Archive for Emojis and emoticons

Hanmoji

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Language is not script and script is not language, part 2

[This is a guest post by Paul Shore.]

    The 2022 book Kingdom of Characters by Yale professor Jing Tsu is currently #51,777 in Amazon's sales ranking.  (The label "Best Seller" on the Amazon search-results listing for it incorporates the amusing mouseover qualification "in [the subject of] Unicode Encoding Standard".)  I haven't read the book yet:  the Arlington, Virginia library system's four copies have a wait list, and so I have a used copy coming to me in the mail.  What I have experienced, though, is a fifty-minute National Public Radio program from their podcast / broadcast series Throughline, entitled "The Characters That Built China", that's a partial summary of the material in the book, a summary that was made with major cooperation from Jing Tsu herself, with numerous recorded remarks by her alternating with remarks by the two hosts:  https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510333/throughline (scroll down to the May 26th episode).  Based on what's conveyed in this podcast / broadcast episode, I think many people on Language Log and elsewhere who care about fostering a proper understanding of human language among the general public might agree that that ranking of 51,777 is still several million too high.  But while the influence of the book's ill-informed, misleading statements about language was until a few days ago mostly confined to those individuals who'd taken the trouble to get hold of a copy of the book or had taken the trouble to listen to the Throughline episode as a podcast (it was presumably released as such on its official date of May 26th), with the recent broadcasting of the episode on NPR proper those nocive ideas have now been splashed out over the national airwaves.  And since NPR listeners typically have their ears "open like a greedy shark, to catch the tunings of a voice [supposedly] divine" (Keats), this program seems likely to inflict an unusually high amount of damage on public knowledge of linguistics. 

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Language is not script and script is not language

Trying to clear up the confusion between the two is a battle we have been waging for decades, and nowhere is the problem more severe than in the study of Sinitic languages and the Sinographic script.  The crisis (not a "danger + opportunity"!) has come to the surface again this month with the appearance of a new book by Jing Tsu titled Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern (Riverhead Books, 2022).

The publication of Tsu's book has generated a lot of excitement, publicity, and reviews.  Here I would like to call attention to the brief remarks of an anonymous correspondent (a famous, reclusive linguist) that are right on target:

Reimagining "antiquated" Chinese

Reproduced below is the text of a book review in Science that you may not have seen. It is classified as "Linguistics", though the reviewer is a historian at Cal State Poly, Pomona. Notice that Chinese is assumed to be "antiquated" and in need of being "reimagined"!  There is simply no sign of Science understanding the difference between a human language and a writing system. This is consistent with the way they have always treated linguistics; they have no idea what the subject really is.

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Fat Otaku Conversation Generator

To comprehend what's going on in this post, you have to understand the basics of what an "otaku" is.

DEFINITION: 

(fandom slang) One with an obsessive interest in something, particularly anime or manga.

ETYMOLOGY:

From Japanese オタク (otaku, nerd, geek), from お宅 (otaku, honorific for “you”), originally the honorific version of (taku, home).  [VHM:  reminiscent of "homebody".]

SYNONYMS:

(source)

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Emoji Heart Sutra

From the Library of Congress International Collections FB page (Saturday 7/17/21):

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Explication of a favored emoji

Within the last couple of years, some of my students expressed themselves by sticking this emoji — 😂 — at strategic places in their messages to me.  Funny thing is that I never really knew how to interpret it.  It looks like the face of someone who is laughing so hard that they are crying.  Maybe that's not far off in terms of iconographic analysis, but I was never confident that I was correctly comprehending what the students wanted to communicate to me with this emoji.

About a week ago, Zoom forced me — right as I was about to begin a class!! — to update my system.  Naturally, when it was all over with the cursed passwords (which are one of my biggest trials in life these days [within the next few weeks, I have to change ALL of my passwords, which is being forced on me by UPenn]) and multiple stages of downloading, I was late for class, which gave me a huge amount of stress.

With the new Zoom system, I noticed one big change, namely, in the past when I wanted to comment positively on a student's performance, I could choose from a thumbs up sign or clapping hands.  After the download of the new system, I suddenly had more than half-a-dozen reactions, one of which was 😂.  Although I wasn't sure what it meant, I decided to try it out, which led to a confession to the class on my part that I didn't really know what 😂 meant, followed by a brief discussion in which the students tried to educate me.

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Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, Emojis and coded communication in Shanghai

Look everyone! it's a post about language in China by not-Victor! :)

I just had to drop everything and write this post while I was listening to the latest Reply-All podcast, this week consisting of a series of phone interviews with people around the world about the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in their area. The first interview was with Justine from Shanghai, and she was talking about ways people were working around censorship in talking about…

…uh oh I suddenly realize I may be doing a disservice to the Chinese public by posting about this, so I won't go into all the detail I intended. Anyway, the basic idea is that folks were using homophonic transliteration with emojis to get around censorship of certain stories about the epidemic there. You can listen to the podcast here; the relevant bit is between minutes 4:40 and 6:15.

If you can imagine it, this would be like trying to parse "Little Red Riding Hood" from emojis  like💡💯🐀✍️👱‍♂️. Leaving comments open to see if anyone can figure out what homophonic transliteration words I intend for that sequence. First prize is a disinfected plastic cup with logo from the Language Log water cooler stash delivered by drone sometime in 2022.

It's probably worth noting that this idea of communicating via pictures of sound-alikes is basically the actual honest to god origin of phonetically based writing systems. Also worth noting that this way of repurposing symbols to represent sounds of another expression has a long history particularly in Chinese and related languages, whose linguistic features mean that you often have lots of homophones and near-homophones, and whose logographic writing systems probably lend themselves to that kind of graphemic/phonemic cross-indexing during lexical lookup. (Someone must be studying that, right? ) So you get a lot of punning and double-entendres in Chinese writing, if I understand rightly.

If the idea of homophonic transliteration is new to you,  you could get in the wayback machine and check out this archival LL post from simpler times, here.

Wishing all my fellow humans the very best from a living room in Arizona!

 

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Multiscriptal face writing

We've mentioned "kaomoji " before (see "Readings"), but only gave a few examples.

"Kaomoji 顔文字 ("face character / writing") is a Japanese term for more or less elaborate "drawings" composed of kana, characters, punctuation marks, and now letters and other symbols drawn from a wide range of writing systems.  They can be quite fanciful, even florid.  Some of them are exquisite, breathtakingly beautiful.

I hadn't seen many of them in the past, but in the last few days, Diana Shuheng Zhang started sending a bunch of them to me, and I found them utterly captivating, so I've decided to share some delightful kaomoji with Language Log readers.

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University City train station notes

Announcements

1.

"Please be visible to the engineer OR* train will not stop."

*spoken with very heavy emphasis

Is there a choice?

2.

"Your attention please:  trains en route to destination may be late.  Passengers are advised* that times may increase or decrease** at any time."

*the preceding three words are uttered with rising crescendo, with a slight fall at the end

**strong emphasis on each of the preceding three words

This entire announcement is spoken in a seemingly snide, sneering, pompous tone.  No sympathy or apology whatsoever.  (In Japan, the railway administration is thoroughly ashamed when a train is half a minute late.  In Austria, where many of my relatives worked for the railways as much as a century or more ago, one could set your watch by the arrival and departure of the trains.)  I loathe this announcement more than any other — especially when one is made to wait for an hour or more, after which a train may simply be cancelled without explanation.

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I [heart] you in Sino-English

Taken by Yuanfei Wang at a restaurant in Hangzhou:

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The United Front represents your meaning: Tibetan neologisms, New Social Strata emojis and the Sagerean Section

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

A recent paper by Alex Joske features Sitar སྲི་ཐར་ (Wylie Sri thar, Chinese transcription Sita 斯塔), a senior CCP united front cadre. Sitar's career included decades at the Central United Front Work Department, of which he was a vice head between 2006 and 2016. He later became a deputy director of the office of the Party's Central Coordination Group for Tibetan Affairs (Zhōngyāng Xīzáng Gōngzuò Xiétiáo Xiǎozǔ 中央西藏工作协调小组). On at least two occasions, he led Central United Front Work Leading Small Group inspection groups, thus earning mention in Joske's paper, of which said Group is the main topic.

‘Xi Jinping Thought’, another 1499 Tibetan neologisms, and more

A more recent thing Deputy Director Sitar has presided over should perhaps earn him a mention on this Log, by virtue of its subject-matter. On 28 April 2018, Sitar was the top cadre speaking at the presentation of “more than 1500” Tibetan neologisms coined since the 18th Party Congress (held in November 2012), compiled by the National Tibetan Terminology Standardisation Commission (Rgyal yongs Bod skad brda chad tshad ldan can las don u yun lhan khang རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་བོད་སྐད་བརྡ་ཆད་ཚད་ལྡན་ཅན་ལས་དོན་ཨུ་ཡོན་ལྷན་ཁང་, Quánguó Zàngyǔ Shùyǔ Biǎozhǔnhuà Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì 全国藏语术语标准化工作委员会). I know this because it was reported on various media and other government websites that reported, in Chinese and Tibetan, on the Commission membership change taking place on that day.

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Emojis vs. emoticons

Here's an emoji:  😻

Here's an emoticon:  :‐)

As we will see below, the superficial resemblance of the two words is completely coincidental — even though they both have to do with the visual depiction of emotions and ideas in texts.

This post began as a comment to "Emoticons as writing" (7/7/19), but it soon became too long and too complex to fit in a comment, so it now receives separate treatment of its own.

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Emoticons as writing

This morning I received this card from a friend:

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