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Why is "America" written "亞美利加"?


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I don't quite remember where I read it from, but I just found this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcription_into_Chinese_characters#Connotations

Maybe I had it wrong and the Chinese people interpreted it as Europeans calling it that.

but if you read here in this map:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanhai_Yudi_Quantu

it was a Jesuit inspired map. Does this help? a little? (maybe?)

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@MakMak

Does this help? a little? (maybe?)

Nope :P

My basic issue with blaming foreigners for the name is that if the Chinese really find it that offensive, why do they keep using it? Nothing forced the Chinese to use it then (unless it was part of Treaty of Nanking or the Treaty of Tianjin, and I just missed that), and certainly nothing is forcing them to use it now.

But back to your links. One says "The Shanhai Yudi Quantu is known to have be highly influenced by the Jesuit missions in China". Emphasis mine, on INFLUENCED. Even if the Jesuits invented the name, they didn't make the map, and the Chinese that compiled the Sancai Tuhui could have changed it. The other link says "During the Qing Dynasty, some Chinese scholars were unhappy to find China was located on a continent called 亞細亞 (亚细亚 yàxìyà), i.e. Asia, as 亞 means "secondary" and 細 "small", believing that the Europeans were deliberately belittling the East.[2]" How vague is that? "some" scholars. And again, if they didn't like the name, why did they continue using it?

I freely admit that I'm no expert on this, but something just smells so obviously wrong here.

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But back to your links. One says "The Shanhai Yudi Quantu is known to have be highly influenced by the Jesuit missions in China". Emphasis mine, on INFLUENCED. Even if the Jesuits invented the name, they didn't make the map, and the Chinese that compiled the Sancai Tuhui could have changed it. The other link says "During the Qing Dynasty, some Chinese scholars were unhappy to find China was located on a continent called 亞細亞 (亚细亚 yàxìyà), i.e. Asia, as 亞 means "secondary" and 細 "small", believing that the Europeans were deliberately belittling the East.[2]" How vague is that? "some" scholars. And again, if they didn't like the name, why did they continue using it?

you know that's a really really good point, I should look into that. I agree something is fishy though... if you're able to check out the second link I posted, it seems a little more "backed up"

they also mention how you will find Chinese people calling themselves "亞洲人" but rather 中國人 or 中華人

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Isn't that pretty much in line with an Irish person referring to themselves as either British or Irish, as opposed to European, though? (Perhaps that wasn't the best example)

That doesn't speak to the validity (or offensiveness, as the case may be) of the name of the continent. I don't go around calling myself a North American, but that doesn't mean I have a problem with the name.

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During the Qing Dynasty, some Chinese scholars were unhappy...

Interestingly, the map was made ("published in 1607/1609") during the Ming Dynasty (the last dynasty to be run by the Han) but yet it was the Manchus who first complained? Or maybe it was the Han scholars within the Qing who were offended. I could see that. They were probably especially sensitive as the Manchu ("barbarians") were then running their country.

Again from WP:

The term "Asia" is originally a concept exclusively of Western civilization.[7] The peoples of ancient Asia (Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Persians, Arabs etc.) never conceived the idea of Asia, simply because they did not see themselves collectively. In their perspective, they were vastly varied civilizations, contrary to ancient European belief.

[The statement concerns "ancient" peoples and I don't know at what point this view was no longer widely held by the Chinese.]

If, during the Ming, the Chinese still did not see themselves collectively as a "component" of Asia, and since no one has pointed out that the Ming complained, it is conceivable to conclude that the Ming were not concerned about the transliteration of "Asia". It was of secondary (no pun intended) importance to their primary view of China being the preeminent, standalone entity that it was and, thus, not really part of this thing called "Asia".

This clearly is a highly speculative argument that the transliteration is, in fact, "an "innocent" transcription...unwittingly interpreted as reflecting the meaning of the original".

Looking forward to someone supplying a better theory supported by credible sources.

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If, during the Ming, the Chinese still did not see themselves collectively as a "component" of Asia, and since no one has pointed out that the Ming complained, it is conceivable to conclude that the Ming were not concerned about the transliteration of "Asia". It was of secondary (no pun intended) importance to their primary view of China being the preeminent, standalone entity that it was and, thus, not really part of this thing called "Asia".

so essentially, this is a European creation that accidentally caused discomfort to the eastern peoples?

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Some more food for thought.

There are several place names on that map that contain 亞 and appear to be entirely phonetically inspired. If this is true, it further suggests the use of the term was not intended to have a semantic interpretation (and therefore no disrespect was intended).

Yingdiya 應帝亞 – India

Greenland 臥蘭的亞 wòlándíyà).

North America is described phonetically as North Ya-Mo-Li-Ja (Bei Yamolijia 北亞墨利加

Yawaima 亞外馬 – not identified

South America is described phonetically as South Ya-Mo-Li-Ja (Nan Yamolija 南亞墨利加).

Africa is described phonetically as Libya (Liweiya 利未亞).

Yalapi hai 亞蠟皮海, phonetically, the Arabian Sea

Liweiya hai 利未亞海, lit. "Sea of Lybia", phonetically, the Gulf of Guinea

Someone should check with Matteo.

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A guess, I am not sure how the original translation made。。。美国,英国,法国,德国,are all beautiful translations... Is it possible those names were translated by the first several westerners, to China? Like 汤若望, who was in China during 康熙 time, quite early.

I know that Chinese and Japanese share many mathematical terms and morden science terms translation that is because Japan learned mordern science earlier than China, and China just used as Japanese translated. Since Japanese also use Chinese characters, when Chinese picked up those morden science idea, we didn't translate it differently, but took the Japanese ones. For example, caculus for 微积分, Japanese translated it first. Japanese and Chinese are interesting languages when compared together... I don't study Japanese, but I do know many jokes between Japanese and Chinese characters because I have some friends who know Japanese.

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I know that Chinese and Japanese share many mathematical terms and morden science terms translation that is because Japan learned mordern science earlier than China, and China just used as Japanese translated. Since Japanese also use Chinese characters, when Chinese picked up those morden science idea, we didn't translate it differently, but took the Japanese ones. For example, caculus for 微积分, Japanese translated it first. Japanese and Chinese are interesting languages when compared together... I don't study Japanese, but I do know many jokes between Japanese and Chinese characters because I have some friends who know Japanese.

Yea very true. and like telephone 電話 I know we got from Japanese because Chinese people thought it sounded cooler than what they already called telephone (特拉風 or something)

as for the 4 countries:

美國 from 亞美利加(America) + 國

英國 from 英格蘭(England) + 國

法國 from 法蘭西(France) + 國

德國 from 德意志(Deutsch from Deutschland [Germany in German]) + 國

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I'd actually wondered about that last time the old 'the -ese suffix is derogatory' thing came up. Are there actually any historical sources for the complaints?

i think he's referring this one:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-ese

Main Entry: -ese

1. speech, literary style, or diction peculiar to (a specified place, person, group, discipline, subject, or activity) —usually in words applied in depreciation <journalese> <baseballese>

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as for the 4 countries:

美國 from 亞美利加(America) + 國

英國 from 英格蘭(England) + 國

法國 from 法蘭西(France) + 國

德國 from 德意志(Deutsch from Deutschland [Germany in German]) + 國

Yes, I know those countries' names. Still, Chinese use a better way to call those countries, like 美国,not 亚国 or 米国(like Japanese),英格兰or 法兰西 are also nice translations, at least nice characters were chosen. The Chinese has many characters with the same pronounciation。 But 葡萄牙 is kind of strange...hehe.

Translation is so interesting.

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I'm a little embarrassed. I started this thread by saying,

In Mandarin, "亞美利加" sounds like "Yà měi lì jiā". "阿美利卡" would be closer: "Ā měi lì kǎ".

In Cantonese, '亞' can sound like 'A', but '加' is 'ga'; '卡' would still be better.

But now it's come to my attention that, in Jyutping, Standard Cantonese Pinyin, and Yale Cantonese, the letter 'g' represents the sound of the IPA letter 'k', and the letter 'k' stands for 'kh'. So "亞美利加" is a very close approximation for "America" in Cantonese. "哥伦比亚" and "墨西哥" make perfect sense for "Columbia" and "Mexico" in Cantonese now, too.
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But now it's come to my attention that, in Jyutping, Standard Cantonese Pinyin, and Yale Cantonese, the letter 'g' represents the sound of the IPA letter 'k', and the letter 'k' stands for 'kh'. So "亞美利加" is a very close approximation for "America" in Cantonese. "哥伦比亚" and "墨西哥" make perfect sense for "Columbia" and "Mexico" in Cantonese now, too.

so what should we use for Cantonese then? 阿咩唎卡? lol

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