Archive for Lexicon and lexicography

Eat vinegar, Jesus Christ, and Middle Persian

I've always been intrigued by the Chinese expression "eat vinegar" (chīcù 吃醋) meaning "be jealous".  To convey the idea of "jealous", one can also say dùjì 妒忌 or just dù 妒 (note the female semantophore).  I learned the disyllabic form with the syllables reversed, hence jìdù 忌妒.  The monosyllabic form (dù 妒) is ancient, going back to classical times.

I said jìdù 忌妒 instead of dùjì 妒忌 because the former is what all my Chinese friends and relatives said, though my impression is that the latter is more common across the Mandarin-speaking population.  Nonetheless, I felt that saying jìdù 忌妒 was awkward because, except for the tones, it is homophonous with Jīdū 基督, which I always understood as some form of "Jesus".  In fact, Jīdū 基督 is a short form of Jīlìsīdū 基利斯督, which is a transcription of "Christ", from Ancient Greek Χριστός (Khristós).  The Sinitic transcription of "Jesus" is Yēsū 耶稣, which ultimately also comes from Ancient Greek:  Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), possibly via Latin Iesus and other European languages. Doublet of Yīyīsūsī 伊伊穌斯/伊伊稣斯.  (source)

Incidentally, jì 忌 is a simplified form of  嫉 ("to envy, be jealous; to hate, resent").  Note that this traditional form of the character, like dù 妒, its synonymous morpheme partner in the disyllabic word jídù 嫉妒 ("jealous"), also has a female semantophore.  Thus we get a double whammy of misogyny in jídù 嫉妒 ("jealous").  

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Sleep and dream

A chart in Wikipedia ("Indo-European vocabulary") [rearranged here] — see under "Bodily functions and states" — shows the connection between words for "sleep" and "dream" in IE languages, including Tocharian.

1. PIE: *swep- "to sleep", *swepnos "dream (n.)" 

2. English: archaic sweven "dream, vision" (< OE swefn); NoEng sweb "to swoon" (< OE swebban "to put to sleep, lull") 

3. Gothic: ON sofa "sleep (v.)" 

4. Latin:  somnus "sleep (n.)"

5. Ancient Greek: húpnos "sleep (n.)"

6. Sanskrit: svápnaḥ "sleep, dream (n.)" 

7. Iranian: Av xᵛafna- "sleep (n.)" NPers xwãb- "sleep" 

8. Slavic: OCS spěti "sleep (v.)", sŭnŭ "sleep (n.), dream (n.)" 

9. Baltic: OPrus supnas "dream", Lith sapnas "dream"

10. Celtic: OIr sūan, W hun "sleep (n.)" 

11. Armenian: kʿnem "I sleep", kʿun "sleep (n.)"

12. Albanian: gjumë "sleep (n.)"

13. Tocharian: A ṣpäṃ, B. ṣpane "sleep (n.), dream (n.)" 

14. Hittite: sup-, suppariya- "to sleep"

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Is the Amarakosha a thesaurus after all?

If not, what is it?  And how and why did people memorize it?

Responding to this post, "Memorizing a thesaurus" (10/28/20), Dan Martin remarks:

I found some of this discussion rather strange since to a kâvya* expert of the Indian and Tibetan realms (I am not one of them, although I got to hang with some of the great ones not so many years ago), this is a given: that the Amarakosha was never meant to be a dictionary for ordinary word meanings (.: absolutely not a Webster's), let alone a practical thesaurus for writers of expository prose (.: absolutely not a Roget's). It was meant, and went on to be used as such, as a resource for writers who wanted to write great poetry in the kâvya style. Even in Tibet, it was a way of 'Indianizing' your poetic output as was regarded as quite the hip, cool 'rad' thing to do until the mid 1980's (okay, for some self-styled modernists). I mean, maybe (who am I to judge?) it would have proven useless for Chinese literati who supposedly sinified everything they touched, but not so in Tibet.

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Memorizing a thesaurus

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

People actually did it in ancient India, and they still do it today.

Here are some passages from the Wikipedia article about the Amarakosha, the most celebrated and most often memorized Indian thesaurus.

Introduction

The Amarakosha (Devanagari: अमरकोशः, IAST: Amarakośa) is the popular name for Namalinganushasanam (Devanagari: नामलिङ्गानुशासनम्, IAST: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsanam) a thesaurus in Sanskrit written by the ancient Indian scholar Amarasimha. It may be the oldest extant kosha. The author himself mentions 18 prior works, but they have all been lost. There have been more than 40 commentaries on the Amarakosha.

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Alphabetical storage, ordering, and retrieval

We just had a good discussion about a Sinitic language written with an alphabet:

"The look, feel, and sound of Dungan language" (10/15/20)

Under "Selected readings" below, there are listed additional earlier posts about writing Sinitic languages with Romanization.

One of the major advantages of the alphabet over a morphosyllabic / logographic ideopicto-phonetic writing system like the Sinographic script is that it is very easy to order and find / retrieve the entire lexicon with the former, whereas carrying out these tasks with the latter is toilsome at best and torturesome at worst.  See:

Victor H. Mair, "The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects", Sino-Platonic Papers, 1 (February, 1986), 1-31 pp.

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A monumental new Cantonese-English dictionary

ABC Cantonese-English Comprehensive Dictionary
Robert S. Bauer Series: ABC Chinese Dictionary Series Paperback: $42.00 ISBN-13: 9780824877323 Published: December 2020
University of Hawaii Press 1248 pages

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"Come to Nagoya" — spatial locutions

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

One of the first bits of Nagoya-specific Japanese I picked up was 来名 (raimei), i.e. "come to Nagoya." It added a bit of local color to my lexicon of directional Japanese, which was mostly commonplace but remarkable locutions such as 上京 (jōkyō, go "up" to Tokyo), which gives us the 上り (nobori, Tokyo-bound) and 下り (kudari, away-from-Tokyo-bound) train and expressways. Another of those standard phrases is 来日 (rainichi, come to Japan), which stuck out to me in the same way world maps with Japan in the center had when I first came here as a student almost 25 years ago. The discovery of this new politics of place was one of those experiences that really stuck with me.

Anyway, I feel like Japan is using 来日 less these days. In its place, I see 訪日 (hōnichi) for tourists — not much of that these days, tbf, but 訪日外国人 (hōnichi gaikokujin) was all anyone could talk about last year — and now, in my role as head of a program teaching almost exclusively international students here in Japan, 渡日 (tonichi). I feel like 渡日 is not in common circulation, but is primarily administrative jargon for organizations like mine — and the education ministry over us.

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The complexities of a basic word for "barbarian" in Sinitic and neighboring languages

There are scores of words in Sinitic languages that regularly get translated into English as "barbarian".  One of the most conspicuous and pervasive is hú 胡, which we have often discussed on Language Log, perhaps most extensively and intensively in "The bearded barbarian" (8/26/15), with detailed etymological, orthographical, morphological, and philological notes.

The term came up again more recently in "'Carrot' in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc." (6/26/20), where we found it as the distinctive modifier of the Sinitic word for "carrot" (húluóbo 胡蘿蔔 / 胡萝卜).

[N.B.:  Several of my most respected colleagues in Chinese Studies do not permit their students to translate hú 胡 or any of the other Sinitic terms for non-Sinitic peoples as "barbarian".]

In reading PRC written materials, one must be wary of all the words in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) that are written with hú 胡, since the character simplification promoted by the communist government has collapsed at least six other traditional characters into this one (see here), the most interesting of which is the first syllable hemimorpheme of the Sinitic word for "butterfly" (húdié 蝴蝶 / 胡蝶), cf., "'Butterfly' words as a source of etymological confusion" (1/28/16).

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A word for parents who lose an only child

It is well known that the PRC had a one-child policy from 1979-2015.  This means that, for most Chinese children born during this period, they would have no brothers and sisters.  As such, they were inestimably precious in a country that lacks adequate social benefits for people to live on after retirement, but who — in large measure — had to rely on their lone offspring to support them.  Such a practical consideration was matched by the psychological devastation experienced when a couple lost their sole, beloved child.

"Chinese parents who lose their only child — a tragedy so common there’s a word for it",

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Matthew Pottinger's speech in Mandarin

Something extraordinary happened on May 4, 2020.  Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger delivered an extremely impressive speech in virtually flawless Mandarin.  Here it is:

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A novel lexicon for the novel coronavirus

Yesterday, as my colleagues and I were gearing up for our first virtual faculty meeting to plan our online teaching for the remainder of the semester, someone mentioned "social distancing".  Immediately, another faculty member said that he heard on television that an MIT professor had advised against that expression because, in fighting the coronavirus, we need to keep our social structures intact.  Instead, the MIT professor recommended "physical distancing".

As it turns out, of all the new vocabulary associated with the fight against the novel coronavirus, "social distancing", as we shall see below, and as I'm hearing from practically everybody I know, is one neologism associated with the pandemic that is likely to outlast the pandemic itself.

Keep 6 feet or 2 meters away from each other!

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Everything's curated now

Cartoon by K. L. Ricks:

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Moon ultra parking

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