Archive for Language and the movies

Barbarian Language in a Chinese movie

From Alex Baumans:

I'm getting more and more interested in Chinese pop culture, so I keep discovering things.
 
I recently watched Painted Skin 2, which is your typical fantasy action movie, with star crossed lovers, a princess, a fox spirit and a lone outpost of the area surrounded by barbarians.
 
When these barbarians (and they are truly depicted as barbarians, straight from Hyboria) came on screen, I pricked up my ears. As I said in an earlier mail, my Chinese is next to non existent, but I have watched a lot of reality shows with The9 these last weeks, and this didn't sound like any Chinese I was used to.
 
Even more bafflingly, I had the impression I could make out some Indian sounding words like 'rajaputra' [VHM: "prince"] and 'deva' [VHM:  "god; deity"] which would be appropriate in the context. These may be mondegreens, as I don't know any Indian languages. I have only watched a fair bit of Bollywood cinema and have a background in Farsi.
 
So I thought this little enigma (if it is one) would amuse you.

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Chinese: what do you hear?

[This is a guest post by Jonathan Smith]

Here's an audio passage from a film I've been watching:

If you know Chinese, test yourself to see how much of it you understand.

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"Mulan" is a masculine, non-Sinitic name

There is much hullabaloo over the new "Mulan" trailer:

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Sienna Miller's southeastern PA accent

Adam Hermann, "Sienna Miller talks nailing the Philly accent for 'American Woman' on Jimmy Fallon", Philly Voice 6/15/2019:

British actress Sienna Miller has an accent when she talks, but it's decidedly not something you normally hear from an eastern Pennsylvania resident.

For the film "American Woman", which comes out next week and is set in "a small, blue-collar town in Pennsylvania", Miller had to figure out what people from around here talk like.

It wasn't easy, because the Philadelphia accent is so dang weird, but she clearly had some help, because she kind of nailed it.

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The Sinophone

I think about the problem of the Sinophone every day, but I haven't written about it very often on Language Log (see "Readings" below).  We have Anglophone (English-speaking), Francophone (French-speaking), Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking), Germanophone or Teutophone (German-speaking), Italophone (Italian-speaking), Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking), Russophone (Russian-speaking),  Hellenophone (Greek-speaking), Arabophone (Arab-speaking), etc.  So why not Sinophone, since diasporic Sinitic speakers are spread widely around the world?

About fifteen years ago, several of us who were interested in the subject independently started to use the term "Sinophone", but credit is usually (and I think rightly) given to Shu-mei Shih for coining and popularizing it in written publications (2004 and especially 2007).

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Only the Communist Party can save the earth

Movie ticket for "Liúlàng dìqiú 流浪地球" ("Wandering earth"):


(Source)

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Subpar subtitles

This is a full length martial arts action movie (English title "Sword Master"). You probably won't be able to stand watching much of it, and you have to put up with some pretty atrocious fighting scenes, but if you stick around for a few minutes of the Chinglish subtitles, you'll find them to be quite bizarre, although most seem to be just poor automatic translation.

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"I Want to Eat Your Pancreas"

Seen by a friend of Jeff DeMarco in Sydney, Australia's Chinatown:

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Toilet: A Love Story

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"Projects we need financed": Pittsburghian?

My Wall Street Journal column this week looks at the history of the word rider, inspired by Frances McDormand's cryptic use of the phrase "inclusion rider" at the end of her acceptance speech at the Oscars on Sunday, after she won the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. (Link to WSJ column here — if paywalled, follow my Twitter link here.) But just before she got to "inclusion rider," McDormand offered another linguistically intriguing nugget. Here's how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported it:

On Sunday, she asked all of the women nominees in Hollywood's Dolby Theatre to stand and reminded them to tell their stories.
Laughing, she said in the Pittsburgh vernacular, "Look around ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed." 

You can hear the relevant bit at the end of this clip.

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Mixed script photo in the New York Times

From Elijah Granet:

I am writing because of this picture I recently saw on the New York Times website:

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Hawaiian-style predicate inversion, Yoda uses

David Adger of Queen Mary University of London is using the new Star Wars movie as an opportunity to delve into the linguistics of Yoda-speak. He surmises that Yoda's native language involves predicate inversion a la Hawaiian, and that this Yodish syntactic pattern is then transferred into his second language, English. (Or is that Galactic Basic Standard?)


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Chicken paws and King Kong

A friend of Rebecca Hamilton saw this at a local market in Dundee Scotland:

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