Archive for Transcription

Alphabetical transcriptions in Cantonese

[This is a guest post by Till Kraemer]

I live in Hong Kong, and many things are fascinating here, especially the way they use English characters in Cantonese. Some very frequently used words (including tones and everything) don't have Chinese characters at all, like "hea" and "chur". Obviously it's colloquial, but this interesting Chinese/English mix goes as far as official names of movies:

(image source)

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Tocharian love poem

From Diana Shuheng Zhang:

This English translation is modified based on pages 26-28 of the article — Adams, Douglas Q: "More thoughts on Tocharian B prosody," Tocharian and Indo-European Studies 14 (2013), 3-30.

A fragmentary manuscript in Tocharian B, ca. 600 AD, excavated in Kucha (Qizil Miŋ-Öy), Berlin Turfan Collection. Now stored at Frankfurt. No. THT 496, B 496.

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"Onion" in Persian, Turkic, Mongolian, Manchu, Dungan (northwest Mandarin), and Indic

By chance, I came across this interesting Uyghur word for "onion" that derives from Persian:

Uyghur پىياز‎ (piyaz), from Persian پیاز

(source)

It's piyoz (пиёз) in Uzbek also, which is closely related to Uyghur.

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"Andy's chest"

Notice the button on Andy Warhol's jacket:

Source:  The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4 (Paintings and Sculptures Late 1974-1976).

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Japanese-English digraphia in action

Stuart Luppescu saw this restaurant sign in Saitama, Fukaya:

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Amazing new Japanese words

These come from the following nippon.com article:

"Pay It Forward: The Top New Japanese Words for 2019" (12/13/19)

I'll list the words first, then explain which one is my favorite.

A prefatory note:  nearly half of the words on these lists are based wholly or partly on borrowings from English, though they are assimilated into Japanese in such a manner that they are unrecognizable to monolingual English speakers.

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Tero: an English word in Japanese garb

Three days ago, I passed through immigration at Kansai International Airport (near Osaka).  I was struck by a large, prominently displayed word in katakana (syllabary for transcription of foreign words and onomatopoeia):  tero テロ.

Since I was in a restricted area of the airport, naturally I couldn't take a picture of the signs with this word on them, but I knew right away from the circumstances what it signified:  "terrorism" — they were taking strict precautions against it.

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Loose Romanization for Cantonese

A month ago, it was being called "Women's Romanization for Hong Kong" (8/17/19).  Now it has been catapulted into an all-purpose, across-the-board status for the Hong Kong anti-extradition protesters:

"Insurgent tongues: how loose Cantonese romanisation became Hong Kong's patois of protest", by Rachel Leung Ka-yin, Hong Kong Free Press (9/21/19).

Leung's article begins:

"Gwong Fuk Heung Gong! Si Doi Gark Ming!"*

If you understand the above slogan, chances are you're probably a Hong Konger born in the post-80s or 90s. If that did not make any sense to you, the "language" in use is a form of loose Cantonese romanisation, which recently saw a surge from the niche to widespread use in political activism via the online platform LIHKG**.

*["Liberate Hong Kong! the revolution of our times!"]

**[VHM:  like Reddit]

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"Loser" in Taiwan and in China

From Don Keyser:

Perhaps you are familiar with the Taiwan slang word lǔshé 魯蛇 — I was not, and needed to look it up.  Cute.  Picking evocative characters pronounced lu3she2 — for "loser."  This usage is sufficiently common to have found its way into Pleco, though it befuddled Google Translate when I first tried there.

Those who write for Sīxiǎng tǎnkè 思想坦克 [Voicettank] often identify themselves in witty ways.  This author, Ke Fanxi 柯汎禧, informs the reader that he is a loser at the lowest rung of academia, currently a doctoral student at the Institute of Political Science of Sun Yat-Sen University: "Zuòzhě mùqián shì jiùdú yú Zhōngshān dàxué zhèngzhì xué yánjiū suǒ de bóshì shēng, xuéshù zuì dǐcéng de lǔshé 作者目前是就讀於中山大學政治學研究所的博士生,學術最底層的魯蛇.

Having occupied that rung myself in the long ago, I appreciate both the sardonic wit and the accuracy.  Well, there ARE lower rungs, to be sure, but mere doctoral candidates can certainly be made to feel like creepy, crawly losers.

The article "Hán fěn de xìnxīn dào nǎlǐ qùle 韓粉的信心到哪裡去了?" ("What has happened to the confidence of Han [Kuo-yu's] fans?") referred to above is found here.

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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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How to learn to read and write Chinese

From the moment I began learning Mandarin more than half a century ago, I had a strong, visceral opposition to learning the characters.  I wanted to learn the language — its phonology, grammar, lexicon, morphology, syntax, idioms.  My teachers forced me to learn some characters, but I figured out various ways to devote much more of my time focusing on the language rather than on the writing system.  Most of my secrets for learning Sinitic languages in pre-digital days are detailed in the "Readings" below.  But it is so much easier to learn Chinese in the current age of electronic resources than it was even a couple of decades ago.  Now there's no excuse for or reason to slave over character flash cards and dictation (tīngxiě 聽寫 /听写 [a striking example of the difference between traditional and simplified characters]).

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Xinjiang Uygur

China Daily News headline:

"Xinjiang Uygur sees big influx of visitors", by Cheng Si (8/7/19)

N.B.:  "Domestic travelers accounted for 98 percent of those visiting the region, while the top three sources of overseas visitors were Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia."

Never mind that it's hard to imagine why tourists would be rushing to the world's largest concentration camp.  The wording of the title left me reeling:  what is this "Xinjiang Uygur" that is seeing a "big influx of visitors"?  As the subject of a passive sentence about an increase of tourists, that locution strikes me as ungrammatical and unidiomatic.  (If they changed the last word and wrote "Xinjiang Uygur sees big influx of borrowings", then I could understand the first two words as referring to the standard Uyghur language of the region.)

I'm not the only person who feels that  way.

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Italian Red Meat Flavor potato chips

Jeff DeMarco writes:

My son in Hong Kong made this insightful quip regarding the attached photo: "I feel cooperation with China is ultimately going to depend on us understanding each other's potato-chip flavors."

I presume the meaning is something along the line of "spaghetti sauce flavor…."

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