Chinese Corner

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Chinese Corner exam results are in

Editor’s note: Welcome back, Sinophone enthusiasts! Good work to all of the readers who took the final exam in December. This was not an easy test – and it had a few trick questions. But the median and average scores were both 6 out of 10. Well done, everyone!
We have not one but two students who scored 100%. They will each receive a free book of Chinese short stories in the original and English translation: both will receive copies of Short Stories in Chinese, a bilingual text edited by John Balcom (Penguin 2013). Check out the results for each question below and read the Chinese Corner posts that inspired each question. We’ll have more linguistic adventures in the new year, on a roughly monthly basis.

1.

Forms response chart. Question title: How many tones does Mandarin have?. Number of responses: 29 / 29 correct responses.

Mandarin has four tones and one neutral (fifth) tone, but the fifth isn’t always counted among them. And none of them are as hard to learn as you may fear.

2.

Forms response chart. Question title: How many tones does Cantonese have?. Number of responses: 28 / 29 correct responses.

Another tricky one! Cantonese has three “entering tones” marked by a -p, -t or -k at the end of a syllable. Some people don’t count these as tones, since they’re not based on pitch.

3.

Forms response chart. Question title: Broca's area, in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere of the brain, processes language. What else is it responsible for?. Number of responses: 18 / 29 correct responses.

There is research suggesting that musical training brings language-related benefits. Other studies show that speaking a tonal language aids in musical processing.

4.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is Taiwan's newest official language?. Number of responses: 10 / 29 correct responses.

Hakka became an official language of Taiwan at the end of 2017. Hokkien and the Formosan languages are also nationally recognized. English will become an official language in 2019, according to Premier William Lai.

5.

Forms response chart. Question title: How do linguists distinguish a language from a dialect of that language?. Number of responses: 15 / 29 correct responses.

There is no linguistic difference between any two varieties of a language. Categories of language and dialect are sociopolitical.

6.

Forms response chart. Question title: The English words "yen," "gung-ho," and "chow" are all examples of.... Number of responses: 6 / 29 correct responses.

These words all came to English from different varieties of Chinese, garbled and transmogrified to such an extent as to distinguish them from ordinary loanwords. Other examples of Hobson-Jobson include “compound,” “pundit,” and “ketchup.”

7.

Forms response chart. Question title: Which of the following claims is true?. Number of responses: 6 / 29 correct responses.

Estimates of the number of Cantonese particles range from 30 to 206.

8.

Forms response chart. Question title: Which of the following claims is false?. Number of responses: 12 / 29 correct responses.

Most Chinese characters are combinations of sound and meaning components. Some components no longer have any relation to sound or meaning, hanging on as meaningless relics.

9.

Forms response chart. Question title: Which of the emoji pairs below refer to the #MeToo movement?. Number of responses: 22 / 29 correct responses.

When online discussions of #MeToo were censored, netizens invented the “rice bunny” (mǐ tù 米兔),  which sounds just like “me too.”

10.

Forms response chart. Question title: What's the best reason to learn Cantonese or another variety of Chinese besides Mandarin?. Number of responses: 29 / 29 correct responses.

One more trick question! These are all good reasons.

Header image by Jason Morrison and modified under terms of Creative Commons license.

China Channel

The Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel is an online digest of writing on or from China, for Sinophiles and the Sinocurious.