Stylized characters

Monday, 25 July 2016 04:58 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Dean Barrett sent in these two photographs of signs from, respectively, the Taiwan Literary Museum and a sex shop in Tainan that is well known for its wide selection of condoms:

When the Chinese writing system originated more than three millennia ago, back at the stage of oracle bone inscriptions, the characters were much more pictographic and ideographic than they are now, though even then they were already conventionalized and many of them conveyed information through phonetic, rather than directly semantic, means.  By the time of the bronze inscriptions and seal script during the first millennium BC, the vast majority of characters relied more on phonophoric hints than on semantophoric indicators to convey lexical information.  Nonetheless, the popular belief persists that characters somehow depict meaning through their shapes without relying on the intermediary of sound.  Although that is a linguistic fallacy, it encourages graphic designers and others to emphasize the pictorial quality of the characters, often in complete disregard of their actual derivation, as with the notorious Chineasy method of teaching students how to write:

Still and all, it's fun to see how modern graphic designers play with the characters to enhance their pictorial elements, or, I should say, to add pictorial elements to them.  The above two signs are good examples of this playfulness.

The first one (under a logo of the Taipei City Government) reads:

bǔjírǔshì 哺集乳室
("breastfeeding and breastmilk-pumping room")

Here the designer has replaced the square mouth of the first character with a round one, making it look like an "O".  In this case, the minor modification to a more pictorial rendition of a child's mouth is historically accurate.

The second second sign says:

bǎoxiǎntào qíngrén 保險套情人
("condom lover")

I won't comment on the modifications the designer has applied to the characters, other than to say that none of them has a basis in historical derivation.

[Thanks to Melvin Lee and Fangyi Cheng]

A common mistake

Monday, 25 July 2016 04:46 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Michael Rank sent in this notice banning the picking of mushrooms at Chobham Common, Surrey, said to be the largest nature reserve in the southeast of England:

The English notice is translated into Polish, Chinese, Italian, and French.  I suppose their choice of languages was directed at speakers of those languages whom they thought were most likely to pick the wild mushrooms in this Nature Reserve.

I won't go through each of the four translations to determine their accuracy, and I won't even pick holes in the Chinese, which has several, but will focus on one that is particularly intriguing.  Namely, the Chinese translates "common" as gòngtóngxìng 共同性, meaning something like "commonality" or "shared nature" –- an abstract noun.  Because "common" is preceded by a preposition and a definite article, it has to be a noun, not an adjective, which is most often the case in English.  The preposition is "on", which calls for a locative noun, but — so far as I know — there is no locative noun meaning "common" in Chinese.  The translator, wanting to stick with the idea of "common" in Chinese, kept the usual adjectival term gòngtóng 共同 ("common") and turned it into an abstract noun by adding the suffix -xìng 性, which is comparable to -ity and -ness in English.

The use of "common" as a noun to mean "A tract of land, usually in a centrally located spot, belonging to or used by a community as a whole: a band concert on the village common" (AHD) is rare in American English.  I can think of "Boston Common" and several other New England commons in this sense, but outside of New England my impression is that most Americans would not be aware of this usage.  I suspect that the same situation obtains for most other world Englishes, including Chinese English.  This is not a usage that would be taught in typical English classes in China, and I doubt that there is a fixed translation for "common" in the sense of "tract of land… belonging to or used by a community as a whole".  Nor would this usage be represented in many medium-sized or smaller dictionaries.

I'm not sure how idiomatic the Polish ("w sprawie wspólnego") and Italian ("in comune") translations are either, but note that the French version gets around the problem by not translating "on the common" at all (it's not essential, and the Chinese translation could have done the same).

Non-translation

Monday, 25 July 2016 04:14 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

A rather disturbing (at least to me) article in the South China Morning Post (7/24/16), "How China’s quest to become a football powerhouse is revamping the beautiful game:  China has emerged as deep-pocketed investor in what amounts to a global power grab for influence in football", is preceded by this photograph:

You can find photographs of the banner that says "Fight for the motherland" all over the web, e.g., here, here, and here.  It's so ubiquitous in Chinese sports, especially soccer, that it must be standard issue and must have been sanctioned by some governing body.

But what does the corresponding Chinese wording say?

Zhōngguó duì bì shèng 中国队必胜
("the Chinese team will surely win")

The Chinese and the English are so far apart in their sense and sentiment that you really can't call the relationship between them one of "translation".  You can't even call it paraphrase.

Here at Language Log, we have three categories under which we usually put posts about translation:  Translation, Lost in translation, and Found in translation.  I don't think that "Fight for the motherland" can rightly be placed under any of these categories.  Consequently, for want of a better designation, I'm tentatively calling it "non-translation".

Whoever was responsible for rendering Zhōngguó duì bì shèng 中国队必胜 ("the Chinese team will surely win") in English must have thought that the conviction conveyed by the Chinese was not suitable for English eyes and ears, so they came up with something that they considered to be more appropriate for foreign consumption.  Unfortunately, "Fight for the motherland" sounds gauche to sports fans of other countries.  In my estimation, they should start all over with a new Chinese slogan and a more or less accurate translation of whatever they come up with.

[h.t. Mark Metcalf]

To be ambiguous

Sunday, 24 July 2016 10:05 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Robert Ayers writes:

Headline: "Bill's role: To be determined". With a photo of  Bill Clinton looking … determined.

I wonder if I'm the only one who read the headline wrong the first time.

Tom Wolfe takes on linguistics

Sunday, 24 July 2016 09:32 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

Or maybe I should say, Tom Wolfe's take on linguistics.

I've been an avid reader of Tom Wolfe's works since the 60s:  The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff, The Painted Word, Bonfire of the Vanities).  What I like most about his non-fiction is that, as a leader and exponent of the New Journalism, he writes with a flair that captures the reader's attention without sacrificing accuracy and objectivity.  What attracts me to his novels is that they convey the impression of having been based on a huge amount of research, without in the least being turgid or dull.

I forget exactly how it happened, but about twenty years ago I became aware of Wolfe's interest in Chinese language issues, so we exchanged a couple of letters on that subject.  I do recall that he asked some very intelligent questions about how Chinese characters worked.  (I still have in my file cabinet his elegantly handwritten message on fine stationery.)  Nonetheless, I would never have expected that he would one day apply his powers of critical investigation directly to the whole field of linguistic science.  This he has now done in the following cover article in Harper's (August, 2016):  "The Origins of Speech:  In the beginning was Chomsky".  And so it begins:

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

As an aside, I might add that Wolfe, although a Yalie through and through, did some of the research for the last novel by him that I read, I am Charlotte Simmons (2004), at UPenn.

Here's a complete list of the tags for the article in Harper's, so you can get a pretty good idea of what it's about:

[20th century] [21st century] [Amazon River Region] [Comparative and general] [Daniel Leonard Everett] [Generative grammar] [Grammar] [Knowledge] [Language acquisition] [Language and culture] [Language and languages] [Linguistics] [Noam Chomsky] [Pictorial works] [Pirahã dialect] [Pirahã Indians] [Recursion theory] [Research] [Social life and customs] [Study and teaching] [Syntax] [United States]

Pretty serious stuff.  Yet that's just for this article, which is but an extract (albeit a long one, fifteen two column pages) from Wolfe's forthcoming book, The Kingdom of Speech.  Now 85, Wolfe is still sharp as a tack.  So, once he decided to write a book about linguistics, he went whole hog and made a probing investigation of the entire discipline.

Here's the publisher's official description of the book:

Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech — not evolution — is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements.

From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Speech.

The two paragraph excerpt quoted above is all I could read online, so I ran off to Barnes & Noble to buy the August Harper's.  I was prepared to buy the book too, but the B & N staff told me it wouldn't be available till the end of August.

Now that I have the Harper's in hand, I'll give two more excerpts, one that reveals Wolfe's clear preference for fieldwork and data collection over Chomsky's philosophizing and theorizing, and another from near the end that recapitulates the final results of 60 years of confident conjecturing.

Only wearily could Chomsky endure traditional linguists who thought fieldwork was essential and wound up in primitive places, emerging from the tall grass zipping their pants up.  They were like the ordinary flycatchers in Darwin's day coming back from the middle of nowhere with their sacks full of little facts and buzzing about with their beloved multi-language fluency.  But what difference did it make, knowing all those native tongues?  Chomsky made it clear he was elevating linguistics to the altitude of Plato's transcendent eternal universals.  They, not sacks of scattered facts, were the ultimate reality, the only true objects of knowledge.  Besides, he didn't enjoy the outdoors, where "the field" was.  He was relocating the field to Olympus.  Not only that, he was giving linguists permission to stay air-conditioned.  They wouldn't have to leave the building at all, ever again … no more trekking off to interview boneheads in stench-humid huts.  And here on Olympus, you had plumbing.

… …

In August of 2014, Chomsky teamed up with three colleagues, Johan J. Bolhuis, Robert C. Berwick, and Ian Tattersall, to publish an article for the journal PLoS Biology with the title "How Could Language Have Evolved?"  After an invocation of the Strong Minimalist Thesis and the Hierarchical Syntactic Structure, Chomsky and his new trio declare, "It is uncontroversial that language has evolved, just like any other trait of living organisms."  Nothing else in the article is anywhere nearly so set in concrete.  Chomsky et alii note it was commonly assumed that language was created primarily for communication … but … in fact communication is an all but irrelevant, by-the-way use of language … language is deeper than that; it is a "particular computational cognitive system, implemented neurally" … there is the proposition that Neanderthals could speak … but … there is no proof … we know anatomically that the Neanderthals' hyoid bone in the throat, essential for Homo sapiens's speech, was in the right place … but …"hyoid morphology, like most other lines of evidence, is evidently no silver bullet for determining when human language originated" … Chomsky and the trio go over aspect after aspect of language … but … there is something wrong with every hypothesis … they try to be all-encompassing … but … in the end any attentive soul reading it realizes that all 5,000 words were summed up in the very first eleven words of the piece, which read:  "The evolution of the faculty of language largely remains an enigma."

[VHM:  All of the ellipses (…) in the above quotations are Wolfe's own]

What happened between the decades when Chomsky dominated linguistics with assurance and when he co-authored the questioning "How Could Language Have Evolved?" may, I think, in large part be explained by his gradual realization that maybe, just maybe, after all we are not hard-wired to speak when we come out of the womb, and that those Martians who come down to earth would not immediately realize that all the languages on this planet are basically the same, with only minor local variations, and that Daniel Leonard Everett and his beloved Pirahã had a lot to do with that Chomskyan transformation.

I will go back to Barnes and Noble as soon as I hear that they have The Kingdom of Speech in their store.

[Thanks to Mary Erbaugh]

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Posted by Roger E. Olson

*The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the [Read More...]

Scotty: Sexist or just Scottish?

Sunday, 24 July 2016 04:42 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Wells Hansen writes:

I recently heard some grumbling at the local pub over the new Star Trek's "Scotty" referring to Lt Uhura as "lass" or "lassy". Have the writers of the most recent iteration of the ST franchise created a sexist or dismissive Scotty  …or just a Scottish one?

I haven't seen the movie, and am not competent in contemporary Scottish sociolinguistics, much less those of the 23rd century. So I'll leave this one for the commenters.

 

Lesbian Duplex 778: An Open Thread

Sunday, 24 July 2016 01:50 pm
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Posted by Libby Anne

It’s time for another Lesbian Duplex thread! If you have a link or article or interesting thought that’s not relevant to an ongoing thread, you can share it here. If a conversation on another post has turned entirely off topic, you can bring it here also.Click through to enjoy!

Sinitic languages in Singapore

Sunday, 24 July 2016 12:02 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

From Coby Lubliner:

I have lately been watching an Australian TV series, "Serangoon Road," taking place in Singapore in the 1960s. The dialogue is mostly in English, but when it isn't it's in Mandarin, both among the Chinese and between them and the main character, an Australian who speaks it. I have so far heard no trace of any other Chinese. Is that realistic?

My reply to Coby:

Of course, it's not realistic, because on the streets and in the homes of Singapore you would also hear Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, etc., in fact, more so than Mandarin, I think.  And there would have been even less Mandarin in Singapore during the 60s than now, with the push to teach Mandarin in schools and the recent immigration of large numbers of people from the Mainland, though my own experience is that not even the latter are necessarily fluent speakers of Putonghua.  If the Chinese were interacting with the Mandarin speaking Australian, they would naturally try to communicate with him in Mandarin, to the extent they were able to do so.  The fact that this is an Australian TV series would constrain the availability of speakers of non-Mandarin topolects.  And the producers might not even be aware of the need to represent the other topolects.

Through a friend, I asked LEE Kok Leong for his opinion about the Sinitic mix in Singapore.  Just to introduce KL Lee, his blog is here.

Lee studies Singapore society and published an interesting book on Cantonese majie (female domestic housekeepers),《Guǎngdōng mājiě 广东妈姐》, a year ago.  Here's his take on the various Chinese languages in Singapore vis-à-vis English.

As  I did not watch the said Australian TV series, I am not in the position to comment. But for languages used among Chinese, it is rather complex. Using English to talk to each other in the good old days was not uncommon among the higher social class. For example, Lee kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, could only command English and Malay. He only learned Mandarin and Hokkien (one of the popular local dialects among the Chinese) in the much later years for general election purpose. English was his most powerful language because of his baba family background. When Lee and his colleagues founded PAP in 1954, the party had two camps: English speaking and Chinese speaking. Lee belonged to the English speaking group. For his successor Goh Chok Tong, Goh only learned Chinese and spoke broken Mandarin in 1990s.

For the general public, their ancestors came from the southern part of China and spoke 5 main dialects: Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka and Hainanese. The first three are the most common. Although Chinese schools taught in Mandarin, but dialects were still common among the Chinese. Dialects were their mother tongue.

This trend was changing in the 1970s and completely changed in the 1980s when Singapore became more industrialised, Chinese schools completely closed and government purposely curbed dialects. Since then, English is the working language up to today. In today's Singapore, Chinese families who communicate in English are more than those in Chinese. If you see another Chinese stranger, more often than not you would start the communication in English. China immigrants are adapting fast.

From Jane (Geok Hoon) Williams, a long-term reader of Language Log:

My parents' generation is called, endearingly, Pioneer Generation – the PAP government seems to pump lots of money to them (the elderly here are very happy I think as my mum can't praise the government enough). I remember in the 80s, 方言* was strictly prohibited – the consequences of the social policy were that fangyan speakers were looked down upon (remembering Taiwan when Taiyu** was 'banned'?). Fangyan programmes were suspended. The mass media propaganda pushed Mandarin (to unite the nation) by suppression of fangyan….  My mother – a Hokkien speaker, is a lost generation.

*VHM:  fāngyán ("topolects")

**VHM:  Táiyǔ 台語 ("Taiwanese")

To return to the topic of the Australian TV series with which we began, here are two pages of reviews of "Serangoon Road" — most of them are not very complimentary.

If you want to watch some episodes of "Serangoon Road" for yourself, you can find plenty of them here.

[Thanks to Geoff Wade]

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Posted by Victor Mair

[This is a guest post by Matthew Robertson]

The 'Today' Interview With Oporto Robbery Heroes

In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division.

In Australia, it's largely the opposite. Regional vernacular and a broad accent (known as "Strine") is instead a unifier. Australia is, of course, much more culturally homogeneous than the United States — but the cross-class appreciation of the country's own manner of speech is another instance of a deeply entrenched ethos of egalitarianism. The comity and innocent enjoyment of all Australians with their own uneducated, unsophisticated working classes is clear in films like The Castle, or shows like Kath & Kim, among many others.

And it's also presented in microcosm in this video, an interview on the Australian morning program "Today," uploaded early this year.

In it, the well-loved impish breakfast show host, Karl Stefanovic, interviews two Australians, Cane and James, who recently foiled a robbery at an Oporto (Australia's premier Portuguese-style chicken burger fast food restaurant) in Queensland.

When asked what happened, James says in one breath:

“We’d been down at Options Tavern at a stubbies and singlets party, and got dropped off by a mate up the road, and started to walk down the servo to get some noodles and went to jump over a sign on the way, and slipped over and busted my plugga.”

Strine guide:
stubbies – very short, tight cotton shorts, beloved of bricklayers, builders, and other Aussie men
servo – gas station
plugga – thongs or flip-flops (so named because the top component "plugs in" to the foam sole; the term is used primarily in Queensland.)

He's asked to continue the tale:

“I was pretty concerned about me blowout I had, and looked up and saw a white Commodore pull up, two blokes with shirts around their faces, and yeah…sort of thought something was a bit suss. So, better go check it out."

Strine guide:
blowout – typically used for the sudden loss of pressure in a car tire or similar
bloke – male
suss – suspicious

James is asked to continue:

"Umm, grabbed the key out the ignition while they were inside the Oportos, yeah, then, yeah, I dunno, it sorta just unfolded from there. There was no plan; it was just go with it and see what happened."

The robbers hightailed it once they realized their getaway vehicle was forfeit. There's a highly amusing joke about the gym and Jim Beam, Facebook antics, and the busting of a plugga.

On the latter point, James mentions that new pluggas are kindly being provided by his fishing team, "The Mootdangas."

Stefanovic, unable to resist the opportunity for transgressive humor, makes a show of crooking his ear and asks: "What was the name of that team?" Tracy Grimshaw can see what's coming, and grimaces.

"The team moot, Team Mootdanga," James says.

Strine guide:
moot – vagina, pronounced like foot with an 'm'
danga – a small piece of dried excrement stuck to the anal hair of a sheep.
Pronounced 'dang-ah.' Shearer's slang. Also spelled 'danger.'

Everyone on the program bursts out laughing at this obviously risque, not to say disgusting image.

"It doesn't get any better!" Stefanovic declares. "Righto folks, that's our show for the year!"

Amidst all the giggling, James is asked where he works. "Mate, I work at Hinterland Mowers down at Narang."

James' final words on his stopping the robbery are: "Just had to be done. Sort out the right from the wrong." His friend Cane echoes him: "Bloody oath."

[Thanks to Geoff Wade]

Saturday Printable: Coloring Pages

Saturday, 23 July 2016 01:00 pm
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Posted by Leanna Wright

Do you ever wish the world could stop, for a second even? So do we. In such times, it doesn’t hurt to grab a box of crayons and some coloring pages—like these lovelies by Leanna Wright—and tune it all out for just a while. Or as long as possible.

Download the first page here:

soulmates 2

And the second page here:

soulmates 1

Hugs to you, Rooks. ♦

Indistinguishable misnegation

Saturday, 23 July 2016 11:30 am
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Posted by Mark Liberman

David Frum, "Donald Trump's Bad Bet on Anger", The Atlantic 7/21/2016 [emphasis added]:

Donald Trump’s supporters yearn for the country as it was and fear the country as it is. Tonight’s powerfully dystopian Trump nomination acceptance address will touch them at their deepest emotional core. It will ignite a passionate spasm of assent from those many, many Americans—mostly but not exclusively white, mostly but not exclusively less affluent and educated—who experience today as worse than yesterday, and anticipate a tomorrow worse than today.

Don’t think it won’t work. It will work. The speech will be viewed and viewed again, on cable news and social media. The travails and troubles of this dysfunctional convention will recede, even if their implications and consequences linger. Trump’s poll numbers will probably rise. Small-dollar donations will surely flow. Many wavering Republicans will come home—even if the home to which they now return has changed in ways that render it almost indistinguishable from the dwelling it used to be.

Ian Preston writes:

Does "even if .. almost indistinguishable from" for "even if … almost unrecognisable as" count as a misnegation?  Unless I misunderstand what he is trying to say, that seems to be what David Frum must have meant to convey here.  Feels like some sort of "poor monkey brains" problem anyway.

The typical ingredients of (one variety of what we've been calling misnegation) are here, namely a scalar predicate (here implied by "even if … almost") , a modal (here the morpheme -able). and some negation (here the morpheme in-/un-), all combined so as to turn the statement into the opposite of what was intended.

David Frum wants to say that changes in the Republican party leave it so far away from its former identity that it's almost not possible to recognize them as the same. But he actually says that those changes move the Republican party to a place so close to its former identity that it's almost not possible to tell them apart.

For added irony, what he actually says is exactly the position that the whole article attempts to refute:

Trump’s speech was advertised as an update of Richard Nixon’s 1968 “silent majority” address. It is nothing of the kind. This is a bulletin from a grimmer and more pessimistic society than that which would shortly afterward land a man on the moon.

Ian's "poor monkey brains" quote is a reference to one of the explanations that I offered for a somewhat different subtype of misnegation ("'Cannot underestimate' = 'must not underestimate'?", 11/6/2008):

As recently noted, people often get confused about English phrases involving negatives combined with other negatives, modals, or scalar predicates, and there's a series of Language Log posts that collectively offer several (non-exclusive) hypotheses for why this confusion is so easy to fail to miss:

  1. Our poor monkey brains just can't deal with complex combinations of certain logical operators;
  2. The connection between English and modal logic may involve some unexpected ambiguities;
  3. Negative concord is alive and well in English (or in UG);
  4. Odd things become idioms or at least verbal habits ("could care less"; "fail to miss"; "still unpacked").

(See also "Multiplex negatio ferblondiat", 7/14/2007.)

In the case of Frum's similarity-inversion, the "poor monkey brains" story seems to be the only plausible explanation — though we might update it a bit to read "Our poor monkey brains just can't deal with complex combinations of certain logical operators, especially with respect to the logic of contemporary American politics".

The obligatory screenshot:

Dear Diary: July 22, 2016

Saturday, 23 July 2016 01:00 am
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Posted by Lola Nova

Even summer has its ups and downs. —Lola Nova

Even summer has its ups and downs. —Lola Nova

Steffany

That was five years ago. I am not that person anymore, and I won’t be able to grow if I have to keep revisiting that person. Read More »

Alyson

My stomach
Wanted to cry
The skies did. Read More »

Friday Playlist: Not Afraid of Heartbreak

Friday, 22 July 2016 10:00 pm
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Posted by Zoé Lawrence

The first time a girl broke my heart, I cried for a summer straight.

This was around the time Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” suffocated the radio waves—a gentle but fleeting consolation for the sharp pain in my chest. With all heartbreak, there’s a sense of irrevocable doom that enters your life as that person makes their exit. For me, a certified sensitive gal™, this one felt like death.

It wasn’t that it was more painful or essentially more real than the times I’d been heartbroken by boys­—it fucking sucks no matter who’s doing the breaking. But the confusion that came along with it followed me everywhere. To class, back to my dorm, to unpredictable­ but much-needed girls’ nights out…Wherever I went, my baffled grief was sure to be only a couple steps behind, waiting for the perfect moment to present itself in the form of tearful outbursts and blubbering explanations to my ill­-prepared friends. Nothing had made me question my identity as much as this heartbreak did. I had to finally accept that my sexuality was becoming more complex than it was in high school.

Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was.

Like lots of girls, I’d become comfortable with categorizing my experiences with other girls as something frivolous—nothing that would amount to anything of substance. The way I viewed girl­-on-­girl love was an exemplification of how our society invalidates any love or sexual experience that doesn’t align with dogmatic, heteronormative standards. That summer, I had to face my own internalized feelings of fear (not to mention shame) when it came to feeling things­—extraordinary things at that—for other girls.

One thing I noticed between binge-watching badly ­directed Netflix films and countless crying spells were how many love songs were about girls loving boys and vice versa. As if it wasn’t enough that I was confused as HELL about my sexual identity; now music, the ONE thing that always made me feel better, wasn’t resonating with me at all.

I know how difficult it can be to navigate the blurred lines surrounding sexual identity, so I made a gender­-neutral mix for any Rooks out there whose hearts are feeling bruised this summer. Hang in there, QTs! And remember: Heartbreak won’t kill ya—even when it feels like it could.

Illustrations by Lola Nova.

Illustrations by Lola Nova.

Writing Shanghainese, part 2

Friday, 22 July 2016 07:39 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

No one in this Douban thread (so far) can identify the script in the image below:

At first, I was going to post this as "Unknown script", with these thoughts:

I'm inclined to think that it's not a hoax.  Too many regular recurrences. Looks like a phonetic script.  And it's gotta be East Asian because of the orientation, format, overall appearance, etc.  Kinda 'Phags-pa-like or Hangulish — block assemblage of "letters".

But then Jichang Lulu reminded me that this had already come up on Language Log in comments to this post: "Writing Shanghainese" (5/25/16).

The very first comment to that post was by Frédéric Grosshans:

Readers of this post might be interested by a 2012 blog post by David Helliwell on some books they have in the Bodelian Library at Oxford. These books were written in the 1850’s by protestant missionaries in Shanghainese, using an original phonetic writing system. According to one of the few comments, the few pages scanned on the blog post show some phonetic differences with modern Shanghainese.

To which, in the second comment, I replied:

Thank you very much for this extremely interesting and valuable information. It is great to know about David Helliwell's excellent blog, and I am particularly pleased to learn about the creation of a phonetic writing system for Shanghainese already in the 1850's. This complements well what we already knew about the gradual, general trend toward phoneticization of Chinese writing during the last century and more, adding powerful new evidence and depth to our findings.

Jichang Lulu at one point had pretty much taught himself how to read "New Phonetic Character", but there were a few graphemes that he never figured out.  I suspect that, within a day or two, he might be able to tell us a bit more about how the script works.  You will note that Helliwell has already provided transcriptions and annotations in his descriptions of the books pictured in his blog post.  Texts written in the New Phonetic Character hold great promise for telling us about 19th c. Shanghainese.

[h.t. Joel Martinsen]

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