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Thoughts on the Chinese language.

edited 2018-02-16 18:47:03 in General
Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
I've been meaning to make this thread for a while, and there's no better time than the present to do it.

Where pronunciation (and sometimes vocabulary) are concerned, I'll mainly be talking about Cantonese, because that's the dialect I know. I'll also be using traditional (rather than simplified) characters preferentially, because I like them more.

But first...a toast to the new year:


It's traditional to exchange a series of four-word blessings to celebrate the new year. Here's a set of nine of them.

Respectively, these mean:
1. Happy new year (literally "new year happiness")
2. good health to you (literally "bodily health"),
3. may you feel energetic / have high spirits (literally "dragon horse spirited"),
4. may all times be peaceful (literally "age age peace")
5. may every year bring surplus (literally "year year have surplus")
6. may an atmosphere of harmony bring wealth (literally "harmonious air grow wealth")
7. may smiles be common (literally "laughing mouth commonly open")
8. may you find both fortune and longevity (literally "fortune longevity both entirely")
9. great luck in the year of the dog! (literally "dog year big luck")

You may also notice from these examples that Chinese is one of those languages in which repetition of words can be meaningful. "age age" and "year year" both basically mean "every age" and "every year". I forgot the linguistic term for this...

Also, there are nine statements, because 九 (nine) is a homophone with 狗 (dog), in Cantonese. (Mandarin speakers don't get to enjoy this as much, sorry. :P)


  • I want to learn Mandarin.

    Or at least I will if I ever recover the language-learning drive I used to have.
  • There is love everywhere, I already know
    I have so many languages I want to learn but I have this terrible habit of idealizing things in a future I don't have to work towards because the future is the future forever.
    age age peace

    peace peace age age?
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    So, does the week start on Sunday or Monday?

    Well, why decide when you don't have to.

    The names of the days of the week, in Chinese:
    * Sunday: 星期日
    * Monday: 星期一
    * Tuesday: 星期二
    * Wednesday: 星期三
    * Thursday: 星期四
    * Friday: 星期五
    * Saturday: 星期六

    So, 星期 means "week" and "一" through "六" are the numbers 1 through 6. So, for Monday through Saturday, the names are literally "week 1" through "week 6", or more meaningfully translated, "the week's [nth] day".

    However, 日 means "day". So it basically means "the week's day". It's also "星期天", in Mandarin, because 天, which literally means sky, is also often used metonymically to mean "day". So Sunday lacks a number, for some reason.

    (For what it's worth, you can also use "禮拜" in place of "星期", for an informal way of saying "week".)

    Putting aside the obvious conflict between "the week's day" and the English terms "weekend" vs. "weekday", this basically means that you can start counting from 1 or 0.

    FWIW, the Chinese names of the months are similarly "boring":
    So basically these are all literally "one month", "two month", etc. -- or, again more for a smoother translation, "the first month", "the second month", and so on.

    And again, metonymy. 月 literally means "moon".
  • edited 2018-06-01 09:11:56
    Besides Friday, the days in Arabic are basically just numbers with Sunday as one until Saturday as seven.
  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    It's common to have words that don't translate 1:1 between languages, with some usages being covered by one translation and others being covered by another. Throwing things, in Chinese, is such an example.

    Well, let's start in English. We use "throw" to mean cause an object to become an airborne projectile, as a general thing. If it's at high speed, we might use "shoot", but if it's at low speed, or generally low momentum, we might use "toss". "Toss", by itself, also means to relegate something to the trash (or the garbage or the wastebasket or the rubbish bin or the dump, depending on your choice of usage for receptacles of objects deemed no longer useful and fated for removal). There are also more specialized/idiomatic terms, such as "heave" for throwing heavy objects, and usually with a swing of the arms from below.

    In Cantonese, there are at least two common words, that roughly correspond to "throw" and...also "throw" but kinda some "toss", and also a third slang word that just means "toss" in the trash sense most of the time.

    For "throwing" an object, there's 掟 (deng3 in Jyutping; in American English it might be written more like "daeng" -- something between "dang" and "deng"). Like, you'd do this with a basketball, or a stone, but typically lighter objects. It also just generally implies that the object in question is being used as a projectile, even if that projectile is small or light, when an appropriate English translation might be "toss". On the other hand, there's also 抛 (paau1 in Jyutping; something like "pow" in English but with less enunciation), which is more often used when the tossing is vertical and the object is light. 掟 is rarely used to refer to discarding trash -- unless you're complimenting someone on a successful toss into the trash can, where, again, the focus is on the projectile action.

    For "throwing" an object, possibly into the trash, there's 抌 (dam2 in Jyutping, but it sounds more like "dum", or more accurately "dum?" given the upward inflection of tone 2). This is a slightly odd usage since it also means to beat something, such as with a hammer or mallet -- and I suspect it got its pronunciation from onomatopoeia of this noise. Still, though, it's also used for throwing things, generally objects somewhat more weighty than you'd use 掟 for. Like, you'd 掟 a pebble, but you'd 抌 a boulder. 抌 by itself can also mean throwing something into the trash, or just the general action of trashing something even if it's not actually literally thrown, a usage that 掟 doesn't have.

    A slang word that pretty much only means to trash something is a word that's roughly pronounced "dehw6". It might be an alternate pronunciation of 掉 (which is listed as having Jyutping pronunciations diu6, deu6, and zaau6, and roughly has this meaning). But anyway, this is pretty much just non-formal Cantonese, considered somewhat crude, and pretty much solely means "toss into the trash", whether or not you add the "into the trash" part explicitly.

    If you're wondering what word is used for a high-velocity projectile, that's the word for "shoot", 射 (Jyutping se6, which sounds like "seh"). It also means to "emit", as in a beam or ray of light. Generally speaking, this implies horizontal, or at least near-linear, movement -- not a projectile arc you'd expect from something described using the other words mentioned here.
  • "you duck spawn, refined creature, you try to be cynical, yokel, but all that comes out of it is that you're a dunce!!!!! you duck plug!"
    hey guys

    today i learned a new chinese word

  • Creature - Florida Dragon Turtle Human
    lrdgck wrote: »
    hey guys

    today i learned a new chinese word

    unfortunately I am unable to parse this because (1) it sounds like Mandarin and I don't know Mandarin, and (2) the tones could give me more clues (and maybe let me look it up) but i don't have them

    what is it supposed to mean?
  • "you duck spawn, refined creature, you try to be cynical, yokel, but all that comes out of it is that you're a dunce!!!!! you duck plug!"
    bēishāng wā

    simpl. 悲伤蛙

    trad. 悲傷蛙/悲傷鼃
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