Archive for Transcription

Dissension over the role of the alphabet in literacy acquisition in the PRC

A graduate student from the PRC told me that the situation regarding instruction in Hanyu Pinyin has become quite chaotic in recent years in China.  Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic Spelling"), or Pīnyīn 拼音 ("Spelling") for short, is the official PRC Romanization of Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), i.e., Pǔtōnghuà 普通话.

For many decades, it used to be that all students — beginning in first grade of elementary school — learned to read and write via Pinyin.  Indeed, under the program known as "Zhùyīn shìzì, tíqián dú xiě 注音识字,提前读写" ("Phonetically Annotated Character Recognition Speeds Up Reading and Writing"), or "Z.T." for short, which actively encouraged children to use Pinyin Romanization for characters they were unable to write, the promotion of Pinyin continued well into upper grades. See "How to learn to read Chinese" (5/25/08).  In the last few years, however, it seems that instruction in Pinyin — at least in some schools — has become "optional".  Some teachers are simply not teaching the basics of pinyin.  As a result, many students are no longer competent in it, so that when they get to the dreaded gaokao (National College Entrance Examination [NCEE]), where mastery of pinyin is required, they're not prepared for that part of the exams.  Parents are complaining.

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The Garden of Morning Calm

[This is a guest post by S. Robert Ramsey]

You’ve probably heard Korea referred to as the “Land of the Morning Calm.” That’s a nickname for Korea that’s been used in the West at least since the 19th century.

And perhaps because Koreans agree that “Morning Calm” sounds mystical and romantic, it’s been picked up lately—often for commercial purposes—in South Korea, too. Korean Airlines, for example, has frequent flier perks for members of its “Morning Calm Club.” In 1996, an arboretum east of Seoul was given the name, “Garden of Morning Calm.”

But the nickname is a chimera, the result of a mistake—and probably one made by some starry-eyed Westerner infatuated by the mysterious Orient. ‘Morning Calm’ is a mistranslation of an ancient name for Korea, a name known only from ancient Chinese records.

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Mongolian museum mystery

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Sweets and snakes

Sunny Jhutti sent in this photograph of an Indian shop sign:

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Birthday patty

Liwei Jiao sent in this screenshot:

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Macaque and Old Sinitic reconstructions

I've long been deeply intrigued by the word "macaque".  It's an odd-looking term with a murky history, but somehow it just seems to fit the creature that it designates.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed.:

French, from Portuguese macaco, of Bantu origin; akin to Kongo makako, monkeys : ma-, pl. n. pref. + -kako, monkey.

Online Etymology Dictionary:

East Indian monkey, 1757, from French macaque, from Portuguese macaco "monkey," a Bantu word brought from Africa to Brazil (where it was applied 17c. to a type of monkey there).

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When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

It matters, so let's familiarize ourselves with the meaning of the term right off the bat.  In Chinese Studies, we call this "zhèngmíng 正名" ("rectification of names").

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would "rectify the names" to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and "undertakings would not be completed." Mencius extended the doctrine to include questions of political legitimacy.

Wikipedia

So, what is a "qaghan"?

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Transcription and digraphia in the rapidly changing linguistic landscape of China

With notes on 兑, 說 / 説, 悦, 銳, 脱.

From Stephen Tschudi:

A colleague was watching a tuōkǒu xiù 脱口秀 ("talk show") online today, and was shocked when a well-known actress did not pronounce "duìxiàn 兑现" (vb. "cash [a check]; fulfill / honor [a promise / commitment]") correctly. She was even more shocked when, in the audience chat that was scrolling across the screen, an audience member typed "dui 现不是 yue 现“ (no tone marks). The Pinyin leaped out at her visually. I bet there aren't too many examples of this mixture of Pinyin into daily discourse. Just an interesting tidbit! (I asked her for the source but she was watching too casually to remember.)

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"That, that, that…", part 3

"Wowkie Zhang【Sunshine, Rainbow, White pony】"

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"I am a Taiwanese" in Czech transcription

The speaker of the Czech senate addresses Taiwan's parliament alluding to JFK's ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ — and finishes by saying "Wǒ shì Táiwān rén 我是台湾人" ("I am Taiwanese") in (an attempt at) Mandarin.

The video is in Czech but it's easy to spot where this happens — right before the ovation — at 1:12.

The video is embedded here: 

"Vystrčil na Tchaj-wanu připomněl slavná slova Kennedyho. Dočkal se potlesku ve stoje", Zahraničí

You may have to watch through several ads in Czech.  It's fun to listen to them.

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Subtle nuances of particle usage in Sinitic languages and topolects

Let's take the following three utterances that superficially and essentially all say the same thing — "give me face":

1.

Gěi wǒ gè miànzi ba 給我個面子吧

2.

Gěi gè miànzi ba 給個面子吧

3.

Gěi gè miànzi bei 給個面子唄

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Public Romanization in Canton

Sign on the wall of a school:


(Source)

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Uppercase and lowercase letters in Cantonese Romanization

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