Archive for Lexicon and lexicography

Ask Language Log: Looking up hanzi for ignoramuses

From Mark Meckes:

I'm a regular Language Log reader, completely ignorant of Chinese languages.  I was just wondering whether there exist worthwhile online tools to help someone like me figure out the meaning of something written only in hanzi.  (The question is occasioned by my looking at a package of tea given to me by a Chinese student; the writing on the package is mostly hanzi, with a little English and no pinyin.)  I'm perfectly competent to use Google Translate and similar tools (and know how much skepticism to approach the results with) for the last stage of the process.  But starting from written hanzi on a physical object, I first need some way to translate that image into either pinyin, Unicode, English, or something equivalent to one of the above — and something that relies on no knowledge of the meaning or pronunciation of the characters, or knowledge of the structure of Chinese characters in general.  Do you have any suggestions?

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Ask Language Log: Unnecessary disyllabism?

From Thorin Engeseth:

I was doing some reading this morning on the magpie, and the Wikipedia page states:

Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: 喜鹊; traditional Chinese: 喜鵲; pinyin: xǐquè, in which the first character means "happiness".

I'm almost entirely illiterate when it comes to the languages of China, so I took to Google Translate just to see how it would translate the two characters from both simplified and traditional script. In both, the first is translated as "like; to be happy", while the second is "magpie". My question is: if the second character itself can be translated as "magpie", if Google Translate is correct here, then is the first character still necessary?

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The vocabulary of sharp implements in Xinjiang

Public notification posted in villages of Makit County (Màigàití xiàn 麦盖提县; Mәkit nah̡iyisi / Мәкит наһийиси مەكىت ناھىيىسى) near Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR):


Source

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C is for contrafibularity

Better late than never:

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From "reach out" to "outreach"

In response to "May I ask you a question?" (6/12/17), we've been having an energetic discussion about the origins and meaning of the expression "reach out", culminating (as of this moment) in Nick Kaldis' good question:

This topic causes an interesting related neologism to come to mind: when did “outreach” come into currency? Our campus has, for instance, a “Community Outreach” office.

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Cantonese is not dead yet

Not by a long shot, judging from several recent articles in the South China Morning Post:

"American professor speaks up for Cantonese to preserve Hong Kong’s heritage: Robert Bauer from HKU is writing a Cantonese-English dictionary that will include colloquial terms, believing language represents cultures" (Heyling Chan, 5/21/17)

"Hong Kong vloggers keeping Cantonese alive with money-spinning YouTube channels:  While many fear Cantonese may be in decline, for Hong Kong’s online stars it has opened a gateway to thousands of followers and lucrative careers" (Rachel Blundy, 6/10/17)

"Use Cantonese as a tool to extend Hong Kong’s influence, academic urges:  Chinese University linguist says better teaching of the native language is the vital first step in raising the city’s profile in Beijing’s trade initiative" (Naomi Ng, 5/4/17)

"In Vancouver’s ‘Cantosphere’, a sense of responsibility and an identity under siege:  Artists and academics in Vancouver are carving out a space to examine both the fate of Hong Kong and the diaspora identity" (Ian Young, 5/19/17)

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Variable usages

Sign greeting Xi Jinping in Florida:


(Source)

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"Made Beaver" and more

As of March 17 2017, DCHP-2 went live: the Second Edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. The Project History, by Stefan Dollinger and Margery Fee, is worth reading — it includes this interesting variation on James Murray's Reading Programme:

Because funding was slow to materialize, we adapted our data collection methods to a format suitable for the classroom. Students learned original research and provided some data for the project (Dollinger 2010a). In January 2008, with the help of UBC and SSHRC funding, we were in the position to open our offices. In the "Canadian English Lab" we completed between early 2008 and Fall 2010 the main data collection for the Bank of Canadian English based on a data "harvesting" scheme and a list of codified Canadianisms compiled from three print dictionaries (Canadian Oxford Dictionary 2004, the Gage Canadian Dictionary 1997 and the ITP Nelson Dictionary 1997). The years 2010-11 were primarily occupied with the proofreading of the scanned DCHP-1 and its conversion for the web. In 2007, UBC Archives scanned DCHP-1 free of charge, which produced the file that was imported to our online dictionary environment. In 2012-13 we began to work out the editorial principles that would guide the editing process of DCHP-2. Drafting of entries began in 2012 and was largely completed by the spring of 2015. The revising of entries was slower, partly because drafting was handed over to undergraduate and graduate students, which added more training tasks than is customary. Three student assistants, Baillie Ford, Alexandra Gaylie and Gabrielle Lim, drafted most of the entries. Other student drafters were Emily Briggs, Jona Dervishaj, Ana Martic and Dorota Lockyer.

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Involuntary immigrants

Below is a guest post by Larry Horn, based on a note submitted to the American Dialect Society's mailing list. The topic is the the slaves-as-immigrants flap occasioned by Ben Carson’s reference in his recent remarks characterizing slaves as immigrants who worked particularly hard for particularly low wages.

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Shitgibbon antedated

The latest from Ben Zimmer — "A New Breakthrough in the History of the “S—gibbon: The Insult’s Originator Steps Forward", Slate 2/13/2017.

Following up on a comment by David Quantick on Ben's Strong Language Blog post, Ben found this passage in the 1/13/1990 issue of the New Musical Express, in which David Quantick and Steven Wells "imagine Morrissey of the Smiths (nickname: the Mozzer) and Mark E. Smith of the Fall in the year 2000":

’Tis the Mozzer and Mark E Smith! Yes, in the year 2000, Sir Morrissey del Manc and Shitgibbon Smith will be tired old buckers, fit for the scrapheap ever since some student NME reader got to see their poetry part of the English GCSE and finished so-called “serious rock” for, in the words of Alice Cooper, “EVAH!”

Apparently the term may have been used in other Quantick & Wells  NME columns as early as 1988, though these have yet to be found.

 

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Words for anger

Lisa Feldman Barrett has an article on "The Varieties of Anger" in last Sunday's NYT.  Most of it consists of reflections on pre- and post-election anger in our society.  But Barrett has one paragraph in which she makes some rather dubious claims about the number of words for “anger” in several languages:

The Russian language has two distinct concepts within what Americans call “anger” — one that’s directed at a person, called “serditsia,” and another that’s felt for more abstract reasons such as the political situation, known as “zlitsia.” The ancient Greeks distinguished quick bursts of temper from long-lasting wrath. German has three distinct angers, Mandarin has five and biblical Hebrew has seven.

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Hokkien-Tagalog-English-Spanish phrasebook

Page of a phrasebook published in 1941 (click to embiggen):

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English-Cantonese and Hokkien-Malay phrasebooks

Ryan of Singapore sent me photographs of a section from a Chinese almanac that amounts to a ten-page English phrasebook phonetically annotated in Cantonese. Here are two of the pages (as usual, click to embiggen):

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