Archive for Lexicon and lexicography

"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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Some Mongolian words for "horse"

This is a follow-up post to "'Horse' and 'language' in Korean" (10/30/19).  The two main words for "horse" in Mongolian that we will consider are mor' and adyy, though we will also touch upon others.

My original inquiry:

If you know, please tell me the difference between морь / mor' and адуу / adyy.

Is it true that морь means "gelding" (to be ridden) and адуу means horses in general, but not for riding.

Any other nuances of these two words that might be useful for me to understand how they are thought of by Mongolian people?

I presume that Manchu "morin" is borrowed from Mongolian.

Many correspondents kindly replied to my inquiry concerning the difference between adyy and mor.  Because most of their responses are brief and informal, I will not cite all the respondents by name, though I will list them in the acknowledgements.

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Mastering Caution amidst Hermeneutic Acrobatics

[This is a guest post by Nicholas Morrow Williams]

Victor recently pointed out to me the appearance of Martin Kern’s important article in the latest issue of Early China on “Xi Shuai” 蟋蟀 (“Cricket”) and Its Consequences: Issues in Early Chinese Poetry and Textual Studies” (Early China 42 [2019]: 39–74).  Kern’s article offers both a very detailed examination of the poem “Cricket” contained in a Tsinghua manuscript, which differs substantially from the comparable poem in the Shijing 詩經, and also reflections on the broader significance of the manuscript for “textual studies.”

The article is well worth reading both the recently-discovered poem and for the broader reflections, but I would like to discuss one issue to which it does not devote so much attention, which is the interpretation of the received text of “Cricket” in the Shijing itself. After comparing the excavated and received texts, Kern concludes:

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Insect name

How would you respond in your native language if someone walked up to you and asked (in your native language or in English or some other language which both of you know), "What's the word for 'the insect that eats wood and destroys walls'?".

A friend of mine in China did that with eight of his colleagues, and not a single one of them could remember the Chinese name for "the insect that eats wood and destroys walls".

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Digitizing specialized language dictionaries

[The following is a guest post by David Dettmann.  The "Schwarz Uyghur dictionary" to which he refers in the third paragraph is this:  Henry G. Schwarz, An Uyghur-English dictionary (Bellingham, Washington:  Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 1992).]


It is a bit of a nerdy obsession of mine to customize my computers to comfortably use languages that I've studied.

About 10 years ago, I got relatively proficient with using optical character recognition (OCR) software and scanner hardware. Any time I found an essential dictionary for the languages I studied, I converted them to unicode OCR scans in pdf format (i.e., converting images of pages to text). I later used that data to create dictionary content files that would work together with the Mac OS dictionary application. I did this process with several dictionaries that I found essential while I studied Kazakh, Uzbek, and Uyghur.

This process was particularly useful for me to use the Schwarz Uyghur dictionary. I could not get used to the alphabetical order that he favored (which was different from typical Latin order AND Uyghur Arabic script order). As a result, any lookup would just take forever. That said, the formatting of each page was quite pleasant, and there were some nice illustrations of plants of traditional Uyghur medicine as well as handy keys at the bottom of each page to explain abbreviations.

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Things you can do with "water" in Cantonese

Peter Golden sent me the following video, "Luisa Tam says: Let's put more HK English on the map", South China Morning Post (10/23/18):

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Unexpected "English Word of the Day"

On February 19, I received this notice from Oxford Dictionaries:

English Word of the Day from
Oxford Dictionaries

Your word for today is:

li

a Chinese unit of distance, equal to about 0.5 km (0.3 mile)

Click on the word to see its full entry, including example sentences and audio pronunciation.

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