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The birth of modern Japanese language and literature in the Literary Sinitic context

Just out, a stimulating new book from Brill (2020):

Mareshi Saito.  Kanbunmyaku:  The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature.  Series:  Language, Writing and Literary Culture in the Sinographic Cosmopolis, Volume: 2.  Editors:  Ross King and Christina Laffin; translators:  Alexey Lushchenko, Mattieu Felt, Si Nae Park, and Sean Bussell

From the author's Introduction, p. 1:

The chief aim of this book is to consider the language space of modern Japan from the perspective of what I am calling kanbunmyaku 漢文脈 in Japanese, translated here as “Literary Sinitic Context.”  I use  the term “Literary  Sinitic”* to designate what is often referred to as “Classical Chinese” or “Literary Chinese” in English, wenyan 文言 in Mandarin Chinese, kanbun 漢文 in Japanese (sometimes referred to as “Sino-Japanese” in English), and hanmun 漢文 in Korean.  The Context in Literary Sinitic Context translates the -myaku of kanbunmyaku, and usually implies a pulse, vein, flow, or path, but is also the second constituent element of the Sino-Japanese term bunmyaku 文脈 meaning “(textual, literary) context.”  I use the term Literary Sinitic Context to encompass both Literary Sinitic proper, as well as orthographic and literary styles (buntai 文体) derived from Literary Sinitic, such as glossed reading (kundoku 訓読) or Literary Japanese (bungobun 文語文), which mix sinographs (kanji 漢字, i.e., “Chinese” characters) and katakana.  In addition to styles I also consider Literary Sinitic thought and sensibility at the core of which lie Literary Sinitic poetry (kanshi 漢詩) and prose (kanbun 漢文), collectively termed kanshibun 漢詩文.

*For  the  term  “Literary  Sinitic,”  see  Victor H. Mair,  “Buddhism and the Rise of the Written Vernacular,” Journal of Asian Studies, 53.3 (August, 1994), 707-751.

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Happy Niú Year!

These days I'm getting so many greetings like this:

Chūnjié jiànkāng, niú zhuǎn qiánkūn.

春节健康,牛转乾坤。

"May you be healthy at this time of the Spring Festival, when the ox turns heaven and earth (the universe)."

The first part of this Lunar New Year's (February 12, 2021) greeting is transparent and easy to understand, but the second part makes you stop and wonder, "What?  How and why does the ox do that?"

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BLM in Chinese

The whole world knows about BLM (Black Lives Matter). Native speakers of English (at least American English — I can't vouch for other varieties) instinctively know what the innately idiomatic intransitive verb "matter" means in this construction. But, even for native speakers, it's not easy to define in one word. I suppose, in the expression "Black Lives Matter" it means something like "are of consequence / importance". Yet, if we reworded the slogan as "Black Lives Are of Consequence / Importance" or "Black Lives Are Important / Consequential", it would lose its impact, its zing.

Pondering all of these aspects of the movement's name, I often wondered how "matter" could be felicitously rendered in Chinese. To tell the truth, though, I didn't spend much time on trying to come up with a good translation, because nothing readily came to mind — until this morning when Diana Shuheng Zhang told me she was dissatisfied with the translation that she was most familiar with and appalled by its underlying racism: "Hēi mìng guì 黑命贵" ("Black Lives Are Expensive / Costly" — that's a raw, crude, literal translation of the last word, which can also be interpreted to mean "Important / Valuable"). Diana said that it sounds too crass and materialistic, and I would have to agree with her. She further says that this is blatant Chinese racism, reflecting perhaps not Chinese xenophobia but more of the Chinese willingness / initiative to be merged with supremacists — be they white (who have already “attained” supremacy in many repects), or Chinese themselves (who are yet “striving” for supremacy, at least ideologically!).

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The difference between deformation and devoidness

Final panel of this New York Times article:  "What You Can No Longer Say in Hong Kong" (9/4/20), by Jin Wu and Elaine Yu:

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Be dank / donk mich

Yesterday morning I ate breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in Canton, Ohio and in mid-afternoon I had an early dinner at a Dutch Pantry off Route 80 in Pennsylvania.  When the waitress gave me the bill, I noticed that she had written "Be Dank mich!" on the back of it.  There was also what looked to be like the Chinese character shé 舌 ("tongue"), some scribbled Korean, and another script at the bottom that I didn't take time to examine closely (they kept the check and I was in a hurry to get home before midnight).

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Handfoot

From Lisa Nichols:

I noticed on Twitter some HK protest folks last night talking about being a "handfoot", seemingly a newly coined (punned?) term playing with Chinese characters.  I can't seem to figure out much about it, though, but, in trying, came across your posts on Hong Kong protest language [see "Selected readings" below] and thought you might know, or be able to figure it out easily, or at least be interested.

Can you tell me more about it?  Some Cantonese play?  I take it the meaning is a person on the streets, on the frontlines, but maybe something more than that.

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Chinese characters written in Greek letters

From an anonymous correspondent:

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Barge bilge

The CCP government is dragging a large barge through Victoria Harbor to celebrate their takeover of Hong Kong and the imposition of the hated National Security Law on the former semi-autonomous region.  On one side:


(Source)

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GFHG, SDGM

Hong Kong opponents of PRC / CCP totalitarian rule can read the title of this post.  Many of them can also read this geometric typeface:

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Better said in Cantonese

A banner carried in the streets of Hong Kong on July 1:

Artist

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Uppercase and lowercase letters in Cantonese Romanization

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Spoofing the "crisis" meme

Language Log has been blogging on the "crisis = danger + opportunity" trope since at least 2005.  Our latest iteration is "'Crisis = danger + opportunity' redux" (2/19/20), with a list of references to earlier posts in the series.  By now, the "crisis" meme has become so dull and hackneyed that Tianyu M. Fang has subjected it to a withering deconstruction / reconstruction:

 

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New New Year's couplets

From a friend in Hong Kong:

The following pictures are from Shatin mall last night. They show people lining up to get individually calligraphed Chinese New Year’s couplets that take up the key slogan of the protests: “Restore HK’s glory: revolution for our times.” On the way up to mass today, we saw new slogans spray-painted calling for HK independence as “the only way out”. “It ain’t over yet.”

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