Chinese WOTY 2014

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Three years ago, Language Log covered what we referred to as the "Morpheme(s) of the Year" (12/17/11).

Two years ago, we advanced to "Chinese character of the year: mèng 梦 ('dream')" (12/25/12).

And last year, we looked at "'Words / Characters of the Year' for 2013 in Taiwan and in China" (12/26/13).

Toward the end of last month, the tension began to build in the selection process for this year:  "APEC Blue, Tigers and Flies: What Chinese Phrase Best Describes 2014?" (11/28/14).

So this year the contest has moved beyond morpheme, character, and words / characters to include phrases — and more.  Now we also have to contend with "catchwords / buzzwords of the year", "new words of the year", and "Internet slang of the year", as reported by Xinhua via Sputnik.

The proliferation of categories has become somewhat bewildering:

zì 字 ("character") — with domestic and international subcategories

cí 词 ("word") — with domestic and international subcategories

liúxíngyǔ 流行语 ("buzzword; catchword")

xīn cíyǔ 新词语 ("new word")

wǎngluò yòngyǔ 网络用语 ("internet term")

I won't try the patience of my readers by going through all the top ten choices in these seven categories, but will mention only the final selections for character and word in the domestic subcategory. They are (drumroll):


fǎ 法 ("law"), which was picked as the theme for this year’s Fourth Plenum and to which we devoted this post:

"Rule of / by law" (10/20/14)


fǎnfǔ 反腐, shortened form of fǎnfǔbài 反腐败 ("anti-corruption"), which has been a prominent theme in the news every day of this year and was discussed in the comments to this post:

"Dead and alive: metaphors for (dis)obeying the law" (7/27/14)

Aside from the burgeoning categories, another feature of this year's WOTY selection process is that, more than ever before, it attempted to solicit the opinion of the public.  Here's the actual ballot with the top ten nominations for domestic and international character and word.

For English readers, a bit more exposure to some of the other nominations may be found here and here.

For those who read Chinese, the top nominations for buzzword / catchword of the year are listed here, complete lists of the top ten nominations in all seven categories are presented here, with fuller explanations and discussions of categories and nominations here.

I have not yet seen an announcement of the single top buzzword / catchword, new word, or internet term, nor have I come across complete English translations of the nominations in all categories.  One thing is certain, however, and that is the enthusiasm of the Chinese people for WOTY contests as a means for reflecting upon the past year.

[Hat tip Ben Zimmer]

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