Archive for Diglossia and digraphia

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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Speak Darja (Algerian colloquial), not Fusha (Arabic)

This little clip, of sociolinguistic as well as non-linguistic interest, has gone viral in the Algerian online world (via Twitter):

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"Up" in Japanese and Chinese

Tong Wang told me that she just learned a new word.  It's "up主", a term borrowed from Japanese into Chinese, and refers to those who upload audio, video, or other resources to share on certain websites.

In this expression, zhǔ / nushi 主 means "master; lord; host; owner", etc. (it has many other meanings in other realms of discourse, e.g., "Allah; Lord; advocate; main; primary; principal", etc.)

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The actuality of emerging digraphia

Every time someone (usually a Chinese person) raises the issue of writing Sinographic languages in a phonetic script, people (usually non-Chinese) will jump on him / her and say that it can't be done or that it will destroy the culture.

When it is pointed out that it already has been done repeatedly for the last millennium and more ("Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts" [5/20/16]) and that the Vietnamese and Koreans have done it successfully (passim), the ultimate response of the anti-phonetists is that we need to take a survey to find out if the Chinese people really want a phonetic script (most recently in the comments here:  "Sinitic languages without the Sinographic script" [3/5/19]).

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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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I don't feel OK

Viral meme in the Sinosphere:

Wǒ juédé bù OK 我覺得不OK ("I don't feel OK")

Variant:

Wǒ juédé hái OK 我覺得還OK ("I feel sort of OK")

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Sino-English graphic tour de force

Jeff DeMarco saw this on Facebook:

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