Archive for Language and religion

Past, present, and future

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the future:  "Mirai".

The ensuing discussion was quite animated, touching upon the nuances and implications of words for the future in many different languages.  I concluded by saying that I would write a separate post about past, present, and future:  here it is.

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"Jesus" in Dungan

Dungan is a Sinitic language spoken by the descendants of Hui (Muslim) refugees who fled from northwest China after a failed revolt against the Qing (Manchu) government about a century and a half ago.  Experiencing horrible losses along the way, their remnants settled in parts of what are now Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where ultimately they thrived and are quite successful today, particularly in growing produce.

Naturally, separated as they were from their homeland and its speech community, the language of the Dungans has undergone considerable change, especially through the borrowing of terms from Russian, Persian, Arabic, Turkic, and other languages.  Even more radical was the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet for their writing system (nearly all of those who fled were illiterate in Chinese characters).

For a brief introduction to the Dungans and their language, see "Dungan: a Sinitic language written with the Cyrillic alphabet".

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Because come on

Philip Bump's article about the initiative aimed at splitting Caifornia into six new states contains a cute example of a new playful extension of the use of because:

Happily, in this instance the federal government would have to sign off on the idea, which it will never do, because, come on.

It's not a real extension of the syntax that allows because to take imperative clause complements, of course; it's just a humorous way to dismiss the idea of federal approval, taking its structure from the kind of changes of plan that happen in casual talk. Here the plan for a preposition phrase with because is just abandoned, and the idiomatic "come on" injunction to get real is substituted. But it works very nicely.

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Sinographic memory in Vietnamese writing

Jason Cox sent in the following photograph of the cover of a Vietnamese religious text and asked what was going on with the "characters" along the left and right sides.


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The vocabulary of prayer in modern China

Many of the comments on the disappearance of MH370 by Chinese netizens mention their prayers (qídǎo 祈祷).  Since most Chinese are not religious (i.e., are not Christians, Buddhists, etc.), to whom are they praying?  In what way are they praying?  Even if they are Buddhists, is prayer (qídǎo 祈祷) an integral part of Buddhism?  Perhaps it would be common for Chinese Muslims to use this expression, but my sense is that most of the commenters quoted in the link below are not Muslims.

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