Archive for Morphology

A hybridized, disyllabic Sinograph from Hong Kong

Sok3 Kei1
索K
‘to inhale, ingest, take Ketamine, which is an illegal drug in Hong Kong’

["Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss. Other uses include sedation in intensive care and treatment of pain and depression." Source]

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Parasynthetic derivative of the week

Or maybe that should be paraparasynthetic. Charles Belov writes:

From "San Francisco’s Lazy Bear rose out of a recession. Can it survive coronavirus?" by Janelle Bitker: "But now, the chefs serve takeout cold-brew coffee, pastries and sandwiches — like hot Wagyu pastrami on sourdough — that they hope taste worthy of a two Michelin-starred restaurant."

I'm okay with split infinitives but this just seems wrong. I would have expected "Michelin-two-starred restaurant."

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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 Northeastern topolectal morpheme without a corresponding character

A favorite expression of Dōngběi rén 東北人 ("Northeasterners") is zhóu.  It means "mulish".  The adjective zhóu describes a person who is stubborn, but not in an obnoxious, offensive way, rather in a cute, amiable, charming, or naive manner.

Despite its relatively high frequency in Northeastern speech, there is no known Sinograph / Chinese character that corresponds to this morpheme.  It is customarily or conventionally written as "zhóu 軸" ("axis; axle"), but that is only a borrowed makeshift.

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Bats in Chinese language and culture: Early Sinitic reconstructions

The May 2020 issue of a scientific journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, shows a rank badge of Qing Dynasty officialdom.  There are five bats in this piece of ornate embroidery (can you spot them?):

Artist Unknown. Rank Badge with Leopard, Wave and Sun Motifs, late 18th century. Silk, metallic thread. 10 3/4 in x 11 1/4 in / 27.31 cm x 28.57 cm. Public domain digital image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.; Bequest of William Christian Paul, 1929. Accession no.30.75.1025.

(Source)

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Dogfooding

From Alex Wang:

I have through observation of my wechat via other people's moments and articles seen a noticeable uptick in the use of adding “-ing” to characters.

I was wondering if it’s a fad or something inherently clumsy in the construction if one were to use Chinese so  they use the English suffix "-ing" instead.

Recently I had to write a speech to be translated into Chinese and I wanted to use the expression "dogfooding".

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A disyllabic autantonymous stative verb

Lucas Klein and Nick Williams asked me about this interesting word:  落魄.

It can mean either “free-spirited” or “downtrodden”, which appear to directly contradict each other, and it has at least three variant pronunciations (luòpò, luòbó, luòtuò).  Source

Negative meanings:  "down and out; in dire straits; abject".

Positive meanings:  "unrestrained; unconventional; untrammeled by convention; casual".

Seems to be a literary term.

Source

Goes all the way back to Shǐjì 史記 (Records of the [Grand] Scribe / Historian; completed ca. 94 BC), scroll 97, "Lì Shēng zhuàn 酈生傳" ("Biography of Li Sheng").

Can also be written 落拓 (cf. 落魄 above and note that both the semantophores and the phonophores of the second characters of the two variants are starkly different).

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Icebachi

From Tomo's Twitter:

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First grade science card: Pinyin degraded, part 2

Another science card given out to first grade students in Shenzhen, China (see "Readings" below for the first one):

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H-b expressions

Yesterday, I was thinking of words to express "commotion", "(noisy) disturbance", etc.  "Hustle bustle" and "hurly burly" quickly came to mind.  Thinking analogically, "hubbub" also presented itself for consideration.  Tangentially, "hullabaloo", "hoopla", "hoo-ha", and, through a process of inversion, "ballyhoo" and "brouhaha" also tagged along, but were less convincing as support for a thesis that was swiftly emerging.  Namely, "h-b" words seem to be naturally configured for expressing an energetic state of affairs full of movement and din.

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"Shot himself in a genital"?

Sent in by Joe Boyd:

I read this schadenfreude-inducing story and was stuck by the singular use of "a genital" as a noun describing the scrotum ("A 46-year-old man accidentally shot himself in a genital Thursday after a gun slipped from his waistband, police said").

Two things struck me as weird about this: first, a "genital"'? Not the "genitals" or "genitalia"? And second, "a" genital? Not "one of his" genitals (if not the most natural "the genitals")?

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Of reindeer and Old Sinitic reconstructions

This is a piece that I've been meaning to write for a long time, but never found the opportunity.  Now, inspired by the season and about to embark on extended holiday travel, I'm determined not to put it off for yet another year.

The genesis of my ruminations on this topic are buried in decades-old tentative efforts to identify the fabulous creature known in Chinese myth as the qilin (Hanyu Pinyin), also spelled as ch'i2-lin2 (Wade-Giles Romanization) and kirin in Japanese, which the whole world knows as the name of a famous beer (fanciful, stylized depictions of the kirin are to be found on bottles and cans of the beer).

The qilin is usually referred to in English as a kind of unicorn, but I knew that couldn't be right, since no account of the qilin from antiquity describes it as having only one horn.  The Chinese xièzhì 獬豸 ("goat of justice") does have a single, long, pointed horn, but that is another matter, for which see "Lamb of Goodness, Goat of Justice" (pp. 86-93) in Victor H. Mair, "Religious Formations and Intercultural Contacts in Early China," in Volkhard Krech and Marion Steinicke, ed., Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe:  Encounters, Notions, and Comparative Perspectives (Dynamics in the History of Religion, 1 [Ruhr-Universität Bochum]) (Leiden:  Brill, 2011), pp. 85-110 (available on Google Books).  Since customs pertaining to the goat of justice, as with the reindeer, existed in cultures spread across northern Eurasia, I suspect that an extra-Sinitic loanword may also be lurking behind xièzhì 獬豸.

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Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary in a patriotic slogan

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