Archive for Transcription

Jumbled pinyin

I spotted this not-too-old post on Stephen Jones: a blog, "Interpreting pinyin" (10/9/17).

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Handsome court — translation / transcription hybrid

Schematic map of bus stops in the vicinity of Lingnan University, Tuen Mun (below Castle Peak), Hong Kong.  Note the tenth stop outbound, which is "Handsome Court" (to be explained below):

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Quadriscriptal "You Are My Sunshine"

From Emma Knightley:

Sent by my boomer parents – according to the caption how a Taiwanese village is teaching seniors how to sing "You Are My Sunshine" in English, which requires them to know a combination of Mandarin, Taiwanese ("阿粿"), English ("B"), and Japanese ("の")! (I think the calligraphy is wonderful, to boot.)

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Ask Language Log: The Dry / Solitary Tree

From Adrienne Mayor:

I am writing about The Dry Tree or Solitary Tree, associated with Alexander the Great in medieval Alexander Romance and in Marco Polo, who located it in Khorasan.

Later, the Bavarian explorer Johannes Schiltberger trekked across Khorasan in about 1405-25 and reported that the Muslims called the tree “Kurrutherek” or “Sirpe,” meanings unknown.

Do the words ring any bells for you?

Could they be transliterated from Persian, Arabic, Turkic, perhaps phonetically?

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Middle Sinitic in Indological Transcription

A fascinating, valuable new proposal from Nathan Hill:

"An Indological transcription of Middle Chinese"

Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 52 (2023), 40-50.


Because most Sino-Tibetan languages with a literary tradition use Indic derived scripts and those that do not are each sui generis, there are advantages to transcribing these languages also along Indic lines. In particular, this article proposes an Indological transcription for Middle Chinese.

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Inverted writing in video subtitles: traditional cotton processing

In an off-topic comment (4/27/08), DDeden requested an English translation of the subtitles of a video about "Cotton: from fluff to dyed cloth the traditional Chinese way" (the video is embedded in this tweet).  It seemed a worthwhile endeavor, since the film itself was visually quite informative, though the subtitles looked rather sketchy.

I asked Zhang He, who is familiar with this kind of traditional technology, if she could transcribe the subtitles and give us an idea of what they say. She kindly obliged us by writing the following, extended comment, which I give in full with transcription and translation, both because of its innate value and because of the extraordinary circumstances under which she did it (described at the bottom).

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The car hit cheese bacon mushroom face, part 2

Todd Wilbur shared this menu item on Facebook:

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No parking sign in Taiwanese

Photo taken outside a casino in Tainan, Taiwan:

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AI for Akkadian

Article by Melanie Lidman in The Times of Israel (6/17/23):

Groundbreaking AI project translates 5,000-year-old cuneiform at push of a button

‘Google Translate’-like program for Akkadian cuneiform will enable tens of thousands of digitized but unread tablets to be translated to English. Accuracy is debatable.

Opening and key paragraphs:

Cuneiform is the oldest known form of writing, but it is so difficult to read that only a few hundred experts around the world can decode the clay tablets filled with wedge-shaped symbols. Now, a team of archaeologists and computer scientists from Israel has created an AI-powered translation program for ancient Akkadian cuneiform, allowing tens of thousands of already digitized tablets to be translated into English instantaneously.

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Transliterations aplenty

From Simon Cartoon:

Here's something I just saw at a local bakery in Berkeley, CA.

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Annals of inventive pinyin: rua

This exercise video shows a woman repeating the syllable "rua" to describe a move that she makes:

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ChatGPT does cuneiform studies

We have seen ChatGPT tell stories (and variants of the stories it tells), fancify Coleridge's famous poem on Xanadu, pose a serious challenge to the Great Firewall of China, mimic VHM, write Haiku, and perform all manner of amazing feats.  In a forthcoming post, we will witness its efforts to translate Chinese poetry.  Today, we will watch ChatGPT make a credible foray into Akkadiology.

Translating old clay tablet by using chatGPT

Jan Romme, Jan's Stuff (5/15/23)

The author commences:

You might have heard how I asked chatGPT to pose as a Jehovah’s Witness, write a “witnessing letter” with 2 or 3 bible scriptures in it, and then translate that letter into an English rap song, Eminem style.  Or you might have missed that news. My point is, I like to play with AI’s.

I’m increasingly stupefied by how much AI models like OpenAI’s chatGPTGoogle’s BARD, and Facebooks LLaMMa and others are capable of.

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Shanghainese under attack

Headline in a Hong Kong Chinese newspaper, Bastille Post 巴士的報 (4/15/23):

Shànghǎi Xújiāhuì shūyuàn yìmíng zhī zhēng shìfǒu gǎi yòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zhuānjiā hándié

上海徐家匯書院譯名之爭 是否改用漢語拼音專家咁䏲

"Controversy over the transcription of the name of the Xujiahui Library in Shanghai:  should it be changed to Hanyu Pinyin? Expert opinions"

Currently the name of this library at the entrance to its impressive building is "Zikawei".  What does this name signify, and why is it a matter of contention?  Put simply, "Zikawei" is the Shanghainese pronunciation of Mandarin "Xujiahui", and some nationalistic partisans are opposed to the use of Shanghainese on a public building in Shanghai.

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