Chinese Terms of Address for Relatives
The Spring Festival is the occasion for every Chinese family to get together. Do you know how people of different generations in the Chinese family address each other?
Parents address their children in two ways. One way is to call them, according to their age from the eldest to the youngest, lɑodɑ (the eldest), lɑoer (the second eldest), lɑosɑn (the third eldest) ... until the youngest (for example, lɑowu (the fifth)) regardless of sex. The second way is to call sons and daughters separately. Sons are called, from the eldest to the youngest, dɑ erzi (the eldest son), er erzi (the second eldest son) ... and the youngest is called xiɑo erzi. It is the same for the daughters who are called dɑ nü’er (the eldest daughter), er nü’er (the second eldest daughter) ... until xiɑo nü’er (the youngest daughter). The daughter-in-law is called erxi, and son-in-law is called nüxu. The wife of the eldest son is called dɑ erxi (the eldest daughter-in-law). The husband of the second eldest daughter is called er nüxu (the second eldest son-in-law).
Grandparents call the son’s children sunzi (grandson) or sunnü (granddaughter), the daughter’s children wɑisun (grandson) or waisunnü (granddaughter). “Wɑi” indicates they have a different surname, of different family name. Accordingly, the son’s children call grandparents yeye (paternal grandfather) and nɑinɑi (paternal grandmother). The daughter’s children call grandparents wɑigong (maternal grandfather) and wɑipo maternal grandmother), who in North China are also called lɑoye and lɑolao respectively.
The son, the daughter-in-law, the daughter and the son-in-law address the parents in the same way as bɑbɑ and mɑmɑ when talking to them (also die and niɑng in northern China). But in the absence of the parents, the daughter-in-law can call her husband’s parents gonggong (father-in-law) and popo (mother-in-law), and the son-in-law can call his wife’s parents yuefu and yuemu, or zhɑngren and zhɑngmuniɑng.
The terms of address for the siblings of father and mother are different. Father’s elder brother is called bobo (paternal uncle), and his younger brother shushu (paternal uncle), while his sisters are called gugu or gumɑ (paternal aunt). Mother’s brothers are all called jiujiu (maternal uncle), and her sisters i or yimɑ (maternal aunt). For example, “sɑnshu” is the third younger brother of father, and “dɑyi” is the mother’s eldest sister.
In daily life, some terms of address for the relatives are often used for non-relatives. For instance, the man a little older than father and mother is addressed as bobo, and the man younger shushu. Females are generally called ɑyi by younger people of the next generation. In Beijing and some other regions, they are also called dɑmɑ. Old people of grandfather’s and grandmother’s age can also be addressed as yeye and nɑinɑi.
So, have you gained some understanding of the Chinese terms of address for relatives?
过年是每一个中国家庭团聚的日子。你知道在中国家庭中，几代人之间怎么互相称呼吗？ 父母称呼孩子有两种方法。一种是不分男女，根据年龄从大到小称孩子们：老大、老二、老三……一直到最小的那一个（比如说“老五”）。第二种是分别排列儿子和女儿，儿子从大到小称为 ：大儿子、二儿子……最小的叫做“小儿子”；女儿也是一样：大女儿、二女儿……一直到小女儿。称儿子的妻子“儿媳（érxí） ”，称女儿的丈夫“女婿(nǚxu)”。比如：称大儿子的妻子“大儿媳”，称二女儿的丈夫“二女婿”。老人称呼儿子的孩子叫“孙子”“孙女”，称呼女儿的孩子叫“外孙”“外孙女”。“外”就表示不同姓。同样，儿子的孩子称呼老人为“爷爷”“奶奶”，女儿的孩子称呼老人为“外公”“外婆”（北方也叫“姥爷”“姥姥”）。儿子、儿媳、女儿、女婿在跟父母说话时，对父母的称呼都是一样的，一般都叫“爸爸”“妈妈”（中国北方有些地区也叫“爹diē”“娘niáng”）。但是在不直接面对父母的时候，儿媳可以称自己丈夫的父母为“公公(ɡōnɡɡonɡ)”“婆婆(pópo)”，女婿可以称自己妻子的父母为“岳父(yuèfù)”“岳母(yuèmǔ)”，也叫“丈人（zhànɡren）”“丈母娘(zhànɡmuniánɡ)”。对爸爸和妈妈的兄弟姐妹，称呼是不一样的。爸爸的哥哥叫“伯伯”，爸爸的弟弟叫“叔叔”，而爸爸的姐妹称为“姑姑（姑妈）”。妈妈的兄弟都叫“舅舅”，妈妈的姐妹叫做“姨 （姨妈）”。比如“三叔”是爸爸的第三个弟弟，“大姨”是妈妈最大的姐姐。
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