Writing in progress, be patient!
Writing in progress, be patient!
Writing in progress, be patient!
I have been using Guake and Zsh for a while now but I never have liked the colours themes I found. Moreover, it appears that I am fond of the Zenburn colour theme with my GNU/Emacs. As I was not able to find any Zenburn colour theme for Guake, I have written my own. It is a shell script and it is optimized for my usage, i.e. for Guake and Zsh with the “adam2” prompt.
To use it, just download it, unzip it and launch it from Guake.
KNOWING how to correctly use French punctuation can be really tedious and many books speak about it. One of them, that I can warmly recommend you to read if you learn French, is available on the Internet and is entitled “Ortho-typographie” by Jean-Pierre LACROUX.
When I have learnt English, no one taught me about the correct typography for this language, despite the fact that English has its own way to see typography. However, I think that “The Elements Of Typographic Style”, by Robert BRINGHURST, is a good bible dedicated to the art of formatting.
Nonetheless, this article is about Chinese typography and this oriental language has its own rules, but their number is not high has in French or English.
Indeed, ancient Chinese texts did not have any kind of clear typography other than placing the Chinese text into an imaginary grid. Modern punctuation, as we know it nowadays, only appeared in Chinese texts during the 19th century. If one give a look at a modern text, he will note that punctuation somehow do not differ a lot from Western one; indeed, Chinese people imported most of Western punctuation.
In the followings, I will present the different Chinese punctuation symbols and their usage. I will also pay attention to distinguish their different shapes according to the orientation of the text (horizontal or vertical). Least but not last, I will also indicate the differences of usage in Taiwan and in mainland China.
Full stop : “。” or “．”
The full stop, 句號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄐㄩ
][ㄏㄠ]/jùhào), is used to indicate the end of a semantic unit: the end of the sentence.
Mainland China tends to use both shapes, but, more and more, Chinese texts use the second version (．) in half width. One should also note that vertical texts are very rare in mainland China nowadays.
In Taiwan, the vast majority of novels are still written vertically and the first shape (。) in full width is used. Even when sentences are written horizontally, the second shape is not used.
Here is one example:
Coma: “，” or “,”
The coma, 逗號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄉㄡ
][ㄏㄠ]/dòuhào), is used to separate the different parts of a complex sentence or in order to make a pause. It should not be used for an enumeration (list) which has its own coma (see below).
The second shape (,) is only used in mainland China. In Taiwan, the first one is used.
Enumeration coma: “、” or “、”
The enumeration coma, 頓號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄉㄨㄣ
][ㄏㄠ]/dùnhào), is used to separate the components of a list or components that belongs to the same group. It is also used to indicate the order of components in a text.
Again, the half width form is only used in mainland China.
The semi-colon, 分號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄈㄣ][ㄏㄠ‘]/fēnhào), is used as in English or in French: it separates two complex sentences, but that are related to each others.
The colon, 冒號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄇㄠ
][ㄏㄠ]/màohào), is used to introduce something or in order to explain something we just talked about. Eventually, we use it at the very beginning of a letter.
Here are a few examples:
親愛的媽媽： (= Dear mum,)
Quotation marks: “ ”/‘ ’ or 「」/『』
Quotation marks, 引號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄧㄣˇ][ㄏㄠ‘]/yǐnhào), have many shapes.
In China, in horizontally written texts, we used “ ” for the first level and ‘ ’ for the second level (quotes in quotes).
In Taiwan, for a horizontally written text, we use「」 for the first level and 『』 for the second level. However, if the text is written vertically, the shape of the quotation marks rotates: ﹁﹂/﹃﹄.
In the rare cases when text is written vertically in mainland China, they use ﹃﹄/﹁﹂ which is the opposite of Taiwan.
Whatever their shapes can be, they are used to cite a text or a person saying. They are also used to show that a word is used with a specific meaning. Eventually, they are used for a dialogue.
Here are a few examples:
Parentheses: “（）” or “—— ——”
The usage of parentheses, 圓括號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄩㄢ´][ㄎㄨㄛ
][ㄏㄠ]/yuánkuòhào), is the same as in English: to give a comment on something.
When one uses them, one must not ends a line with an opening parentheses nor starts a line with a closing parentheses. One should also note that the usage of the second shape has some constraints: the sentence should still be correct if you erase the parentheses and what is inside. Plus, the second shape seems to be less used.
Here are some examples:
The em-dash, 破折號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄆㄛ
][ㄓㄜ´][ㄏㄠ]/pòzhéhào), is used to indicate a semantic change or to indicate that a sound should be hold. It can also be used to precise the description of a word (in such case, the sentence must ends after the precision).
Here are some examples:
A sound is hold:
Precision about a word:
Ellipses, 刪節號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄕㄢ][ㄐㄧㄝ´][ㄏㄠ‘]/shānjiéhào), are used to show that a quote is truncated.
If “blabla” is some text, then the truncated quote would looks like that: 「blablabla……blablabla」.
Titles quotation marks: 《》/〈〉 or “﹏”
This kind of punctuation (called 書名號 in Chinese and pronounced [ㄕㄨ][ㄇㄧㄥ´][ㄏㄠ‘]/shūmínghào), is used for titles of films, books, songs, plays, file name, calligraphy name, etc. Nowadays, the second form (“﹏”) (that underline a Chinese character in horizontal writings or that are on the left of the characters in vertical writings) are not easy to use with computers so they are seldom seen.
The simple ones are used inside doubles ones, if needed.
Here is an example:
For an example with the second form, you can go here and there.
Proper nouns mark: “_”
This mark, 專名號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄓㄨㄢ][ㄇㄧㄥ´][ㄏㄠ‘]/zhuānmínghào), is used for proper nouns. In horizontal writings, proper nouns are underlined; in vertical writings, it is a line on the left of Chinese characters. They correspond to the fact of using an upper-case letter for proper nouns in English.
Here are some examples:
Middle dot: “．”
The middle dot, 間隔號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄐㄧㄢ
][ㄍㄜ´][ㄏㄠ]/jiàngéhào), is used for many things. First, it can be used as a decimal separator for numbers: 三．五公里 (3.5 km) even if it is often replaced by its Chinese counter part: 點.
Second, it is used to separate the family name from the given name in Chinese names of foreigners.
Eventually, we use it in books titles to give some precisions (《book．chapter．Section…》).
Here are some examples:
Name of a foreigner:
Title of a book:
Interval marks: “—” or “～”
These two marks, named 連接號 in Chinese and pronounced [ㄌㄧㄢ´][ㄐㄧㄝ][ㄏㄠ‘]/liánjiēhào, are used to specify a period of time, a distance between two places or a range of quantities. The two shapes are equivalent.
Here are some examples:
Emphasis mark: “‧”
In order to emphasize a text, Chinese cannot use italic since it does not make senses nor exist. Therefore, a dot it added below characters in horizontal writings or on the right of them in vertical writings. This emphasis mark is called 著重號 in Chinese (pronounced [ㄓㄨㄛ´][ㄓㄨㄥ
However, this punctuation mark is not easy to use (here, it is working well with Libreoffice though), and we seldom see it in real. However, it is clear that slanted Chinese characters are ugly so this simple solution is not adapted.
To conclude, I should add that question marks and exclamation marks are used exactly as in English.
PINYIN was invented during the 20th century (1978) and the Chinese use it in order to learn how to pronounce Chinese characters. That is to say, they do what every kid do during its childhood: they learn how to pronounce consonants, vowels and some groups of letters. Once they know the basis, they can pronounce any character seamlessly if the pinyin is provided (even if they don’t understand its meaning). However, a question should be asked: how did Chinese people do before Pinyin was invented?
My first idea was simple: let’s ask to a Chinese friend of mine! Unfortunately, most of them never even wonder that and none of them were able to answer my question.
First, I will present how, historically, Chinese people did and, then, I will conclude with an overview to how modern methods—Hanyu Pinyin and Zhuyin Fuhao—were put in place.
Chinese’s basis is simple since it has a “unit” of sound, a syllable, which is equivalent to one Chinese characters. Thus, one character only represents one sound. However, a character may have different pronunciations depending on the context.
In ancient China, which took place from the 12th century BC till the 3rd century AD, grammar specialists had the idea to group homophones into dictionaries (讀若). Then, when someone would meet an unknown character, he would look it up in a dictionary which would give him a list of characters which pronunciation are exactly the same—even for the tone. If he knows only one character in the list he can pronounce the unknown character he just met.
Nowadays, if someone takes one of these homophones dictionaries he will quickly understand that they are wrong. Indeed, as every language in the world, Chinese language has evolved as well as its pronunciation. Therefore, those dictionaries often had to be updated.
Later on, Buddhism, coming from India, were introduced in China during the 1st century AD. Along with it, the language in which Buddhism was written, Sanskrit, brought its grammar knowledge to Chinese people. It would have had influenced the fanqie method (反切).
This method represented the pronunciation of a Chinese character thanks to two other characters. The first one (上字) represented the initial ( 聲母) whereas the second one (下字) represented the final and the tone (韻母). This method has been used, for the first time, during the Tree Kingdoms period (3rd century AD).
For instance, such a dictionary gave 都宗切 for the Chinese character 冬. “切” indicated to the user that the two previous characters represented the fanqie method. 都 is pronounced ㄉㄡ/dōu and 宗 is pronounced ㄗㄨㄥ/zōng. Therefore, 冬 should be pronounced ㄉ/d + ㄨㄥ/ōng = ㄉㄨㄥ/dōng.
However, the variability of the pronunciation of the Chinese language was high enough that these dictionaries were only right for a limited temporal and spacial area. Let’s point out here that Southern dialects of China have kept a pronunciation that is closer to ancient Chinese than North dialects. Thus, standard mandarin is very different from what is indicated in these fanqie dictionaries.
A few centuries later, a Mongolian alphabet, called ’phags-pa, which derives from Tibetan, were used by Mongolian people in order to unify all the languages used in the realm. Indeed, during the Yuan dynasty (13th and 14th centuries AD) they had a good army and their kingdom contained Tibet, Mongolia and China. This alphabet helped people to have a serious and precise knowledge of Chinese phonology. But, the end of this dynasty was also the end of this foreign alphabet in China. Let’s also point here that some people think that this alphabet might have been an inspiration for the Korean alphabet design.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, Chinese used to work on building more and more precise rim dictionaries.
Modern transcription methods
First missionaries tried to transcribe Chinese sounds the way they heard them. They brought us words like Confucius or even Pékin for Beijing in French.
Those systems were not really well adapted to Chinese sounds and, soon, many countries tried to improve that. France gave birth to the method from “l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient”, Britain made the Wade-Giles method and America made the Yale method which name comes from the very known University of the same name.
The first attempt Chinese people did, in 1892, were the qieyin. This method was created in order to decrease illiteracy rate and increase the global educational level in the country. Indeed, annotated texts with this method could be easily read without having to look words up in a fanqie dictionary.
From 1892 to 1910, no more than 29 different alphabets were made. Some of them were based on the Japanese example (kanas): their shapes were inspired by Chinese characters that have been modified while some of them were based on the Latin alphabet which could be more or less altered. One of the most popular was made by Wang Zhao and it wasn’t based on the Latin alphabet. It had been used till 1910. Two years later, the Republic of China were established and new methods were launched and lead to the actual Zhuyin Fuhao (bopomofo).
The Republic of China went on the island of Taiwan in 1945 during the war and kept the Zhuyin which is still used nowadays. (They also kept the name of Republic of China by the way)
However, continental China tried to find something else and wanted a method based on the Latin alphabet because it was already spread in the world and especially in the scientific community. All the efforts brought the Hanyu Pinyin to life in 1949. It has been promulgated in 1957 and its final form were in 1978. Least but not last, the International Standardization Organization accepted it as the standard Chinese transcription method in 1982.
LEARNING a language, such as French, can be full of traitor traps. However, when we have reached a level which is high enough, we might meet some difficulties that force us to think about the way our native language works.
This is how I have understood why my English (I’m French) was terrible during secondary school: it echoed my little efforts and interests that I had about my own language—which lead my French teacher to be desperate.
This can happen at any time: a word that does not exist in another language while a translation, a wrong punctuation, a joke that is not funny in any other language, etc.
If you want to become bilingual, one day will come when you will be limited by your own language. At this exact time, you will start discovering more about your own language, and you will find out that you knew it less than you thought you did.
LEARNING Chinese, or any other foreign language, isn’t easy. Some tools are available online—therefore you can access them with any device that has a connection do the Internet—and they often really help you. Here is a list of the tools I often use while learning Chinese.
This tool has been made, at the first place, in order to learn Japanese. However, it can easily be adapted to learn something else such as mathematics, physics, languages, phone numbers, your DNA code… (up to you). This software use a system of flash cards, i.e. a kind of virtual card with one side containing a Chinese character while the other side contains the pronunciation and the meaning. Moreover, Anki is clever because it would not ask you many times a card you remember well but it would present you a card more often if you have some troubles with remembering it.
It is provided under the GPL license and is bundled under GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, MS Windows, Android, Maemo, Nintendo DS and iOS. Even better: each version can be synchronized to each other! You can easily start learning on your phone while going on on your computer after shower without any problems.
Many decks are available on the main server but it is highly recommended to make a deck yourself. Indeed, you would already start learning new words while putting them on cards and this deck would fit your needs perfectly.
Pin1yin1 is a website allowing you to annotate a word or a sentence with English but also with the pronunciation. The website supports traditional and simplified Chinese as well as pinyin and zhuyin.
This website allows you to have a look how to write a Chinese character, stroke by stroke thanks to an animated picture. You have a choice between more than 4,000 Chinese characters (both simplified and traditional versions). However, even if it is best for simplified Chinese, it is not great for traditional Chinese characters.
This website allows you to look at traditional Chinese characters stroke order. Actually, it is the digital version of a book published by the Ministry of Education of Taiwan. Therefore, it is the best ressource for that purpose. Moreore, Chinese characters are sort according to their key.
As its name shows it, this website let you find out what is the history of Chinese characters (etymology). The author does that on his free time.
This website is a dictionary of Chinese idioms (成語) . However, it is completely in Chinese.
If any of you want to learn BOPOMOFO, a Taiwanese phonetic alphabet, I really advise you this website. I also recommend you to not write down an approximation of the pronunciation or the pinyin equivalent because it might deprive you from improving your pronunciation. Zhuyin is almost a must-learn if you are in Taiwan and if you ask for the pronunciation of a word.
I really like cooking. Knowing what is in my plate is an essential thing in my life. Moreover, natural ingredients are a big part of my education; my grand-parents used to live in the French countryside.
I would like to share with you a simple recipe to make mint syrup (to mix with water for consumption).
No matter the size of the jar is, you will need enough pressed down mint leaves to fill the third of it. What kind of mint should you use? It doesn’t really matter. Indeed, all mint species can be used for human consumption. You should just try to stick to one kind at a time through.
When you pick mint outside, be careful and do not dig them up! Cut some parts instead and make sure you let enough specimen to allow other people to pick some mint at the same place but also to be sure you don’t just destroy the place you are in.
Where can mint be found? In France, mint can be found from May to October. Mint grows all over the world (almost actually) but the right time may depends on where you actually live. This plant likes fresh and airy soils. Therefore, you are likely to find some close to rivers or in humid meadows.
Once you have picked your mint up, keep only the leaves and throw the stems away. Clean them with cold water as if you would clean a salad. Put it in a jar and fill it with cold water (natural water preferably). You need enough mint to fill one third of the jar with compressed leaves. Keep the jar one night in a normal-conditions place.
The following day, filter the water and put it in a saucepan. Add as much sugar as water (in terms of weight: 1kg of sugar for 1l of water). Make it to gently boil for about 15 minutes and then let it cool down.
Put it in a bottle of glass and use it to your taste. Do not worry about it since sugar is a natural bactericide.