View Full Version : Crazy Orientals/Funny Writing Revisited: Proper Names
05-23-2001, 03:23 PM
- - - Okay, what do Japanese/Chinese/related languages do for proper names? I found a book that showed the script as well as the brush forms of Chinese, and originally most did kinda visually resemble what they intended to represent.
-So how do you draw a "Ralph"? How are names invented in these languages? That is, how do you invent a proper symbol for an abstract name, when the sound of the name has nothing to do with the characteristics of the symbol? Do they invent names at all, or all names taken from some original, ancient set? DO they use abstract personal names? - MC
05-23-2001, 05:41 PM
In Chinese, names are intelligible words, not nonsense syllables. They can be translated. A girl might be named something like "Spring Swallow" (the bird swallow, not the verb) or "Cherry Blossom". A boy might be named for some sort of desirable virtue. In Hong Kong, many people have names from a non-Chinese language (English) in addition to the traditional sort of name. Anyone with a non-Chinese name can represent his name with Chinese characters that phonetically approximate the sound.
In Japan, both ideograms (from the Chinese) and a phonetic "Syllabary" are used. Names can be written wholly phonetically, or using ideograms to convey the root meaning. I'm not sure of the actual custom, but this would allow a name to differ slightly from a non-name word, or have no "literal" meaning.
05-23-2001, 09:17 PM
To expand on foolsguinea's excellent post:
Chinese personal names have three syllables, usually.
First syllable: [example]Ai
This is one of, IIRC, about 100 words used as Chinese surnames. It also has a meaning.
Second syllable: [ex] Yue
This is sometimes called a generational name, because relatives in the same generation often had the same one. This isn't that common anymore, I think. At any rate, this is a normal Chinese word.
Third syllable: [ex] Han (big surprise, eh)
This is another ordinary Chinese word. The last two syllables are often chosen to express an idea or image.
American names are transcribed by syllable, although this is limited by the need to have a sensible name and to reflect the roots of the name.
For instance, John A---- became Ai Yue Han, because the root of John is Iohann and because it makes a meaningful phrase, even though the sound of John could be better replicated by Zhi An.
Also, if there are future questions on the issue, could we avoid the incredibly offensive names that have seem to become common practice? I realize it's meant jokingly, but it seems in poor taste to me.
05-23-2001, 09:27 PM
Oops, forgot. This is the absolute best thing ever for Chinese GQs. It has the answer to the questions that seem to inevitably pop up every few weeks:
This link lists all the Chinese surnames. The problem is, it's part of a frameset. Clicking the names is supposed to open a definition in another window, but it won't unless you navigate in from the main page.
Zhongwen.com also has a list of common transformations of English names you can find pretty easily from the start page.
05-23-2001, 09:40 PM
Ok, I suck.
I poked around and found direct links where the translation support works. Click on any character to see pronunciation and definition.
This the surname list.
This is the personal name list.
This is a page that makes up a Chinese name for you. Don't use it for anything important unless you want Chinese people to laugh at you.
05-23-2001, 11:54 PM
More than you ever wanted to know about Japanese names:
Surnames: Until the Meji era (mid-1800's) surnames were for the nobility only. Many modern surnames are geographical in nature (Tanaka="middle paddy", Yamashita "below the mountain") or descriptive of the families profession. Some older surnames are from geographic locations. They are usually written in Kanji ("Chinese characters"). Most surnames consist of two characters of one or two syllables, so most surnames are from two to to four syllables. Many name characters have differnt readings, so it can be difficult to read the name correctly, unless it's common (Tanaka, in the example above, is the Japanese equivillent to "Smith", being about the most common surname).
General given names: As foolsguinea said above, given names can be a mix of kana (Japanese phonetic syllables) and kanji. There are usually distinctly different male and female names. Also generational name elements are often given to all the children of one generation (ie Aki, or "bright",: Akihiro,, Akiko, Akina, etc.). Name elements might also be shared between parents and children. (-hito in the Imperial family: Hirohito, Akihito, being the previous and current emperors, and Naruhito being the crown prince).* The stroke count (how many lines/strokes the characters consist of) is of importance. Many Japanese visit a Shinto shrine before naming a child to consult the priest for the correct lucky stroke count based on traditional Japanese/Chinese astrology. There are 2,050 characters recognised by the Japanese government for names, and these can have ten or more different readings (like the surnmame characters above). Most given names do have a meaning, although the may be nonsensical of very obscure. Common naming conventions include birth order (Ichiro="first son", Saburo="third son", usually only males), pleasant meaning or assosiation (Tetsuo="Man of Philosophy", Hiroshi="Man of Broad Knowledge", Yumi="grace"), birth month (Satsuki="fifth month" or "May", Nanaho="seventh month" or "July" + "sail"), or other significant meanings, especially numbers, (Sanjuro="thirty child", Isoroku="fifty six"). The last examples could be anything related to the number, such as fathers age, birth date, babies birth weight, etc. It is also common to name children after a popular hero or celebrity (When Akihito married Emperess Michiko in 1959, there was a boom in Michikos).
Male given names: Male given names are often two characters of two syllables, as with surnames (Tomohiro, Toshiaki, Fuminori) or one character of three syllables (Hiroshi). Birth order names (-ro, -ji, and -o endings) are usually masculine. Traditionally "masculine" qualities are popular: power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, etc..
Female given names: Most female given names are one character of two syllables or two characters of one syllable each, followed by a suffix. The most common suffix is -ko, "child", followed by -mi, usually "beauty", and -e, "given", "blessing", or "picture" depending on the character used. As with male names, traditionally "feminine" traits are popular: grace, beauty, purity, etc.. Birth months (Satsuki, Nanaho) tend to be feminine. Flowers are also poular faminine names: lily, wisteria (sp?), cherry blossom, etc.
* The element -hito is exclusivly to the Imperial family. Also interesting to note, the Imperial family has no surname. Those who marry into the family, such as Masako Owada (the crown princess), lose their family name (so the crown princess is known simply as Masako Himeko, or "Princess Masako").
05-24-2001, 01:25 AM
Outstanding post, Osakadave, but you neglected to mention that Japanese given names are really only wishful thinking on the part of the parents...after all, my daughter, whose Japanese name is "Shizuka", yaks from the moment she wakes up until she falls asleep....not the quiet, peaceful child we had expected...
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