Archive for Topolects

Cantonese chatting

[This is a guest post by Tom Mazanec]

I recently became curious about the origins of the Cantonese word king1 gai2 傾偈 ("to chat"). Though I've never formally studied Cantonese, I'm picking up bits of it from my wife and in-laws, who moved to the U.S. from Guangzhou about 30 years ago and use Cantonese to speak to each other and to my children. I like to think I know it slightly better than my 1-year-old and almost as well as my 3-year-old. My in-laws use the term king1 gai2 often, especially in light-hearted tone to describe the kids' pre-verbal babbling when they were under 1.
 
The equivalent phrase in Mandarin is liáo tiān(r) 聊天(兒), which appears to have no relation to king1 gai2. So this got me wondering about where king1 gai2 came from. On its surface, the characters appear to mean "pouring out gāthās" (gāthā: "song" in Sanskrit; "Buddhist verse" in Chinese). This makes little sense (though it would've been nice to put it into my T'oung Pao article on gāthās a few years ago), so I suspected the characters 傾偈 were used in a purely phonetic manner. Sure enough, the word is also sometimes written as 傾計 (king1 gai2). 

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Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmärchen in Hoklo

Good news!

"German classic released in Hoklo

 FIRST IN A SERIES: The aim was to translate ‘Grimms’ Fairy Tales’ as closely as possible to the original while giving play to Hoklo’s characteristics, the translator said

    By Kayleigh Madjar / Staff writer, Taipei Times (6/21/21)

Some of our favorite things:  languages, topolects, translations, folktales.

National Cheng Kung University linguists on Wednesday released a bilingual version of Grimms’ Fairy Tales in German and Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), complete with voice recordings accessible via QR code.

Grimms’ Fairy Tales, a German collection of about 300 stories published in the 19th century, has been translated into more than 100 languages worldwide.

Hoklo is now joining the list thanks to a project spearheaded by Tan Le-kun (陳麗君), an associate professor in the university’s Department of Taiwanese Literature.

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Botched dubbing of a Taiwanese Mandarin film on the mainland

From Eoin Cullen:

This is a really fascinating story:  a Taiwanese film ("Dāng nánrén liàn'ài shí 当男人恋爱时" ["Man in Love"]) where the main character has been dubbed for the mainland Chinese release. The film is mostly in accented Taiwan Mandarin and the protagonist peppers his speech with Southern Min (Taiwanese / Hoklo), so someone decided there’d be a comprehensibility issue for mainland audiences (despite the fact that there are Chinese language subtitles on all films, Chinese or otherwise). In the dubbed version the protagonist has a notable mainland Mandarin accent, which is hilarious for Taiwanese netizens. This to me would be like if the film Trainspotting had been dubbed into American English for its US release.

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Pineapple suicide

Sign at a fruit stand:

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An American with native fluency in Taiwanese Mandarin

Here's a video clip of a young American businessman named Ben Metcalf (Mai Banda 麥班達) in Taiwan making a presentation for his company's first public launch as part of their IPO process.

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Colloquial Cantonese and Taiwanese as mélange languages

Charles Belov writes:

My understanding was that Hong Kong newspapers, newscasts, and popular Cantonese songs use literary Chinese exclusively while Hong Kong star magazines and Cantonese hip-hop (e.g., LMF, Softhard) use colloquial Cantonese exclusively. But today as I was walking along, an old Beyond song, 俾面派对, was earworming me and it suddenly hit me that, unlike most Cantonese songs, and like Cantonese hip-hop, which it isn't, it includes colloquial Cantonese, specifically 唔 and 佢 (and, as it turns out, "D").

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Singlish "lah", with a possible deep connection to colloquial Arabic

A prominent feature of Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) is sentence-final "la", in which it has more nuances and innuendoes than you can shake a stick at.  Anyone who has heard Singaporeans talking freely cannot fail to be struck by the frequency and variety of sentence-final "lah". This ubiquitous particle "lah" (/lá/ or /lâ/), sometimes spelled as "la" and rarely spelled as "larh", "luh", or "lurh", may possibly have been absorbed into Singlish from a similar word in Malay.  See David Deterding, Singapore English (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p. 71.

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Pork in a pot

That's how Google Translate renders "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉", and it sounds pretty good, though it's wrong, as we will discover below.  Baidu fanyi gives "Soul of shadow", for which I have no idea how they got it or what it means in relation to a pork entree.  Microsoft Bing Translator has "Pots and pans of meat", which leaves me wondering how carefully prepared it might be. 

I got interested in this term, "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉" (lit., "pot package / bag / bundle meat") because of these remarks by Michael Broughton:

I am a Chinese translator and a long time reader of Language Log. 
 
I am currently in the midst of translating a travel book from Chinese to English and have recently come across a dish called 锅包肉. 
 
After doing some searching online I discovered that the most common translation for this dish is "Fried Pork in Scoop" (over 2000 hits in Google when searched with quotation marks [VHM:  I got 11,500 hits]).

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Sinographic inputting: "it's nothing" — not

Last week in our Dunhuangology seminar, a student wanted to type "wǔ 武" ("martial; military") into the chat box, but instead out popped "nián 年" ("year").  I immediately said to her, "I'll bet you were using a shape-based inputting system", which left her a bit surprised.

Ever since information technologists began to wrestle with the problem of inputting, ordering, and retrieving Chinese characters in computers during the 70s, I have been intensely interested in the theoretical and practical obstacles they faced.  To better understand the overall situation with regard to characters in computers, I organized an international conference at Penn in 1990 on the computerization of Chinese characters that resulted in Victor H. Mair and Yongquan Liu, eds., Characters and Computers (Amsterdam, Oxford, Washington, Tokyo:  IOS, 1991).

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Taiwanese / Hokkien in Sino-Japanese script, part 2

[This is a guest post by Ying-Che Li]

Being Taiwanese myself, I very much appreciate Victor’s frequent attention to Taiwanese code utility, code crossing, and other linguistic phenomena, which interestingly reflect Taiwan’s current political and cultural atmosphere.

I have several immediate comments after reading Victor’s two recent postings on Taiwanese. As I became immersed in writing, though, it has turned into a longish reflection unexpectedly.

1 I admire Victor’s (and others’) explication of layers of nuances and his insightful ideas on the ‘vulgar’ expression discussed.

2 To me, the ‘vulgar’ and the intentionally sexual implication in the Taiwanese expression was here used as a specifically reactionary retort to the notorious internet and campaign speech vulgarities of Kaohsiung mayor, Han Kuo-yu (Kuomintang [KMT] presidential candidate), which invariably exhibit his sexually explicit tendencies and his chauvinism (and his womanizing habits). Han, unfortunately, attracts huge followers (many of whom are descendants of 眷村 juancun, the military dependent villages, Han being one himself), even now, and they take his big promises, such as 大家發大財 dajia fa dacai,  ‘I’ll make everyone rich’ (echoing Trump’s slogan of ‘making America great’) at their face value.

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Hokkien in Sino-Japanese script

The following viral Hokkien expression looks like it's written in Japanese hiragana and two Chinese characters, and so it is, but if you only know hiragana and standard Sino-Japanese characters, you won't have the ghost of an idea what it means:

りしれ供さ小

This is the challenge of reading and writing Sinitic topolects in Sinographs.

Even if you read this rather exhaustive article explaining what it means, you won't grasp all of the powerful nuances of this expression that is found on t-shirts, handbags, mugs, and various accessories:

"What Does a Trending T-shirt Say About Taiwanese Identity and Politics?", by Brian Hioe, The News Lens (2/01/21)

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Hokkien renaissance

This is cause for rejoicing:

 "Meet the Malaysian on a mission to make Hokkien great again, amid Mandarin’s rising popularity in Southeast Asia"

    Linguist Sim Tze Wei has been accused of trying to divide the Chinese people, as there are those who see the use of other Chinese languages ‘as a sign of disunity and weakness’
    But he points out that Chinese immigrants to Asia have for generations been speaking their own languages, which are being edged out as more turn to learning Mandarin

Randy Mulyanto, SCMP, 1/24/21

When Sim Tze Wei began working to raise awareness of the Hokkien language, he never expected he would be accused of trying to divide the Chinese people.

“Han Chinese nationalists everywhere are keen to equate Mandarin to [real] Chinese,” said Sim, adding that there are those who find ethnic Chinese people speaking in Chinese languages other than Mandarin “as a sign of disunity and weakness”.

The Malaysian-Chinese linguist, who is in his mid-30s, is president of the Hokkien Language Association of Penang. Through the association, Sim is campaigning for the wider use of Hokkien, and advocating that it be reinstated as a language of instruction in independent and Chinese primary schools in the northern Malaysian state, as he fears Hokkien will “continue to be eroded by Mandarin and English”.

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Shanghainese posters

From Diana Shuheng Zhang:

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