[Lingtyp] corona, crown and languages

LIU Danqing liudanq at yahoo.com
Wed May 6 14:57:12 UTC 2020

 Dear Claude:
  Thank you for your comments. I would like to add something more on the Chinese morpheme 冠Guan55.
  Although I roughly translated guan1 as crown, in fact, as Jeremy pointed out more accurately, guan55 as a word in classic Chinese only means hat, cap. Everybody can wear a guan55 in classic China. The verb guan51 just means to put on a hat instead of crowning. A complete Chinese translation of crown/corona should be wang35guan55 王冠(lit. King's hat) or huang35guan55 皇冠 (lit. emperor's hat).   We have another classic word mian214冕, wich is closer to crown, meaning hat for nobles and kings. So we use jia55mian214 加冕 (lit. to add crown on) to denote crowning. We translate crown or corona in western terms into Chinese guan55 just because Chinese disfavors lengthy words and guan55 is more familiar to modern Chinese speaker than mian214.
  By the way, a crown eagle (Harpyhaliaetus coronatus)is called mian214ying55 冕雕 in Zoology。
    On Wednesday, May 6, 2020, 12:51:48 AM GMT+8, Claude Hagège <claude-hagege at wanadoo.fr> wrote:  
Dear Natalia, Danqing, Randy , Jeremy  and all,


Not only  are  xīnguān  fèiyán (新冠肺炎), i.e. « corona  pneumonia »  and  xīnguān  bìngdú (新冠 病毒), i.e. « corona virus »,  clearly distinguished in mainland China, as stressed by Danqing, but in addition, as far as I can  see  in  Chinese newspapers, xīnguān  (新冠) alone, to refer to the illness,  is  less often used than    xīnguān  fèiyán (新冠肺炎), and even   xīnguān  fèiyán yìqíng (新冠肺炎疫情) « corona pneumonia  pandemic », in which yìqíng  疫情 « pandemic »  is added . Thus, the illness is more properly referred to, in Chinese newspapers,  as what it actually is, i.e. a pneumonia (fèiyán :  肺炎, literally « lungs inflammation »).

Furthermore the « crown »  metaphor which describes the virus shape is not new in Chinese : just as English says « coronary artery / arteries », describing the shape of this artery and its branches, which supply blood to the heart muscle and look like a crown, in the same way, Chinese refers to the coronary artery by the compound word  guānzhuàng dòngmài (冠状动脉), which means, literally, « crown-shaped artery ».

It should be stressed, also, that the 冠  which means « crown »  is  guān  (first tone), and thus  does not have the same tone as the冠 which means « championship », i.e. guàn (fourth tone).


The frequent use of a longer expression might contradict Zipf’s correlation  between frequency and length. Moreover, I would suggest to Natalia that the impact of the corona virus pandemic on language, or, rather, on languages, is illustrated by the proliferation of jokes and puns which appear in this web discussion. More generally, when a threat or a danger shows up, speakers use their languages, and humorous manipulations thereof,  as means of exorcism.



To  NATALIA : по-итальянски или  по-испански,  очень  легко  перевестн русскую  шутку  касающуюся    князя  шарла,  потому что  в этих языках,  корона _  тоже…  corona !



With best wishes


海然热 (=Claude Hagège)



|      |  
 L'absence de virus dans ce courrier électronique a été vérifiée par le logiciel antivirus Avast. 

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