Recently in language contact Category
The Yi (Nuosu) script is crazy! I've been trying to learn Nuosu, and have made a handy reference chart (inspired by the jiǎnzhì 简志, which has a foldout chart in the back).
Some of the characters are adapted from Chinese. See, e.g., cyp 'one', nyip 'two', suo 'three', ly 'four, fut 'six'. The characters have been turned 90 degrees clockwise since their inception. So unturn it in your mind, and you'll see the resemblance.
By the way, the -t and -p are tone marks: -t is high tone, -p is low tone (and -x is rising).
PDF and html versions below:
Listening to my field recordings, it's kind of amazing how much better I can understand the Sichuanese Mandarin that my consultants spoke now (compared with when I first got there in June). Simple things like [m̩˩ te˦] 'no'/'not have' (compare with Standard Mandarin méiyǒu 沒有).
It's hard enough understanding a different dialect of Mandarin, so it's annoying when people modify it to try to accommodate you. So in this segment I was going over today, my consultant was telling me that [zɿ²⁴] meant [ɕje¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴]. So at first I was like, oh, it means 'write' (xiězì 寫字). It didn't cross my mind that he meant xiézi 鞋子 'shoes', because in their dialect 'shoes' is [hai¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴] (or more accurately, [xai], but let's not confuse the IPA-rusty). He had switched from "hai" to "xie" because he knew that was the standard form! This is actually apparent in the recording if you listen carefully to it... he says [xa... ɕje¹¹ tsɿ⁴⁴], correcting himself. (Also, the tone for 'write' is different from the tone on 'shoe', which is what finally tipped me off.)
Gah! Don't try to accommodate me by mixing dialects! It only makes it more confusing!
it's that time of year again... I went home last weekend and grandma had made some 粽 [tsʊŋ²⁵]. I brought some back, gave one to Kevin (he's one of the few people in the house who can really appreciate it), and I had one this morning. I've seen it in a restaurant once listed as "Chinese tamale", and then Lauren told me about the pache that she had in Guatemala, which are pretty much the same thing--they're rice wrapped in banana leaves with stuff inside, and there's a dessert kind and a savory kind, and the dessert kind has chicken and a cherry in it, apparently. She'd actually told me about it in September or something, but I forgot. In Guatemala it's a Christmas treat, but she got sick of them because she was forced to eat the dessert kind every day for days on end. Anyway, Lauren surmised that paches must have been a post-Columbian exchange era thing, because they're made with rice, not corn.
Here's more proof I have (or had) a three-vowel /r/-colored vowel space: Just now, David said he couldn't clean his keyboard because he didn't have an airblaster. I thought he said he didn't have an "earblaster", and then realized that couldn't possibly be right.
this morning i went to the 水煎包 place for breakfast. it’s hot—very hot—the calm before the storm, Typhoon Kujira which is taking its time to get here. the lady next to me comments on the weather. “今天很 lè,” she says. the 老闆娘 (the woman who runs the place) replies. “not ‘lè,’” she says, correcting her. “it’s ‘rè’!” we laugh.
i don't understand mandarin english. see, cantonese english makes sense. lexical stress--primary, secondary, etc.--all map nicely onto the tone system of cantonese. like, primary stress maps to high tone. but mandarin doesn't seem to do anything of the sort. So the other day, i'm sitting in math class, and the teacher's talking about X E and X R. I'm like, what-the-F is X E? Don't you mean, E(X), the expectation of X? Then suddenly, it hits me: she's saying, X一跟X二, not XE 跟 XR. Further observation suggested that the phenomenon involves tones: when she wanted to say "r" or "l", she would use ér (sounds like 兒) and él, with mandarin second tone. i wonder if this is a common phenomenon, or if only people in math circles do this.
today, i was checking out books at the library, and as she gave me the books, i said out of reflex, "thanks." she replied, "不會", without missing a beat. i walked away, feeling very strange.
later i wonder, is "thanks" a common thing to say here? i guess i wouldn't know unless i was the one working at the checkout counter.