Festschrift for John DeFrancis now available for free

Most readers of Pinyin News will already know of John DeFrancis, editor of the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary and author of The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy and many other important works. (If you haven’t read The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy yet, order it now.)

In recognition of the 95th(!) birthday today of Professor DeFrancis, Sino-Platonic Papers is rereleasing Schriftfestschrift: Essays in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday. Previously, this important compilation, which runs more than 250 pages, was available only in a printed edition priced at US$35. The fifteenth-anniversary edition, however, is being released for free as a PDF (15 MB — so have a fast Internet connection, or a lot of patience).

I’d like to draw special attention to an article written in Pinyin: “Hanzi Bu Tebie Biaoyi,” by Zhang Liqing. (Zhang’s work also appears here on Pinyin Info, in her translations of The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts and of the amazing Comparing Chinese Characters and a Chinese Spelling Script — an evening conversation on the reform of Chinese characters.)

Feel free to print out a copy of the Schriftfestschrift for your own use or for inclusion in a library. Just don’t sell it.

The original publication contained several color photos. I’ll add those later. Also, the English tex is searchable to some degree, as I used OCR after scanning these pages; but the results weren’t perfect.

Here are the contents:

  • Tabula Gratulatoria
  • Introduction, by Victor H. Mair
  • Publications of John DeFrancis
  • Hanzi Bu Tebie Biaoyi, by Zhang Liqing
  • Typology of Writing Systems, by Zhou Youguang
  • Dui Hanzi de Jizhong Wujie, by Yin Binyong
  • The Information Society and Terminology, by Liu Yongquan
  • A Bilingual Mosaic, by Einar Haugen
  • The Polysemy of the Term Kokugo, by S. Robert Ramsey
  • Memorizing Kanji: Lessons from a Pro, by J. Marshall Unger
  • Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard, by David Moser
  • Ethnolinguistic Notes on the Dungan, by Lisa E. Husmann and William S-Y. Wang
  • Korean Views on Writing Reform, by Wm. C. Hannas
  • Language Policies and Linguistic Divergence in the Two Koreas, by Ho-min Sohn
  • Okinawan Writing Systems, Past, Present, and Future, by Leon A. Serafim
  • Proposal of a Comparative Study of Language Policies and Their Implementation in Singapore, Taiwan, and China (PRC), by Robert L. Cheng
  • The Topical Function of Preverbal Locatives and Temporals in Chinese, by Feng-fu Tsao
  • Yes-No Questions in Taipei and Peking Mandarin, by Robert M. Sanders
  • Patronizing Uses of the Particle ma: Bureaucratic Chinese Bids for Dominance in Personal Interactions, by Beverly Hong Fincher
  • Gender and Sexism in Chinese Language and Literature, by Angela Jung-Palandri
  • A zhezi Anagram Poem of the Song Dynasty, by John Marney
  • Some Remarks on Differing Correspondences in Old Chinese Assumed to Represent Different Chinese Dialects, by Nicholas C. Bodman
  • Can Taiwanese Recognize Simplified Characters?, by John S. Rohsenow
  • Simplified Characters and Their (Un)relatedness, by Chauncey C. Chu
  • The Teaching of Culture and the Culture of Teaching: Problems, Challenges, and Opportunities in Language Instruction, by Eugene Eoyang
  • The Culture Component of Language Teaching, by Kyoko Hijirida
  • Thinking About Prof. John DeFrancis, by Apollo Wu
  • Wo suo Renshi de De Xiansheng, by Chih-yu Ho
  • Two Poems for Professor John DeFrancis, by Richard F. S. Yang
  • Announcement, by Stephen Fleming

Happy birthday, John! And many happy returns!

Taiwan architecture and political statements

The main reason I haven’t been posting much lately is that for several weeks I’ve been extremely busy showing various groups of VIPs around Taipei. As the viewing floor near the top of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, is one of the standard stops along the tour, I usually take advantage of the bird’s-eye-view to point out some of the architectural features of the city. A few of these features are related to Chinese characters / Japanese kanji.

Japan controlled Taiwan from 1895 until 1945. The design of some significant buildings from this time reflects the desire of the Japanese authorities to put Japan’s stamp on Taiwan — in more ways than one. The buildings that now house Taiwan’s Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) are from that era. Both are built in the shape of a Chinese character / kanji used in writing the name of Japan: ?. This is not a coincidence. (Before anyone asks: I haven’t seen any buildings, though, built in the shape of ?, the other character used in writing the name of Japan.)

Here are some screenshots from Google Earth, which gives satellite photos of much of the globe.

Below is Taiwan’s presidential building:
satellite photo of Taiwan's presidential building

And here is the Cabinet building, with north rotated 90 degrees clockwise:
satellite photo of Taiwan's Executive Yuan (Cabinet building)
The buildings on all but what is here the left side are additions that date from after the Japanese were forced out of Taiwan. (BTW, my old office in the Government Information Office is just below the bottom right corner of the ?.)

After the Japanese authorities were evicted from Taiwan and the island was controlled by the Chinese KMT, Taipei built a new city hall, and in so doing made an architectural statement of its own. Taipei City Hall, which is at the far end of a long road that leads to the Presidential Office, is built in the shape of two characters for the number 10, placed side by side: ??
satellite photo of Taipei City Hall
Thus, this is 10 10, which stands for October 10, which refers to the starting date of the revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1910, leading to the establishment of the Republic of China. (Officially speaking, Taiwan remains the Republic of China and October 10 remains its “National Day.”)

click to enlarge satellite photo of Taipei, showing the Presidential Office and Executive Yuan in the west and Taipei City Hall in the east
(click photo to enlarge)

If you’d like to use Google Earth to view these for yourself, enter the following coordinates:

  • Presidential Office: 25 02 24 N, 121 30 42 E
  • Executive Yuan: 25 02 47 N, 121 31 14 E
  • Taipei City Hall: 25 02 15 N, 121 33 52 E

Also, the pond behind the former Japanese Governor-General’s house, now the modestly named Taipei Guest House, is supposed to be, with a little help from some decorative rocks, in the shape of the character for “heart”:

But I haven’t found any photographs or maps that show this clearly.

Can anyone comment on the architecture of Japanese-era governmental buildings in Korea?

South Korea’s ‘English villages’

English continues to expand in South Korea, which is now home to “the world’s biggest English immersion camp,” according to an article from Agence France-Presse.

Speaking Korean is banned in this English-only village that has sprung up somewhat incongruously from the paddy fields of this rice-growing region north of Seoul as part of a linguistic experiment pioneered in South Korea.

“The rule is to speak English,” said Chicago-born Glensne to his shy and giggling pupils as they shuffled between their kitchen tables and his desk to ask in English for cooking materials to make Mexican nachos….

The Paju English village is more than a language theme park. It is a real village of bricks and mortar modeled on an English village where hundreds of people live, eat, sleep, shop and learn.

It sits on a 277,000 m2 plot of land, the world’s biggest English immersion camp, boasting its own brewery pub, bookstore, bakery, restaurant, bank and theater along a main street that leads to a big domed-city hall.

Electric trams run through the main boulevard, which branches off to classrooms and houses to accommodate 100 teachers and 70 staff from various English-speaking countries and 550 students. Korean is outlawed and even written signs are banned.

“We wanted to create an environment where students feel they left Korea behind,” said Jeffrey Jones, head of the Paju camp.

Jones, former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, said Koreans really need a change to their English education which focuses too much on grammar, reading and vocabulary.

“They spend a lot of time learning English. They can read probably better than I can, but they have trouble speaking,” he said. “One of the things we do here is we break the wall of fear. They learn not to be afraid and they learn to speak.”

I found this part especially interesting:

English proficiency has become increasingly important for Korean job seekers. Interviews conducted in English are common at big-name companies like Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and LG Philips.

source: English only in South Korea’s teaching towns, AFP, April 5, 2006

The state of translation in Korea

A new book with the provocative title of Are Translators Traitors? examines Korea’s translation situation and pronounces it “deplorable.” As a professor of Western history at Woosuk University, the author, Park Sang-ik, is perhaps especially sensitive to how few translations of Western classics Korean translators have produced compared with their Japanese counterparts. Many of those translations, he adds, are retranslations from Japanese texts.

The problem is not only the “shameful” quantity but also quality of translations. Park confessed that he was “disillusioned and shocked” to see how shoddy and cursory the translations were, even those done by “renowned” scholars, and how many translated works belong within the shameful category. Park took an example of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” translated by an Italian language professor, which is full of mistranslations and grammatically wrong expressions. And this is just the tip of a huge iceberg, according to Park. It is almost customary for professors to just let or make graduate students do translations with their own credits, which have spawned bad cross-cultural texts.

This reminds me of how some of China’s English textbooks have been produced:

  1. A professor in China who is not a native speaker of English is given a book contract.
  2. The professor then hands the work over to his students, none of whom are native speakers of English.
  3. The students, quite understandably not giving a damn about the professor’s project, proceed to plagiarize previously produced textbooks, reproducing old errors and introducing new ones.
  4. The book is published, further establishing the professor as an expert on English.

I’ve seen this process in action myself.

Back to the article now. Part of the problem is that in academic reviews professors are seldom given appropriate credit for any translations they might produce.

Another factor is the poor remuneration for the work:

For example, if a translator sells about 5,000 copies of a 10,000-won ($10) book — a big hit if it’s a social science or humanities studies book — he could have only around 5 million won [US$5,000] in hand at the end. With such minuscule reward for sweaty work, you will either churn out low quality translations or leave the job once and for all, the author writes.

I suspect that many translators, regardless of their target language, would recognize that situation — and even that’s without factoring in the woes of “work for hire.”

Pointing to the fragile base for the nation’s translation, Park went on further to stress that Korea does not even have a proper English-Korean dictionary. Quoting an English professor, Park said the majority of Korean-English dictionaries are translated versions of Japanese-English ones.

“These dictionaries have omitted many Korean words with purely Korean linguistic origins (as they had translated Japanese definitions word for word),” Park quoted the English scholar.

The article closes with Park pronouncing another of those warnings of “doom” for the Korean language if nothing is done to correct the situation.

Is [the] Korean Language Doomed?, Korea Times, January 20, 2006

Korean brands, images, and naming

Choe Yong-shik, the author of What’s Wrong With Korea’s Global Marketing, has some interesting comments on company names and branding in South Korea.

He notes that in 1992 the Korean company Samsung switched its logo, changing from using the Chinese characters ?? to the Roman alphabet (with a stylized A):
Samsung logo

This, he says, is representative of a trend:

Since the 1990s, many companies have carried out similar corporate identity projects that have seen the gradual extinction of the practice of using Chinese character logos. Companies have increasingly leaned toward more appealing names in the Roman alphabet as a means to establish a global brand image.

Using Chinese characters as an international brand image in today’s global market is not only ineffective, but it also borders on silliness.

source: Samsung, LG’s Brand Globalization History, Korea Times, December 26, 2005

names, ethnicity, and colonialism

Joel at Far Outliers has an interesting post on how Koreans chose Japanese names during the Japanese colonial period. (Spotted on Language Hat.)

Regarding name frequency in Taiwan, I once did some checking of an old version of Chih-Hao Tsai’s invaluable list of Chinese names (in Taiwan) and ended up with the top ten names covering 50 percent of the population. Now that he’s got an improved name-list online, I should check again.

Also here in Taiwan, few aborigines have taken the trouble to change their official names, now that they finally have an alternative to the sinicized versions that had been forced upon them by Taiwan’s officialdom. It will be interesting to see how the situation changes, if at all, now that new national ID cards are finally being issued. For more on this, see Romanization to be allowed on some Taiwan ID cards, including the link in the note.

Ban loan words, says North Korea

When it’s not prompting nightmares, North Korea is often good for a laugh.

The December 9 edition of Minju Chosun, the newspaper of North Korea’s Cabinet, editorialized on the “Culture of Language,” arguing for the importance of the “four don’ts.”

  1. Don’t use difficult Chinese phrases and other words of foreign origin. Loan words should be banned because they are “‘toxins that destroy the character and purity” of the Korean language. They also undermine the people’s sense of independence.
  2. Do not make excessive use of regional dialects. That sort of thing “creates confusion in language, hampers communication and degenerates personality.”
  3. Avoid slang and vulgar words. They cause misunderstanding and distrust and mar public unity.
  4. Don’t speak too fast. The proper speaking speed is 260-270 words per minute. If people speak too fast, it’s hard to understand what they are saying.

Talk about the “purity” of a language is of course particularly absurd, especially considering what a large portion of Korean has been borrowed from Sinitic languages over the years. But there is a grain of truth in the assertion that borrowings from Chinese have resulted in some troubles for Korean. The problem, however, is rooted in Chinese characters rather than linguistic borrowing itself. William Hannas discusses this some in his excellent book Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma, including within a section on the so-called homonym problem.

For nearly two millennia non-Chinese languages on China’s periphery have shared Sinitic vocabulary) freely, in a manner known to all of the world’s languages. Until recently, the direction of this “borrowing” had been largely from Chinese to Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, although the latter languages — most notably Japanese — have reversed the process and for the last century and a half have been coining new terms from Sinitic morphemes that are adopted by all four languages. As a result of this borrowing, more than 40 percent of Japanese, 50 percent of Korean, and at least one-third of the words in Vietnamese are based on Sinitic morphemes, according to Liu (1969:67). These figures apply to everyday vocabulary and are lower than other researchers’ counts that take in a wider corpus…. Ho Ung claims 60 percent (1974:44), and Oh claims 90 percent for some types of Korean materials (1971:26). Helmut Martin notes that in formal Vietnamese the ratio of Sinitic words can reach 50 percent; for newspapers it goes much higher (1982:32).

In general, the share of Chinese-style words in these non-Chinese languages increases with formality and difficulty of content, which is to say, Sinitic terms dominate those environments where style and subject matter make them the least predictable. One would think that the emphasis would be on maintaining phonetic distinctions between these word forms, but the opposite is more nearly true. Since most of the terms refer to higher-level concepts, the expectation was they would be identified through writing, where phonetic characteristics matter less. Accordingly, there was less pressure to avoid homonyms and near homonyms. Another, more important reason for the homophony can be traced to the dynamics of borrowing. When a language “borrows” terms from another, it typically adapts the words’ sounds to its own phonology, which is never a perfect match. The borrowing language cannot add distinctions to the sounds of the terms it is borrowing, but it can and does ignore phonological distinctions that its own system is not equipped to handle. In the case of international Sinitic, this means dropping the tonal features that help distinguish one Chinese syllable from another.

source: North Chides South for Dirtying Korean Tongue, Korea Times, December 18, 2005. This article also has an interesting anecdote about a North Korean general’s reaction to seeing “English” letters on a sign in the south.

US students abroad

The Institute of International Education has released its 2005 “Open Doors” report on U.S. students studying abroad.

The top twenty destinations for study abroad by U.S. students during the 2003-04 school year were, in declining order, Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, China, Costa Rica, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Cuba, Chile, Greece, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Russia, and the Netherlands.

Britain was by far the leader, with 32,237 U.S. students. China was ninth, with 4,737.

Fear of SARS resulted in numbers for parts of East Asia dropping off for the spring and summer of 2003, so the 90 percent increase for China is not so much a dramatic increase as a return to pre-crisis levels.

In 2003/04, overall U.S. study abroad in Asia (13,213) increased by 36%, with American student numbers in China exceeding pre-SARS levels (4,737, up 90%), and increases in students going to Japan, (3,707, up 7%), Korea (879, up 19%), Hong Kong (487, up 6%), and Taiwan (195, up 32%). However, even with all of these increases, only 7% of all Americans studying abroad selected Asia for their overseas academic experience.

I don’t know how those numbers are reached. Taiwan certainly has more than 192 Americans studying here. Perhaps the figures are related to official university-level study-abroad programs.

Nonetheless, the figures do represent an increase, especially for places such as China, where many are studying Mandarin. Indeed, being in an environment where the target language is spoken is especially important, given how many Mandarin-learning programs (in both the West and Asia) are badly imbalanced toward memorizing Chinese characters rather than learning the language itself. So environment is especially important for those wishing to learn Mandarin.

For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in both China and Taiwan, and I recommend Taiwan.