it, so didn't need any guidance in that regard, but I was intrigued by the fact that the first listing for the word was this:

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Kirsten Gillibrand's Mandarin

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The politics of "Maria" in Taiwan

During the last few days, there has been a huge furor over this sentence spoken publicly by the Mayor of Kaohsiung City, Han Kuo-yu (Daniel Han):

"Mǎlìyà yīxiàzi zuò wǒmen Yīngwén lǎoshī 瑪莉亞一下子做我們英文老師" ("Maria suddenly becomes our English teacher")

Newspaper articles describing the incident, which is now being referred to as the "'Mǎlìyà' shìjiàn「瑪麗亞」事件" ("'Maria' Affair"), may be found here (in Chinese, with video clip) and here (in English).

Mayor Han is notorious for his errant, flippant manner of speaking, but this instance — which he later claimed was a "joke" — quickly came back to haunt him.  To understand why this is so, we need to take into account a number of factors.

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Whaumau

Thomas Lumley called my attention to the neologism and bilingual pun "whaumau", now a Twitter hashtag:

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Hol don

This morning while shaving, as I was listening to the radio around 7:30 a.m., I heard a medley of songs by three artists, all with the same title:  "Hold on".  But a funny thing happened in all three of these renditions:  whenever the singer pronounced the title phrase, it always came out as "hol don", at least to my ear.  But I don't think it was just my ear, since several times they prolonged the "hol" syllable and emphasized the "d" at the beginning of the "don" syllable.

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Sinitic languages without the Sinographic script

[This is a guest post from a frustrated Chinese father in the PRC, written in response to the discussion in the comments that followed this post:  "The Sinophone" (2/28/19).  He doesn't mince words, but this is how he feels — passionately — about his fatherland.]

As usual, the more I learn the more am I convinced it's an idiotic script that has convoluted the natural evolution of the language.

I think about how, without pinyin and modern technology, the authorities would have accomplished changing the pronunciation nationwide.

Moreover, I've noticed the seemingly arbitrary, multiple pronunciations of many characters throughout these years.

I also believe that it is due to the limitations of the script that the troublesome issue of the multiple pronunciations developed.  Can you imagine if they had to come up with different characters back in the day for each different sound / word?  We're already drowning in a flood of characters as it is.

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