Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin and Cantonese

About a year and a half ago, when I last posted on a recurring poll of what people in Hong Kong think of Mandarin and Cantonese (as well as other “icons” relevant to Hong Kong) I predicted that “the next survey will show aversion to Mandarin surpassing affection for and pride in that language.”

As of the 2016 survey, aversion to Mandarin was at 17.7 percent of the population, whereas affection for and pride in Putonghua, as the survey labels it, were at 20.1 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. So I was wrong.

Nevertheless, Mandarin certainly isn’t winning any popularity contests in Hong Kong these days. Although the levels of those averse to Mandarin and those proud of it are now just about equal, among Hong Kongers pride in Mandarin is lower than pride in any other surveyed item. Affection toward Mandarin was similarly lower, avoiding the bottom spot only because the Chinese army came in less than one point lower.

Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin and Cantonese, 2012-2016

Detail of the above chart, 2012-2016

Generally speaking, positive feelings for Cantonese are higher — usually much higher — than positive feelings for other Hong Kong icons, while negative feelings about Cantonese are much lower than for most other icons. On the other hand, feelings for Mandarin are more highly negative and less strongly positive than for most other icons.

sources and further reading:

Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin and Cantonese

In Hong Kong, aversion to Mandarin is continuing to grow, while pride in and affection for that language continue to fall, according to the results of a regular survey. The scores for all three have largely converged. I expect those trends to continue, so that the results from the next survey will show aversion to Mandarin surpassing affection for and pride in that language.

chart of opinions in Hong Kong toward Mandarin ('Putonghua') and Cantonese (Guangdonghua), showing favoribility  toward Mandarin decreasing and disgust with that language increasing.

Attitudes toward Cantonese were not covered by this survey until 2012. Attitudes toward English are still not surveyed in this study.

Feelings toward other “icons” of Hong Kong and China as a whole were also surveyed, so while the scores on Mandarin may to some extent reflect how people in Hong Kong feel about the People’s Republic of China, it’s important to note that even objects such as the PRC flag manage significantly better than Mandarin in public opinion.

I’m using the translations offered by the survey itself:

  • averse to: 抗拒
  • proud of: 自豪
  • affectionate toward: 親切

PRIDE
Pride in Mandarin (16.7 percent) is lower than pride in everything else in the survey except for the Hong Kong Central Government Offices, which came in at just 14.5 percent.

Pride in Cantonese (58.7 percent) is higher than pride in everything else in the survey except for the Night View of Victoria Harbour (65.2 percent).

AFFECTION
Affection toward Mandarin (17.7 percent) was third lowest, ahead of only the People’s Liberation Army (14.1 percent) and the Hong Kong Central Government Offices (14.3 percent).

Affection toward Cantonese (81.0 percent) was the by far the highest of all, followed by affection toward the Night View of Victoria Harbour (69.7 percent). Nothing else made it past the low 30s.

AVERSION
People in Hong Kong had the highest aversion to the People’s Liberation Army (26.7 percent). Mandarin tied for second with the Hong Kong Central Government Offices (both 16.2 percent).

Aversion to Cantonese (1.7 percent) was the lowest of any surveyed category.

The information in this post was derived from:

Related posts:

New Zealand, language, and ‘Chinese’

Raymond Huo, who served as a member of New Zealand’s parliament from 2008 to 2014, was born in China and moved to New Zealand twenty-one years ago from Beijing. His biography at the New Zealand Chinese Language Week Charitable Trust, an organization at which he is a co-chairman, states that he “has published seven books including two Chinese-English dictionaries as joint editor/translator.”

So when you hear that he is unhappy about how Statistics New Zealand is handling Mandarin, Cantonese, etc., in its count of languages, you might be inclined to think he is an expert who is battling ignorance in the bureaucracy. But read on.

“Treating Mandarin, Yue or other Chinese dialects as independent languages is deeply flawed,” Mr Huo said.

“It is similar to making statistical inferences about the difference between Northern English, Oceania English and Indian English, or … between pub talk and the King’s English.

“As such, English may not be the most widely spoken language if each ‘dialect’ was treated as an independent language as in the case of Mandarin and Cantonese.”

This is simply wrong. English as spoken in India, English as spoken in Oceania, and English as spoken elsewhere are all one language. Mandarin and Cantonese are not.

As expected, here comes something about Chinese characters.

The Chinese written script is broadly the same, but a single character can be pronounced in over 1000 different ways across China, according to Mr Huo.

That, however, doesn’t make “Chinese” one language. And focusing on Chinese characters is often a sign that someone has lost track of the language itself — or languages themselves, in this case.

Huo said the ranking order of English, te reo Maori, Samoan, and Hindi as the top four most spoken languages in New Zealand by Statistics NZ was “incorrect, misleading and deeply flawed.” He wants them all counted together, which would move “Chinese” into third place.

Census general manager Denise McGregor, however, said it is important to have a system of classification that enables languages to be either grouped or looked at individually.

“It’s incredibly useful to know that in a school zone, or at a specific library, or on a particular bus route there will be people who speak specifically Mandarin or Chinese,” she said.

“Just knowing they speak ‘Chinese’ isn’t likely to be as useful in targeting services.”

In the last Census, 52,263 people spoke Northern Chinese which includes Mandarin, 44,625 spoke Yue that includes Cantonese and 42,750 spoke a “Sinitic” language.

Mrs McGregor said of the 171,204 people in New Zealand of Chinese ethnicity, 45,216 were born here.

“The majority of these people do not speak any language other than English,” she said.

“We think the rich picture of the different Chinese languages and dialects is a valuable thing to have.”

Amen to that last thought. And I welcome the use of the phrase Sinitic language.

The author of the news article on this spoke with several other people.

David Soh, editor for Auckland-based Chinese language daily Mandarin Pages, said the Census figures for Mandarin speakers were “too low” to be correct.

“The figure that just over a quarter of the Chinese population are Mandarin speakers sounds too low to be accurate or true,” Mr Soh said.

“The fact is Chinese who speak Chinese dialects are often also able to converse in Mandarin, but the Census figure doesn’t seem to reflect that.”

AUT’s head of the School of Language and Culture, Sharon Harvey, said linguists would consider Chinese dialects as independent languages.

“It suits the Chinese Government to say all these languages are ‘only’ dialects but most linguists would say many are languages in their own right.”

Cantonese is a language with nine spoken tones but in Mandarin there are four, said Dr Harvey, and it would be hard to learn Cantonese and “make all those sounds” if someone hasn’t learned them as a child.

The article closes with some figures, taken from New Zealand’s Census 2013, of possible interest:
NEW ZEALAND CHINESE BY NUMBERS

  • 171,204 — population total
  • 122,964 — speak at least one or more Chinese languages
  • 45,216 — NZ born, most speak only English
  • 52,263 — speak Northern Chinese, including Mandarin
  • 44,625 — speak Yue, including Cantonese
  • 42,750 — speak a Sinitic language without further defining

source: How many people in NZ speak Chinese?, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2015

Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin: survey

Mandarin is less well loved in Hong Kong than most other “icons” of China, according to the results of a survey there.

Although the percentage of those who described themselves as “averse” (kàngjù) to Mandarin is quite small (in the single digits), it has quadrupled since 2006 (1.8% to 7.3%). (I’m using the English and Mandarin terms given in the source material.)

Meanwhile, the percentage of those who are “affectionate” (qīnqiè) toward Mandarin has dropped, though not to an all-time low. And the percentage of those who are “proud” (zìháo) of Mandarin is also down, though it remains much higher than it was in 1994 when the survey began.

Affection toward, pride in, and averseness to Mandarin in Hong Kong, 1994-2010
graph showing affection toward Mandarin in the 27-35% range, pride in Mandarin rising from 19% to 34% percent but dropping since 2006, and aversion to Mandarin at around 3% until the climb to about 8% in 2010

Interestingly, averseness to Mandarin has been growing, while averseness to most other mainland icons has been dropping.

In the graphs below I have omitted some surveyed icons — Hong Kong’s regional flag/emblem, the night view of Victoria Harbor, the Legislative Council building, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, and the Bank of China Building — to keep the graphs from getting too busy looking and because those are within Hong Kong itself.

The lines for Mandarin are in dark red. Click to enlarge the images to a useful size.

Percentage of respondents feeling “averse to” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

Percentage of respondents feeling “affectionate towards” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

Percentage of respondents feeling “proud of” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

But even though Mandarin hasn’t gained much affection recently from the people of Hong Kong, it’s still far more liked than the least popular of the PRC’s institutions: the police (gōng’ān).

sources and further reading:

The where and why of missing second tones

image of 'zhong' written with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tone -- with the 2nd-tone one in light gray instead of black textMy previous post mentioned that not all tonal permutations exist in the real world. For example, modern standard Mandarin has zh?ng, zh?ng, and zhòng, but doesn’t have zhóng. I did not, however, get into any of the reasons for the absence of second-tone zhong.

Fortunately, my friend James E. Dew, who is much more qualified than I to discuss such fine points of linguistics, was kind enough to send in the explanation below. Jim used to teach the Chinese language and linguistics at the University of Michigan; and for many years he directed the Inter-University Program (a.k.a. the Stanford Center) in Taipei. He is also the author of 6000 Chinese Words: A Vocabulary Frequency Handbook and coauthor of Classical Chinese: A Functional Approach.

Most simply stated, Mandarin syllable shapes with unaspirated occlusive initials and nasal finals don’t occur in second tone. This can be restated a bit less opaquely for those who have not studied Chinese historical phonology, as follows:

Syllables that begin with unaspirated stops b, d, g, or affricates j, zh, z, and end in a nasal n or ng, as a rule don’t have second-tone forms. There are a few exceptions, such as béng ( / “needn’t”) and zán ( / “we”), which were new words formed by contraction — from búyòng and zámén, respectively — after the tone class split described below took place.

This came about because when Middle Chinese (of Sui-Tang times) píngshēng 平声/?? split into yīnpíng 阴平/?? (modern Mandarin “first tone”) and yángpíng 阳平/?? (M “second tone”), syllables with aspirated initials went into the new yángpíng class, while those with unaspirated initials all fell into the yīnpíng (M first tone) group, thus leaving no unaspirated syllables with nasal finals in the modern Mandarin second tone class.

An interesting corollary to this rule is that among Mandarin “open” syllables (those that end in a vowel) with the above-listed initials, almost all of the second-tone syllables derive from Middle Chinese rùshēng 入声/??, and their cognates have stop endings in the southern dialects that preserve rùshēng, as illustrated by the Cantonese examples given below.

For those who like to pronounce what they read, Cantonese rùshēng syllables have level tones, either high, mid or low. In the Yale romanization used here, high tone is marked with a macron (e.g., dāk), mid tone is unmarked, and low tone is signified by an h following the vowel. A double “aa” sounds like the “a” in “father,” while a single “a” is a mid central vowel. Thus baht sounds like English “but” and dāk sounds like English “duck.”
  Mandarin Cantonese
baht
bái baahk
báo bohk
別/别 bié biht
baak
bok
daap
dāk
敵/敌 dihk
duhk
gaak
閣/阁 gok
國/国 guó gwok
gāp
極/极 gihk
jaahp
夾/夹 jiá gaap
結/结 jié git
節/节 jié jit
gūk
覺/觉 jué gok
決/决 jué kyut
雜/杂 jaahp
澤/泽 jaahk
閘/闸 zhá jaahp
zhái jaahk
zhé jit
執/执 zhí jāp
zhí jihk
zhú jūk
濁/浊 zhuó juhk

Web pages with Mandarin text to speech

the Chinese character '?' and with the pinyin 'niàn' above itMy recent addition to this site of Mandarin text with audio brought to mind the issue of text-to-speech for Mandarin.

Here are some Web pages that allow you to input texts (albeit very brief ones in most cases) in Chinese characters and hear them pronounced in Mandarin and, in a few instances, Cantonese as well.

  • Oddcast (Sitepal). Although one of the options is for “Taiwanese,” texts are not read in that language (Hoklo) but rather in Mandarin.
  • Cling
  • Sinovoice. Be sure to enter the “code” number or the text won’t be spoken aloud.
  • Ekho
  • Iflytek. This is is particularly interesting because it can add Hanyu Pinyin above the Hanzi that are being read. Unfortunately, this does not work in Opera; but Firefox and IE are OK.

Does anyone have any favorites?

Guangzhou opts for Pinyin ‘Lu’ over English ‘Road’

In the push for Guangzhou to revamp its street signs, it appears the initial move for all general terms to be translated into English — e.g., as road — has been overturned. I’m pleased. Thus, Guangzhou’s street signs will be written differently than those in Beijing and many other cities in China.

Of course, I’d be more pleased if, say, 白云路 were rendered as Baahk-wahn Louh (or however that should be spelled in Cantonese) instead of or in addition to Báiyún Lù. Fat chance of that happening, though. And, anyway, the ratio for stories that please me vs. those that really piss me off is not nearly what I’d like it to be, so at least today I’ll take what I can get.

Some excerpts from stories on this topic:

No, it is not “street,” nor “road”. It is simply lu.

The English translation for signs in Guangzhou will be based on Mandarin pronunciation with pinyin spelling and come into effect from May 1, the city government said.

This means busy Beijing Road will be translated as Beijinglu and east Dongfeng Road will be known as Dongfeng Donglu. Lu means road or street in English.

I really hope that “Beijinglu” is just a typo. It should be Beijing Lu / Běijīng Lù.

From a Mandarin-language story:

Zài “gōnggòng biāozhì Yīngwén yì fǎguī fàn” zuìchū de cǎogǎo xiàng shèhuì zhēngqiú yìjiàn shí, jiāng “lù” hé “dàdào” fānyì chéng Yīngyǔ dāncí Road, Avenue. Zuórì gōngbù de “gōnggòng biāozhì Yīngwén yì fǎguī fàn” dìnggǎo zhōng, cóng “dàdào” dào “lù” dào “xiàng”, “lǐ”, “jiē” děng, yīlǜ zhíjiē yòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn jìnxíng biāozhù. Dànshì xiāngyìng de, “qiáo”, “lìjiāoqiáo”, “gōnglù”, “suìdào” děng jiāotōng shèshī, “guīfàn” zé míngquè guīdìng shǐyòng yìyì, rú “Guǎngzhōu Dà Qiáo” yì wéi Guangzhou Bridge, “Guǎngshàn Gōnglù” yìchéng Guangshan Highway.

Note the translation (which, however, won’t be used) of dàdào as “avenue.” In Taiwan, this is rendered as “boulevard.”

OK, being pleased was nice while it lasted. Now, unfortunately, it’s time to go back to being pissed off. It takes real chutzpah to bring up a U.N. resolution that backs native languages in support of putting Mandarin on signs in a Cantonese-speaking region.

A resolution made by the UN in 1967 stipulated all the English translations of place names in each country and region should be based on its mother language. The State Council issued a plan to standardize place names in 1986, stipulating all public names should be based in pinyin.

Or, as a Mandarin-language article puts it in greater detail:

Zhōng yāoqiú duì shìzhèng dàolù de fānyì cǎiqǔ pīnyīn zhíyì de fāngshì, shì yǒu jù kěchá de. 1967 nián dì-èr jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng biāozhǔnhuà huìyì zuòchū juéyì, yāoqiú gèguó guójì jiāowǎng zhōng dōu shǐyòng Luómǎ (Lādīng) zìmǔ pīnxiě, měi ge dìmíng zhǐyǒu yī zhǒng Luómǎ zìmǔ de pīnxiě xíngshì, jí “dānyī Luómǎhuà”. Yīncǐ, “báiyún lù” jiùyào yì wéi Baiyun Lu, ér bù shì Baiyun Road, yīnwèi hòuzhě shì liǎng zhǒng bùtóng de Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiě xíngshì, bùfú “dānyī huà”. 1977 nián, dì-sān jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng biāozhǔnhuà huìyì shàng, tōngguòle Zhōngguó tíchū de cǎiyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn zuòwéi Zhōngguó dìmíng Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiěfǎ de guójì biāozhǔn. 1986 nián Guówùyuàn bānbù “dìmíng guǎnlǐ tiáolì”, guīdìng Zhōngguó dìmíng de Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiě, yī “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn” zuò tǒngyī guīfàn. Yīncǐ “báiyún lù” yě bùnéng yì wéi White Cloud Road, yīnwèi bù fúhé “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn”. Suǒyǐ, shǐyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zuòwéi Zhōngguó dìmíng pīnxiě guīfàn, bùjǐn wèi wǒmen fǎlǜ fǎguī suǒ guīdìng, yěděi dàoliǎo guójì shàng de rènkě.

Well, I suppose those could be separate instances of subversive irony; but my money is still on deeply offensive and clueless chutzpah. Or doublespeak. Take your pick.

sources:

related entries

San Francisco Chinatown signage

Here are some photos I took a couple of years ago in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

As should be clear from the Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciations I’ve provided for the Chinese characters, the Sinitic names for streets in Chinatown certainly don’t come from Mandarin, which isn’t surprising given how the Chinese diaspora was not predominantly Mandarin speaking until recently. My guess would be Taishanese Cantonese.

Beckett: 白話轉街 (Mandarin: Báihuàzhuǎn Jiē; Cantonese: baahk- wa/ jyun/ )

BECKETT 白話轉街

I like this unofficial sign even better.
a one-way sign, beneath which is a hand-lettered sign reading BECKETT ST 白話轉街

Jackson: 昃臣街 (Mandarin: Zèchén Jiē; Cantonese: jak\ sahn\)

The first Chinese character, 昃, is a surprising choice since it is quite rare and would not be known by most people. Some far more common characters that perhaps could have been used instead include 則 (Cantonese: jak\), 責 (Cantonese: jaak-), 澤 (Cantonese: jaahk-), and 擇 (Cantonese: jaahk-) — all of which are pronounced in Mandarin.

Jackson 昃臣街

Clay: 企李街 (Mandarin: Qǐlǐ Jiē; Cantonese: keih/ leih/)

streetsign for Clay Street, with 企李街 in Chinese characters

Commercial: 襟美慎街 (Mandarin: Jīnměishèn Jiē; Cantonese: kam\ meih/ sahn-)

I would have expected a semantic translation for this street name. But Kam-meih-sahn appears to be another phonetic approximation.

'Commercial 襟美慎街' -- a bronze placque embedded in brick paving

Grant: 都板街 (Mandarin: Dōubǎn Jiē; Cantonese: dou\ baan/ gaai\)

This is another interesting one. Note that Doubaan and Grant sound nothing like each other. And this isn’t a semantic translation of Grant either. So why is this street labelled 都板街? The answer is that the Sinitic name preserves an old name of the street: Dupont.

street sign reading 'Grant 都板街'

And for lagniappe, here’s a photo taken in the nearby Italian district, where Columbus Street is also identified in Italian as Corso Cristòforo Colombo.

as described above

further reading: