Archive for October, 2018

Dungan-English dictionary

We have had several posts about Dungan on Language Log:

"Dungan: a Sinitic language written with the Cyrillic alphabet" (4/20/13)

"'Jesus' in Dungan" (7/16/14)

"Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts" (5/20/16)

See also:

Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform.

Omniglot

The reason I have been interested in Dungan for the last four decades and more is that it constitutes prima facie evidence that a Sinitic language that had never before been written in Sinographs can be written in an alphabetical script, even without the indication of tones.  Relying on separation of words with spaces, punctuation, etc., the Dungans have used their script to write poetry, essays newspaper articles, and so on.

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Passive aggressive

Anne Henochowicz, "Passive-Aggressive: Expressing misfortune, and resistance, in Mandarin", LA Review of Books, 10/23/2018:

Strunk and White's classic textbook Elements of Style taught us to avoid the passive voice in our writing. Our verbs should take action, not a back seat, whenever possible. (This advice is not universally accepted.) In Mandarin, however, the passive voice packs a real punch. When something is done to you, the passive evokes your great misfortune.

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Pinyin for the Prez

Watch what happens at the tail end of the 24 second video clip in this Twitter post:

https://twitter.com/sszyz1758/status/1054376432762216448

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Exact match

JW wrote to ask about the effects of Georgia's contested "Exact Match" law on people with non-ascii characters in their name:

How does this work out for Hispanic and other Latin alphabet diacritics? My Brazilian wife's full name includes the string "Lucía Mendonça" (í,ç). Many web forms, even in Spain, do not accept the diacritics. So her name will be spelled differently in different databases, from software flaws not errors in data entry. This affects not just Hispanics but naturalized Haitians, Poles, French Canadians, Swedes, etc.

And how does this work out for transliterations of names originally spelled in non-Latin alphabets (Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, etc)?

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The inevitability (or not) of diacritical marks

Recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania:

"Printers' Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents"
Katie Chenoweth, Princeton University
Monday, 22 October 2018 – 5:15 PM
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania
Sponsored by: Penn Libraries

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Vietnamese nail shop

Charles Below writes:

As a follow-up to "Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18), I saw this sign about a block or two away on a closed nail salon. I note the stray dot over the I in NAILS.  The surname I've redacted is, I believe, Irish.

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Arabic as a macrolanguage

Article published three days ago in The Economist:  "Arabic, a great language, has a low profile:  Part of the reason is that it is not really a single language at all", Johnson (10/18/18).

The article begins:

AMONG THEIR many reverberations, the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 had a linguistic side-effect. Between 2002 and 2009 the number of university students in America learning Arabic shot up by 231%, making it a more popular subject than Latin and Russian. This was a "Sputnik moment": like the Soviet satellite, it shocked Americans into studying their adversaries.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: "keep" (part 2)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

In  my last post (longer ago than I care to admit), I offered a very brief introduction to corpus analysis and used corpus data on the word keep as the raw material for a demonstration of corpus analysis in action. One of my reasons for doing that was to talk about the approach to word meaning that I think is appropriate when using corpus linguistics in legal interpretation.

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Feel free to play this piano

While passing through Hartsfield Atlanta airport a few weeks back, Neil Dolinger passed a piano located in a place where passersby could freely play it.  A sign nearby (see photograph below) encourages this in 12 different languages:

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Why Chinese write "9" backwards

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A new and useful dictionary of Sinographs

We have often noted how much easier it is to learn Chinese now than it was just ten or twenty years ago.  That's because of all the new digital resources that have become available in recent years:

Of course, there are a lot quick fix programs out there, and one should be wary of them:

But every so often a really good resource comes along, and I should like to introduce one such in this post.

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Colorless green vaccine-laced M&Ms

Commenting on the (7/12/2016) headline "US government plans to use drones to fire vaccine-laced M&Ms near endangered ferrets", Joyeuse Noëlle on Tumblr noted that

The best part of this title is that in the second half, each new word is completely unpredictable based on what comes before it.

"US government plans to use drones to fire" okay, I see where this is going

"vaccine-laced" wait

"M&Ms" what

"near" not 'at'?

"endangered" what

"ferrets" what

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"Add oil" is now English

Two years ago, I wrote a post about the Chinese expression "'Add oil'" (9/13/16) (cf. the comments to "Non-translation" [7/24/16]). In that post, I mentioned:

I remember way back when I was in high school (in the 50s), the cheerleaders used to tell their team to "step on the gas".  So the concept of ga1yau4 / jiāyóu 加油 ("add oil / gas") was already out there.

In a personal note, Chau Wu adds:

To echo what you said, I remember I also used the phrase 加油 when I was in elementary school (late 1940s – early 50s), both in Mandarin and Taiwanese.

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