status of Cantonese: a survey-based study

The latest new release from Sino-Platonic Papers is one that I think will be of particular interest to readers of Pinyin News. It’s an extensive study of not only the attitudes of speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin toward the status of Cantonese but also their beliefs about its future, especially in Hong Kong: Language or Dialect–or Topolect? A Comparison of the Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese (650 KB PDF), by Julie M. Groves.

This study reports on a comparative survey of three groups of Chinese: 53 Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, 18 Mainland Chinese Cantonese speakers, and 72 Mainland Chinese Putonghua speakers. It was found that the Putonghua speakers held more ‘classic’ views, the majority seeing Cantonese as a dialect. In contrast, only just over half the Hong Kongers and two-fifths the Mainland Cantonese speakers considered it clearly a dialect, while one-third of all respondents favoured a mid-point classification. The differing perspectives held by the groups can be traced to their different political and linguistic situations, which touch issues of identity.

The author notes, “The uncertainties in classification also reflect a problem with terminology. The Chinese word usually translated dialect, fangyan (??), does not accurately match the English word dialect.” Groves recommends the adoption of Victor Mair’s proposed English word for fangyan: topolect.

Although this focuses on the dialect vs. language debate, it covers much more than that. Those being surveyed were also asked questions such as:

  • Where do you think the best Cantonese is spoken?
  • Do you think Putonghua will eventually replace Cantonese as the main, everyday language of Hong Kongers?
  • Do you think it is possible for someone to consider themselves to be a Hong Konger (or Hong Kong Chinese/Chinese Hong Konger) without being able to speak Cantonese?

The results of the study may also prove useful for those interested in the future of other languages of China and Taiwan, such as Taiwanese and Shanghainese.

Here are a couple of the many graphs found in the study.

HK Cant = Hong Kong Cantonese speakers
MCant = mainland Cantonese speakers
MPTH = mainland speakers of Mandarin (“P?t?nghuà“)

graph of responses to the question 'Will Putonghua replace Cantonese as the main language of Hong Kongers?' Most say 'no' -- and this is strongest among mainland Cantonese speakers

graph of responses to the question 'Can a person be a Hong Konger without speaking Cantonese?' Most Hong Kong Cantonese speakers say no; but the answer is closer to a tie for mainland Mandarin speakers

English + Chinese characters for Cantonese: Number 1!

Andy Lau being presented with the calligraphy scroll discussed in this postJoel of Danwei has posted about an interesting calligraphy scroll presented to Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau.

The characters read “You Are No. 1!”

That’s not a translation: the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters ?????! (“yiu a nam ba wan!”) approximates the English sentence.

I just love stuff like this.

Read in Mandarin this is just gibberish, especially the character ?.

Read the whole post for details.

The technique also recalls the cover of Visible Speech, by John DeFrancis, which renders part of the Gettysburg Address phonetically in various scripts, some more closely than others (see the bottom line for Chinese characters with Mandarin pronunciations):
'four score and seven years ago' in lots of different scripts

source: If you can read this, you’re Number One!, Danwei, December 6, 2007

Hong Kong moves to increase teaching in Mandarin, decrease teaching in Cantonese

The Hong Kong government’s Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (“Scolar” — heh) yesterday launched a HK$200 million (US$25.8 million) campaign to help schools use Mandarin as the medium for instruction.

Half of the money will be used to hire extra teachers, with the other half used to bring in mainland teaching experts.

To qualify for this funding, schools must demonstrate competence in teaching “Chinese” in Mandarin and be ready to switch 40 percent of “Chinese language teaching” from Cantonese to Mandarin within three years. The scheme is expected to start at the beginning of the next academic year and last for more than three years.

Each year about 30 primary and 10 secondary schools will be added to the program.

Scolar Chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun said that his committee “has agreed that Putonghua [i.e., Mandarin] should be used as a medium of instruction for Chinese language subjects in the long term.”

This does not bode well for the future of Cantonese.

sources:

Shanghai metro told to end language service

This week’s news provides a good example of how petty China’s language police can be.

Workers in Shanghai’s metro service must often deal with Chinese who do not speak either Shanghainese or standard Mandarin, so they began to collect useful phrases so staff members could better understand and answer some questions. They focused on Cantonese, Hoklo (a.k.a. Minnan, Southern Fujianese, Taiwanese, etc.), Wenzhouhua (although this is generally classified as part of the same language that contains Shanghainese, it is largely incomprehensible to most people in Shanghai), Wuhanhua (although classified as a Mandarin dialect, it is far removed from standard Mandarin), and Changsha (a dialect of Hunanese). More than fifty metro employees are to study the phrases.

This caught the attention of Shanghai’s Spoken and Written Language Work Committee (Y?yán Wénzì G?ngzuò W?iyuánhuì). On Tuesday, Zhu Lei (??), a committee official, reported that her office had “contacted the Metro management …, stating that the program could violate the country’s language policy to promote the use of Putonghua [i.e., Mandarin].”

“The right way to solve communication barrier is to speak Putonghua,” she is quoted as saying.
sources:

reviews of books related to China and linguistics (2)

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released online its second compilation of book reviews. Here are the books discussed. (Note: The links below do not lead to the reviews but to other material. Use the link above.)

Invited Reviews

  • William A. Boltz, “The Typological Analysis of the Chinese Script.” A review article of John DeFrancis, Visible Speech, the Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems.
  • Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao, eds., Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu. Reviewed by William R. LaFleur .
  • Vladimir N. Basilov, ed., Nomads of Eurasia. Reviewed by David A. Utz.

Reviews by the Editor

  • “Philosophy and Language.” A review article of Françcois Jullien, Procès ou Création: Une introduction a la pensée des lettrés chinois.

Language and Linguistics

  • W. South Coblin, A Handbook of Eastern Han Sound Glosses.
  • Weldon South Coblin. A Sinologist’s Handlist of Sino-Tibetan Lexical Comparisons.
  • ZHOU Zhenhe and YOU Rujie. Fangyan yu Zhongguo Wenhua [Topolects and Chinese Culture].
  • CHOU Fa-kao. Papers in Chinese Linguistics and Epigraphy.
  • ZENG Zifan. Guangzhouhua Putonghua Duibi Qutan [Interesting Parallels between Cantonese and Mandarin].
  • Luciana Bressan. La Determinazione delle Norme Ortografiche del Pinyin.
  • JIANG Shaoyu and XU Changhua, tr. Zhongguoyu Lishi Wenfa [A Historical Grammar of Modern Chinese] by OTA Tatsuo.
  • McMahon, et al. Expository Writing in Chinese.
  • P. C. T’ung and D. E. Pollard. Colloquial Chinese.
  • Li Sijing, Hanyu “er” Yin Shih Yanjiu [Studies on the History of the “er” Sound in Sinitic].
  • Maurice Coyaud, Les langues dans le monde chinois.
  • Patricia Herbert and Anthony Milner, eds., South-East Asia: Languages and Literatures; A Select Guide.
  • Andrew Large, The Artificial Language Movement.
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Language: The Diversity of Hunan Language-Structure and Its Influence on the Mental Development of Mankind.
  • Vitaly Shevoroshkin, ed., Reconstructing Languages and Cultures.
  • Jan Wind, et al., eds., Studies in Language Origins.

Short Notices

  • A. Kondratov, Sounds and Signs.
  • Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life.
  • Pitfalls of the Tetragraphic Script.

Lexicography and Lexicology

  • MIN Jiaji, et al., comp., Hanyu Xinci Cidian [A Dictionary of New Sinitic Terms]
  • LYU Caizhen, et al., comp., Xiandai Hanyu Nanci Cidian [A Dictionary of Difficult Terms in Modern Sinitic].
  • Tom McArthur, Worlds of Reference: Lexicography, learning and language from the clay tablet to the computer.

A Bouquet of Pekingese Lexicons

  • JIN Shoushen, comp., Beijinghua Yuhui [Pekingese Vocabulary].
  • SONG Xiaocai and MA Xinhua, comp., Beijinghua Ciyu Lishi [Pekingese Expressions with Examples and Explanations] .
  • SONG Xiaocai and MA Xinhua, comp., Beijinghua Yuci Huishi [Pekingese Words and Phrases with Explanations] .
  • FU Min and GAO Aijun, comp., Beijinghua Ciyu (Dialectical Words and Phrases in Beijing).

A Bibliographical Trilogy

  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Linguistics: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.
  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Dialectology: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.
  • Paul Fu-mien Yang, comp., Chinese Lexicology and Lexicography: A Selected and Classified Bibliography.

Orality and Literacy

  • Jack Goody. The interface between the written and the oral.
  • Jack Goody. The logic of writing and the organization of society.
  • Deborah Tannen, ed., Spoken and Written Language: Exploring Orality and Literacy.

Society and Culture

  • Scott Simmie and Bob Nixon, Tiananmen Square.
  • Thomas H. C. Lee, Government Education and Examinations in Sung China.
  • ZHANG Zhishan, tr. and ed., Zhongguo zhi Xing [Record of a Journey to China].
  • LIN Wushu, Monijiao ji Qi Dongjian [Manichaeism and Its Eastward Expansion].
  • E. N. Anderson, The Food of China.
  • K. C. Chang, ed., Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives.
  • Jacques Gemet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures.
  • D. E. Mungello, Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology.

Short Notice

  • Roben Jastrow, The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe.

In Memoriam
Chang-chen HSU
August 6, 1957 – June 27, 1989

  • Hsu Chang-chen, ed., and tr., Yin-tu hsien-tai hsiao-shuo hsüan [A Selection of Contemporary Indian Fiction].
  • Hsu Chang-chen, T’o-fu tzu-huiyen-chiu (Mastering TOEFL Vocabulary).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, Tsui-chung-yao-te i pai ke Ying-wen tzu-shou tzu-ken (100 English Prefixes and Word Roots).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, Fa-wen tzu-hui chieh-koufen-hsi — tzu-shou yü tzu-ken (Les préfixes et les racines de la langue française).
  • Hsu Chang-chen, comp. and tr., Hsi-yü yü Fo-chiao wen-shih lun-chi (Collection of Articles on Studies of Central Asia, India, and Buddhism).

This is SPP no. 14, from December 1989. The entire text is now online as a 7.3 MB PDF.

See my earlier post for the contents of the first SPP volume of reviews and a link to the full volume.

‘dialect’ and ‘Chinese’ from a linguistic point of view

Another back issue of Sino-Platonic Papers has been released, this one of particular relevance to the themes of this site: What Is a Chinese “Dialect/Topolect”? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms (1991), by Professor Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Here is the abstract:

Words like fangyan, putonghua, Hanyu, Guoyu, and Zhongwen have been the source of considerable perplexity and dissension among students of Chinese language(s) in recent years. The controversies they engender are compounded enormously when attempts are made to render these terms into English and other Western languages. Unfortunate arguments have erupted, for example, over whether Taiwanese is a Chinese language or a Chinese dialect. In an attempt to bring some degree of clarity and harmony to the demonstrably international fields of Sino-Tibetan and Chinese linguistics, this article examines these and related terms from both historical and semantic perspectives. By being careful to understand precisely what these words have meant to whom and during which period of time, needlessly explosive situations may be defused and, an added benefit, perhaps the beginnings of a new classification scheme for Chinese language(s) may be achieved. As an initial step in the right direction, the author proposes the adoption of “topolect” as an exact, neutral translation of fangyan.

The entire text is now online as a 2.2 MB PDF: What Is a Chinese “Dialect/Topolect”? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms.

Strongly recommended.

Y.R. Chao works being reissued

cover of the book 'Linguistic Essays, by Yuenren Chao'The Commercial Press has begun issuing a set of the complete works of Y.R. Chao (Zhao Yuanren / ??? / ???). This project, which will comprise some twenty volumes, will contain works in both English and Mandarin Chinese. All of the many fields Chao wrote about will be covered. Letters and journals will also be included, as will sound recordings. Wonderful!

For those who don’t want to wait for the whole series or don’t feel the need to buy all of them, the Commercial Press has also two volumes of Chao’s selected essays on linguistics: one in English and one in Mandarin. These are, respectively, Linguistic Essays by Yuenren Chao (ISBN: 7-100-03385-3/H·860) and Zhào Yuánrèn y?yánxué lùnwénjí (?????????) (ISBN: 7-100-03127-3/H·789).

cover of the book '????????? Zhao Yuanren Yuyanxue Lunwenji'Note how the cover of Linguistic Essays, a book printed just last year in China, uses “Yuenren Chao,” the traditional spelling and Western order of his name, rather than “Zhao Yuanren,” the spelling used in Hanyu Pinyin. Also note how the Mandarin title is given in traditional, not simplified, characters: ?????????, not ?????????. A nice surprise, on both counts. On the other hand, the botched romanization on the cover of the Mandarin-language collection, which gives “ZHAOYUANREN YUYANXUELUNWENJI” instead of “Zhào Yuánrèn y?yánxué lùnwénjí,” is particularly inappropriate and painful to look at on a collection of the works of this brilliant linguist. But don’t judge this book by its cover.

Here are links to all the volumes in the complete works that I’ve been able to locate information on:

cover of the first volume of Y.R. Chao's collected works

Hong Kong’s pride in Putonghua

Pride in the Mandarin language (Putonghua) in Hong Kong has risen from 18 percent in 1996 to 34 percent today, according to the results of a survey of survey conducted in October by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for Communications Research.

The center surveyed a total of 1,013 people about their feelings of pride associated with various Chinese things. A five-point scale was used to record the answers, with 1 representing a complete lack of feeling of pride and 5 representing an intense feeling of pride. (1 f?n dàibi?o wánquán wú zìháo g?njué, 5 f?n dàibi?o y?u h?o qiángliè jì zìháo g?njué / 1???????????5????????????).

Percentage of pride was calculated as the sum of the percentages of respondents giving 4 or 5 points when asked about their feeling of pride towards a certain icon.

Here is the breakdown for the recent survey question on Mandarin:
Where 1 is a complete lack of pride and 5 is very strong pride, the responses in 2006 were as follows: 1: 25.4%; 2: 9.1%; 3: 30.0%; 4: 17.6%; 5: 14.4%; don't know/no answer: 1.4%;

And here is how pride in Mandarin has changed over time:
1996 18.6%, 1997 21.3%, 1998 19.9%, 1999 28.0%, 2002 25.2%, 2006 34.0%

Of course, if a response of 4 or 5 indicates pride, it may well be that 1 or 2 indicates a lack thereof, in which case those without pride in Mandarin (34.5%) still outnumber those with pride in it (34.0%).

Unfortunately, related questions on pride in Cantonese and English were not asked, so we don’t know how feelings about Mandarin stack up against those for the two other important languages of Hong Kong.

On the other hand, the survey covered other areas, which may be useful for purposes of comparison:

Almost half (48 per cent) of those questioned said they felt proud of the national flag and anthem of China compared to 30 and 39 per cent of those questions in a survey in 1996, one year before the former British colony became part of China again.

More than 28 per cent admitted pride in the China’s People’s Liberation Army compared to 10 per cent in 1996….

However, pride in Hong Kong remained higher with respondents grading their love for their home city at 7.52 on a scale of 1 to 10, compared to an average of 6.49 for China and only 2.91 for the Communist Party.

The Great Wall elicited some of the most positive feedback with 73 per cent saying it made them feel proud while the Chinese mainland security officials came out as being one of the most unpopular things in China, evoking pride in only 6 per cent of those questioned. (DPA)

I’d like to thank those at the Center for Communications Research for providing me with the data on Putonghua and answering various questions.

additional resource: Proud To Be Chinese – But Hongkongers Still Love Their City More, DPA, November 2006