Friday, September 23, 2011

Two characters mapped to a single representation

In Chinese, the character for meat/flesh 肉 (ròu) and the character for month/moon 月 (yuè) are both mapped to the same radical, which can be combined with selected other components to make other characters. That radical is visually a thinner version of 月. Here it is on the left side of 臉 (liǎn; face) and on the right side of 期 (qí [pronounced qī in China]; a period of time).

Despite the radicals being the same visually, the nature of the character of which it is part makes it clear which of the two original characters (meat/flesh or month/moon) is being represented. Face (臉) is more related to flesh (肉) than to month/moon (月). A period of time (期) is more related to month (月) than to meat/flesh (肉). At least in my own usage, the radical appears far more often in its flesh/meat guise.

In a quasi-similar vein, some old typewriters (well, I guess all typewriters are old these days) didn't have a key for the numeral 1 -- you hit the key for the letter l (ell) instead.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Multiple ways to say "For example" in Chinese

In my relatively early years of learning Chinese, I attended a free, somewhat less formal class in which, at unpredictable times (unpredictable by me, anyway), the teacher kept using a phrase which I could not understand. When I asked her what it was, she was unable to remember having said anything of consequence. Many of my fellow students were native Cantonese speakers who didn't seem to bat an eye when the teacher spoke the mystery phrase. Perhaps they were already familiar with the phrase in Cantonese, and the Mandarin equivalent was easily understandable.

Outside of class I asked my mainland Chinese roommate for assistance, but my pitifully incomplete description of the sounds didn't give him much to go on, and, not surprisingly, he couldn't figure it out.

Eventually I learned that the teacher had been saying 譬如說 (pì rú shūo; "For example"), which explained why she couldn't tell what I was referring to from her lecturing -- it was only a helper phrase, never a major, or even minor, lesson point. By that stage of my Chinese studies, I think I had actually already heard elsewhere some different ways of saying "For example", but couldn't make the connection.

Here are other common ways of saying "For example" (capital F because this phrase is always used at the beginning of a sentence, never at the end). I've personally heard native Chinese speakers use all of them:
  • 比方說 (bǐ fāng shuō)
  • 比如說 (bǐ rú shuō)
  • 好比說 (hǎo bǐ shuō)
  • 舉例來說 (jǔ lì lái shuō)
  • 例如說 (lì rú shuō)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2+ iOS international keyboards

If you have two or more international keyboards configured, you can tap-hold the world globe key and then directly select one of the others. That's available in iOS 4.3.5, and may have been available in earlier versions. Tap by itself immediately takes you to the next keyboard.

I normally always have the Chinese (traditional) Handwriting keyboard configured. When I'm including bits of Chinese among English words, as opposed to writing longer text in Chinese, I normally use the English period instead of the Chinese period (。). The Chinese period takes up more space, presumably because within the Chinese context each character or punctuation mark should occupy the same amount of space as any other.

When I temporarily additionally configured the French keyboard, the order of keyboards was English-Chinese-French. I was mildly annoyed that I would have to tap twice to switch from Chinese to English, particularly because I'd be switching back and forth between the two languages frequently. Nice to learn that this is no longer an issue.
1/7/12: Even moreso since I recently added a fourth keyboard, Pinyin for simplified Chinese characters. I haven't devoted a great deal of time learning handwriting for simplified characters, so the Pinyin version of the keyboard for same is quite helpful.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

iOS international keyboards for Latin alphabet languages other than English

Earlier I had noted that, for occasional inclusion of accented characters in, e.g., French or Spanish, there was no need to add the respective iOS virtual international keyboard.

Recently, I was typing in a longer sentence in French. At that time I realized that, for extended writing in a Latin alphabet language other than English, one greatly benefits from switching to the appropriate international keyboard, in order to get proper suggestions for auto-correction, replacement suggestions, etc.

A French teacher long ago had written the following famous phrase on a piece of paper for me:

Ce qui se conçoit bien
s'énonce clairement,
et les mots pour le dire
viennent aisément.

which I subsequently misplaced. The second line eluded my memory for many years, but I recently remembered it, then searched for background on the complete phrase on the mighty Internet.

French Wikipedia says the original is from Nicolas Boileau:

De L'Art poétique (1674)
Ce que l'on conçoit bien s'énonce clairement,
Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément. (Chant I)
(bold emphasis is mine -- see below)

I find it a tad odd that multiple people have rendered his original phrase with slightly different words, even, e.g., on a mousepad.

The meaning of the French phrase hasn't changed in any of the slightly-different renditions I've seen, including in the one I got from my French teacher. On the other hand, the Gettysburg Address certainly wouldn't sound the same if someone started reciting it with "87 years ago...".

English translations of this French phrase feel quite awkward to me compared to the original, and I'm not including one here. Interested readers can copy the text and search on the mighty Internet themselves.