"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Needless to say, not all neologisms were semantic or loan translations. In fact, one of the most fascinating neologisms invented in this period was the gendering of the third-person pronoun in written Chinese, which occurred directly between European languages and Chinese. The original form of the Chinese character for the pronoun ta (他) contains an ungendered ren radical (人) (denoting the human species), and the gendering of this pronoun arose from circumstances of translation. For thousands of years, the Chinese had lived comfortably with the ungendered form of ta and other ungendered deictic forms. Suddenly they discovered that Chinese had no equivalent for the third-person feminine pronoun in English, French, and other European languages. Some Chinese perceived the absence of an equivalent as an essential lack in the Chinese language itself, and efforts were made to design neologisms to fill this lack. (It seems to me that this anxiety reflects a historical situation of perceived inequality between languages rather than a failing in the language itself. For instance, one does not experience much inconvenience when translating the French feminine plural elles into the ungendered English “they.”) After a few years of experiments with regional forms, such as yi from the Wu dialect, writers and linguists finally settled on writing the feminine ta (她) with a (woman) radical (女). For instance, Lu Xun’s use of the third-person pronoun in his fiction reflects this interesting period of experimentation. As one study has pointed out, he started out by using ta written with its usual ungendered radical ren interchangeably with the Wu dialect word yi when he referred to his female characters in some of the early stories, such as “Tomorrow” (1920). The feminine pronoun written with a radicaldid not appear in his works until “New Year’s Sacrifice,” which was written in 1924. A year later, Lu Xun began to adopt another neologism, ta with a niu (cattle) radical (它), to refer to animals, as in “Regret for the Past” (1925)."

--- Translingual practice / Lydia He Liu

(Hat tip to PPBI)
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