Feb 23, 2015

The Year of Sheep, or Goat?

In Feb. 18, 2015, East Asians celebrated the Lunar New Year, the year of yang (羊)。 Some English media suddenly found it hard to convey the message to the English audience, as the word yang (羊) in Chinese may refer to several types of animals in English, most commonly, sheep (called mian-yang, 绵羊, in Chinese) and goat (called shan-yang, 山羊 in Chinese). So what year is it, sheep or goat?

So problem is that English does not have a collective word for sheep and goat. Scientifically speaking, the name sheep or goat itself is also a notation that refers to several similar animals. This is, of course,  very common in linguistics and may happen between any two languages. But it is not exactly true. Because there actually exists a word for animals similar to sheeps and goats: Caprinae. This is a subfamily name, which includes both sheep or ovis and goat capra. So, next time, when asked, you can tell people, IT IS THE YEAR OF CAPRINAE, if you want to be scientifically accurate.