Annals of Wu

a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog

星期沪 - Not Far lessons - 星期沪

This week's Shanghai Friday phrase is once again from Tatoeba.

gəˀ tɑˀ tɔ ɛ mi zɿ lɔ ʥin gəˀ

In English it would be
It's not far from here to there.

Note the use of 老 here sometimes written 佬. This is found in a number of Wu dialects in place of 很. And of course 个, long used in Wu where in Mandarin one would find 的.

    星期沪 - Bathroom Euphamisms lessons - 星期沪

    Everybody poops. When I first came to China they taught me how to say "厕所在哪儿" even though everyone says something more like "洗手间在哪儿". So wouldn't it be useful to have a more subtle way to announce to the world what you're about to do?

    This week for Shanghainese Friday it's just two words, and ones you already know, but maybe not in this context.

    唱歌 - ʦʰɑ̃ ku - to sing a song
    跳舞 - tʰiɔ vu - to dance

    Yep. Singing and dancing. Singing is number one and dancing is number 2. Give it a shot with the inlaws. Let me know how it goes.

      星期沪 - Address lessons - 星期沪

      This week for Shanghai Fridays we're looking at how to say an address. Again, here's one from Tatoeba.

      ŋu lɑˀ lɑ zɑ̃ hɛ ɦoŋ ʥiɔ lu 850 loŋ 22 ɦɔ 1602 səˀ

      If you head over to the sentence page at Tatoeba you can hear a recording of this by a native speaker.

      Comparing this with the Mandarin, there's little difference. Here's the Mandarin equivalent:

      wǒ zài Shànghǎi hóngqiáolù bābǎi wǔshí nòng èrshíèr hào yīqiān liùbǎi èr shì.

      The only real difference here is "lɑˀ lɑ" replacing 在. In a number of Northern Wu dialects you'll find "lai" or "la" where Mandarin would have 在, and in others, like some Shanghainese dialects, you get multiple syllables. Otherwise go give it a few listens and see what you can do to replicate it. Keep in mind the recording is just a tad faster than you might like.

        星期沪 - Understanding lessons - 星期沪

        Shanghai Fridays¹, a once weekly post featuring words and phrases from Shanghainese, is back. This time around we're going for sentences instead of simple phrases, and to go one step further, each week we'll look into the phrase itself including a breakdown of the words and some basic grammar. This may be much more useful than disconnected phrases or words, and a single sentence should provide more than four phrases in previous instalments would have.

        For our first week back, we offer the following:

        tʰin zɿ tʰin təˀ toŋ iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ, kɑ̃ kɑ̃ vəˀ lɛ gəˀ.

        It means "I understand a little, but I can't speak it," referring to a spoken language. So, for example, if you were out and about in Shanghai and wanted to practice your Wu, this would be a good phrase to pull out when things got a little more involved than "侬好."³

        Let's look at it closer. Some of this is what you'd expect from Mandarin.

        听是   "listening is"

        听得懂  "I understand what I hear", same as Mandarin.

        一眼眼  Here's our first real difference. "iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ" is acting as 一点点 would in
             Mandarin or 一啲啲 in Cantonese. You might also hear 一星星 or
             一咪咪, as well as just 一点点 where 点 is more like "ti".

        讲    Simply "speaking" or "to speak"

        讲勿来个 勿来 (or 弗来 or 否来) means "not coming," meaning it's not coming out
             of your mouth. 个 here is 的. In Mandarin we might be able to exchange
             this with 讲不来的, "unable to say" or more formally "That which is
             unable to be said".

        There's certainly a more eloquent explanation of the above, though for now this should do.

        Tones. The sentence with proper tones for each individual word would be

        tʰin⁵³ zɿ²³ tʰin⁵³ təˀ⁵⁵ toŋ³⁴ iɪˀ⁵⁵ ŋɛ²³ ŋɛ²³,kɑ̃³⁴ kɑ̃³⁴ vəˀ¹² lɛ²³ gəˀ¹².

        However after sandhi rules, it would probably be something more like this:

        tʰinH zɿM tʰinM təˀM toŋM iɪˀM ŋɛM ŋɛL,kɑ̃M kɑ̃H vəˀMM gəˀL

        Here H corresponds to ⁵⁵, M to ³³ and ʟ to ²¹. Or, for a more visual representation, we could say⁴

        tʰin zɿ tʰin təˀ toŋ iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ,kɑ̃ kɑ̃ vəˀ lɛ gəˀ.

        Click here for all previous editions.

        Check back next week for another instalment of 星期沪 with a whole new sentence.

        - - -
        ¹ 星期沪 [ɕin ʥi ɦu] or actually it would probably be [li pɑ ɦu], were anyone to actually finish the phrase with "沪".
        ² The sentence comes from Tatoeba.org using the Shanghainese phonetic corpus. Tatoeba has a continuously growing collection of sentences translated into Wu.
        ³ Nong hɔ, "hello".
        ⁴ If this sort of representation seems useful, let me know and I'll do it again next week.

          星期沪 - Outsiders lessons - 星期沪

          Face it. If you're from another country (外国人) and you move from almost anywhere else in China to Shanghai, you're going to notice a change in how people treat you. Far fewer people saying 哈罗* like it's an urgent question and far more treating you like a human being. And conversely, if you're from another part of China (外地人) and you make the same move, sucks to your assmar.

          So here you go, your filthy filthy outsiders with your Canadian salaries or Erhuayin. Either way, this week out theme is you⁑.

          外地人 ŋɑ22 di55 ɲin21
              nga di nyin
          外国人 ŋɑ22 koʔ55 ɲin21
              nga kok nyin
          乡下人 ɕiã55 ɦo33 ɲin21
              xia hou nyin

          外头人 ŋɑ2255 ɲin21
              nga de nyin

          本地人 pən33 ti55 ɲin21
              ben di nyin

          - - -
          * Hēllǒ!
          ⁑ and me too, obviously.
          ⁂ Re 地 as [ti] or [di], it's hard to know if this is an error in transcription consistency or if there's some sort of voicing sandhi going on. Either way I've left it as the difference between an un-aspirated /t/ and /d/ are minimal and not really worth crying over.

            星期沪 - Colours lessons - 星期沪

            This week's topic is colour, for which I direct you to the previous post.

             红 ɦoŋ - red
             黄 uã - yellow
             白 baʔ - white
             黑 həʔ - black
             绿 lɔʔ - green
             青 ʨʰin - uh, qing?
             蓝 lɛ - blue


              星期沪 - Some Basics lessons - 星期沪

              The following are three phrases that you'll hear on a regular basis. They go right up there with 侬好. Today we're skipping the IPA and going with simple Shanghainese pinyin.

              2 ɦyø5 vəʔ3 ʨi1
              Long time no see.

              Nong23 dao34 shang2he4 ji3ho4 shen2guang5lak1
              How long have you been in Shanghai?

              Fiao3 kak3qi4
              Not at all.

              Mak4 gue5xi3ge1

                星期沪 - The Weather lessons - 星期沪

                This week we're covering some phrases and vocabulary for discussing the weather. It's useful common small talk that you could practice on your neighbours or colleagues on a regular basis without really driving them insane with your regular questioning.

                ʨiɲ ʦɔ tʰi ʨʰi na nəŋ
                What is today's weather like?

                ʨiŋ ʦɔ ʨi du
                What's the temperature today?

                今朝 - today [ʨiŋ ʦɔ], pinyin: jing co
                天气 - weather [tʰi˥˥ ʨʰi˨˩]
                冷  - cold [lã˨˩]
                热  - hot [ɲiɪʔ˨˩]
                闷  - stuffy [məŋ]
                云  - coud [ɦyn˨˧]
                雨  - rain [ɦy˨˧]
                雷  - lightning [lɛ˨˧]
                雾  - fog [ɦu˨˧]

                So to say "Today is hot and stuffy", it's

                ʨiŋ ʦɔ ɦiɤ məŋ ɦiɤ ɲiɪʔ

                Until next week.


                  星期沪 - More Idioms lessons - 星期沪

                  Shanghainese Saturday is now Shanghai Friday. It was something I'd thought about before and has been suggested by a couple people, mostly for the sake of the rhyme with 星期五. Actually it works better for me that way as well since more often than not my Saturdays aren't spent at the computer.

                  The idioms seemed to go over well last week so we're doing it again. These are all more or less restricted to Wu with the exception of the first one which is equally common in Mandarin.

                  阴阳怪气 / 陰陽怪氣
                  in55 ɦiã33 kuɑ33 ʨʰi21
                  to be cryptic, enigmatic

                  吃格子饭 / 吃格子飯
                  ʨʰiɪʔ4433 tsɿ5521
                  to be imprisoned

                  红颜绿色 / 紅顏綠色
                  ɦoŋ22 ŋɛ55 loʔ33 səʔ21
                  multi-coloured, the same as Mandarin 五颜六色 / 五顏六色.

                  酒醉糊涂 / 酒醉糊塗
                  ʨiɤ33 tsø55 ɦu33 du21
                  drink to the point of belligerence

                  The last one has an example to go with it, also Shanghainese. Roll over the underlined characters for explanations on individual characters or pairs that differ from Mandarin usage.

                   ɦizã tsãʨiɤ tsø ɦu dumoɲɪɲ

                  As usual you can also get these through Twitter by following @ AnnalsofWu. Until next week.


                    星期沪 - Idioms lessons - 星期沪

                    The following are phrases/idioms you'll find in both Mandarin and Wu. The superscript numbers indicate tone curves, while the superscript h marks aspiration, the puff of air that distinguishes between Mandarin 读/讀 and 图/圖.

                    ʨʰiɪʔ2222 mi5521
                    ̩to be unemployed

                    ʨʰi44 sɿ553321
                    go to the restroom

                    tʰi5533 ɲiɪʔ33 ʨiɤ21
                    a very long time

                    The restroom one is obviously not coming to us from Middle Chinese. First one to work out the explanation gets a gold red star.

                    You can also receive these through Twitter every Saturday by following @AnnalsofWu.


                      星期沪 - Small Talk lessons - 星期沪

                      The internet is down at my apartment again and so Shanghainese Saturday is late once more. This week's theme is small talk.

                       nong jiao sa ge ming si?
                       "What is your name?"
                       MSM: 你叫什么名字?

                       nong si sa di fang nin?
                       "Where are you from?"
                       MSM: 你是什么地方人?

                       nong zi le a li?
                       "Where do you live?"
                       MSM: 你住在那里?

                      With these few phrases, the grammar almost perfectly mirrors that of the Standard Mandarin. 啥, pronounced "sa", uniformly takes the place of 什么 in the Shanghai dialect of Wu*.

                      - - -
                      * Though this is not the case in all Northern Wu dialects as has been discussed here before.

                        星期沪 - Communication lessons - 星期沪

                        This week's Shanghainese Saturday Sunday Monday… day covers a few tools of communication. Speaking of which, the phone company hasn't managed to get me online at my new place yet, thus the delays.


                         mobile phone


                        And an earlier entry that never made it past Twitter, a phrase for when communication breaks down:

                         noŋ gaŋ sa?
                         What did you say?

                        As usual you can receive these phrases as well as updates of the site via Twitter by following @AnnalsofWu.


                          星期沪-Teas lessons - 星期沪

                          Well, It's Saturday. And this week's theme is tea.

                          绿茶 - loʔ11 zo23, green tea

                          红茶 - ɦoŋ22 zo44, black tea

                          茶叶 - zo22 ɦiɪʔ, tea leaf

                          奶茶 - nɑ22 zo44, milk tea or bubble tea

                          The letter ɦ is darker and, well, raspier, than the standard English h sound. O is like it's name in English. ʔ marks a stopping of the air like you're holding your breath for just an instant. The standard lowercase i is like "ee" and the ɪ is like the vowel in the word "if" or "sit". Finally the ɑ is like when you have to say "aaah" at the doctor's office. It's further back in you mouth than the a in "bar".

                          As usual you can find these as well as tweets by following @AnnalsofWu on Twitter, assuming you can get over the GFW.


                            A semi-academic linguistics blog about Sinotibetan, previously focused primarily on Wú, a Sinitic language spoken in the Yangtze Delta region. Topics now include historical linguistics, documentation, language rights, sociolinguistics and learning materials, as well as acting as the dev blog for Phonemica from time to time.

                            I'm a linguist based in Asia, working on documentation and historical development of Sinotibetan. In addition to academic research, I'm heavily involved in Phonemica, an organisation that promotes crowd-sourced preservation of local languages.

                            I'm currently in the field, so getting in touch isn't easy. However you can try to email me at the following address and I'll respond as soon as I'm able:

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