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i__forget

Etymology of foreign names translated to Chinese

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i__forget

I am looking for a resource that explains the translation of English names to Chinese. In this case i am trying to understand why Broadway is translated to 百老汇。 Anyone knows? Thanks in advance

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Shelley

I think it is because it is a transliteration not a translation.

 

Lots of names are done like this, using characters that have a sound close to the original and a meaning that may have nothing to do with the original. Sometimes the meaning of the characters will have something to do with the original but not required.

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mungouk

And something I always wondered... in terms of proper nouns — countries at least — who actually decides? 

 

Is there any official body or does it just happen?

 

For example USA being 美国 — who decided it was 美?

 

 

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li3wei1

Who decided it was 'America'? I was taught that someone named Amerigo Vespucci signed his name to a map, and somebody else thought his first name referred to the continent, and the rest was history. The process in Chinese is probably similar. I've seen two different versions of 'Disney' in Chinese, and they both come up with lots of hits on Google. At least in that case there is a corporate body that presumably cares which version is used, and has some influence over it.

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Shelley

Apart from royalty, first names are not used to name places, so the Amerigo Vespucci theory has been dismissed by many people. It is probably from a native Indian word, meaning us or here. 

 

I think usage determines what becomes accepted and the norm.

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889

You'll find reference books available in China that set out standards for proper names. Useful when your paper includes the obligatory quote from Marx. Whether from Groucho, Zeppo, Chico or Gummo. (Nobody ever quotes Harpo.)

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Dawei3
2 hours ago, mungouk said:

For example USA being 美国 — who decided it was 美?

Several years ago on UPenn's language log they discussed this.  It originally started as a 4 character word that was shortened to just 2. 

 

That is Yàměilìjiā 亞美利架  became 美国  

 

One post noted:

About one hundred years ago, the Chinese translation of America is 亞美利架, all with mouth radicals, and then it changed to 亚美利亚, because they are easier to write. Now it shortened to 美国 or 美. At present almost nobody write 亚美利亚.

https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=27245

 

I also remember someone posting more details on this, I believe it was a "Jenny Lee", but I can't find that post.

 

This post discussed how the characters for several countries were chosen: 

https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=26204

 

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Dawei3

Mungouk, I should add, I realize the above doesn't exactly answer your question.  The languagelog posts discuss the assignment of words for various countries dating back to the 1700s to the time of emperors.  It may be that their staff made these kinds of decisions for documents (as a guess).  

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