Thursday, August 27, 2015

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This news item was published yesterday on 网易 (Netease), one of China's most popular web portals. The comic effect was clearly intentional, and it looks like the website has already been forced to take it down, but before they did it had the time to make the rounds on Wechat.

Here's what it says:

Burma (Myanmar) unblocks Facebook. Only four countries now blocking it.

Burma recently announced that it was lifting the ban on Facebook, the world's most popular social networking site. There are at present only four countries in the world which still block Facebook, including North Korea, Cuba, Iran and others.

Wonder who the others might be?


Anna Lowenstein said...


Anna Lowenstein said...

I thought Chinese didn't distinguish singulars and plurals? How do you know it's "others" rather than "other"?

Ji Xiang said...

@Anna: they don't distinguish. 其他国家 means "other country(ies)" without distinguishing between singular and plural, but it sounds like it refers to many countries. Another country would be 另外一个国家.

Scottie said...

Hi Ji Xiang,

I think this is old news. I believe the following is the original article from 网易 (still accessible) on Myanmar lifting the ban on Facebook. It is from more than 2 years ago, dated 2013-3-27. The article mentions that 4 other countries are still banning Facebook, and they are North Korea, Cuba, Iran and China. It also says that China bans youtube as well. So it certainly doesn't shy away from mentioning the PRC as a Facebook banning country.

Here are the actual title and a quote from the article,

"缅甸解禁Facebook 全球剩4个国家仍封锁"



FYI: The Chinese language certainly can distinguish singular from plurals, especially when it comes to human beings. For example, adding the character 们 next to 人 (person) will become 人们 (people). In addition, the character 群 (group, flock) can also be used to indicate plurals for humans and animals.

Ji Xiang said...

Hi Scottie,

on further analysis the article does seem to be from 2013, and the original does say China rather than other countries.

A few days ago though, there was a sudden flurry of people posting this version on Wechat, with "other countries" instead of China. I suppose it must be an altered version which someone came up with online. It's funny though, and millions of Chinese must have seen it and considered it to be the original.

About the plural in Chinese, the character 们 is only used for people, and it's use is quite rare anyway. In 99% of cases, you have to understand whether a word is singular or plural from the context. I think it's thus fair to say that the Chinese language doesn't really distinguish the singular from the plural (and it manages fine all the same).

Scottie said...

Hi Ji Xiang,

Regarding 们, it is used quite often in Chinese, such as 我们,你们, 他们, 人们...etc. It can be used to describe non-humans as well, e.g. 动物们. It is true that in the majority of cases, Chinese language doesn't distinguish between singular and plurals in the same way as many European languages do. However, I am simply responding to Anna, since she seems to think, if I understand her correctly, that there are no distinctions at all between singular and plurals in Chinese.

Ji Xiang said...

Yes, it's used to make the plural of pronouns, as in 我们,你们,他们, but its use is very rare for other purposes. Nobody would say 这里有两个老师们,people would say 这里有两个老师. But yes, technically speaking Chinese does have this way of distinguishing the singular from the plural for words referring to human beings.

Scottie said...

Well, 们 can sound very colloquial, but it is certainly used in both speaking and writing. As you know, in some context, it can be used quite often, such as addressing a group of students, 同学们, fellow comrades, 同志们 and so forth. But yes, overall, Chinese nouns don't distinguish singular and plurals nearly as much as the European languages. No dispute there.