Luv u

My wife had an aversion to the first person pronoun.  She would do practically anything to avoid saying "I".  She thought it was egotistical to make frequent, direct reference to herself, whether in speech or in writing.  Among traditional Chinese, she probably was not entirely unique in that regard, but she was extreme in her first person avoidance, and it was through her that I became aware of the lengths to which someone might go keep from saying "I".

I do not fully comprehend the psychological reasons why some people shy away from use of the first person pronoun, but my sense is that it has to do with not wanting to be assertive.

Omission of the first person pronoun was almost like a religion for Li-ching, but zero anaphora extended beyond the first person to all the other pronouns, though not as prohibitively.  Sinitic languages, by nature, are pro-drop; it's not unusual to see twenty or more sentences in a row without a pronoun.


Keith Vander Linden, Zhihua Long, and Liang Tao, "Chinese Zero Anaphora in Translation: A Preliminary System" in Victor H. Mair and Yongquan Liu, eds., Characters and Computers ( Amsterdam, Oxford, Washington, Tokyo:  IOS Press, 1991).

It was particularly difficult, virtually impossible, for Li-ching to say "I love you" to anyone, not even her mother or me, for both of whom she had deep affection.


"On the overt verbal expression of romantic love as a modern habit" (2/14/17)

With Li-ching's "I" avoidance and "I love you" avoidance as a background, I was intrigued when recently (within the last few years) I have been hearing more and more people, especially young people, toss off the expression "luv u" in their conversations with others.  I think I hear it most often near the conclusion of telephone conversations.  It seems to function as a signal that the speaker wants to stop talking.  My impression is that, after "luv u", it's not even necessary to say "goodbye".

When I first heard this casual "luv u", I thought that perhaps it might be the quirk of a few individuals.  It was not long, however, before I became aware of just how pervasive this usage is in the current vocabulary of the younger generation.

In truth, I don't know precisely what "luv u" means or is meant to mean.  Well, maybe it's just "I love you" lite.  It's similar to "miss u", which also peppers the speech of people I overhear talking on their cell phones.  Is this some kind of "I" avoidance as with Li-ching?  Or is it simple elision to save a syllable?

For a cross-cultural, cross-linguistic study relevant to "I love you" and "luv u", I recommend:

Rémi CAMUS, "‘Je t’aime’ revisité / ‘Je t’aime’ Revisited", Inter Faculty Institute for Comparative Research in Human and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba 6 (2015).

The footnotes about Chinese and Japanese may be of particular interest to some LLog readers:

English Abstract:

The French phrase Je t’aime is frequently to be found written on everyday items or used as a leitmotiv in commercial music. It is believed to be more or less translatable in all languages irrespective of context. This paper attempts to deal with the linguistic implications of these and other distinctive features that make Je t’aime such an unusual linguistic object. The first part is devoted to an attempt at translating Je t’aime in Japanese and Hungarian. It comes out that there exist at least three classes of interpretation, three ways of producing equivalent utterances based on a translation of the verb aimer. The second part focuses on the French phrase per se; it examines some famous accounts of Je t’aime by Paul Valéry, Roland Barthes and Jean-Luc Marion and tries to grasp and emphasize their linguistic meaning. The results of the morphology and syntax-driven analysis in Part 1 prove also relevant without modification of the surface formal structure. As a conclusion, we propose three interpretative patterns with their own grammatical features and even pragmatic outcomes; the pseudo-universal motto of French amour is but one of them.

Luv ya!

Your gigantic crocodile!

One more piece of Google Translate poetry, contributed by Mackenzie Morris:

I've been collecting screenshots of the best of these, because I'm assuming that soon, someone at Google will notice the hilarity and take the trivial steps required to stop it.

It's easy to distinguish keyboard banging or nonsensical repetitions from sincere input — unless it's now a matter of religious faith at Deep Mind that with proper training, Tensorflow speaking ex reticulo is infallible…

Secret bilingual language

My wife and I used to have a private language that was full of bilingual, cryptic references such as the following:

Yáo Shùn Yǔ 尧舜禹 (the names of three ancient, wise, Chinese rulers) || sānmíngzhì 三明治 ("three wise rulers"), the Chinese transcription of English "sandwich".

Thus, if we wished to ask each other, "Do you want to eat a sandwich?", we might say "Nǐ yào bùyào chī yī ge Yáo Shùn Yǔ? 你要不要吃一个尧舜禹?".  That sort of word play was usually just for fun or to avoid a word that was transcribed into Mandarin from some other language.

But we also resorted to such coded language when we didn't want to say something directly, such as "I love you", which Li-ching considered to be ròumá 肉麻 ("mawkish; maudlin"), whether spoken in Mandarin ("wǒ ài nǐ 我爱你") or in English.  Instead, we would say "sān gè zì 三个字" or "three words".

Howard Goldblatt told me that he and his wife, Sylvia, employ similar language.  For example, instead of saying "me too", which seems banal to them, they would say "rice rabbit", which in Mandarin would be "mǐ tù 米兔".

I suspect that monolingual couples also develop such private, coded language between themselves that only they can understand.  But when involving two or more languages, this kind of verbal wit becomes all the more delightful.

All of this may sound silly to outsiders, but to the people who engage in them, these word games make the quotidian zestful.

"I have gone into my own way"

In a series of recent posts we've explored the fun side of recursive weighted sums and point nonlinearities as a translation algorithm: "What a tangled web they weave", "A long short-term memory of Gertrude Stein", "Electric sheep", "The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere". But the featured translations have all involved inputs of characters in kana, hangul, Thai script, and other non-Latin alphabets, and it's natural to wonder whether this is an essential part of the game.

No — here are various repetitions of "è ", "îî ", and "îè "  translated from Greek:

è è è è è è è è è è Things to Do
è è è è è è è è è è è Date of Issue No.
è è è è è è è è è è è è May 2009
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have forsaken myself for it to be with you
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have resuscitated myself for my own sake I have forgiven myself for myself
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're going to be yours
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You'll be out of your way
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way out of the sun
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way back to your day
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way back to the day you are in your country
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have signed in. You have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way to the last day of your stay. You have reached the last day of your stay.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have finished your call and have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have made a call. You are on your way. You are on your way. You have signed in.

Since it's somewhat unfair to ask the program to translate from a language that lacks the characters we input, let's let Google detect the language. Here's "Romanian – detected":

î î î î î I'm going
î î î î î î î î î I'm in
î î î î î î î î î î I'm walking around
î î î î î î î î î î î I'm in my way
î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î I'm in my heart
î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î I'm starting to get in my heart
î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î I'm in my own time
î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î I'm starting to get around in my life
î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î î I have gone into my own way

The same:

îü îü îü îü îü It will be yours
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will have it
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will be in my heart
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will have it for myself
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will have her
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will have my bloom
îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü îü I will have my blessing I will have my blessing

And here's "Hawaiian – detected":

ō͂ Larger
ō͂ō͂ northshore
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Espanyol
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ edit
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Yeah
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Armin
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ onestic
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Other
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Wedding
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ ich
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ aircraft
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Best
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ wipers
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ edging
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ Love
ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ō͂ around

I haven't been able to create similar effects with pure ASCII gibberish as input — perhaps someone else can figure out how to do so.

Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) in Literacy Policy and Practice", Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9/12/2016) Smith reviews evidence that speaking “nonstandard English” (her term) as a first language interferes with children’s educational progress, given the way children are taught and progress is assessed. She also questions the privileged status accorded to the “standard” (aka mainstream, higher status) dialect of English (SAE) used in education, business, government, and other institutions, and the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read that dialect. Hence the proposal that children be taught in their native dialect whether “standard” or not.

In this post I'll look at some implications of this proposal for learning to read. The idea that children who speak AAE (or another nonstandard dialect) might benefit from being taught to read using materials written in their dialect isn't new.  Some 40 years ago there was a brief, a mostly-forgotten educational experiment with "dialect readers".  They weren't widely accepted then.  Has their time finally come?

Smith's article is gaining some traction: It was picked up by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS), a major advocacy group, and an article about using AAE for instruction will appear in The Atlantic magazine some time soon. Many of her observations are accurate and yet her proposal raises difficult, contentious issues, including ones that fall outside the greater Language Log topical area (e.g., who would be willing or able to teach in such programs? Would they create race and language based tracking? Would they be legal?)

The evidence that amount of AAE usage is negatively related to progress in learning to read is substantial (see, e.g., Gatlin & Wanzek, “Relations Among Children’s Use of Dialect and Literacy Skills: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 2015, and articles cited therein). The basic reason is simple: Books are written in the mainstream dialect. Every beginning reader's progress depends on familiarity with this code. Greater use of AAE is usually (though not always) associated with weaker knowledge of the mainstream dialect. The children then have more difficulty learning to read than do mainstream dialect speakers.

Dialect readers were intended to address this disparity.

Bridge—A cross-cultural reading program” by Simpkins, Holt, & Simpkins from 1977 consisted of five pamphlet-length books. They were written as remedial texts for older children, not beginning readers. The first few stories were written in “Black vernacular.” Here’s a screenshot from Book 1. Over the course of the series, stories written in “standard English” gradually replaced the Black vernacular ones. The thinking was that the child would initially benefit from language similar to their own speech, and then transition to reading the standard dialect.

The design of the Bridge series is explained in an article by Simpkins & Simpkins in the 1981 proceedings of a conference at Wayne State University ("Black English and the education of Black children and youth: Proceedings of the national invitational symposium on the King decision"). The "King decision" is better known as the Ann Arbor decision, the famous case (Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School Children et al. v. Ann Arbor School District) about the education of lower income Black youth in the Ann Arbor schools.  Judge Charles W. Joiner (an African American) described, with remarkable linguistic insight, how dialect differences could affect children’s education.  The judge ordered the school district to identify Black English speakers and to "use that knowledge in teaching such students how to read standard English".

The Wayne State meeting brought together experts in education, law, literature (James Baldwin attended) and other areas to consider how to create educational practices better matched to African American language and culture in accord with the Ann Arbor decision.  The Bridge readers were a serious attempt to accomplish this for reading. I found the proceedings very moving, an account of people attempting to develop novel solutions to urgent educational problems with little research or precedent to build on, and also revelatory, because they identified basic issues that still haven’t been adequately addressed (e.g., the need for teachers to be educated about language variation and strategies for accommodating it; meeting the educational needs of African American children).

Bridge readers didn’t get very far. They weren’t widely adopted, it wasn’t clear whether they were effective, and other research from that era suggesting that dialect differences have little impact on reading or school achievement undercut the rationale for the books and killed off interest in them. The Oakland Ebonics controversy (1996-97) made it harder to incorporate AAE in instruction.

Now there is stronger evidence that AAE usage can interfere with learning to read standard texts and a proposal to use AAE in the classroom. Do dialect readers merit a second chance?

These issues are genuinely intersectional, involving race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and history. Let’s set aside those factors long enough to look at the linguistic, psycholinguistic, and educational considerations.  The approach is consistent with some common educational tenets. The Bridge authors recognized that books that were more closely connected to students’ experience might encourage deeper engagement, a tenet of what is now called culturally-relevant instructional practice.  Using one type of material as a bridge to another is a fundamental instructional strategy. Books for beginning readers are often written in “nonstandard” English: Run, run. Run, Dick, run. Run and see. That Sam-I-am, that Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am.  Books can also be written in a nonstandard dialect, and the Bridge readers could be updated.

Although the logic was clear, the approach nonetheless seems seriously flawed. Here are a few major concerns.

1. The goal of dialect readers was to develop children’s ability to read standard texts, using stories that incorporated elements of AAE as a transitional tool. The books focused on getting children into reading despite limited knowledge of SAE. But if the goal is being able to read such texts, the linguistic gap has to be filled. Dialect readers didn’t address this.

The problem with dialect readers is that the children’s problem isn’t reading; it’s knowledge of the language the books employ.  An alternative approach might be to focus on increasing the child’s familiarity with that language (for example, via language enrichment activities in pre-K and after).  Or, the opposite: drop the goal of being able to read standard-language texts, as Smith considers, a radical step that raises many other questions.

2. The concept of writing a book in African American English seems straightforward but what would it involve? American English has numerous regional variants and dialects. No one speaks the “standard American English” used in texts.  Illustration: people don’t talk the way this post is written; I certainly don’t. Texts are written in a more or less conventionalized version of English that exists mainly because of the ways that texts are used in education, government, business, etc.  Social, historical, political, and economic factors are also involved.  (See previous Language Log posts such as:

"Trevor Noah reflects on language and identity", 12/1/2016
"Mutual unintelligibility among Sinitic lects,” 10/5/2014
"About those dialect maps making the rounds…”, 6/6/2013
"Understanding across varieties of English," 8/1/2013

and many others.)

AAE also has numerous regional variants (Wolfram & Kohn, "Regionality in the development of African American English"). However, because it is an oral dialect, they aren’t anchored to a “standard” version. Prescriptivist dialecticians would have to create one—and then figure out how to render it orthographically and get people to adopt it. Given the regional variants and large individual differences in dialect density, a text written in Standard AAE would still vary in how well it aligned with children’s own speech.

3. Would dialect readers be effective?  For whom? Judged by what criteria? Compared to which alternative approaches?  The answers aren’t known.

There is no credible evidence concerning the effectiveness of dialect readers, though advocates of the approach can point to some suggestive findings. In “Dialect readers revisited,” Rickford & Rickford offered several encouraging anecdotes about the use of the readers, and described the results of two suggestive “mini studies” that were not published elsewhere.

Smitherman (2015), "African American Language and Education: History and Controversy in the Twentieth Century," describes the results of a more substantive study in which 413 children used Bridge readers and 137 used another “remedial reading” program.  When tested after 4 months of instruction,  children who used the Bridge readers were said to have made much more progress than the other children.

The source for these findings is the 1981 Simpkins & Simpkins article mentioned above.  It is another unpublished study that can’t be assessed because so little is known about the methods and data.  These findings nonetheless have been repeatedly cited as evidence that dialect readers worked but were abandoned prematurely. They are also repeated because other evidence is lacking.  Evaluating the effectiveness of reading curricula and instructional practices is a notoriously challenging task. Intriguing but unverifiable findings from several decades ago aren’t an adequate basis for adopting an approach.  They might at best justify conducting additional studies, if researchers could find enough children, parents, teachers, and educational authorities willing to participate.

The conceptual problems with the dialect reader approach seem insuperable to me, and the prospects for adopting them in the present political context seem remote. However, the pressures to improve literacy outcomes are such that novel, untested educational approaches are often implemented in case they might work. Nor is there evidence that the approach can't be effective in principle. I am not a speaker of a minority dialect and the decision is not mine to make. But the logic of the dialect reader approach is questionable and the evidence that it is effective and superior to other approaches is lacking.

The title of Smith’s article frames these issues as "distinctly American” but that isn’t entirely accurate. American circumstances are unique but the linguistic phenomena are not.  Dialects exist in languages, not just in English, and there are low status “nonstandard” dialects spoken by lower SES minority populations in other countries. Australia and Canada have programs in which speakers of minority dialects learn mainstream English as a second dialect (Siegel, Second Dialect Acquisition), analogous to learning English as a second language. Language Log readers will undoubtedly be familiar with circumstances elsewhere.

These issues are a reminder that language variation and dialect are not widely understood despite decades of basic research. Non-mainstream dialects are still commonly perceived as “bad English,” even by people who speak them. Teachers are conflicted about whether to correct their students' use of a nonstandard dialect. The linguistic integrity of dialects is not clearly distinguished from their sociolinguistic status. Dialect variation needs to be addressed in education, as Judge Joiner stated years ago. But dialect readers are unproved. At this point, introducing them would be like conducting a large, unregulated behavioral experiment.  This country has a long history of experimenting on minority and low income individuals without their knowledge or consent, and educational experiments raise the same ethical concerns.

E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post:

"Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul.

A careless slip of the red pencil? Or was E.B. White exempt from the dictum? Or was the no-quotative-inversion diktat imposed by a post-1957 New Yorker style maven? Perhaps someone who knows more about the history of that publication's quirks can tell us.

Removing needless words

Yesterday I was skimming randomly-selected sentences from a collection of English-language novels, and happened on this one from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." This brought to mind two things I had never put together before, Orwell on Newspeak and Strunk on style.

Here's Orwell:

'How is the Dictionary getting on?' said Winston, raising his voice to overcome the noise.

'Slowly,' said Syme. 'I'm on the adjectives. It's fascinating.'

He had brightened up immediately at the mention of Newspeak. He pushed his pannikin aside, took up his hunk of bread in one delicate hand and his cheese in the other, and leaned across the table so as to be able to speak without shouting.

'The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,' he said. 'We're getting the language into its final shape–the shape it's going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we've finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words–scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won't contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.'

He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant's passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.

'It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well."

And here's Strunk, as described by E.B. White ("Letter from the East", The New Yorker, 7/27/1957):

Every so often I make an attempt to simplify my life, burning my books behind me, selling the occasional chair, discarding the accumulated miscellany. […]

A book I have decided not to burn is a small one that arrived in the mail not long ago, a gift from a friend in Ithaca. It is "The Elements of Style," by the late William Strunk, Jr., and it was known in the Cornell campus in my day as "the little book," with the stress on the word "little." I must have once owned a copy, for I took English 8 under Professor Strunk in 1919 and the book was required reading, but my copy presumably failed to survive an early purge. I'd not had eyes on it in thirty-eight years. Am now delighted to study it again and rediscover its rich deposits of gold. […]

From every line there peers out at me the puckish face of my professor, his short hair parted neatly in the middle and combed down over his forehead, his eyes blinking incessantly behind steel-rimmed spectacles as though he had just emerged into strong light, his lips nibbling each other like nervous horses, his smile shuttling to and fro in a carefully edged mustache.

"Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul. In the day when I was sitting in his class, he omitted so many nedless words, and omitted them so forcibly and with such eagerness and obvious relish, that he often seemed in the position of having short-changed himself, a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had outdistanced the clock. Will Struck got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times. When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and in a husky, conspiratorial voice said "Rule Thirteen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!"

Book burning, mid-century horror-movie vibe, removal of undesirable words, ruling-class ideas of appropriate language, …

For added irony, this was the advertisement on the magazine page facing the passage just quoted:

See also "Modification as social anxiety", 5/16/20014.

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago:

The big, bold characters at the top exhort:

Qiǎng fáng la 抢房啦! ("Grab a house!")

What's most arresting is this line:

nín yǐjīng refinance le ma?


"Have you already refinanced?

Christopher rightly points out that the meaning of the construction "已refinance了" is sufficiently clear, but it is striking that the English word is not inflected, and the inflection is instead conveyed by the aspect marker of completed action, -le 了.

It's hard to tell exactly why the person responsible for this advertisement decided to use an English word in the middle of a Chinese sentence.  To more readily catch the attention of potential customers?  Because there's not a precise equivalent available in Mandarin?

The next line reads:

hái zài chí bì děngdài zuì jiā jīyù?


"Are you holding cash waiting for the best opportunity?"

Whatever the reason for inserting that English word in the middle of a Chinese sentence, one thing is certain:  Àoliàn tóuzī 澳链投资 ("AUSCHAIN") wants you to snap up one of their houses pronto!

We've looked at examples of multiscriptalism and / or multilingualism involving many languages and scripts.  Here are some posts specifically involving Chinese:

And there are many others.

[Thanks to Melvin Lee, Fangyi Cheng, Yixue Yang, and Jinyi Cai]