Multiple possible parsings of strings of sinographs

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[line spacing was difficult with this one]

Chinese signs collected by Zeyao Wu:

本店/有/嬰兒被/賣 or 本店/有/嬰兒/被賣
běn diàn yǒu yīng'ér bèi                                  mài
this shop has baby   passive signifier; blanket for sale
"this shop has baby blankets for sale" or "this shop has had babies for sale"

歡迎/新老師生/前來就餐 or 歡迎/新老師/生前/來就餐
huānyíng xīn lǎo   shī        shēng     qián     lái     jiùcān
welcome new old teachers students before come dine
"welcome new and old teachers and students to come and dine" or
"welcome new teachers to come and dine while they are still alive" (other interpretations are also possible)

小便/當/湯 or 小便當/湯
xiǎo   biàn             dāng                                                                                               tāng
small convenience serve as / structive morpheme (borrowed from Japanese)   soup
N.B.:  當 has multiple etymological derivations, multiple pronunciations, and more than two dozen different meanings and functions (source)
"pee as soup" or "small bento / tiffin / lunchbox — soup"

大便/當/飯 or 大便當/飯
dà biàn              dāng                                                                                                  fàn
big convenience serve as / structive morpheme (borrowed from Japanese)  rice / meal
"poo as meal" or "big bento / tiffin / lunchbox — meal"

廣州市/人和/母豬/配種/繁殖/基地 or 廣州市人和母豬/配種/繁殖/基地 (人和 is a place in Guangzhou).
Guǎngzhōu shì  rén      hé    mǔ                     zhū pèizhǒng fánzhí           jīdì
Guangzhou city human and  mother / female pig breeding  reproduction base
"Guangzhou city Renhe base for sow breeding and reproduction" or
"Guangzhou city base for human and sow breeding and reproduction"

Lordy me!  Gotta be on your toes when you read sinographic texts.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Diana Shuheng Zhang and Jing Hu]


  1. Chris Button said,

    May 24, 2024 @ 8:55 pm

    Ha ha. Well, at least the two bento ones have spaces to avoid any parsing errors.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    May 24, 2024 @ 9:54 pm

    Very good observation, Chris Button!

    The value of spacing between words and syntactic units in Sinitic writing.

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