Uyghur basketball player

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Article in NBC Sports (6/22/18) by Drew Shiller:  "Report: Chinese prospect Abudushalamu Abudurexiti will play for Warriors in Summer League".

Quips heard around the Language Log water cooler:

Geoff Nunberg:  "It'll give the announcers something new to chew on, now that they've learned to toss off Giannis Antetokounmpo."

Barbara Partee:  "If that article has the pronunciation anywhere near right, then I'll bet his nickname will be Budu-Budu. I like it."

For sure, it's gonna be a challenge for NBA announcers to rattle off his name, but let's see what we're really dealing with.

"2018 NBA Draft Profile: Abudushalamu Abudurexiti:  Abudushalamu Abudurexiti has an intriguing name, but his game makes him an intriguing prospect, too", by Brian Freeman, SBNation (5/20/18):

For those of you that have yet to come across a name similar to this, it is pronounced Ah-BOO-Doo-Shah-LAH-Moo Ah-BOO-Doo-Rex-EE-Tee.

No, that's way off.  The problem is that it's based on a misreading of the Hanyu Pinyin transcription of the MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin) transcription of his Uyghur name:  Ābùdūshālāmù·Abùdūrèxītí 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提.

His name and surname in Uyghur are:  ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت Abdusalam Abdurishit (b. 1996).

When the NBA announcers are doing their running commentary, they don't have to say both his name and surname, just the latter.  That will be easier than trying to rattle off Ābùdūshālāmù·Abùdūrèxītí or Ābùdūshālāmù or Abùdūrèxītí.  It would also be more accurate, because Abdurishit is his real surname.  It's like the difference between Ürümchi and Wūlǔmùqí 乌鲁木齐, the latter of which grates on my ears.

"A Little Primer of Xinjiang Proper Nouns" (7/13/09)

I would also recommend referring to Abdusalam Abdurishit by his Uyghur name rather than by the MSM transcription of it, not only because it is linguistically more accurate, but also because it is more respectful of his ethnicity.  This is especially the case now when Xinjiang is a veritable police state and approximately one out of every ten Uyghurs (likely including some of Abdusalam Abdurishit's own relatives and / or friends) are in "re-education camps", which many observers are referring to as "concentration camps".

"'Permanent cure': Inside the re-education camps China is using to brainwash Muslims", by Gerry Shih, Business Insider (5/17/18)

"China is secretly imprisoning close to 1 million people — but they've left 2 big pieces of evidence behind", by Tara Francis Chan, Business Insider (5/30/18)

Above all, I would urge sportswriters not to refer to Abdusalam Abdurishit as "Chinese", but truthfully and honestly as "Uyghur".

Selected readings (on the MSM mangling of "minority" names)



42 Comments

  1. Joshua K. said,

    June 24, 2018 @ 10:43 am

    What is the IPA pronunciation of his Uyghur name?

  2. D.O. said,

    June 24, 2018 @ 12:04 pm

    Obviously, both first and last names of Abdusalam Abdurishit follow the standard in (large parts of) Muslim world pattern "abdel [one of 99 names of God]". Salam is pretty obvious (means peace), but what is rishit? My cursory perusal of the list of 99 names provided 2 likely possibilities — Raheem (merciful) and Rashid (teacher). If asked to bet, I would bet on the latter.

  3. languagehat said,

    June 24, 2018 @ 2:01 pm

    Yes, in Arabic (the origin of these names) they would be 'Abd al-Salam (عبد السلام) and 'Abd al-Rashid (عبد الرشيد). Both are very common across the Islamic world, as you can see by googling.

  4. tangent said,

    June 24, 2018 @ 2:56 pm

    Ah, sure is a lot easier for me to parse in Arabic…

    "Rex-EE-Tee" arrrrgh

    I can certainly understand not knowing the transcription system's use of "x" your first time, but it's not a new thing.
    Okay, Brian Freeman has used up his mistake card.

  5. ajay said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 4:42 am

    Above all, I would urge sportswriters not to refer to Abdusalam Abdurishit as "Chinese", but truthfully and honestly as "Uyghur".

    Well, he's both. He's a Uyghur and a Chinese subject; he used to play for the Chinese national team and presumably describes himself publicly as Chinese.

  6. Bathrobe said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 5:08 am

    presumably describes himself publicly as Chinese

    He wouldn't dare do anything else.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 6:49 am

    Bathrobe, is that necessarily true ? I do not know any Uyghurs personally, but I know some Tibetans and most are very proud to declare themselves publicly as Tibetan rather than Chinese. Not all, though …

  8. ajay said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 8:22 am

    It's a fair assumption. I don't think proud Uyghurs get to play for the Chinese national team.

  9. Bathrobe said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 6:30 pm

    My point is simply that whether he wanted to or not, he wouldn't dare do anything else. Saying that he describes himself publicly as Chinese doesn't mean anything either way.

  10. Iz said,

    June 25, 2018 @ 8:04 pm

    Abdusalam Abdureshit (either use first or last name),

  11. Len said,

    June 26, 2018 @ 3:25 pm

    By analogy with "russkiy" (meaning ethnically Russian) and "rossiyskiy" (anything pertaining to the Russian Federation), what lexical strategies are there to distinguish between ethnically (Han?) Chinese and "anything pertaining to the People's Republic of China"?

  12. Bathrobe said,

    June 26, 2018 @ 5:29 pm

    In China a conscious distinction is made between the majority ethnic group and the nation of China as a whole. The concept of ethnic Chinese is expressed as 汉族 hàn-zú, in English, 'Han Chinese'. The concept of being a citizen of China is expressed as 中国人 zhōngguórén, in English, 'Chinese'.

    The problem is that this has been overlaid on older conceptions that equate 'Chinese' to 'Han Chinese' by default. For example, when people talk of 'Chinese food', they mean one of the great culinary traditions of the Han Chinese (Cantonese, Sichuanese, Shanghainese, etc.). They do not really have Tibetan or Xinjiang food in mind. And there is no reason that they should, except for reasons of political correctness. The cuisines of minority ethnicities are culturally separate and are only 'Chinese' by virtue of existing within the borders of the Chinese state.

    Despite making much of the fact that 'Chinese doesn't refer only to the Han Chinese, it refers to all 56 ethnic groups of China', when speaking of things Chinese, the Chinese in practice also tend to treat 'Han Chinese' as the default. And when push comes to shove, the Chinese government also takes the mainstream traditions of China (which are in the language of the Han Chinese, written in Chinese characters) as the default. According to reports, the government has been quite clear about identifying the mainstream of Chinese civilisation as 'Chinese' in its efforts to brainwash the people of Xinjiang into being 'good Chinese'. Despite the good intentions of acknowledging that China is a multi-ethnic state, the current policy of the government is to make the entire country linguistically and culturally 'Han Chinese'.

    The naming of China is particularly interesting in Mongolian, where different names are used for 'China' in Mongolia itself and in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. The Mongolians adhere to the traditional concept that 'Chinese=Han Chinese' and call China Hyatad, which is similar to the English word 'Chinese'. In China itself, a new name has been coined for the country of China: Dundad Uls 'Central Country'. This is clearly intended to express the idea that China is not simply the country of the Han Chinese, but the country of all the different groups that make up China. In China, a Mongol can be a citizen of Dundad Uls without being a member of the Hyatad undesten 'Han Chinese ethnicity'.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    June 27, 2018 @ 7:14 am

    Cf. "Rising star footballer is among more than a million Uyghurs sent to Chinese 're-education' camps"

    https://globalvoices.org/2018/06/25/rising-star-footballer-is-among-more-than-a-million-uyghurs-sent-to-chinese-re-education-camps/

    This is particularly poignant in light of China's desperate desire to improve its standing in the world of soccer. Two days ago in Germany, somebody told me that Xi Jinping is establishing 50,000 (!) soccer schools in China in an attempt to eventually produce a team that could compete in the World Cup. And yet this young, talented soccer player has been thrown into a concentration camp simply for being a Uyghur.

  14. Eidolon said,

    June 28, 2018 @ 4:41 pm

    "The problem is that this has been overlaid on older conceptions that equate 'Chinese' to 'Han Chinese' by default. For example, when people talk of 'Chinese food', they mean one of the great culinary traditions of the Han Chinese (Cantonese, Sichuanese, Shanghainese, etc.). They do not really have Tibetan or Xinjiang food in mind. And there is no reason that they should, except for reasons of political correctness. The cuisines of minority ethnicities are culturally separate and are only 'Chinese' by virtue of existing within the borders of the Chinese state."

    This is a problem specific to the semantics of Western vocabulary. In China, the terminology is much less confusing, and any attempt at co-opting minority cultures or peoples would also become more obvious. For example, calling an Uyghur a 华人 Hua ren would carry cultural connotations, which probably aren't accurate, with respect to Uyghurs, who consider themselves very different from the rest of China, culturally. Calling him a 漢族 Han zu would be even less accurate and nobody would do so, in or outside of China. But calling him a 中国人 Zhongguoren would be technically accurate, because it's a statement about his legal citizenship, which is PRC. In this legal context, he is a Chinese whether he declares it publicly or not. It's not just about being politically correct – it's about legal status, and international law recognizes him as a legal citizen of the PRC, regardless of the fact that many of his people are currently being persecuted.

    The only term that is comparable to "Chinese" in ambiguity, with respect to Chinese ethnology, is probably the neologism 中华民族 Zhonghua Minzu – which either translates to "Chinese ethnic groups" in the plural, or "THE Chinese ethnic group." Calling an Uyghur person a member of 中华民族 would be an admission of the Chinese government's ideological platform and thus, a case of political correctness. But calling him a citizen of the PRC is legally correct and I disagree that it'd be dishonest, inaccurate, or a case of surrendering to Chinese political correctness.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    June 28, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

    From a colleague who is a lifelong specialist on the history of Islam in China:

    The horrific treatment of the Uyghurs, and of Islam in general, that the CCP is currently imposing with increasing intensity is being justified as a revival of the Zhonghua minzu ideal, with its late 19th c. German roots via Liang Qichao and many since. Yes, "race" is one of the meanings of minzu.

  16. Bathrobe said,

    June 28, 2018 @ 11:05 pm

    This is a problem specific to the semantics of Western vocabulary.

    Not really. Read the example of Mongolian that I gave.

    The Chinese vocabulary that you cite is new. It was designed to reform or realign the existing vocabulary of the time, with certain goals in mind (mostly as an intellectual conceptualisation accommodating the old Qing territories). Whether described as conscientious, disingenuous, or idealistic, this vocabulary is also overlaid on older conceptions that slip through in unguarded moments when Chinese speak.

    The 'political correctness' I was referring to was that of insisting on strict adherence to the concept of Zhonghua Minzu. While Gesar or Jangar or Manas would once have been described without too much violence as 'Tibetan' or 'Mongol' or 'Kyrghyz', the tendency now is to stridently proclaim their Chineseness. This is an example of political correctness overriding both older categories and current realities. For this reason the result is every bit as strained and blatant in Chinese as it is in English.

  17. Eidolon said,

    June 29, 2018 @ 6:10 pm

    "Not really. Read the example of Mongolian that I gave."

    I don't know enough about Mongolians in Mongolia to know whether they use Hyatad in the same way Western writers use "Chinese," but I would doubt that they have no word for citizens of the PRC exclusive of ethnic and cultural designation, which is the problem here.

    "The Chinese vocabulary that you cite is new. It was designed to reform or realign the existing vocabulary of the time, with certain goals in mind (mostly as an intellectual conceptualisation accommodating the old Qing territories). Whether described as conscientious, disingenuous, or idealistic, this vocabulary is also overlaid on older conceptions that slip through in unguarded moments when Chinese speak."

    None of the terms I cited are actually new, except for 漢族, where previously it was simply 漢人. But in China, there is a relatively straight forward way to distinguish between the subjects of the ruling dynasty, and the cultural group identifying as "Chinese," through the term 华 "Hua." The issue of calling an Uyghur, "Chinese" exists because English has no common word for "citizen of China," but conflates two meanings – citizens of China and 华 Hua – into one word. I use 华, instead of 漢, because back calques from English involving the word "Chinese" are almost always translated as 华. This is because 漢 is much too specific, from the perspective of Chinese translators, to be used as a stand in for "Chinese." But these calques are themselves a source of confusion because, just like in English, they create the impression that "citizen of China" = 华. Fortunately, people there can always fall back on Zhongguoren 中国人 when they need to be exact, but in English, there is no such luxury.

    "The 'political correctness' I was referring to was that of insisting on strict adherence to the concept of Zhonghua Minzu. While Gesar or Jangar or Manas would once have been described without too much violence as 'Tibetan' or 'Mongol' or 'Kyrghyz', the tendency now is to stridently proclaim their Chineseness. This is an example of political correctness overriding both older categories and current realities. For this reason the result is every bit as strained and blatant in Chinese as it is in English."

    Perhaps so, but there isn't the same degree of confusion. When Xi Jinping makes a statement like "中国人民 … 传承了格萨尔王、玛纳斯、江格尔" you know exactly what he is talking about – he is saying that the people of China, in which he explicitly includes groups like the Uyghurs and Tibetans – inherited epics like Gesar. By contrast, should you write that out in common English, without paying attention to the conflation of terms, you would get "The Chinese… inherited Gesar, etc." That is a much more disingenuous claim to make, since it gives off the impression that epics like Gesar are the heritage of the Hua 华 ie the "Chinese." It is telling, in this respect, that Xi Jinping doesn't use the term 华 even once in that long passage about the achievements of 中国人民. Probably not an accident.

  18. Eidolon said,

    June 29, 2018 @ 6:20 pm

    "…back calques from English involving the word "Chinese" are almost always translated as 华."

    One correction: either as 华 or as 中国, depending on context. The choice of which could be an entire thesis for the political and cultural nuances of translation, but it isn't necessary for my argument.

  19. Bathrobe said,

    June 29, 2018 @ 11:32 pm

    All this is very well, but my point is that even in Chinese the boundaries are fuzzier than you make out. 中国 is the informal name of the country; the official name is 中华人民共和国. Liang Qichao's term 中华民族 consciously expanded 中华 to include all the different ethnic groups. The Uyghurs are also part of the 中华民族. People do use 中国人 (incorrectly) to mean 华人. The language known as 汉语 (language of the Han) is also known as 话语, 汉话, and 中国话. I have met people who have spoke about the ancient written language of the 中华民族 — meaning Classical Chinese. I have spoken to people who tell me that "中国人 don't eat much meat". The crossover in Chinese may not be as egregious as it in English but it is still there.

    The Mongolians of Mongolia do have an attitude problem towards the Chinese. The word Hyatad is used indiscriminately for the country and the dominant ethnic group in a way that can cause confusion. Inner Mongolians are denied Mongolness by being called Hyatad hün.

    The use of Hyatad would not have mattered under the Qing where there was no real consciousness of Mongols being 'Chinese'. But when the country was named "China" (中华民国 or 中华人民共和国), there arose a need to distinguish the senses of words. Hyatad in Inner Mongolia was consciously confined to the Han Chinese, and a new term was created for the country of 中国: Dundad uls, which is not used in Mongolia.

    Incidentally, there are also still usages in Chinese whereby 国人 refers to the Han Chinese. The Mongolian equivalent term is also used for the Han Chinese.

    Your summation is fine in an ideal world where all is cut and dried. The problem is that it is not cut and dried in the way you claim it to be. Xi might have consciously used 中国人民, but you yourself pointed out that the underlying consciousness is that the culture of the ethnic minorities is given a different positioning from that of the mainstream Chinese culture. Han culture is still given a privileged position within 中国.

    Even if you look at overseas Chinese, it's obvious that China cares much more about 华人 overseas (including, for instance, discrimination against Indonesia Chinese, who left "China" many generations ago) than it does about other ethnic groups that supposedly belong to the 中华民族. The vocabulary has been officially sanitised and tidied up but the underlying attitudes persist in various ways.

  20. Victor Mair said,

    July 1, 2018 @ 3:17 pm

    From a Mongolian graduate student:

    I like Bathrobe's arguments, and agree with him that the problem is not a lack of concepts in English, but the politics of naming in China.

    I am surprised that no-one is talking about the PRC in terms of an empire and Xinjiang as a colony. Moreover, it seems to me, from the comments (and other things I've read) that there is some straining to re-assign a wider meaning to the word "China," just so English speakers can keep up with the "Zhonghua Minzu" project. Since now that the Han control more territory, the term China itself is "problematic," and nothing else. Thus, the only thing to do is to redefine the English word "China."

    Eidolon says that it isn't an accident that president Xi never said "Han" or "Hua," but only "Zhonghua Minzu." I agree, plus I think it isn't an accident that "Zhonghua Minzu" contains "Zhong" and "Hua," both historically associated with the Han, and not some brand new word like "Soviet Citizen."

    Anyway, all it takes is an email to an Uyghur speaker (there is no shortage of Uyghur exiles in the US) and ask how to say the name, and the sports announcers will even have a couple of sentences to read about the nature of Xinjiang and therefore look smart!

    While I agree that there is an attitude "problem" in Mongolia regarding the Chinese, I'd say the views on Inner Mongolians have become rather varied over the last twenty years. On a similar note, I've seen instances of TV talent competitions in Mongolia including participants from Inner Mongolia, who are simply introduced as the "contestant from Övör Mongol," perhaps with some additional detail about the banner and town they're from, without any reference to the PRC or any word that relates to the concept of China. "Övör" means "front-side" or "south." This term has been in the Mongolian name for this region ever since the location relative to the Gobi was first thought appropriate for naming communities (around early seventeenth century).

    I've noticed this pattern in the way scholars refer to each other in papers relating to Mongolian studies too. Buryat scholars aren't always referred to as the being from the Russian Federation, or Inner Mongolian as from the PRC.

    I suppose it's just a matter of how "woke" a person is to the fact that the "right to self-determination" isn't doled out equably to communities around the world, and that we, at the least, can choose how seriously we take passports and barbed wires.

  21. Eidolon said,

    July 2, 2018 @ 12:16 pm

    > "I have spoken to people who tell me that "中国人 don't eat much meat". The crossover in Chinese may not be as egregious as it in English but it is still there."

    There will always be cross over, in the same way that, for example, the words "French," "Russian," and even "American" are not neutral in cultural and ethnic semantics, despite all three countries being multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. In the case of French, Russian, and Chinese, we can attribute a degree of this cross over, as a Mongolian graduate student so astutely said above, to the fact that these words were chosen not arbitrarily but to reflect, consciously, a historical continuity – unlike the word "Soviet" or "American," which were designed to signal a break.

    But those who wish to make a clean break from the past will be disappointed to find that it doesn't take very long for the new names to gain their own cultural and ethnic biases. It didn't take long for "Soviets" to become the same as "Communist Russians." And though the vocabulary of nation-states was certainly invented and adapted to smooth over a variegated reality, even prior to the emergence of modern nation-states, there was a tendency to simplify and homogenize political names, as your Mongolian example illustrates. Hyatad was, after all, derived from the historical word for the Khitans, and I doubt it had anything to do with how the population wanted to be viewed.

    Perhaps it is not so much the English specificity that is at play, but rather the fact that there is a tendency for the human brain to reduce, abstract, and simplify. It takes a trained mind to not assume, upon hearing the word "Chinese" or "French," a set of homogenizing attributes and stereotypes. This is a phenomenon of cognition, almost Chomsky like, which makes the common world easier to conceptualize, but runs into trouble when the politics of identity become involved.

    > "Your summation is fine in an ideal world where all is cut and dried. The problem is that it is not cut and dried in the way you claim it to be. Xi might have consciously used 中国人民, but you yourself pointed out that the underlying consciousness is that the culture of the ethnic minorities is given a different positioning from that of the mainstream Chinese culture. Han culture is still given a privileged position within 中国."

    As the majority or "mainstream" culture always tend to be, regardless of country. Yet this kind of discussion skirts the question more than answers it. In bringing up concepts like self-determination, we are suggesting that there is a natural state of the world that politics disallows, and that in such a world, our linguistic problems would not exist. But I don't think that's the case. Political membership has never and most likely will never perfectly accord with self-identity. Minority groups are unlikely to disappear in the body politic. So how do you suggest referring to them in a way that is simultaneously informative and yet, at the same time, politically neutral?

    In the American tradition, ethnic hyphenation is the preference, so in this case, you'd say "Uyghur Chinese" instead of "Chinese," emphasizing the fact that Mr. Abdurishit is an Uyghur from the PRC, as opposed to any other "Chinese" or an Uyghur from Turkey, for example, thus serving the dual purpose of being informative and specific. But it seems to me that this would still not be neutral – since "Chinese" is a loaded term – so what should be done? Should we invent a separate term for PRC political membership, or attempt to change the definition of "Chinese" to become more culturally and ethnically neutral?

  22. YIPAER AIERKEN said,

    July 2, 2018 @ 3:50 pm

    I'm an Uyghur graduate student in the US and my "weird name" always gives me a hard time. My Uyghur name is ئەركىن ئىپار, but what's on my password is pinyin version of it. When you're Uyghur, and you have a Chinese passport, you have to face tons of questions about it.
    First of all, my last name and first name also mess up; secondly, pinyin version is really really hard to pronounce, but I have to use it because it was written on all my official document. Lastly, when your name documented wrong, you have a new name like Nofirtname and your last name. I used Nofirstname Aierken for a long time, and my professor hates that because they always cannot find my email address. Anyway, I feel I need to face this problem my whole life. Thanks for sharing this professor Mair!

  23. Bathrobe said,

    July 2, 2018 @ 7:23 pm

    @ Eidolon

    Well, we seem to have come a long way from our initial assertion that "This is a problem specific to the semantics of Western vocabulary. In China, the terminology is much less confusing".

    But you then launch into an extended discussion of generalities about non-mainstream cultures within countries, which is obviously not going to reach any kind of intelligent conclusion since the circumstances differ so markedly.

    The Chinese situation is that China is trying to incorporate several entities that some have referred to as 'proto-states'. The ethnicity issues are far more contentious, given that the citizens of these 'proto-states' traditionally have a strong cultural and ethnic identity. They are not just, um, "minority groups".

    The US custom is a cutesy recognition of one's ethnic or cultural roots. It's not required (AFAIK) to register oneself as an "Italian-American" on one's ID card, and there is no government requirement of how to romanise your name, as in the case of "Aierken" above — which is the pinyin rendition of the Chinese characters used to write his Uyghur name (hence the "er"). And the U.S. does not appear to face the problem of hyphenated Americans feeling discomfort at being identified as "American".

    (The people in the US that might have an analogous position are the indigenous Americans (previously "Indians", "First Nations" in Canadian parlance), who had their land stolen from them; the Blacks, who mostly came as slaves and have never completely lost their caste status; and the Hispanics, who appear to be currently seen as a threat to the "mainstream culture". These are all problems that the US continues to face.)

    Groups that are comparable to China's "minority ethnicities" might include the Kurds, who retain an identity beyond Iraqi or Turkish, and the Hmong, who surprisingly are not called "Vietnamese" or "Lao" in the US. Not that I would advocate a Kurdish solution to the Chinese situation — far from it — but regrettably, China has adopted a heavy-handed, Sinocentric approach to assimilating the peoples of these proto-states, which is why there is some resistance to being called "Chinese" among at least some of these people. It is possible for "minority groups" to live peaceably as members of a larger state for extended periods of time: Qing China, despite being an "apartheid state", was mostly able to do this (although the Uyghurs, again, were a problem). Perhaps a true multi-ethnic approach would make these people proud to be called "Chinese", but modern China is, and there is no other way to put it, highly Sinocentric (Han-centred). This is one reason why "China" and "Chinese" continue to be identified solidly with the Han majority both within China and abroad, despite the attempts to revise the vocabulary.

  24. Bathrobe said,

    July 3, 2018 @ 12:13 am

    As a matter of interest, I might add that the tradition of rendering other languages in Chinese characters goes back a fair way but probably reached its greatest flowering under the Qing. Looking at Qing renditions of Mongolian in Chinese characters, these follow Mandarin rules of syllabification and do not, for instance, allow final consonants other than /n/ and /ŋ/. But these renditions are not simply dictated by the phonotactics of Chinese: they also reproduce traditional Mongolian spelling, and possibly also the pronunciation of the time. For example, Chinese 浩特 hàotè, equivalent to Mongolian hot (Cyrillic хот) meaning 'city', reproduces the spelling of the Mongolian traditional script, ᠬᠣᠲᠠ hota.

    To put Chinese place names into English, China now uses pinyin as a direct phonetic representation of the MSM pronunciation. But where the Chinese have not moved on from Qing practice is the insistence that non-Chinese place names should be represented as pinyin representations of the Chinese characters used to write those words. Thus, Chinese all too often represent Хөххот höhhot (ᠬᠥᠬᠡᠬᠣᠲᠠ höhehota) as Huhehaote in English rather than the (rough) Mongolian pronunciation Hohhot or Huhhot. When carried over to people's passports, this practice becomes objectionable.

  25. Bathrobe said,

    July 3, 2018 @ 6:05 am

    But where the Chinese have not moved on from Qing practice is the insistence that non-Chinese place names should be represented as pinyin representations of the Chinese characters used to write those words.

    Sorry, I was trying to fit too much information in one sentence. Place names in 'minority ethnic languages' are (understandably) standardised in Chinese in the form of Chinese characters. Many Chinese then assume that these names should be rendered in English as transliterations of Chinese characters rather than as direct representations of the minority languages (see example of Hohhot).

    When this practice is institutionalised on the official level, for example by making the name as written in Chinese characters a person's 'official name', and consequently transliterating that name into English based on the pinyin transliteration of those Chinese characters, the result can be quite objectionable.

  26. Eidolon said,

    July 5, 2018 @ 6:56 pm

    > Well, we seem to have come a long way from our initial assertion that "This is a problem specific to the semantics of Western vocabulary. In China, the terminology is much less confusing".

    Yes, but it is still the basic issue – the naming of names in a language. I am of course aware of the fact that there is significantly more political resistance by the Uyghurs to being called Chinese, than there is by German immigrants, for example, to being called American. But that just makes the need for new, nuanced vocabulary, all the more pressing. For one, I do not think it is useful to pretend that borders and passports don't exist – an Uyghur living in China and an Uyghur living in Turkey have very different social, cultural, political, etc. experiences, and face significantly different issues, so that not mentioning that Mr. Abdurishit is a Chinese citizen would be irresponsible, as a matter of journalistic principle. For another, it was brought up above that Mr. Abdurishit may or may not identify with being Chinese, having played for the Chinese national team; and that in any case, he could not afford to be honest about it. This is a tricky issue, as well, since the standard protocol for resolving identity confusion would be to ask.

    So the reason I pressed for a linguistic solution is precisely because I think it can serve as an alternative to the binary controversy. From a semantic perspective, the need for a separate term to identify PRC citizenship without the attendant cultural and ethnic baggage seems expedient, perhaps even necessary, and not just with respect to Uyghurs. At the minimum, it'd free us from having to impose our own assumptions about Mr. Abdurishit's self-identity, whatever form that may take, or to ask questions for which there are cannot be genuine answers, due to political sensitivity.

    > Thus, Chinese all too often represent Хөххот höhhot (ᠬᠥᠬᠡᠬᠣᠲᠠ höhehota) as Huhehaote in English rather than the (rough) Mongolian pronunciation Hohhot or Huhhot. When carried over to people's passports, this practice becomes objectionable.

    This is a separate – but related – issue that deserves separate – and much more extensive – treatment; but I suppose a general question is, should renderings of place names to English follow *English* conventions, or the conventions of the local languages? It would make more sense to me to do the former, than the latter, as a matter of standardization and also to avoid the controversy of having to decide which local language to use when transliterating. We don't, after all, render into English the name of the PRC as Zhongguo – according to local tradition – but rather, China, according to the English tradition. In this context, the example you mentioned should be rendered as Hohhot, and not Huhehaote, Khökh khot, or Kökeqota. When it comes to personal names, however, I do agree that it is objectionable to use any phonetics not from the person's own preferred language or dialect. But, it seems this was historically a common practice – names are often among the first to be "assimilated" into the mainstream transcription. Just look at all the American family names of European derivation that have been adapted to English phonetics. Yet, it should be an individual's choice to do so, not the government's.

  27. Bathrobe said,

    July 5, 2018 @ 7:57 pm

    I do not think it is useful to pretend that borders and passports don't exist

    Nobody has said otherwise.

    From a semantic perspective, the need for a separate term to identify PRC citizenship without the attendant cultural and ethnic baggage seems expedient, perhaps even necessary

    The Chinese solution, to say that all its citizens are 中国人, is not in itself bad. But as I pointed out, it overlays newer usages on older, deeply entrenched ones. And the practices of the Chinese state do not line up with the solution / ideals they have adopted.

    I suppose a general question is, should renderings of place names to English follow *English* conventions, or the conventions of the local languages

    Actually, the question in China is whether romanisations should follow the how names are rendered in Chinese characters, or whether it should mirror how they are pronounced in the person's own own language. Rendering ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت as Abdusalam Abdurishit rather than Abudushalamu Abudurexiti is not a matter of imposing English usage. It is a matter of following Uyghur rather than Chinese.

    names are often among the first to be "assimilated" into the mainstream transcription. Just look at all the American family names of European derivation that have been adapted to English phonetics

    You keep equating people who have freely immigrated to a country to those whose ethnic group inhabits its original territory but is subject to control by an outside polity / culture. It is simplistic to equate the American situation to the Chinese.

  28. Eidolon said,

    July 6, 2018 @ 8:34 pm

    > The Chinese solution, to say that all its citizens are 中国人, is not in itself bad. But as I pointed out, it overlays newer usages on older, deeply entrenched ones. And the practices of the Chinese state do not line up with the solution / ideals they have adopted.

    I am more concerned with the English solution, since, as I've said above, I feel the cultural and ethnic semantics of "Chinese" are more heavy than those of 中国人, and in any case, the Chinese government's solution isn't necessarily relevant to how the rest of the world operates, as seen by the fact that we don't use *their* name for China.

    > Actually, the question in China is whether romanisations should follow the how names are rendered in Chinese characters, or whether it should mirror how they are pronounced in the person's own own language. Rendering ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت as Abdusalam Abdurishit rather than Abudushalamu Abudurexiti is not a matter of imposing English usage. It is a matter of following Uyghur rather than Chinese.

    …I'm sorry, were you not discussing about how place and personal names in China should be rendered into English?

    "Chinese all too often represent Хөххот höhhot (ᠬᠥᠬᠡᠬᠣᠲᠠ höhehota) as Huhehaote in **English** rather than the (rough) Mongolian pronunciation Hohhot or Huhhot. … Many Chinese then assume that these names should be rendered in **English** as transliterations of Chinese characters rather than as direct representations of the minority languages (see example of Hohhot)."

    I was, and I'd also argue that Romanization is never language neutral. You're always Romanizing with respect to a target language – most commonly English, but it could be French, German, Spanish, etc. – so you might as well adopt the conventions of that language, when it comes to conventional names. So, when dealing with Pinyin Romanization, Hohhot should become Huhehaote, because that's how it is called in Standard Mandarin, the target language of Pinyin Romanization. But when the target language is English, Huhehaote doesn't make sense, because that isn't what Hohhot is called in English. Abdusalam Abdurishit isn't a language neutral Romanization, either – it follows the rules for Uyghur Arabic -> English Romanization, and would be different had the target language been different. Presumably it has higher phonetic fidelity to how ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت actually pronounces his name, but it still isn't a replicate, which can only be near achieved by converting to IPA. But that's not the goal for English news writers. Their goal is to render it into English, which implies following English conventions.

    > You keep equating people who have freely immigrated to a country to those whose ethnic group inhabits its original territory but is subject to control by an outside polity / culture. It is simplistic to equate the American situation to the Chinese.

    The Uyghurs were once immigrants, too. I would be careful of arguing that the children of immigrants had any more choice in the matter of their home lands than "natives." Outside of the select few for whom immigration was an actual life choice, no one chose the countries into which they were born. To which end, would your moral compass be different had we been talking about ethnic Mongols and Manchus living in China proper?

  29. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 6:12 am

    Of course Romanisation isn't language neutral. But what is at stake here is not finding the best way of finessing his name for English speakers. It is deciding on the appropriate base form for romanising the name: ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت or 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提.

    If you choose the former it will apparently be something like Abdusalam Abdurishit. Perhaps it will be different for other languages. If you choose 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提, this is a non-issue, no matter what your language. China mandates pinyin. So it really does come down to a matter of choosing the basis for rendering his name.

    Your point about immigrants is taken. My point is that lumping many different situations into one format is simplistic. Your interpretation appears to be that the world is made up of nations (with borders and passports), and every sovereign state can be reduced to a simple dichotomy between "mainstream" and "minority group". This is certainly easy to understand but seems to me to be a draconian simplification — unless you happen to believe in absolute assimilation within nation states, in which case it makes perfect sense. However, for someone who has expressed support for megalanguages on the basis that the ideal would be for everyone to speak the same language, your devotion to "discrete blocks" sits rather strangely.

    Finally, I'm not sure of the significance of "ethnic Mongols living in China proper". Depending on your definition, there aren't that many Mongols living in China proper.

  30. Eidolon said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 1:24 pm

    > Of course Romanisation isn't language neutral. But what is at stake here is not finding the best way of finessing his name for English speakers. It is deciding on the appropriate base form for romanising the name: ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت or 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提.

    But the answer to this question depends on the purpose and target language. Romanization doesn't just refer to rendering into English. When you render his name into pinyin – which is also Romanization – you do, in fact, get the other version, because pinyin, in China, is only used to represent the sounds of Standard Mandarin and the purpose of pinyin Romanization is to render into Standard Mandarin. You were right the first time – it's the rendering into English from Standard Mandarin that is objectionable, because there is a direct way to go from Uyghur Arabic to English that preserves more phonetic fidelity, and which should be respected because English speakers shouldn't be forced to interpret an Uyghur name through the medium of Standard Mandarin. In fact, I agreed with you on this subject, but took issue with your reply because you seemed to be arguing that Romanization always refers to Uyghur Arabic -> English, and ignored the utility of Uyghur Arabic -> Standard Mandarin -> pinyin.

    > Your interpretation appears to be that the world is made up of nations (with borders and passports), and every sovereign state can be reduced to a simple dichotomy between "mainstream" and "minority group".

    Not quite, and I didn't and don't take issue with your earlier statements about the differences between the Uyghur situation and that of contemporary immigrants in the US, but I found your dismissal of analogies on the basis that they affect the descendants of immigrants, rather than natives, limiting. Of course, the Uyghurs have many more reasons to resist "Chinafication" than, say, German immigrants did when they first arrived in the US. But what's missing from this argument is that many German Americans also Anglicized their names under conditions of duress and persecution during World War II. In power relations, majority-minority relations often exhibit patterns of similarity independent of whether a minority group descends from "natives" or immigrants. We can draw analogies without needing them to be perfect.

    I also don't think this implies I am devoted to the concept of "discrete blocks"; in fact, quite the opposite.

  31. Victor Mair said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 1:55 pm

    Oh, so you are devoted to the concept of indiscrete blocks? Please elaborate.

  32. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

    the answer to this question depends on the purpose and target language

    The context was how a person's name should be rendered in Roman letters for official use, for example in passports, and in international contexts. The real-world consequences of the Chinese government's approach have already been raised by a Uyghur in the US.

    Your point that pinyin is a romanisation that renders 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提 "into Standard Mandarin" is little more than a nitpick. In fact, it barely makes sense outside an extremely technical or theoretical context. 阿不都沙拉木·阿不都热西提 is already a rendition of ئابدۇسالام ئابدۇرېشىت into standard Mandarin. To claim that Ābùdūshālāmù Abùdūrèxītí then renders his name "into standard Mandarin" (as you wrote) seems to imply that the first step did not do so, which is nonsense, given that the Chinese government officially renders Uyghur names into Chinese characters based on standard Mandarin. The point was barely worth making, except as a laboured way of pointing out that a romanisation does not have to be into English.

    I'm aware that immigrants and their descendants can't be understood under simple assimilationist models, and that "native" or "indigenous" are also questionable concepts. My problem was that your continued appeal to the example of immigrants to the US as an analogy for the Uyghur situation seemed almost wilful, given that I had already pointed to alternative analogues. There may be a continuum, but constant appealing the far end can only lead to further nitpicking, as in this case.

  33. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 4:55 pm

    Sorry to nitpick further, but to claim that the target language of pinyin romanisation is standard Mandarin implies that the result of romanisation is standard Mandarin. In fact, standard Mandarin is written in Chinese characters; putting it into pinyin does not result in 'standard Mandarin'. I know what you mean, but if you want to nitpick to the level that you are aiming at, you need to be EXTREMELY precise in your use and expression of concepts.

  34. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 6:04 pm

    I think it worth pointing out that there are also practical considerations involved in the romanisation of non-Chinese names in China. One concrete example that I have encountered is the rendering of the name of the city of Arxan in Inner Mongolia. The name in Mongolian is ᠷᠠᠰᠢᠶᠠᠨ (rasiyan), a borrowed word meaning 'spring water' (usually pronounced with an initial /a/ since native Mongolian words do not begin with /r/). The Chinese rendering is 阿尔山 ā'ěrshān.

    In the Chinese government's official romanisation of Mongolian words, the Mongolian name should be rendered as Arxan, and this romanisation is quite commonly found. However, Chinese railways always use pinyin to represent station names in ethnic minority areas. 阿尔山 is romanised as A'ershan on train tickets. This romanisation is also found in many other contexts. You will find both names on the web.

    Apart from Han Chinese attitudes that all names should be rendered in standard pinyin, I suspect that China railways adopted this approach in the interest of uniformity so as to avoid confusion. People inputting the city's name in roman letters would expect 阿尔山 to come up in Chinese characters. Inputting ARXAN would not yield the desired result creating confusion in the minds of many people. The end result of this practical approach is that there are now two competing spellings of the city's name. (The same applies to Hohhot.)

  35. Eidolon said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 6:14 pm

    > Oh, so you are devoted to the concept of indiscrete blocks? Please elaborate.

    Groups aren't blocks. They're collections of individuals who may or may not share the same ideas about identity, membership, etc. Unfortunately, this doesn't prevent politicians from treating them like blocks, but recognizing the realities of block politics is not equivalent to being devoted to the concept of it.

    > The context was how a person's name should be rendered in Roman letters for official use, for example in passports, and in international contexts. The real-world consequences of the Chinese government's approach have already been raised by a Uyghur in the US.

    "Official use" is the key phrase – official use by who? The Chinese government? Why would they Romanize a person's name according to English conventions? Do you think Chinese government officials can read names Romanized into English? For passports, it makes sense to use English as the target language, because English is the international language and passports are supposed to be read by international embassies, travel agencies, and border control. But much of the Romanization that actually happens in China on signs, documents, captions, name tags, etc. is, in fact, Pinyin Romanization – and it exists for the benefit of Standard Mandarin speakers. You're right that converting to Chinese characters is already rendering in Standard Mandarin, but in China they *often* go the extra step of giving the Pinyin, perhaps because they presume it is much easier to be literate in Pinyin than it is in Chinese characters and it helps get around character amnesia. This is one reason I distinguished between the two different kinds of Romanization.

    > My problem was that your continued appeal to the example of immigrants to the US as an analogy for the Uyghur situation seemed almost wilful, given that I had already pointed to alternative analogues. There may be a continuum, but constant appealing the far end can only lead to further nitpicking, as in this case.

    Maybe it comes off that way, but this is the blog of an American university, the topic was about the NBA and an American journalist's choice of words, and I myself am relatively more familiar with American culture and history, so the result is predictable. I could bring up the Basques, Chechnya, and Catalan, which better examples, perhaps, but the purpose of the analogies you criticized were not to perfectly match the Uyghur situation, but to make specific points about language, particularly English; I couldn't tell you the linguistic nuances of how Chechnya is treated in Russian, how Basques are treated in French, or how Catalan is treated in Spanish, even though politically these are much better analogies.

  36. Victor Mair said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 7:33 pm

    With regard to devotion to the concept of "discrete blocks", you said your view was "quite the opposite". How so? In what way? Please try to keep your answer focused on the case under discussion.

  37. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

    Why would they Romanize a person's name according to English conventions?

    As we've already discussed, it's not a matter of English conventions; it's the basis of romanisation that is the problem. As I pointed out, China has official romanisations for other languages within its borders. Arxan is the romanisation of the name of the Inner Mongolian city according to China's standards for romanising Mongolian. It would be acceptable in international contexts, even if it's not strictly 'English'. (In fact, the use of 'x' echoes pinyin, not English.) You keep harping on 'English romanisation' as though that were the only possible alternative to pinyin. Much of the discussion here has been focussed on challenging that assumption, to no avail, it appears.

  38. Eidolon said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

    > With regard to devotion to the concept of "discrete blocks", you said your view was "quite the opposite". How so? In what way? Please try to keep your answer focused on the case under discussion.

    "Devotion": loyalty towards, enthusiasm for
    "Discrete": discontinuous, separate
    "Blocks": groups with well-defined borders

    The expression implies that I am a loyal enthusiast of dividing the world into discontinuous and separate groups with well-defined borders – ie where Uyghurs and Chinese can never share the same identity. I said "quite the opposite" because I support a world that is more continuous, more unified, and with fewer borders – ie where Uyghurs and Chinese can share the same identity. This does not mean, however, that I believe this is currently the case. Passports and fences obviously still do matter, as do internal divisions that are just as significant: Uyghurs and Chinese do not share the same identity, and are unlikely to do so under current PRC policy. Practical recognition of the status quo and their parallels else where does not make me "devoted" to them or to the mechanisms that generate them.

  39. Eidolon said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 9:34 pm

    > As we've already discussed, it's not a matter of English conventions; it's the basis of romanisation that is the problem.

    The basis of Romanization for both Arxan and A'ershan is the same: Mongolian. The former is, as far as I can tell, a SASM/GNC phonetic transcription, developed in the 1970s, while the latter is a Standard Mandarin pinyin phonemic transcription. SASM/GNC Romanization is what the PRC "officially" recommends for international use, but the standard is haphazardly applied in common languages. For example, in common English usage, we use Hulunbuir, not Kölön Buyir from SASM/GNC.

    You can replace "English" in our previous argument with SASM/GNC, and I believe it doesn't actually change the argument. When the target language is Standard Mandarin, Romanization in China still relies on Standard Mandarin Pinyin Romanization, not SASM/GNC, for the obvious reason that Standard Mandarin speakers wouldn't be able to pronounce the SASM/GNC transcriptions. SASM/GNC is what the PRC designates for external use, but in practice, most languages seem to have their own ways of Romanizing place names in China, so in the end, it's still the target language that matters.

  40. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 10:17 pm

    So your rhetorical question is now:

    Why would they Romanize a person's name according to official Chinese conventions for international use? (In this case a Uyghur name in a passport to be used abroad).

  41. Eidolon said,

    July 7, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

    They shouldn't. I think we agreed on this issue a dozen comments ago, and have been discussing incidental topics ever since.

  42. Victor Mair said,

    July 8, 2018 @ 4:51 am

    If what you and Bathrobe are talking about are only "incidental topics", why do you go on at such length and with such conviction?

    What is your politico-linguistic ideal — an autocracy with one national language for All-under-Heaven?

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