Homonyms 同音异义词

Here are the links to the videos we watched with the older kids this week, to show the extent of how Chinese is a language built on homonyms!

There are lots of examples of Homonyms in English, ’There, their’, ‘two, too, to’, ‘buy, by’ etc. Words that sound the same but have different meanings.  But this happens much more in Chinese! 星星   猩猩 are both pronounced ‘xīng xing’, even have the same tone, but the first means ‘Star’ and the second means ‘Gorilla’.

Homonym in Chinese is 同音异义词   (tóng yīn yì yì cí) meaning ‘same sound different meaning word’.

To highlight this, we can use the poem in the The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den 施氏食狮史; Shī Shì shí shī shǐ; literally: “The Story of Mr. Shi Eating Lions”)  by Yuen Ren Chao.  Every syllable in this poem is pronounced shi!

Here is the poem with the Chinese characters (note characters are traditional, I will add the simplified version below)

Here is the poem read out with the English translation for you as it is read:

Here is the simplified character version:


Here is the pinyin:

“Shī shì shíshī shǐ”
shíshì shī shì shī shì, shì shī, shì shíshí shī.
Shì shí shíshìshì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì shī shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shi shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shí shì shì, shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shi shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

Have fun trying to recite 🙂



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