Archive for Language and politics

Memes, parodies, puns, and other devices for discussing the coronavirus inside the Great Firewall

In the PRC, you'd best not say anything about COVID-19.  It's more or less forbidden for citizens to talk about it, much less question the government's handling of the CRISIS (not a "dangerous opportunity").  Even the name and the very existence of the disease are highly problematic.  Still, despite all the draconian censorship, people figure out various ways to circumvent the prohibitions and express their feelings and opinions.

"The coronavirus is inspiring memes, parodies and art in Asia as a way to cope", by David Pierson, Los Angeles Times (3/6/20)

"'Noodles' and 'Pandas': Chinese People Are Using Secret Code to Talk About Coronavirus Online".  "'Vietnamese pho noodles,' anyone?", by David Gilbert, VICE (3/6/20)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Languages in Singapore

Fraser Howie called my attention to these two articles that look at language usage in Singapore from quite different angles:

"Revealed: The World's Best Non-Native English Speaking Countries, 2019", by Anna Papadopoulos, Ceoworld (November 5, 2019)

"Singapore has almost wiped out its mother tongues:  Elderly speakers of Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien sometimes cannot talk to their own grandchildren", Asia (Feb 22nd 2020)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (39)

Xiist music

Allusions to Language Log posts abound:

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Winnie the Flu

Tweet from Joshua Wong 黃之鋒, Secretary-General of Demosistō:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

Chinese coronavirus linguistic war

From a Taiwanese colleague:

In the struggle against Wǔhàn fèiyán 武漢肺炎 ("Wuhan pneumonia"), Taiwan has to fight the war on three fronts: (1) trying to stop the virus at its borders; (2) trying to join the WHO for world-wide collaboration and disease information; and (3) fighting against the Communist Chinese dictatorial linguistic policies.  The linguistic policy on disease terminology is really weird; it smacks of George Orwell's 1984.

He cites this article in Chinese and this facebook page (also in Chinese).  Here's another article in Chinese from Taiwan that sticks to "Wuhan pneumonia" despite the pressure from WHO and the PRC government to adopt a name that is not transparent with regard to the origin of the disease.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Sino-Manchu seals of the Xicom Emperor

Tweet by Sulaiman Gu:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

The PRC censors its own national anthem

The people are outraged at what happened to a doctor named Li Wenliang at Wuhan Central Hospital who called attention to the outbreak of the coronavirus on December 30, 2019, before it became an epidemic.  Instead of the government praising him, they sent police to threaten and harass him, as part of their effort to cover up the burgeoning contagion.  While treating patients, he contracted the disease himself and succumbed to it on February 7, 2020.  To add insult to death, the government first denied that he had died, then admitted it and began a propaganda campaign to promote him as a hero.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

"Lawyer lawsuits"?

If you listened to the U.S. Senate proceedings yesterday, you may have been puzzled — as I was — by Jay Sekulow's discussion of "lawyer lawsuits":

And by the way,
lawyer lawsuits?
lawyer lawsuits?
We're talking about the impeachment of a president of the United States,
duly elected.
And the members,
the managers,
are complaining about
lawyer lawsuits?
The consitution allows
lawyer lawsuits.
It's disrespecting the constitution of the United States
to even say that in this chamber —
lawyer lawsuits!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

MLK linguistics

There have been a few LLOG posts focusing on Martin Luther King Jr. over the years, notably "Martin Luther King's rhetorical phonetics" (1/15/2007), "Celebrating the Linguistic Significance of Martin Luther King Jr." (1/17/2016), and "There is No Racial Justice Without Linguistic Justice" (1/15/2018).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

New New Year's couplets

From a friend in Hong Kong:

The following pictures are from Shatin mall last night. They show people lining up to get individually calligraphed Chinese New Year's couplets that take up the key slogan of the protests: "Restore HK's glory: revolution for our times." On the way up to mass today, we saw new slogans spray-painted calling for HK independence as "the only way out". "It ain't over yet."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Two-fifths of the people in Vietnam have the surname Nguyen. Why?

In "Why 40% of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name", Atlas Obscura (3/28/17), republished in Pocket, Dan Nosowitz tells us:

In the U.S., an immigrant country, last names are hugely important. They can indicate where you're from, right down to the village; the profession of a relative deep in your past; how long it's been since your ancestors emigrated; your religion; your social status.

Nguyen doesn't indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the last name Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.

This difference illustrates something very weird about last names: they're a surprisingly recent creation in most of the world, and there remain many places where they just aren't very important. Vietnam is one of those.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (39)

"Vegetable English" vs. "Korea Fish" in Taiwan's presidential election

As we have seen over and over again, banning, blocking, and censorship of the internet make it almost impossible for Chinese citizens to openly discuss anything that is slightly sensitive on the political scale (see "Selected readings" below).  But netizens are highly resourceful, and they have continuously been able to think of creative ways to comment on current affairs through punning and other linguistic maneuvers.

"Chinese netizens declare 'Vegetable English' defeats 'Korea Fish' in Taiwan election:  Chinese netizens mock censors by describing Taiwanese presidential candidates as 'Vegetable English,' 'Korea Fish'"

By Keoni Everington, Taiwan News, Staff Writer (1/12/20)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

A museum for the languages of Taiwan

Language Log readers will be aware that "Chinese", i.e., "Mandarin" (Guóyǔ 國語), is not the only language on the island.  Indeed, it is a Johnny-come-lately, having become the official language of the Republic of China on Taiwan in 1945, and was strongly enforced as such after 1949 when the retreating mainland KMT armies of Chiang Kai-shek occupied the island.

The earliest indigenous languages of Taiwan (Formosa) were Austronesian.  And we should not forget that there was a period of partial Dutch rule (1624-1662), especially in the south, and Spanish Formosa (Formosa Española) was a small colony of the Spanish Empire established in the northern part of the island from 1626 to 1642.  Consequently, both Dutch and Spanish had an impact on the linguistic development of Taiwan during the 17th century.  The first Europeans to take notice of Taiwan, however, were the Portuguese who, passing Taiwan in 1544, recorded in a ship's log the name of the island as Ilha Formosa ("Beautiful Island").

Taiwan was a dependency of Japan from 1895 to 1945, during which period Japanese was the official language.  As such, it was important for the development of language on the island, and its significance lasts till today.

The influence of English in Taiwan has been enormous during the last two centuries.

See "Languages of Taiwan".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)