Bloody Fish

Regular readers may have noted that I’ve published mercifully little correspondence over recent weeks. To be honest, I’ve been a bit slow catching up with the backlog, and Auntie’s continuing health problems mean that I’ve little choice but to throw all but the most urgent items in the bin.

Anyway, the following item struck me as serious enough to read to Auntie when I visited her this morning. Unfortunately, as soon as I reached the part about the Canadian, she stuck her fingers in her ears and began mumbling something unprintable. Shortly afterwards, the doctor had to come and administer her medication. Continue…


From the Sinoglot mailbag:

Hello !
My name is Minkyu and I’m from Korea.
I am enjoying your blog a lot. I am currently learning Chinese as my fourth language and I am very interested in linguistic view on Chinese language.

I was randomly looking up for a Kana (Japanese phonogram) transcription chart of Mandarin Chinese by their pinyin (Romanization of Mandarin) [Link] and I came up with this question.

But here, you can see (I suppose you can read Japanese at least its Kanji (Hanzi) parts) that “you, miu, diu, niu, liu” are transcribed into “イウ/iu/, ミウ/miu/, ティウ/tiu/, ニウ/niu/, リウ/riu/” when it has either First tone (high) or Second tone(rising), and transcribed into “ヨウ/you/, ミョウ/myou/, テョウ/tyou/, ニョウ/nyou/, リョウ/ryou/” when it has either Third tone (dipping) and Fourth tone (falling).

I knew that the vowel part “iou” can be pronounced either way, [jow] or [jiw]–or even their middle– but I was never heard that this variation is according to their tones.

Could you tell me how “iou” varies in modern Madarin phonology please? Or is this difference just based on hearing cognition of Japanese-speakers?

And could you also tell me why “jiu, qiu, xiu” have no difference in their transcription and are transcribed into “チウ/chiu/, チウ/chiu/, シウ/shiu/” solely?

Thank you.

Best Regards,
Minkyu Kim

The Japanese Wikipedia page to which Minkyu directs us has two tables – the upper one for first and second tones and the lower one for third and fourth tones. Move over to the right to see the entries for pinyin iou.

Would any of our readers like to offer an explanation?

Forever and Ever

Another item from the Sinoglot mailbag; again, undated.

Dear Auntie Sinoglot,

I feel quite lost in this strange culture and just don’t know where else to turn for help.

It’s all this punning superstition, you see. Continue…

Bloody Helicopters

On a recent trip to Sinoglot HQ, for my annual review, I was appalled to find the chairman sitting on a large sack of unopened mail. After brief negotiation, during which my past year’s productivity was called into question, it was agreed that I would work my way through the letters. The following item was undated and I’m not sure how to respond.

Dear Auntie Sinoglot,

I write in the hope that you can help me.

I’ve developed an irrational hatred of helicopters. Continue…