Archive for Language and music

Topolects of The9

The9 is a Chinese girl group hailing from different parts of the PRC.  Here they are playing the telephone / Chinese whispers game with their own topolects*, which they refer to as fāngyán 方言, almost universally mistranslated into English as "dialect".

*See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, q.v.

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Ask Language Log: The new Sa-Hoo?

Forwarded by Jeff DeMarco:

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Heirs to the dragon / cage

Circulating on social media:

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Pitch sequence animation

A neat animation by Jack Stratton of James Jamerson's bass line in the 1967 hit song "Ain't no mountain high enough":

The best way to watch it is full screen, in my opinon.

It would be nice to have a program that creates a similar dynamic highlighting of syllable-scale pitches and rhythms in speech, maybe based on Gentle and Drift.

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The musicality of Changsha tones

With approximately six million native speakers centered on the capital of Hunan, the province just to the south of Hubei, where the novel coronavirus has been raging for the past three months and more, Changsha topolect (Chángshā huà 長沙話) is a significant form of Sinitic:

Changsha dialect (simplified Chinese: 长沙话; traditional Chinese: 長沙話; pinyin: Chángshā-huà; Xiang: tsã˩˧ sɔ˧ ɣo˨˩) is a dialect of New Xiang Chinese. It is spoken predominantly in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. It is not mutually intelligible* with Standard Mandarin, the official language of China.

(source)

[*VHM:  I like the way they put that — "not mutually intelligible".]

I don't know if the tones of Changsha topolect are innately more musical than those of other Sinitic topolects, or indeed of varieties of speech in non-Sinitic language groups, but it seems to be a thing to represent them musically.

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Turandot and the deep Indo-European roots of "daughter"

In recent days, the famous aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot, "Nessun dorma" (Italian: [nesˌsun ˈdɔrma]; English: "Let no one sleep"), has surfaced as part of a worldwide movement to encourage the Italian people in their struggle against the novel coronavirus (see here, here, and here).  This article by Claudia Rosett gives the backstory:

"An Uplifting Moment, in the Time of Coronavirus", PJ Media (3/14/20)

This led me to ponder the origins of Turandot's name, especially since the operatic version of the story is set in China and she is alleged to be a Chinese princess.  Right away, I was in for a jolt, since "The name of the opera is based on Turan-Dokht (daughter of Turan), which is a common name used in Persian poetry for Central Asian princesses." (source)

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"Forty Days and Forty Nights"

The old hymn and blues song of that title have been very much on my mind during the last couple of months.

George Hunt Smyttan (1856)

Forty days and forty nights
You were fasting in the wild;
Forty days and forty nights,
Tempted, and yet undefiled….

Muddy Waters (1956)

Forty days and forty nights, since my baby left this town
Sun shinin' all day long, but the rain keep falling down
She's my life I need her so, why she left I just don't know….

These are very different kinds of songs, yet they are both focused on a period of forty days and forty nights.  I've been thinking about these songs a lot in the current climate of far-reaching quarantines against the novel coronavirus epidemic centered on Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

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Xiist music

Allusions to Language Log posts abound:

 

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The Hu: a wildly successful Mongolian rock band

Here's the official video of their viral hit, "Wolf Totem":

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Emoji in Chinese music video lyric

From Charles Belov:

I thought I was going to be sending you a case of Google Translate munging a song lyric when translating it from Chinese to English. Instead, I'm sending you a case of a Chinese music video making use of an emoji in the song lyrics.

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Hol don

This morning while shaving, as I was listening to the radio around 7:30 a.m., I heard a medley of songs by three artists, all with the same title:  "Hold on".  But a funny thing happened in all three of these renditions:  whenever the singer pronounced the title phrase, it always came out as "hol don", at least to my ear.  But I don't think it was just my ear, since several times they prolonged the "hol" syllable and emphasized the "d" at the beginning of the "don" syllable.

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"Hello" sung by a Kazakh

Here is Dimash Kudaibergen singing "Hello":

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"Amarillo by Morning" sung by a Mongolian

Mongolian gets 97 points for singing "Amarillo by Morning" on US TV show but didn't understand a word he was singing. His pronunciation was perfect.

[VHM:  The YouTube video linked to here is currently unavailable, but our resourceful Language Log readers have elsewhere found this song sung by Enkh Erdene and others by him as well, some of them captioned.  See the comments below.]

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