Archive for Diglossia and digraphia

Diglossia: "The shabby Big Wild Goose Pagoda"

For a natural demonstration of what diglossia is in the Chinese-speaking context, watch this 0:53 video.  The speaker begins in local Xi'anese (also called Guānzhōng huà 关中话 / 關中話), but at 0:20, when he suddenly realizes that he is talking to a television reporter, after hilariously sprucing himself up a bit, he abruptly switches to Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM):

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I [heart] you in Sino-English

Taken by Yuanfei Wang at a restaurant in Hangzhou:

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Diglossia in action

Neil Kubler spotted this restaurant sign last week in Xi'an in northwest China:

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Awesome sushi barbecue restaurant

From Nora Castle, who came across this restaurant which has just opened in Coventry, England:

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"HKers add oil"

Photograph in the Wall Street Journal, "Hong Kong Protesters Fill Streets in District With History of Violent Clashes:  Police are under pressure to contain weeks of tear-gas-soaked demonstrations against mainland China's growing influence", by John Lyons and Joyu Wang (8/3/19):

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Emoticons as writing

This morning I received this card from a friend:

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Is this Cantonese, Mandarin, or a combination of the two?

Sign on a municipal bus in San Francisco:


(Sponsored by truthornahsf.org)

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The reality of emerging digraphia

Paul Battley spotted this nice specimen of digraphia written inside the glass of one of those soft toy grabber machines in Taipei last week:

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Sino-English neologisms

As I've mentioned before, Chinese feel that they have every right to experiment with English, make up their own English words, and compose their own locutions which have never before existed in the English-speaking world.  In recent years, they have become ever more playful and emboldened to create new English terms that they gloss or define in Chinese.  Here are ten such new English terms, or perhaps in some cases I should say modified English terms, together with their Chinese explanations:

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First grade science card: Pinyin degraded

Science card given out to first grade students in Shenzhen, China:

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English names for Chinese babies

I first heard about Beau Jessup (founder [2015] and CEO of Special Name) and her Chinese baby-naming business a couple of years ago.  There was even a TEDx talk by her about it:

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"No" in Chinese

A sign warning against uncivilized behavior in the main bazaar in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region (Bloomberg):

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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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