Archive for Writing

Chinese restaurant shorthand, part 5

Subtitle:  Phoneticization on an order from a Macanese restaurant in Vancouver.

Bruce Rusk sent in this prime example of extreme Sinographic shorthand, adding, "The geographic origin of the cuisine is a big hint to the document’s meaning…".

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A quantum leap in the Chinese toilet revolution

A friend was visiting in Lijiang, Yunnan Province (southwestern China) earlier this week.  She stayed in Yuhu 玉湖 village where Joseph Rock (1884-1962; the famous Austrian-American explorer, geographer, linguist, and botanist) lived nearly a century ago at the foot of Yulong 玉龙 Mountain.  The area around Lijiang has become a famous tourist destination, not only for the beauty of its natural scenery, but for the richness of its local culture (more about that below).  While in Lijiang, my friend was surprised to come upon signs for unisex toilets:

Here is some signage for such toilets in China:

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Phonetic annotations as a welcome aid for learning how to read and write Sinographs

In several recent posts, we've been discussing the most efficient, least painful way to acquire facility with hanzi / kanji / hanja 漢字 ("Sinographs; Chinese characters").  Lord knows there are endless numbers of them and they are so intricately constructed that it is an arduous task to master the two thousand or so that are necessary for basic literacy.

It would be so much easier to learn the Sinographs if language pedagogues would provide phonetic annotations for each character.  Better yet, the phonetic annotations should be divided into words with spaces between them according to the official orthographic rules.

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Cantonese as a Second Language

That's the title of a new book from Routledge:

John C. Wakefield, ed., Cantonese as a Second Language:  Issues, Experiences and Suggestions for Teaching and Learning

Readers of Language Log know that I'm an ardent advocate of this vibrant language and will understand why I consider the publication of Cantonese as a Second Language a cause for celebration.

Two caveats:

1. It's a full-fledged language, not a mere "dialect".

2. You don't have to worry about the Sinographs when you learn it.

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Korean inputting on cellphones

For the first time in my life, I closely observed someone inputting Korean on a cell phone.  (I was sitting behind the person doing it on the train ride to the city this afternoon.)  Of course, I don't know exactly how it works, but what I observed was very interesting.

First of all, the young woman's phone had a special feature I've never seen in any other type of inputting.  Namely, she could use a little, built-in, popup, electronic magnifying glass to hover over a particular syllable block that she had composed to inspect it carefully to see that she had formed it correctly.  She did this fairly often.

Next, she seemed to spend a lot of time typing and retyping individual syllable blocks to make sure she got them right.

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Robotic copying

Since so much of learning to read and write Chinese characters depends upon mindless repetition, writing them countless times, some bright people in the age of AI have finally seized upon a way to escape from the drudgery:  training a robot to write the characters endlessly for them.

"Chinese schoolgirl shamed for using robot to write homework. Now everybody wants one"

Teen bought device online and was caught out by her mother when she completed her Lunar New Year assignments in record time

Media report alerts a wider audience to the robots, which can copy text and mimic your handwriting

Phoebe Zhang, SCMP (2/19/19)

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The unpredictability of Chinese character formation and pronunciation, pt. 2

Emma Knightley asks:

My background is that I grew up in Taiwan learning Traditional Chinese and now most of what I use in my professional life is in Simplified Chinese. How exactly should the character of hē, "to drink," be written?

I grew up learning that the character inside the bottom-right enclosure is 人. Now I see that it is mostly written as 匕. I don't know when this changed, and I don't think it's a matter of Traditional vs Simplified, either, as I see both versions in Traditional writing as well. This Wiktionary entry illustrates the confusion nicely. No one I know has noticed this change, which leads me to think that I'm either losing my mind or experiencing the Mandela Effect.

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Oops! That's "seven rings", not "hibachi"

We haven't written about tattoo fiascos for awhile.  Here's a humdinger on Ariana Grande's left palm, in Japanese:

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Mountain Mao

From an anonymous contributor in Taiwan:

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Taiwan Railways Administration logo

Anthony Clayden wonders whether there is "some visual pun going on with the Chinese characters" in the design of the symbol of the TRA, which "features a rail profile inscribed within two semi-circles."

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Sino-English graphic tour de force

Jeff DeMarco saw this on Facebook:

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Really weird sinographs, part 4

A video introducing 70 obscure Chinese characters (shēngpì zì 生僻字):

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The wrong way to write Chinese characters

This is one of the best, general, brief introductions to the challenges of the Chinese writing system I know of:

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