« HP 12c — 30th Anniversary Edition | Home | Face Mug w Cookie Cubbie »

September 16, 2011

Chinese has no word for –ing


Wrote Johnson [sic] in The Economist, "A friend currently in Kunming, in southwestern China, sends in a doozy [above].... He translates it as 'fall fashions, selling fast.' (The characters are autumn, style, hot and sell in that order.)  What's unusual is the borrowing of just a single bit of English: that '-ing' ending.  Chinese doesn't have a progressive aspect that closely mirrors the English 'running' and such. So this seems to be nothing more than to add a little foreign glamour to a bland shoe-sale sign."

"Here none of the many characters pronounced 'ying' were used. Though one might have been, it probably would have been confusing, since the characters also have meanings, and none of them has (yet?) been conventionalised as representing the English '-ing.'"

"Addendum: Ben Zimmer notes that Mark Liberman covered this ground in 2008. If so, the real news here may be that Chinese '-ing' has made it from Hong Kong [below]


and Taiwan, where we might expect this to begin, as far as Kunming. It's a big city, but far inland, away from China's outward-facing coast."

September 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Chinese has no word for –ing:


The comments to this entry are closed.