Sunday, April 24, 2011


Working an acrostic puzzle, like the one in today’s New York Times Magazine, requires a kind of mental acrobatics similar to that required for dealing with Chinese. At least for me.

When I listen to Chinese, my brain often has to jump from one possibility to the next: does that syllable shi mean ten, stone, true, or food? Or maybe something else? Chinese has homonyms galore; there are so many options but only one of them is right! 

What if I make a mistake? By that point, a conversation has moved on and I’m lost. At least an acrostic is forgiving; all you need to do is get out the eraser (unless you’re so bold as to use a pen).

When reading Chinese, does that character go with the one in front of it or behind it? Since spacing around each Chinese character is even, you can’t even tell if you’re looking at one two-character word, or two one-character words;  context can be opaque and the clues can be misleading. (The title of this post gives you an idea of the challenge.) 

Even computerized translation systems have to sort through this initial challenge in processing Chinese documents, something unnecessary in English or French, or even Arabic or Turkish, where the boundaries of words are clear.

But wait, there’s more! Today’s readers of Chinese have it easy; in the olden days, there was no punctuation, so you didn’t even know where a sentence began or ended.  Even today, however, you can’t be dead sure of which direction characters should be read; on the sides of some buses, for example, the characters are always presented from the front of the bus to the back, or left-to-right on the left side of the bus and right-to-left on the right side. 

Searching in the dictionary for the meaning of a character you don’t know is a real puzzle; characters are ordered according to the radical element (which carries meaning, rather than sound) of the character. But if you don’t know which element is the radical, you may have to try a few. And that is just step one.
Lest you be discouraged, Chinese is not all work and no play. The Chinese love puns, which are ripe for creation because of the many homonyms.  Although these double entendres can be a source of danger for newbie speakers. And how about scrabble? nothatwontwork


  1. What I like about the contrast between the title of this item (plus the very last word in the post), versus the long final word in the NYT puzzle you mention, is how difficult, or easy, it can for English speakers to tell at a glance what a run-together sequence of letters "really" means.

    The example in the puzzle is *relatively* easy to decipher, apparently because it has so many consonant groups that usually appear only at the beginning or the end of words. So they provide natural visual breaks. The nice thing about arewenotabletoreadorareweableto is that to native speakers there is no "obvious" place where it breaks. Is 'notable' the real meaning? 'Adore'? My guess about Chinese is that it's more like arewenotable... in that characters could naturally go at beginnings or ends. But that is only a semi-informed guess.

  2. Actually your post brought to my mind some of the difficulties I have trying to understand languages other than Chinese! (I'm a native English speaker.) The homonym issue you mention is one I have when trying to understand spoken in, was that 'et', 'ai', 'aix', 'er', or 'é' I just heard, and did it belong with the preceding or next syllable? And the word order issue is one I have when trying to understand written Dutch, as in, does that 'op' go with the 'er' three words before, or is it part of the verb? I don't have a good feeling for whether these issues are more severe in Chinese than for French/Dutch, but it seems like parsing is an issue with learning any new language.

    But I agree the dictionary difficulties are unique to non-alphabetic writing systems like the Chinese one....

  3. You'll be able to self-assured which usually many Devices conserve the precise effort like true your actually if you happen to concerned with made the effort staying effectiveness from this fabulous keep an eye on. replica hublot Perhaps you have had personally seen behavior cinema and provide you will witnessed all the attitude for the essential temperament? replica cartier At the same time an individual's is visually and additionally garmets pull in a persons vision about many people. You’re able to grasp a situation of that ranking quickly along with the Cartier Reproduction devices. omega replica You’re able to choose between a lot of varieties and additionally lots of the Cartier keep an eye on varieties are likewise attainable like Cartier Reproduction Devices. fake hublot That include Reproduction Cartier Pasha SeaTimer Keep an eye on, Reproduction Cartier Pasha Keep an eye on, rolex replica Reproduction Cartier Santos Devices and additionally Reproduction Cartier Container Devices really are best varieties.

  4. amine lahragui are you crazy spammer. You wrote the same reply to all posts. Turn on your imagination at least, people want to burp when reading your comments!

  5. The wide range of services writing agencies have now on offer has really boosted up the blogging community i guess. People get it that reading has gone more online than offline, just like the new york times magazine is getting increased hits day by day. It is an interesting trend though.

  6. An incredible article you write, very very interesting and informative. I hope you will keep writing articles as good as this, so I gained extensive insight. Thanks a lot!
    the impossible quiz
    learn to fly
    plazma burst 2

  7. I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully, you will keep posting such blogs….Keep sharing .

  8. get redirected here Thanks for sharing a nice article really such a wonderful site you have done a great job once more thanks a lot

  9. we also provide a guarantee for the customer on the shop where the transfer to be our client is sure that your baggage will not hurt him Makkah Transport Company in Makkahشركة نقل عفش
    شركة نقل عفش من الرياض الى الامارات

    شركة نقل اثاث من الرياض الى الامارات
    شركة نقل عفش بخميس مشيط

  10. nice post friend , Thank you for sharing with us, and we sincerely hope you will continue to update or post other articles

  11. Regular visits listed here are the easiest method to appreciate your energy, which is why why I am going to the website everyday, searching for new, interesting info. Many, thank you. Celebrity net worth is a celebrity finance outlet that offers a comprehensive database of celebrity net worth's in the world.

  12. Handmade jewellery are such stunning pieces of jewellery to have in your jewellery box. Handmade jewellery in UK that is made from sterling silver is so versatile and durable and these pieces can be worn with a range of outfits. These intricate pieces of handmade jewellery can be found in a range of different designs and styles. This means you will be able to find handmade jewellery that suits your personality and outfit.

    When you walk into the London Shop, you will know that you are receiving the most diverse range of handmade jewellery, not to mention other types such as evil eye jewellery, ear cuff collection and other silver jewellery. These collections are continuously renewed to ensure that customers can have a unique experience each time they set foot into our London shop.

    The jewellery with which we supply our stores is individually selected and designed using the most precious diamonds, pearls, gems and stones. Each of our handmade jewellery pieces come from fair trade sources.

    When people usually come across us, they think we just sell jewellery. Nothing could further from the truth. We don’t just sell jewellery, but we fill gaps. We supply the difference that you have for more diversity in your jewellery collection, and we fill the gap you have to show off your new evil eye jewellery or your silver jewellery. Still, also, we fill a huge gap in the UK market. One for intricate jewellery designs to make for thoughtful gifts or beautiful accessories, all at an affordable price.

    We are driven forward by our desire if making your special days even more special. We do this by providing our dazzling handmade jewellery and silver jewellery to customers just like you. Our extensive product range includes unique pieces such as silver ring, bracelets, earrings and ear cuffs in a range of colours. It is this kind of variety in shapes and colours which has made our jewellery collections some of the most widely appreciated in the UK and beyond.

  13. Bigg Boss Tamil is an Indian Tamil-language model of the fact TV display Bigg Boss. The software stimulated from the Dutch display “Big Brother” with the aid of using Endemol withinside the Netherlands. In beyond 3 years, Bigg Boss Tamil has rolled out 3 seasons. Three Seasons became hosted with the aid of using Kamal Haasan and broadcast with the aid of using Star Vijay Channel. Bigg Boss Tamil Vote Is The Proceedure Through Which Winners Are Selected. The fourth season is deliberate to release on June 2020 however not on time because of COVID-19 pandemic and it's far postponed to September 2020..

    Bigg Boss Tamil is a famous fact display. A range of contestants acknowledged as “housemates”, stay in an specially purpose-built house. Contestants are remoted from the outer world. Each week, housemates nominate in their housemates for “eviction”. The housemate who gets the maximum nominations could face a public vote then. Of these, one could in the end leave, having been “evicted” from the House.

  14. 먹튀다이스키는 2010년 5월부터 토토사이트 시장을 경험하며 다년간의 노하우를 보유한 먹튀검증 전문 팀입니다. 빠르게 증가하고 있는 토토사이트들에 비해 완벽한 먹튀검증을 진행하고 있는 사이트는 극히 소수입니다. 이러한 현실을 개선해나가기 위하여 먹튀다이스키는 자체적인 먹튀검증 가이드라인을 수립하고 검증을 진행함으로써 회원분들에게 안전한 사이트만을 추천드리고 있습니다. 만약의 사고에 대비하여 100% 보증금 제도에 의하여 운영하고 있습니다. 다이스키가 추천드리는 사이트에서먹튀 사고를 당하셨을 경우, 언제든지 다이스키 운영진에게 문의를 남겨주시면 피해금액 전액을 보증금을 통해 반환 해드리도록 하겠습니다. 다이스키가 추천하는 사이트들에서 생겨나는 모든 책임은 다이스키측에 있음을 알려드리며 회원분들의 안전한 배팅환경을 제공하기 위해 최선을 다하겠습니다.

    실시간 먹튀 검증 커뮤니티 먹튀다이스키입니다. 먹튀다이스키는 15년 이상 검증만을 전문으로 진행해온 먹튀검증 전문팀이 운영하는 커뮤니티로 회원분들의 안전한 배팅 환경 제공을 목적으로 개설된 사이트입니다. 2019년을 기준으로 하루에 20개 이상의 토토사이트가 신규 개설되었으며 이중 75%는 먹튀사이트로 변질되고 있습니다. 그만큼 회원분들은 많은 먹튀 사고에 노출되고 있다고 해도 과언이 아닐 것입니다. 먹튀다이스키의 조사 결과에 따르면 작년 기준 하루 사고 금액이 약 10억원에 달하는 것으로 집계 되었습니다. 더 큰 문제는 이러한 먹튀사이트들이 하나만 존재하는 것이 아니라, 계열로 이루어져 있기에 잠재적으로는 더 많은 피해 사고의 확률이 내재되어 있다는 것입니다. 이러한 정보들을 회원분들이 일일이 알기란 매우 어렵습니다. 먹튀다이스키는 이러한 정보들을 집약하여 직관적으로 회원분들이 알 수 있도록 제공하고 있습니다. 나아가 수집된 정보들을 회원분들에게 투명하게 공개함으로써 더욱 많은 회원분들이 안전한 배팅 환경을 제공받을 수 있도록 지원하고 있습니다.