Quadriscriptal "You Are My Sunshine"

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From Emma Knightley:

Sent by my boomer parents – according to the caption how a Taiwanese village is teaching seniors how to sing "You Are My Sunshine" in English, which requires them to know a combination of Mandarin, Taiwanese ("阿粿"), English ("B"), and Japanese ("の")! (I think the calligraphy is wonderful, to boot.)

This is not a standardized transcriptional system, and they're not very fussy about phonemes, but I'm sure the old folks have loads of fun singing the song this way, though they may not understand much of what it means.

Selected readings


  1. Jonathan Silk said,

    December 30, 2023 @ 4:33 am

    Also interesting is that although I assume they copied the lyrics in English from some written source, they get some things wrong: sly -> skies, mach -> much. How would one account for such errors?

  2. Laura Morland said,

    December 30, 2023 @ 6:00 am

    I assume that the teacher learned the song in English, albeit imperfectly, and wrote it down from memory.

    Chinese speakers of English often omit final consonants, and so "when sky are grey" is probably how she or he normally sings it.

    Too bad she (or he) ran out of space for the final word of the lyrics: you can see the word "away " very faintly, on the extreme bottom right corner.

  3. AntC said,

    December 30, 2023 @ 8:49 pm

    Thank you Emma, great fun!

    On a sample of one Taiwaner beside me, this song is quite well-known. Not a boomer, but the (corny) sense is well enough understood, if not the specifics. The ad-hoc transcriptural system rated as 'crazy'.

  4. Richard Futrell said,

    January 1, 2024 @ 7:31 pm

    Interesting use of 油麥米 you mai mi for "you make me"—is it a coincidence that 麥 would be mak in Cantonese?

  5. Victor Mair said,

    January 2, 2024 @ 9:59 am

    @Richard Futrell:

    Not a coincidence that the pronunciation is "mak" in Cantonese.

    That fits with the preponderance of the phonological evidence from all the Sinitic languages and topolects and the reconstructions of Middle and Old Sinitic:



    (Pinyin): mài, mò (mai4, mo4)
    (Zhuyin): ㄇㄞˋ, ㄇㄛˋ
    Duration: 1 second.0:01

    (Chengdu, SP): me2


    (Guangzhou–Hong Kong, Jyutping): mak6, maak6
    (Taishan, Wiktionary): mak5

    Gan (Wiktionary): mah6

    (Sixian, PFS): ma̍k
    (Meixian, Guangdong): mag6

    Jin (Wiktionary): mieh4
    Min Bei (KCR): mà
    Min Dong (BUC): măk / mĕk
    Min Nan

    (Hokkien, POJ): be̍h / be̍eh / be̍k / bia̍k
    (Teochew, Peng'im): bhêh8

    Wu (Wugniu)
    (Shanghainese): 8maq
    Xiang (Changsha, Wiktionary): me6

    Dialectal data [more]

    Middle Chinese: meak [more]

    Old Chinese [more]

    (Baxter–Sagart): /*m-rˤək/
    (Zhengzhang): /*mrɯːɡ/

    The latter three items can be expanded if you click on the "more" button which appears at the end of their lines here (the Wiktionary entry which is the source of the above data). It is Mandarin that is exceptional in lacking the final "-k".

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    January 3, 2024 @ 11:57 am

    I am certain that I must be missing something obvious, but may I ask the significance of "Duration: 1 second.0:01" in the above ?

  7. loonquawl said,

    January 5, 2024 @ 9:09 am

    So the english text is phonetically recreated by singing the characters in their respective source language?
    So many questions – how does the 'B' fit in? (does one have to pronounce the 'B' as 'Bee' or are the singers just approximating 'happy' to 'hab' ?)

    Is there a second level to the song by reading the characters in their native meaning?(or why else is the character used for 'you' in 'you are' 'you make' and 'you'll' not the same as in 'love you'?)

    Is there a recording?

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