Ace love

Photograph of an artistic arrangement on the wall of a tea shop in Philadelphia's Chinatown.

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Luggage tags with (hidden) sewing kit

Chinese not necessary to use this marvelous dual purpose device.

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The Syriac Script at Turfan

First Soundings

by Martina Galatello

This is the first book-length palaeographic study of about a thousand fragments in Syriac and Sogdian languages discovered between 1902 and 1914 in the Turfan area on the ancient Northern Silk Roads. This manuscript material, probably dating between the late 8th and 13th /14th centuries, is of utmost relevance for the history of an area that represents a crossroads region of various communities, languages and religions, not least the East Syriac Christian community. Palaeographic factors such as form, modulus, ductus, contrast, spaces between letters and ligatures have been examined. Particularly significant is a peculiar ligature of the letters sade and nun. One important observation that emerges from this research is the almost total absence of monumental script in favour of mostly cursive forms, most of them East Syriac cursive forms. These represent a valuable source for the study of the history of the East Syriac script due to the paucity of earlier and contemporary East Syriac manuscript evidence from the Middle East, at least before the twelfth century. Moreover, this research sheds light on scribal habits that are highly relevant for a better comprehension of the Sogdian and Syriac-speaking Christian communities, for the history of writing between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and for a greater understanding of the social context in which these and other communities in the same area read, wrote, and shared handwritten texts.

This study is part of the FWF stand-alone project "Scribal Habits. A case study from Christian Medieval Central Asia" (PI Chiara Barbati) at the Institute of Iranian Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. 

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San Francisco Cantonese

From Charles Belov:

While riding the 22 Fillmore bus through the Mission District in San Francisco today, I overheard a conversation in Cantonese. It was nearly 100% in Cantonese, not the Cantlish* that I rarely also hear. What surprised me, though, was when one of the elderly speakers said "Hong Kong" they used the English pronunciation, not the Cantonese one. Aside from those two words, it was all in Cantonese.

And my Cantonese is so minimal that I know nothing of the topic of their conversation aside from the words "faan heui," to return-go, shortly after which the words "Hong Kong" occurred. Not that it would be any of my business – I don't care what people say; I just care how they say it.

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Persophone Muslim population in China

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Elle Cordova puts a beat on medicinal rat-a-tat

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"The genes they inherited from their pirates"

Laura Baisas, “We were very wrong about birds”, Popular Science 4/1/2024:

Birds combine genes from a father and a mother into the next generation, but they first mix the genes they inherited from their pirates when creating sperm and eggs. This process is called recombination and it is also something that occurs in humans. Recombination maximizes a species’ genetic diversity by ensuring that no two siblings are exactly the same.

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Aggressive Chinese toponymy

According to the CCP, India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is now part of the PRC's "South Tibet", in other words, of China, so is to be named "Zangnan" — says nobody except the PRC.

India rejected China's renaming of about 30 places in its northeastern Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, calling the move "senseless" and reaffirming that the border province is an "integral" part of India.

Beijing says Arunachal Pradesh, which its calls Zangnan, is a part of South Tibet – a claim New Delhi has repeatedly dismissed. China similarly ratcheted up tensions a year ago by giving Chinese names to 11 locations in the state.

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Dangerous opportunity

Lord knows we've encountered many bizarre translations and explanations of the much maligned Mandarin term, weiji (see "Selected readings") below, but this is one of the weirdest crosslingual definitions that has ever come to my attention:

Suicide is usually an attempt to deal with a crisis.  The Chinese character for "crisis" translates into "dangerous opportunity."    Suicide is a permanent solution, and eliminates other options.  So if you're hurting so much that you are willing to pass the pain on to those who care, perhaps you could use this dangerous opportunity to try some other options first.

(Source:  Hannah Zeavin, The Distance Cure:  A History of Teletherapy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021), ch. 5, p. 178)

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Don't keep apologizing for your poor L2

Ying Reinhardt wisely advises us in this delightful article:

"I stopped apologising for my poor German, and something wonderful happened:

After a decade in Germany, I was still anxious talking to native speakers – then I realised my language skills weren’t the problem"

The Guardian (4/1/24

What Ying Reinhardt says about German as a second language is true, ceteris paribus, of other foreign languages that one may be learning.  Just plunge ahead.  Of course, one doesn't want to speak utter gibberish, but don't be afraid of making minor mistakes in grammar, vocabulary, and, yes, even tone or accent.  Just get your ideas across in the most efficient way possible within your capability.  It's all about communicative competence.

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Everything's Fine

Eve Armstrong's latest — "Everything's Fine", 3/29/2024:

I investigate the peculiar situation in which I find myself healthy and strong, with a darling family, stimulating job, top-notch dental plan, and living far from active war and wildfire zones — yet perpetually ill at ease and prone to sudden-onset exasperation when absolutely nothing has happened. My triggers include dinner parties, chairs, therapists, and shopping at Costco. In analysing this phenomenon, I consider epigenetics, the neuroscience of neuroticism, and possible environmental factors such as NSF grant budgets. Yet no obvious solution emerges. Fortunately, my affliction isn't really all that serious. In fact, it's good writing material. So while I'm open to better ideas, I figure I'll just continue being like this.

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Sound over symbol (and meaning)

Zach Hershey called to my attention a phenomenon about the relationship between speech and writing (and meaning) that I long suspected might well be true, and I even collected plentiful evidence in support of it, but I was never absolutely certain that it was true, namely, that in many cases speakers of Sinitic languages have in mind sounds over characters.  Now, with information provided by Zach, we have proof that Sinitic speakers in some cases are indeed thinking of sounds separately (apart from) hanzi.

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When "irrelevant" is not "not relevant"

Evan Boehs, "Everything I Know About the Xz Backdoor", 3/29/2024:

In April 2022, Jia Tan submits a patch via a mailing list. The patch is irrelevant, but the events that follow are.

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