Bathrobe's "Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Language Site" (aka cjvlang.com) is an armchair excursion into three fascinating languages of the Orient -- now expanded to four with the addition of Mongolian.
It will take you on a trip through the familiar and the exotic -- the way Harry Potter has been translated into these totally non-European languages, where they got their names for the days of the week, and of course, the nature of the scripts the languages are written in. The journey will give you glimpses of history, a close-up of the workings of culture, and the thrill of discovering the unexpected.
You won't need special equipment to enjoy the site -- just a healthy curiosity about language and cultures. To make Chinese, Japanese, and Mongolian as accessible as French, Spanish, or other more familiar languages, pronunciation and meaning are shown alongside the Chinese or Mongolian characters. (The site has largely been converted to Unicode.)
There is also a section of Photos, which contains material about Oriental stone lions, and other stray matters...
Before we begin, a bit of background...
Thumbnail background: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese were originally complete 'strangers' belonging to different language families. Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. The affiliation of Japanese is still under dispute, although it is often assigned to something called 'Altaic'. Mongolian has also been consigned to 'Altaic', but the very existence of Altaic is fairly dubious. Vietnamese belongs to Mon-Khmer (although it has also been argued that it should, like Chinese, belong to Sino-Tibetan).
China is one of the world's oldest civilisations, with a written culture stretching back considerably more than 4,000 years. Roughly 2,000 years ago (give or take a few hundred years), the less developed Vietnamese and Japanese cultures came into China's orbit, whether willingly or unwillingly, creating what might be termed an 'East Asian cultural sphere'. (The other modern member is Korea, which is not dealt with here.)
Mongolia holds a completely different position vis-à-vis China. It is the remainder of one of the many steppe peoples throughout history that harrassed and in some cases conquered China. Later the Mongols were brought under the control of another northern ethnic group, the Manchus, and served as junior partners in ruling their Chinese Empire. When this empire fell, the northern part of the Mongols broke away from China with Russian help, leaving their southern compatriots under Chinese sovereignty.
In modern times, the impact of the Western world has brought about huge changes. The Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cultures have abandoned large parts of their traditional way of life. Linguistically, there was at first considerable interchange among them as they met the Western challenge, but in the 20th century they began moving apart. In its fascination with the West, Japan turned its back on Chinese culture. Vietnam completely abandoned Chinese characters. The Mongols are divided between the increasingly sinicised Inner Mongolians and the staunchly anti-Chinese country of Mongolia.
Comparing China, Japan, and Vietnam today, all this is apparent - the original strong identities of the three languages, the shared Chinese background built up during more than a millennium of contact, and the adaptation to Western influence in modern times. Mongolian, on the other hand, is a language that has never borrowed from China in the massive and systematic manner typical of the Sinosphere countries.
What you will find on this site:
1. Days of the Week in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian - Why should three East Asian languages that are often so similar in vocabulary be so different in naming the days of the week? And how is Mongolian related to the rest? At first it all seems rather easy, but the more you look, the more fascinating it becomes.
2. Allusions to Classical Chinese Poetry in Pink Floyd - A surprising link between one of the rock icons of the 20th century and the poetry of an ancient civilisation.
3. Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese - An international best seller translated into the three CJV languages. How could we keep away? Names of characters, chapter titles, lexical comparisons (comparisons of vocabulary), word play, etc. (Links to Chinese-language site map (Simplified); Chinese-language site map (Traditional), Japanese language site map.)
4. Le Petit Prince (小王子, 星の王子様, Hoàng Tử Bé) -- 'The Little Prince' in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. There are far more translations of this book than Harry Potter!
5. CJV Writing Systems - A description of the CJV writing systems which attempts to cover what I consider the essence -- less about the exotic forms of the characters and more about how they are used to write the language.
6. Year-on-year - a comprehensive look at the way that English makes comparisons across time, as in sentences like Exports increased by 15% over the previous year.
7. Spicks & Specks - My "quasi-blog": Miscellaneous items that don't belong anywhere else: 'Year of the Sheep or Year of the Goat?', 'Weapons of Mass Destruction', a sign encouraging people to flush the toilet, translation of the Chinese word fengqing, 'Mind the Gap' in Japanese and Cantonese, the perils of translating via a third language (in this case, Chinese), the naming of the Bell Miner, Vinegar Museums around the World, and much else.
8. Parsesnips - My second "quasi-blog": A ragbag of notes, comments, and analyses of textual and grammatical matters that I've come across.
9. Pictorial - Pictures of the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival in Australia, stone lions...
10. Some of my Mongolian lessons using the traditional script.
Now at sibagu.com:
Birds of East & Mainland Southeast Asia: A Glossary of Bird Species - An exploration of the way East and Southeast Asian languages have tackled the demands of modern science in a part of nature close to daily life -- the naming of bird species. Now covers five countries:
Birds of Mongolia (Монгол орны шувуу ◊ 蒙古的鸟类 ◊ 蒙古的鳥類 ◊ モンゴルの野鳥 ◊ 몽골어조류 ◊ Moğolistan Kuşları)
I've done a certain amount of background research for this site, mainly to prevent gross errors of fact. However, my information is neither exhaustive nor authoritative. Much is from dictionaries. I would be delighted to receive corrections or further information.