Archive for Orthography

"United Kingdom (the)"

Table 1 in "Acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children – Multi-country", World Health Organization 5/27/2022, includes this:

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Comparing phrase lengths in French and English

In a comment on "Trends in French sentence length" (5/26/2022), AntC raised the issue of cross-language differences in word counts: "I was under the impression French needed ~20% more words to express the same idea as an English text." And in response, I promised to "check letter-count and word-count relationships in some English/French parallel text corpora, when I have a few minutes".

I found a few minutes yesterday, and ran (a crude version of) this check on the data in Alex Franz, Shankar Kumar & Thorsten Brants, "1993-2007 United Nations Parallel Text", LDC2013T06.

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Japanese orthography of Ukrainian city names

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Like many around the world, I have been deeply saddened by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I have been watching news from around the world, including Japan. In addition to the actual war itself, and to the sometimes inane (studio talking-head) coverage of the war as some kind of horse race, I have been disturbed by the Japanese media’s failure to update the orthography of Ukrainian cities such as the capital, Kyiv.

Not a single domestic news outlet I am aware of―including the public broadcaster, NHK―has dropped the Soviet-era Russian name “Kiev” (キエフ) to replace it with Kyiv. CNN’s Japanese site, for instance, has similarly failed to revise its choice of katakana.

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Orthography of prosodic focus: The history

It's well known that Jane Austen's novels made extensive use of italics to mark prosodic focus. Here's the first example from Pride and Prejudice, which occurs in the eighth sentence of the work, on p. 2 of the 1813 first edition:

"Do not you want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

This was invitation enough.

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Garden path of the day

This NYT link text needed a second reading for me to break the initial prepositional phrase after "Bruce Springsteen", and start the main-clause subject conjunction with "Bob Dylan":

Like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and others have all sold rights to their music for eye-popping prices.

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Morphemes without Sinographs

Commenting on "Educated (and not so educated) guesses about how to read Sinographs" (11/16/21), Chris Button asked:

I’m curious what you mean by “pseudo explanation”? The expected reflex from Middle Chinese times is xù, but yǔ has become the accepted pronunciation based on people guessing at the pronunciation in more recent times. Isn’t that a reasonable explanation?

To which I replied:

It's such a gigantic can of worms that I'm prompted to write a separate post on this mentality. I'll probably do so within a few days, and it will be called something like "Morphemes without characters".

Stay tuned.

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Artistic Sinograph: Buddha

On the wall of an apartment complex in Dali, Yunnan, southwestern China:

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Nominations for Japanese words of the year

Mezurashii / めずらしい / 珍しい ("amazing; wonderful; rare").  Love 'em!  Such creativity!  Such imagination!

"Japan’s Words of 2021: Nominees Announced for Annual List"
Language Nov 4, 2021

On November 4, the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha announced its list of nominees for the words and phrases best representing the year 2021. Our complete list of the nominees with explanations.
New Words for a Pandemic Year

Each year Jiyū Kokumin Sha, the publisher of Gendai yōgo no kiso chishiki (Basic Knowledge on Contemporary Terminology), an annual guide to the latest terms in use in the Japanese language, holds its contest to decide the Words of the Year. For 2021, the nominating committee selected a list of 30 terms that have made themselves a part of the spoken and written landscape in Japan this year.

….

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Mixed Mandarin-Taiwanese-Japanese orthography

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Om, sumo, and the universality of sound

From Zihan Guo:

A Japanese expression I came upon in a reading from Takami sensei's class reminded me of the "om" you mentioned weeks ago in our class.

阿吽の呼吸(aun'nokokyū あうんのこきゅう)
 
It refers to the synchronization of breathing of sumo opponents before a match. I read about this in an article about an interview with a sumo wrestler. But the "aun あうん" part lingered in my mind. Then I realized that it was the Japanese transliteration of the "om" that you were telling the class that encompassed all sounds:  "a" and "un" signify the beginning and end of the cosmos respectively, or so wikipedia explains. The Japanese phrase means a harmonious, non-verbal communication.

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Borcester shots

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Simplified characters defeat traditional characters in Ireland

Article by Colm Keena in The Irish Times (8/2/21):

"Decision on Mandarin Leaving Cert exam ‘outrages’ Chinese communities:
Exam subject that students can sit from 2022 will only allow for simplified Chinese script"

Here are the first four paragraphs of the article:

Chinese communities in Ireland are “outraged” by the decision of the Department of Education to use only a simplified script in the new Leaving Certificate exam in Mandarin Chinese, according to a group set up to campaign on the issue.

The new exam subject, which students can sit from 2022, will not allow for the use of the traditional or heritage Chinese script, which is used by most people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other, mostly non-mainland-China locations.

The decision by the department is a “discrimination against the heritage Chinese learners in Ireland,” according to Isabella Jackson, an assistant professor of Chinese history in Trinity College, Dublin, who is a member of the Leaving Cert Mandarin Chinese Group.

“It is wrong for our Irish Government to deny children of a Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau background the right to sit an examination using the Chinese script that is part of their heritage.”

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Excepted for publication

I wrote to a colleague who helped me edit a paper that it had been accepted for publication.  She wrote back, "I’m glad it is excepted".

Some may look upon such a typo as "garden variety", but I believe that it tells us something profoundly significant about the primacy of sound over shape, an issue that we have often debated on Language Log, including how to regard typographical errors in general, but also how to read old Chinese texts (e.g., copyists' mistakes, deterioration of texts over centuries of editorial transmission, etc.).

Often, when you read a Chinese text and parts of it just don't make any sense, if you ignore the superficial semantic signification of the characters with which it is written, but focus more on the sound, suddenly the meaning of the text will become crystal clear.  In point of fact, much of the commentarial tradition throughout Chinese history consists of this kind of detective work — sorting out which morphemes were really intended by a given string of characters.

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