HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANOI.

Today Hanoi celebrates its thousandth anniversary, and when I went to Wikipedia to find out what happened in 1010, I discovered an astounding array of historical names:

During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, it was known as Tống Bình (宋平) and later Long Đỗ (龍肚; literally “dragon’s belly”). In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Đại La (大羅).
In 1010, Lý Thái Tổ, the first ruler of the Lý Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (大越, the Great Viet, then the name of Vietnam) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (昇龍, Ascending dragon) – a name still used poetically to this day. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hóa, also known as Tây Đô (西都, Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (東都, Eastern Capital).
In 1408, Chinese Ming Dynasty attacked and occupied Vietnam, then they renamed Đông Đô as Đông Quan (東關, Eastern Gateway). In 1428, Vietnamese overthrown the Chinese under the leadership of Lê Lợi who later founded the posterior Lê Dynasty and renamed Đông Quan as Đông Kinh (東京, Eastern Capital – the name known to Europeans as Tonkin. The same characters are used for Tokyo, Japan). Right after the end of Tây Sơn Dynasty, it was named Bắc Thành (北城, Northern Citadel).
In 1802, when the Nguyễn Dynasty was established and then moved the capital down to Huế, the name of Thăng Long (昇, “ascending dragon”) was modified to become different Thăng Long (昇, to ascend and flourish). In 1831 the Nguyễn emperor Minh Mạng renamed it “Hà Nội” (河内, [which] can be translated as Between Rivers or River Interior).

During my period of obsession with Vietnamese history about a quarter of a century ago, I’m sure I knew it had only been called Hanoi since 1831, but the fact came as a fresh surprise to me now.
Incidentally, check out this sentence in the NYT story about the celebration:

Like most of their countrymen, few Hanoians, absorbed in getting and spending, live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week.

So do most of their countrymen live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes or not?
Update. Mark Liberman has posted about this at the Log, and an interesting if sometimes bizarre discussion has ensued (a number of people don’t seem to understand that the sentence is saying the opposite of what it means to say).

Comments

  1. I find it curious that adding an a (“Like most of their countrymen, a few Hanoians, absorbed in getting and spending, live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week”) unambiguously implies “most of their countrymen live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes”, whereas the original formulation is ambiguous, but probably is intended to mean the opposite. What’s going on?

  2. What’s going on?
    That’s what I want to know! I sent the quote to Mark Lieberman over at the Log, in hopes that he would provide an analysis.

  3. The photo caption reads in part: “But few residents live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that fill the air.”
    The sentence that gives pause within the text is actually two sentences jammed together. 1) Few Hanoians live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week. 2) Hanoians are absorbed in getting and spending. The problem starts if you read part 2 with “few Hanoians” as the subject of the clause. You won’t get the meaning of the sentence unless you develop a bit of Alzheimers before you reach the end of it.
    Teh Log now has a variety of disassemblies and fixes.

  4. I was not quoting the photo caption. And I don’t think you’ve understood the problem with the sentence.

  5. After reading this post, I immediately checked out the Wikipedia entry for Hanoi. I had been struck that the characters “宋平” should be read something like “Song Binh”, not “Tong Binh”. In Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese, the Chinese-derived pronunciation for the character is something along the line of Sung” or “Song.” Nevertheless, Wikitionary does indicate that the Vietnamese Han pronunciation is, indeed, “tống”. I wonder how that initial “s” may have changed in Vietnamese? Any Vietnamese experts out there able to shed light on this?

  6. michael farris says:

    Not an expert but the change of Sino s to Viet t doesn’t seem weird to me and I think I can think of other examples, the surest of which is probably tư Sino-Vietnamese ‘four’.
    But I have no idea of when or where or how it happened.
    Another weird thing that happens is what I call the intrusive ‘th’ where the Viet root has an initial th that seems absent elsewhere as in điện thoại (telephone). It should be noted that vietnamese /t/ is unaspirated and fortis and /th/ is aspirated and very lenis (hard to hear at all for me sometimes) so it looks odder than it sounds.

  7. I was not quoting the photo caption.
    I don’t think what you wrote is at all ambiguous–”in the NYT story” is the same as “within the text”, but I do see someone on teh Log thread claiming incorrectly that the text has been changed. It would be pretty hard to interpret the photo caption any other way, but the way I understand the division of labor in these places, the person who writes captions is probably not the same person who wrote the piece.
    And I don’t think you’ve understood the problem with the sentence.
    Well, I suppose if you want to remember all the way back to the beginning of the sentence–and a lot of your readers I’m afraid are my age :)–you could say the sentence is three parts jammed together:
    1) Few Hanoians live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week.
    2) Hanoians are absorbed in getting and spending.
    3) Hanoians are like most of their countrymen.
    The dependent clauses hang off of “Hanoians”, not “few Hanoians”.
    For me, having grown up in the U.S. during the Cold War, the emphasis of the sentence is not on the difference between town and country but on the contrast between business as usual and the manufactured patriotic fervor portrayed in the media account of the festivities. The sentence says to me “don’t add this to all the previous images of fervently ideological communists marching in Red Square with tanks or brandishing little red books, because it’s not ordinary behaviour”, and it makes the point in a very compact way.

  8. michael farris says:

    For what it’s worth I don’t understand how “sentence is saying the opposite of what it means to say).”
    I assumed it meant (rewriting for clarity):
    “There are very few people in Hanoi who live their lives to the rhythms of patriotic marching tunes. In this, they are like the rest of their countrymen who are absorbed in making and spending money.”
    The original sentence isn’t good style but I can’t say I was confused by it. Unless I’m missing something, in which case I’d like to know what it is.

  9. The original sentence isn’t good style but I can’t say I was confused by it.
    I doubt many people were confused by it, because it’s so clear what the intended meaning was, but that doesn’t remove the problem with the sentence. If someone says “My want dinner eat,” the meaning is clear, but the sentence is bad nonetheless.

  10. michael farris says:

    But “My want dinner eat” breaks some word order and surface form rules while the sentence in question doesn’t break any real rules of English grammar, it just stretches the reader’s attention and indexing capabilities more than is generally appropriate.

  11. michael farris says:

    To clarify, I think hat’s objection is coming from his copy editing self rather than his linguist self. It is absolutely a sentence that shouldn’t get past a professional copy editor.

  12. It is absolutely a sentence that shouldn’t get past a primary school teacher.

  13. I assume the Vietnamese were not using the Christian calendar 1000 years ago, which makes the founding of the city on what we call 10/10/1010 a remarkable coincidence.

  14. Like most of their countrymen, few Hanoians, absorbed in getting and spending, live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week.
    For those having difficulty understanding why many of us take this statement to mean that, unlike most Hanoians, most of their countrymen do live their lives to the rhythms…”, here is my take on it.
    “Like Xs, Ys do Z” means that Xs and Zs behave similarly: they both do Z.
    Let X = “most of their countrymen”, Y = “few Hanoians” and Z = “absorbed in getting and spending, live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week”. Then substituting gives the interpretation above i.e. the majority of Vietnamese behave like a minority of Hanoians.
    To me this is logical, but as commenters have pointed out, language isn’t necessarily logical (e.g. double negations and all that). Nevertheless, like Language Hat, I would like to know what’s going on. Why do others parse the sentence differently from me, equating “most of their countrymen” with “Hanoians” rather than with “few Hanoians”.

  15. Why do others parse the sentence differently from me, equating “most of their countrymen” with “Hanoians” rather than with “few Hanoians”.
    They don’t. No one equates “most of their countrymen” with “Hanoians”, nor with “few Hanoians”. Some readers might assume such a comparison, but to compare is not to equate.
    I have read all of the discussion at Language Log, but I will not post at a blog where any comment that challenges an imperious blogmeister too effectively risks being silently removed. At the same blog, Chinese censorship is examined as if it were something utterly foreign to “our” incontrovertibly liberal, civilised ways. To say any more would be an abuse of the far more congenial and fair-minded LH forum, so I hereby silence myself with respect to such politics, apologising for going as far as I already have.
    I have also read the comments here, in the present thread. At both places it is remarkable how muddled the discourse can get, and how feelings tend to run high.
    Many commenters seem nympholept at the presence of most and few in the same sentence. These two, along with many, are notoriously slippery analysanda for semantics and pragmatics. But there is no special connexion or opposition between the most and the few in our problem sentence:

    Like most of their countrymen, few Hanoians, absorbed in getting and spending, live their lives to the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week.

    That most is a sloppy way of referring to citizens of Vietnam (henceforth Vietnamese) generally, as a superset of Hanoians; or perhaps to Vietnamese other than Hanoians – it makes little difference here. Presumably most Vietnamese are not Hanoians; but the writer of our sentence has not succeeded in singling out the large subset of Vietnamese who are not Hanoians.
    That few refers in a standard way to a small proportion of Hanoians. In some similar sentences, but perhaps not in ours, few X may refer to a small number of X in absolute terms. After all, we can use few X are phi in the following way:

    Few astronauts with surnames beginning with “a” and ending with “g” or “n” are moonwalkers.

    This remains true, under a reasonable interpretation, even if most or all astronauts with surnames beginning with “a” and ending with “g” or “n” are moonwalkers. (It does not remain true if many astronauts with such names are moonwalkers, by the way – not if the vague quantifiers many and few are dealt with by uniform local criteria.)
    Finally, our writer has used like in an especially sloppy way. The similitude intended is between the set of Hanoians and the set of Vietnamese (or between the set of Hanoians and the set of non-Hanoian Vietnamese – it makes little difference here). But our writer only suggests that impressionistically.
    Effective analysis of sentences like the one prompting this discussion is not easy. A good first step is to break them into their components, and chew conscientiously on those one by one. We do well to avoid seduction by the first feature of the whole that catches our eye, like few and most in proximity.
    So say I, with respect.

  16. In my previous post, “Xs and Zs behave similarly” should be “Xs and Ys behave similarly”.

  17. “I assume the Vietnamese were not using the Christian calendar 1000 years ago,”: well, neither were Christians, if by “Christian calendar” you mean the Gregorian version.
    Here’s a question for Hatters: in the days when March the something-or-other was the first day of the New Year, was there an agreed numerical abbreviation for writing, say, May 4th? I mean, we would write, according to local habit, 4/5/10, or 5/4/10, or 2010/05/04…: what did our ancestors write?

  18. aqilluqqaaq says:

    As I understand it, e.g.:
    Wednesday 4th May 1301 (Gregorian date) = Wednesday 26th April 1301 (Julian date, calculus Florentinus).
    i.e. dies Mercurii ante diem sextum Kalendas Maias anno Domini MCCCI.
    So, the Gregorian abbreviation 04/05/1301 refers to the Julian (Florentine) date abbreviated as:
    d. Merc. a.d. VI Kal. Mai. a.D. MCCCI.
    The Annunciation style New Year on March 25th in itself has no effect here, though the same day calculus Pisanus (also Annunciation style) was Wednesday 26th April 1300.

  19. Thanks, Noetica and aqilluqqaaq, for your learned and helpful comments!

  20. I bet they wrote a.d. 3 Non. Mai.

  21. aqilluqqaaq says:

    And Thursday 4th May 1301 (Julian) would be d. Iov. a.d. IV Non. Mai. a.D. MCCCI (Florentinus), d. Iov. a.d. IV Non. Mai. a.D. MCCC (Pisanus), and Thurs. 12/05/1301 (Gregorian).

  22. The Nones of May is the 7th, so 4 May is a.d. 3 Non. Mai., counting back from the Nones.

  23. OK, so they didn’t abbreviate dates just to numbers. Thank you. When did abbreviating with numbers come in? Was it soon after the adoption of the Gregorian calendar?

  24. aqilluqqaaq says:

    The Nones of May is the 7th, so 4 May is a.d. 3 Non. Mai., counting back from the Nones.
    But counting is inclusive. Nonae (1st day) is May 7th, pridie (2nd day) is May 6th, a.d. III Non. Mai. (3rd day) is May 5th, and a.d. IV Non. Mai. (4th day) is May 4th.

  25. The Quakers used ordinals for months, but still as words. The New England Puritans, with similar religious motivation, wrote 12d 5m or 12th 5m. (Movable Type won’t allow superscripts: imagine them.)
    I do not know whether writing with dashes or solidi descends from that or was independent. It might be older, though even early ledger books that I’ve seen use names for months.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, learned daters. I had no idea.
    Noetica: Many commenters seem nympholept at the presence of most and few in the same sentence
    Nympholept???

  27. aqilluqqaaq says:

    My apologies: Pisa was a year ahead, not behind Florence.

  28. A more semantic correction would be to note that “the rhythms of the patriotic marching tunes that filled the air last week” is semantically false ; I’m currently living in Ha Noi and didn’t hear any martial music…
    As for phonetic divergence between sino-vietnamese and (Mandarin ? Cantonese ?) Chinese, I’ve heard that the former, being a court language, has been more conservative than the latter… Is there any truth to that ?

  29. the discussion at Language Log
    While the blog’s guidelines basically only ask commenters to be polite and stay on topic, the removal of comments at Language Log is–recently at least–quite open, for example the Oct. 4 post, “Boring preposition jokes: new termination policy”, where commenters were referred to as “boring self-satisfied twits” and Oct. 3, “You can get preposition stranding right to start with”, where a comment was removed then paraphrased in a rebuttal in a way that made it hard to understand what the original point (or the disagreement) was about. I’m not a linguist, but comment as an ESL instructor who is sometimes called on to teach grammar and would like to do it better, so it’s not clear to me if the comment deletions and disparaging remarks are meant to discourage n00bs who haven’t read the archives, are an attempt to be entertaining in the style of Andy Rooney, or represent a more fundamental philosophical difference between theoreticians and practitioners of linguistics. I too hope this remark does not impose on the hospitality of the LH forum, it was meant to be thoughtful.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    I have had some comments to Language Log disappear and always wondered if I forgot to hit the right button or made another error, or if the comment was for some reason deleted (irrelevant, stupid, or whatever).

  31. Some of the Loggers are more imperious than others. Geoff Pullum is particularly quick on the trigger.

  32. There used to be a habit (in Britain at least) of writing the month in Roman numerals, so that Xmas, for example, would be 25/xii/2010. I’ve not seen it for a while.

  33. I used to do it, dearie. But then I decided that nowadays it’s so old-fashioned that it’s a bit pretentious. I’ve seen German architects write the date vertically (dunno why):
    25
    /
    xii
    /
    10

  34. I did not know the word “nympholept”. A brief search reveals, if nothing else, that feelings can run high regarding the meaning of the word. Also that in the Cave of Archedemos the Nympholept there are ancient sculptures “hewn into the living rock”.

  35. I’ve never seen the Roman-numerals month habit in anglocabronia, (as some Spaniards phrase the cultural sphere); for me it’s more characteristic of Central Europe, that place where H is two semitones above A. It’s more clear and sensible, and wouldn’t it be nice if its adoption had anything to do with that :-) .

  36. komfo,amonan says:

    I cannot make sense of the -cabron- in Anglocabronia. Anyone? I’m assuming the cabrón (‘cuckold’) that my old roommate & I jokingly tossed at each other is unrelated.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    I am not familiar with Anglocabronia, but from the examples on Google (at least the first few pages) it seems that it is very much related to the insulting word cabrón. La Anglocabronia appears to be a very derogatory word for “the English-speaking world”, derived from los Anglocabrones, obviously a pun on los Anglosajones (Anglo-Saxons).

  38. We all know that 東京 (Đông Kinh) is read Tōkyō in Japanese, but did you know that 河内 (Hà Nội) is read Kawachi in Japanese — Kawachi being an area near Osaka noted for its rough, gangster-like Kansai dialect?

  39. but did you know that 河内 (Hà Nội) is read Kawachi in Japanese — Kawachi being an area near Osaka noted for its rough, gangster-like Kansai dialect?
    I did not, and needless to say I am glad to learn it; thanks! (I’m guessing the pitch accent is on the first syllable; is that correct?)

  40. Yes, I think that’s where the accent goes (no Japanese accent dictionary with me here in UB). The dialect is 河内弁 (Kawachi-ben), which has an article at Japanese Wikipedia, but not, unfortunately, English. The article claims that Kawachi-ben has been unfairly stigmatised.

  41. aqilluqqaaq says:

    That’s quite a stigma it bears: 「怖い」「汚い」「悪い」 (‘dreadful, filthy, inferior’).

  42. But counting is inclusive.
    Thanks, aquaquack, I’d forgotten all that. We used to have to write the date in Latin when I was at school, but that was over XL years ago now — extra large years.

  43. 「怖い」「汚い」「悪い」
    I think the 「怖い」 means something more like ‘scary’ (because the people who speak it are threatening). 「悪い」 means not ‘inferior’ but ‘bad’, tending in the direction of bad or unrespectable language. The aural impression of Kawachi dialect is indeed frightening.

  44. I should probably also mention that Hanoi in modern-day Japanese is ハノイ (Hanoi) and Tonkin is トンキン (Tonkin).

  45. And I should also mention that, judging from examples of (supposed) Kawachi dialect that I’ve heard in the past, it is the only variety of Japanese I know that has something sounding like a rolled or trilled ‘r’.

  46. Although I could be wrong. Trilled r’s are possibly just a feature of gruff or threatening speech styles.

  47. I’ve often noticed Arabs rolling their r’s, but I’ve never noticed that Arabic has rolled r’s. It sounds very alluring–think Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  48. In Japanese it sounds like you’re being threatened by a gangster.

  49. If you want to sound like a Chicago gangster–and you can’t say “gangster” in Chicago, it’s always “Family” with a lowered voice and a slight pause–you have to drop your th’s and replace them with d’s. Hence, a neighborhood called “da East Side”. I knew a big but gentle guy from Cicero who would switch from standard English whenever he got rattled, like when a customer or a supervisor started to question him and there wasn’t a good answer, and they always backed off right away.

  50. We do have such a thing as a “gansta” though, but that’s something different. Can’t talk about that publicly either.

  51. “gangsta”
    as in “gangsta rap”

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