The Linguistics thread

Changgi

Member
Hello!

I decided to remake a thread discussing linguistics, after some encouragement. This is where we talk about languages! ... Human languages, not programming languages.

As some of you may know, I'm now studying in the UK and the topic of diseases was being brought up. Now, before coming here, I had only heard the names in my own native language. However, some of these are explanatory enough, I have a feeling if I just translated them straight to English, doctors might understand what disease I'm referring to. Have a guess!

Sugar-in-urine illness
Silver scales ringworm
Joint inflammation
Old-person-crazy-dull disease/brain devolution disease
Self-shut-in disease
Love-birthing illness
Crazy dog disease
Mania-depression disease
Red eye disease

(This has to do with morphemes, loanwords, and Chinese if you guys are interested in these linguistic topics)
 
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Ingemann

Guest
We prefer to keep our diseases in a dead language that no one really speaks anymore. It also makes it a tad easier or diplomatic or something, to tell someone that they have "old-person-crazy-dull disease" e.g. :)

Do you name diseases after people in China?
 

Changgi

Member
We prefer to keep our diseases in a dead language that no one really speaks anymore. It also makes it a tad easier or diplomatic or something, to tell someone that they have "old-person-crazy-dull disease" e.g. :)

Do you name diseases after people in China?
Not really. There are only so many surnames in Chinese to begin with. There are probably billions of people who share my surname who aren't related to me. Also, naming a disease according to a person is a bit "meaningless" per se if you ask me, because you can't derive what disease it is from the name, and thus the disease name doesn't "mean" anything relevant to the disease.

All these Latin names mean nothing to me and all I saw was a bunch of psodfowekro, artirhfisfjsdjf, and Alzjhrethtrjwehrj's disease and I never remembered how to spell them until recently, particularly cause I've never heard them being pronounced. So I wouldn't think that using Latin names is "easier" to the common person, but I guess it being a universal name makes it easier to communicate cross-nationally, yes. It doesn't help, however, that we've never heard the Latin names of the diseases and everyone here just ever uses their Chinese names, so that benefit is lost. I mean, the doctor would know, but you wouldn't.

The Chinese names are more self-explanatory regarding the diseases they describe (I hear German calls the sugar-in-urine disease something similar too).

There are two other reasons for that: Traditionally, Chinese does not generally use phonetic loans: That is, borrowing a word purely for their sounds, because every word in Chinese already has a meaning, so if you try to produce say, "arthritis" in Chinese using existing words that are pronounced like that, it would get a bunch of meanings in the word that are unrelated (though there are clever translations that are able to translate both phonetically and semantically).

Also, Chinese isn't a language that really lends itself to being able to add new characters. New words are instead created from combining existing characters.

But yeah, because "old-man-crazy-dull" seems a bit derogatory, it's been recently renamed to "brain devolution disease", but many still refer to it by the old name cause that's how we always called it so it's hard to change and no one remembers the new name.
 
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Ingemann

Guest
Not really. There are only so many surnames in Chinese to begin with. There are probably billions of people who share my surname who aren't related to me. Also, naming a disease according to a person is a bit "meaningless" per se if you ask me, because you can't derive what disease it is from the name, and thus the disease name doesn't "mean" anything relevant to the disease.

All these Latin names mean nothing to me and all I saw was a bunch of psodfowekro, artirhfisfjsdjf, and Alzjhrethtrjwehrj's disease and I never remembered how to spell them until recently, particularly cause I've never heard them being pronounced. So I wouldn't think that using Latin names is "easier" to the common person, but I guess it being a universal name makes it easier to communicate cross-nationally, yes. It doesn't help, however, that we've never heard the Latin names of the diseases and everyone here just ever uses their Chinese names, so that benefit is lost. I mean, the doctor would know, but you wouldn't.

The Chinese names are more self-explanatory regarding the diseases they describe (I hear German calls the sugar-in-urine disease something similar too).

There are two other reasons for that: Traditionally, Chinese does not generally use phonetic loans: That is, borrowing a word purely for their sounds, because every word in Chinese already has a meaning, so if you try to produce say, "arthritis" in Chinese using existing words that are pronounced like that, it would get a bunch of meanings in the word that are unrelated (though there are clever translations that are able to translate both phonetically and semantically).

Also, Chinese isn't a language that really lends itself to being able to add new characters. New words are instead created from combining existing characters.

But yeah, because "old-man-crazy-dull" seems a bit derogatory, it's been recently renamed to "brain devolution disease", but many still refer to it by the old name cause that's how we always called it so it's hard to change and no one remembers the new name.
I bet that "sugar-in-urine" disease, is probably what we call "sukkersyge" in Danish, literally: Sugar disease. It makes sense to give diseases names that actually makes sense, but it also makes sense that no words make sense apart from their historical context, so that a lot of Latin names are used here, is often because the organs etc was discovered by the Roman pre-and-post culture, and therefore spoken with clear meaning ala Chinese once upon a time. However, the Roman empire collapsed, and this is one of the remains. I bet you also have words in Chinese from lost dynasties, dunno. But speaking Latin is a fairly strong paradigm persisting from ancient eras. The culture was peaking around the year 0 in the Gregorian calendar. So ~2000 years ago, still leaving its footprint here and there in the western world to this day.
 

chance

predictably random
Forum Staff
Moderator
So I wouldn't think that using Latin names is "easier" to the common person, but I guess it being a universal name makes it easier to communicate cross-nationally, yes. It doesn't help, however, that we've never heard the Latin names of the diseases and everyone here just ever uses their Chinese names, so that benefit is lost. I mean, the doctor would know, but you wouldn't.
I think this is probably true is many languages and cultures. Common ailments had descriptive names. As the population became more educated, those names were gradually replaced by more scientific terms. But the original names are still used, and understood.

Your examples are interesting. I can recognize a few of them. In west Texas (US), I remember hearing elderly people use the term "sweet water" to refer to diabetes. Like your "Sugar-in-urine illness" example. And most English-speakers know that a "mad dog" means it has rabies (like your crazy dog example).

Red eye disease must be conjunctivitis. Sometimes called "pink eye" in the west.

But the "love birthing illness" baffles me. Could it be postpartum depression?
 

Changgi

Member
I guess, yeah. Chinese also had some linguistic influence some would compare to Latin to East Asia. A lot of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese words are borrowed or have their roots in Chinese. But they also used Chinese to make words (e.g. "telephone" is "electric speech", and "economy", etc. in Japanese), and these are re-borrowed into Chinese for those concepts, as evidently, telephones and the concept of economy didn't exist.

I've never heard of "sweet water" and "mad dog" so it's nice to know they have similar names for them in English too.

@chance,

You got those 3 right.

And no, love-birthing illness isn't that, but you're on the right track! It's less to do with actually giving birth in the expression, but it means the illness is "given birth to" through love.

That reminds me, there's an expression which translates to "post-holiday remnants syndrome" which describes the phenomenon of schoolchildren not wanting to go to school and study right after a holiday. It's obviously not an actual disease, but just a name for the phenomenon.

Anyway, how about the rest of the diseases I mentioned? The silver scales ringworm one though probably takes some medical knowledge but it's common enough that people know what I'm talking about when I brought it up in the UK. But the "mania-depression disease" should be quite obvious.
 
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Ingemann

Guest
Well, we usually have two words for every disease in my language, a danish term and a latin term, who uses what differs. But the latin phrases are very practical in the sense that they can be used all over the western world despite language barriers. Now, what have the romans ever done for us?
 

chance

predictably random
Forum Staff
Moderator
And no, love-birthing illness isn't that, but you're on the right track! It's less to do with actually giving birth in the expression, but it means the illness is "given birth to" through love.
All I can think of are things like "blinded by love". Or "hopelessly in love". But nothing to do with giving birth (figuratively). So I give up on this one. Or I need more hints.

The other ones are probably:
Joint inflammation = arthritis
Old-person-crazy-dull disease/brain devolution disease = Alzheimer's Disease
Self-shut-in disease = social anxiety (Not a specific disorder. It's common to several different psychological problems.)
 

Ninety

Member
And no, love-birthing illness isn't that, but you're on the right track! It's less to do with actually giving birth in the expression, but it means the illness is "given birth to" through love.
It's not like syphilis or something is it
 

Changgi

Member
Joint inflammation is self-explanatory, yeah.

I'm surprised you got Alzheimer's. The Chinese one really stands out among those names when translated. First heard of the English for it from @TsukaYuriko but never knew it was that until a few years back.

And self-shut-in is autism. Yeah... Not too self-explanatory, this one, but I don't know why.

And the love-birthing one is AIDS.

I need to study for my Japanese tests next week but in the process of doing so today, I talked about some cool linguistics stuff relating to Chinese/Japanese and Latin/French. Good times.

I also use Romanizations that are best suited for the particular individual when explaining pronunciations. Like I have a friend who has learnt German and a friend who speaks Spanish. When describing sounds other languages, I cater to them by representing the sounds (that aren't in English) using German and Spanish conventions so as to most effectively get my points across. Works well for individuals but probably less optimal for a broad audience.
 
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TheUltimate

Guest
Now that is something I never thought about.

A place to start is by asking what Spanish culture has that Germans, English, French and Italians don't. My first thought is the Spanish like to take a siesta, which gives you one part of the noche before the siesta and one after. But it doesn't explain buenas dias. Maybe it's closer to "may this night be good, and the nights afterwards too", or it's just old phrasing standing the test of time.
 

Yanevski

Member
It's funny how in English you have all these rules. All these exceptions, tenses, pronunciations, accents etc. It's almost like every person in the world is speaking their own version of English!
Even after six years of speaking it you stumble on (perfectly valid) sentences like "Women men girls love meet die." completely baffled what the hell they're trying to say.
 

chance

predictably random
Forum Staff
Moderator
Maybe it's closer to "may this night be good, and the nights afterwards too"... (snip)
I suspect it's related to that. The Spanish phrases may be shortened forms of longer greetings about days or nights in general -- not just this one.
 

Changgi

Member
It's funny how in English you have all these rules. All these exceptions, tenses, pronunciations, accents etc. It's almost like every person in the world is speaking their own version of English!
Even after six years of speaking it you stumble on (perfectly valid) sentences like "Women men girls love meet die." completely baffled what the hell they're trying to say.
That's probably why in English class we were taught not to say "how to pronounce X" like how one would normally say in Cantonese, but "how do you pronounce X", cause then you probably need to convert it to your own accent or something.

I suspect it's related to that. The Spanish phrases may be shortened forms of longer greetings about days or nights in general -- not just this one.
Hmm true...

And I still can't fully understand that women men girls love die whatever sentence even after reading the explanation. Good bye, 1-verb-in-sentence-only.
 

chance

predictably random
Forum Staff
Moderator
I was googling around and I found references to an old Castilian blessing that may be the origin of today's buenos dias. It goes:

Buenos y venturosos dias nos de Dios (May God give us/you good and blessed days) The implication is good days from now on, not just today. So I think @TheUltimate was right about this.

And I still can't fully understand that women men girls love die whatever sentence even after reading the explanation.
Yeah, that's a really awkward construction. It may be grammatically correct, but it's not a reasonable way to communicate the idea that "When men (who are loved by girls) meet women, those women die."
 

Changgi

Member
I was googling around and I found references to an old Castilian blessing that may be the origin of today's buenos dias. It goes:

Buenos y venturosos dias nos de Dios (May God give us/you good and blessed days) The implication is good days from now on, not just today. So I think @TheUltimate was right about this.
Interesting... I Googled around a bit myself but I wasn't able to find anything reliable, mostly just speculation, so thanks for that!

I remember hearing that "Goodbye" was a contraction of "God bless ye" (was that for English or Russian even? I'm really exhausted right now and can't remember properly), but I haven't looked into it to see whether it was actually true. Nonetheless, there are quite a number of cases across languages where things used to be a long phrase which are now just a shorthand.

Yeah, that's a really awkward construction. It may be grammatically correct, but it's not a reasonable way to communicate the idea that "When men (who are loved by girls) meet women, those women die."
Unless you're super lazy like some of my internet friends, I suppose :p (Also if there's an implicated meaning to that message then I'm not seeing it)
 

Changgi

Member
I've been reminded of something interesting...
In Hong Kong, we use the same floor numbering systems as in the US, in Chinese: The floor you go into when you walk into a building on the ground, is called the first floor (一樓). However, since the Brits ruled us, in English, that floor is called the Ground floor, and the floor above that is the First floor. The buttons in the lift/elevator though use arabic numerals, and refer to the Chinese floors, so often times you get foreigners visiting, pressing the number 2, and then when the lift doors open, they see a sign saying "二樓 1/F" and then they get all confused.
 

chance

predictably random
Forum Staff
Moderator
Floor numbering is getting more confusing each year. I travel a lot, and even here within the US there's variation. Newer hotels in LA use numbering schemes like P, G, L, 3, 4, 5, etc for Parking (below ground), Ground level (street level), Lobby (often above street level), and then residence floors starting with 3, 4, etc.

Older hotels use L, 2, 3, 4, etc. But some use G, 1, 2, etc for the same floor layout.

As long as the elevator (lift) numbering matches the floor numbering, I'm fine with it.
 
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