Musings on Mandarin

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Location: Canada
Languages: Speaks: Spanish (N), English
Studies: Latin, French, Mandarin
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Musings on Mandarin

Postby Querneus » Mon Nov 22, 2021 7:53 am

And here I am, trying to start another log... Not that I found much worth posting in the last ones, but I can try again.

The goal: inspired by Dr Mack Rettosy's log, 500 hours of lone study, by the summer solstice of 2022, that is June 21st. This amounts to about 2.3 hours per day.

Of course, Dr. Rettosy's goal is to eventually reach 5000 hours, here I'm aiming at 1/10 of that for now. I find it a bit hard to study Mandarin partly because I enjoy studying Latin so much more, partly because being tired after work doesn't help. My current level in Mandarin is some vague form of intermediate. I'm much better at reading/writing than listening/speaking.

Reporting a bare number of hours done isn't very interesting, so I'll also be posting new things that I learn about Mandarin in every post, which may interest other Mandarin learners. I have a girlfriend from Taipei and often ask her questions about usage, and that has to be born in mind whenever I post about synonyms. The shades of meaning and nuances understood by her social entourage in Taipei may well be different from that of Beijing or elsewhere, or even from that of other speech communities within Taiwan itself. I'll usually say "in Taiwan, apparently..." but this should be understood as a subset of Taiwanese Mandarin.

Let's get started!


I studied three hours today, after typing up the above.


So, I learned about the negative connotations of the passive marker 被 bèi some time ago. Yeah, it often has an adverse connotation, similarly to "get X-ed" in English in some respects (get smacked, get hit, get broken...). As Yip and Rimmington put it in Intermediate Chinese (2009, 2nd ed.), page 18:
It should also be noted that the 被 bèi structure is often used to narrate an unpleasant event:

他被爸爸骂了一顿。 tā bèi bàba mà le yī dùn
He was told off by his father.

她让老师批评的哭了起来 。 tā ràng lǎoshī pīpíng de kū le qǐlái
She was criticized so much by the teacher that she began to cry.

花瓶叫小吴(给)打破了 。 huāpíng jiào xiǎo wú (gěi) dǎ pò le
The vase was broken by Xiao Wu.

This interestingly came up when I took the NTNU intermediate online test (just for fun) yesterday. One of the questions involved a passive sentence where 被 bèi and 由 yóu, both meaning 'by [a doer]', were among the possible answers to complete it. I selected 被 bèi, but the correct answer was 由 yóu. This was likely because 由 yóu is neutral, whereas 被 bèi has that negative connotation... Tricky exam question!


On a whim, I wondered about the word for 'quiver' /ˈkwɪvɚ/ (i.e. the bag an archer uses to carry arrows). I found three terms listed in my dictionaries: 箭袋 jiàndài, 箭筒 jiàntǒng, 箭囊 jiànnáng. (Curiously, neither the online MDBG dictionary nor the LINE English-Chinese dictionary register a word for 'quiver' at all.) Girlfriend says she prefers the first one, after I asked her which one is more common. This made me wonder about the word in my other languages of interest...

Spanish: el carcaj /kaɾˈkax/ (you see it in videogames at least), la aljaba (rare, I'd say, unless that's what actual archers say), el goldre (pretty damn rare)
French: le carquois /kaʁkwɑ/
Latin: pharetra pharetrae haec, gōrȳtos gōrȳtī hic (also gōrȳtus, cōrȳtos, cōrȳtus)
German: der Köcher (pl. Köcher)
Arabic: جعبة dʒaʕba / dʒuʕba (pl. جعاب dʒiʕaab)

If you're interested in Spanish words ending in -j /x/, there's also el reloj 'clock' and la troj 'granary, food storeroom' (a damn rare word though).
Last edited by Querneus on Mon Nov 22, 2021 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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