Houston Community News >> Chinglish Adds Flavor to Alphabet Soup

2/19/2008 (China Daily)-- San Diego-based consultancy group - Global Language Monitor claims Chinglish is adding the most spice to the alphabet soup of today's English by contributing more words than any other single source to the global language.

And the more Chinese I learn, the more appetizing this seems.

Subscribing to the Elizabethan definition of a word as "a thing spoken and understood", GLM is using a predictive quantities indicator (PQI) to scan the Web for emergent English words and track their mainstream use over time.

As GLM president Paul JJ Payack says: "Language colors the way you think. Thinking in Chinese is completely different."

And every day that I learn more Chinese, the more vibrant this coloration becomes in my mind. This is mostly because of the descriptive nature of the language, in which many words are created by mixing and matching diasylobolic words to create new diasylobolic words.

Generally speaking, English is more definitional, so its words are more terminological than descriptive. For example, a "spider" is a spider - the word in itself tells you nothing about what it represents. But the Chinese word for spider (zhizhu) literally translates as "clever insect" - a description it earns in Chinese by spinning intricate webs to ensnare prey.

In Chinese, you don't ride a bike, bus or train; you instead respectively ride a (zixinche) "self-walk vehicle", a (gonggongqiche) "public all-together gas vehicle" or a (huoche) "fire vehicle".

A massage is a (anmo) "press and touch". A pimple is a (qingdou) "youth bean". Investing is to (touzi) "throw funds". And when you don't make your money back, the disappointment is conveyed directly as (saoxing) "sweep interest".

While linguists ballyhoo English's capacity for specificity, this has in some ways become its weakness, as the definitional often trumps the descriptive, with wonderful exceptions, such as "rainbow". But that's where the other widely vaunted strength of the language - its capacity to ravenously gobble up other languages' words - could become a beautiful thing. And I'm glad to know the English language is developing a growing taste for Chinese food.

In the 1960s, there were about 250 million English speakers, mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom and their former colonies.

Today, the same number of Chinese possesses some command of the language, and that number is growing. One possibility is the plethora of localized "lishes", such as Chinglish, Hinglish (a Hindi-English hybrid) and Spanglish (an English-Spanish hybrid) could branch so far from English, they become mutually unintelligible tongues sharing a common root, much as Latin did in Medieval Europe.

Many linguists agree that if the lishes splinter, Chinglish will likely become the most prominent offshoot by virtue of sheer numbers, giving Chinese primary ownership of the language.

Perhaps then, English could become more beautiful than I could now describe - at least with its currently existing words.

(Contributed by China Daily)