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” (q?nqiè) 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 (g?ng’?n).

sources and further reading:

Taiwanese-English, English-Taiwanese dictionaries posted

Maryknoll Language Service Center has put online the complete texts of its Taiwanese-English and English-Taiwanese dictionaries. Better still, these have been released under a Creative Commons license. These are a terrific resource for anyone who’s interested in Hoklo.

Maryknoll deserves praise for this great work. Thanks are due, too, to Tailingua, which I know has been working behind the scenes to help make this happen.

From the English Amoy Dictionary (???????):
screenshot from the English-Taiwanese dictionary

And from the Taiwanese-English Dictionary (??????):
screenshot from the dictionary

source: Maryknoll dictionaries now free to download, Tailingua, June 17, 2010

-r endings, their pronunciation, and Pinyin spelling

cover of Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and OrthographyArrr! In recognition of International Talk Like a Beijinger Pirate Day, here are the rules for how to spell those -r endings in Hanyu Pinyin and how those endings affect the pronunciation of syllables. In many cases, it’s more complicated than just adding an -r sound at the end of the standard syllable.

This information is from Yin Binyong’s Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography. The full section from this book is available in PDF form: r- Suffixed Syllables.

Written form Actual pronunciation
-ar (m?r, horse) -ar (m?r)
-air (gàir, lid) -ar (gàr)
-anr (pánr, plate) -ar (pár)
-aor (b?or, bundle) -aor (b?or)
-angr (g?ngr, jar) -ãr (gãr)
-or (mòr, dust) -or (mòr)
-our (hóur, monkey) -our (hóur)
-ongr (chóngr, insect) -õr (chõr)
-er (g?r, song) -er (g?r)
-eir (bèir, back) -er (bèr)
-enr (ménr, door) -er (mér)
-engr (d?ngr, lamp) -?r (d?r)
-ir* (zìr, Chinese character) -er (zèr)
-ir (m?r, rice) -ier (m?er)
-iar (xiár, box) -iar (xiár)
-ier (diér, saucer) -ier (diér)
-iaor (ni?or, bird) -iaor (ni?or)
-iur (qiúr, ball) -iour (qióur)
-ianr (di?nr, bit) -iar (di?r)
-iangr (qi?ngr, tune) -iãr (qiãr)
-inr (x?nr, core) -ier (x?er)
-ingr (língr, bell) -i?r (li?r)
-iongr (xióngr, bear) -iõr (xiõr)
-ur (tùr, rabbit) -ur (tùr)
-uar (hu?r, flower) -uar (hu?r)
-uor (huór, work) -uor (huór)
-uair (kuàir, piece) -uar (kuàr)
-uir (shu?r, water) -uer (shu?r)
-uanr (wánr, to play) -uar (wár)
-uangr (ku?ngr, basket) -uãr (kuãr)
-unr (lúnr, wheel) -uer (luér)
-ür (q?r, song) -üer (q?er)
-üer (juér, peg) -üer (juér)
-üanr (qu?nr, loop) -üar (qu?r)
-ünr (qúnr, skirt) -üer (quér)

Notes:

  • ã, õ, ? indicate nasalized a, o, e.
  • The -i marked with an asterisk indicates either of the apical vowels that follow zh, ch, sh, r and z, c, s.

Dungan and Gyami

The most recent release from the archives of Sino-Platonic Papers is a particular favorite of mine, Two Non-Tetragraphic Northern Sinitic Languages (2.6 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair. In case that title sounds a little technical, in layman’s terms the title might be A Couple of Languages Closely Related to Mandarin that Are Not Written with Chinese Characters (Which Many People Mistakenly Believe Are Essential for Such Languages), with One of Them Having Been Successfully Written with an Alphabet for Many Decades.

This issue comprises two studies:

  1. Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform, which has long been featured here on Pinyin.info, and
  2. Who Were the Gyámi?

This issue also contains “A Short Supplementary Note on the Name ‘Tibet.'” The subject of the essay probably sounds perfectly innocuous. But it set off a few rounds of polite but pointed dueling among scholars — in the pages of a journal, that is, not with pistols at forty paces or anything of that sort. The exchanges make for interesting reading. See, for example, SPP 35 (“Reviews IV,” pp. 32-37) and SPP 70 (“Reviews VI,” pp. 21, 79-84).

This was first published in May 1990 as issue no. 18 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

further reading:

‘dialects’ wasting ‘important neurons’ needed for Mandarin, English: Lee Kuan Yew

In 1979 Singapore launched its campaign for people there to “Strike Hard Against Hoklo, Cantonese, and Other Languages that Your Government Says Are Puny and Insignificant Because They Have Only Tens of Millions of Speakers Apiece,” er, “Speak Mandarin” (Ji?ng Huáy? Yùndòng / ?????). The city-state has been marking the the 30th anniversary of this with some speeches, such as one a couple of weeks ago by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (L? Gu?ngyào), now “minister mentor.”

Lee described the situation:

Thirty years ago I launched the Speak Mandarin campaign. [Singaporean] Chinese students learned Mandarin at school. Unfortunately, they used to speak dialects amongst themselves, at home, and with their friends — a variety of dialects.

Here, “dialects” is of course the standard misnomer for Sinitic languages other than Mandarin.

Lee said that he himself was setting a bad example during the 1960s and 1970s by doing such highly irresponsible things as giving speeches in the native language of the majority of Singapore’s citizens. So he stopped all that. And he had the government shut down almost all broadcasts in Hokkien (Hoklo) and other such languages.

Lee said that although he understands “the strong emotional ties to one’s mother tongue … the trend is clear. In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue.”

Actually, no, that’s not clear at all. Rather, a very different trend is apparent. During his speech Lee displayed the graph below, with data taken from surveys conducted by Singapore’s Ministry of Education.

Dominant Home Language of Singaporean Chinese Primary-1 Students (1980 to 2009)
graph showing English in a steady climb from 10% -- all numbers are approximate -- (1980) to 60% (2009); 'Chinese dialects' in steep decline from 1980 (62%) to 1988 (9%) and continuing to decline to only 1% or 2% in 2009; and Mandarin, which begins in 1980 at 28% and quickly tops 60% in 1985, with slower growth until 1988 (69%), after which it enters a steady decline to 39% (2009)

As the primary language of the home for young students, Mandarin has dropped steadily since the late 1980s, while English has risen steadily since 1980, with English surpassing Mandarin in 2004. (Language data for the whole population is more complicated. See, for example, the 2005 General Household Survey.)

Of course the government and Lee recognize this. But they don’t want to fight against English, which is crucial to Singapore’s success. So what Lee is proposing is that parents — both parents — speak Mandarin, not English, to their children.

(I see from my stats that this site gets lots of visitors from Singapore. Can any of you comment on how well you think the public will respond to Lee’s proposal.)

Lee explained in his speech that people have only so many “gigabytes” in their brains to devote to languages.

Though stating that speaking “dialects” in some situations can provide “extra warmth,” he warns that by using such languages: “You are losing important neurons with data which should not be there. And like the computer, when you delete it, it doesn’t really go away. It’s there at the back, and you’ve got to go to the rubbish channel and say ‘destroy.’ And it’s still disturbing your hard disk.”

Thus, those rubbish languages must be destroyed “dialects” must be let go, he said.

On March 8 a linguist at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “Although Singaporeans are still multilingual, 40 years ago, we were even more multilingual. Young children are not speaking some of these languages at all any more…. All it takes is one generation for a language to die.” But even after all these years, with Sinitic languages other than Mandarin fading fast there, this is apparently still no time to be slacking off, as Lee’s principal private secretary, Chee Hong Tat, promptly responded, “It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.”

Part of the reason behind Lee’s call, however, is a basic misunderstanding. Setting aside the matters of educating children in a language not native to them and how many languages most people are capable of speaking effectively, the main difficulty with learning Mandarin is not the language itself (especially for those who speak other Sinitic languages) but Chinese characters as its near-exclusive script.

If Singapore is smart about promoting Mandarin, sooner rather than later it will develop a two-track system, with most students studying how to read and write Mandarin exclusively in Hanyu Pinyin, while those who wish become more specialized can go on to study Chinese characters as well. For this to work, Singapore will need to produce plenty of material to read in Pinyin. (A newspaper, for example, would be a must — and one with real news, not just cute stories for kids.) The city-state certainly has the means and motive for this. But does it have the imagination? If it does, most students could save their precious neurons and gigabytes for other things — perhaps even their families’ traditional native languages.

SOURCES:
Lee Kuan Yew speech:

Some Singapore blog posts:

newspaper stories:

letter to the editor:

additional:

Writing Taiwanese: 1999 study

This seems as good an announcement as any to end my hiatus from posting. Sino-Platonic Papers has just rereleased a popular issue of likely interest to many readers of Pinyin News: Writing Taiwanese: The Development of Modern Written Taiwanese (2.2 MB PDF), by Alvin Lin.

The table of contents gives a pretty good picture of what’s inside:

Preface
Introduction
The Status Quo: Characters and Taiwanese writing

  1. The Roots of Writing in Taiwanese: Wenyan, baihua and academic Taiwanese
  2. The Missing 15 Percent: Developing a written vernacular
  3. One Attempt at Finding the Missing 15 Percent: Yang Qingchu’s Mandarin-Taiwanese Dictionary

Writing Romanized Taiwanese

  1. The Roots of Romanized Taiwanese: Church Romanization
  2. Church Romanization Today: The Taigu listserver
  3. An Indigenous System: Liim Keahioong and Modern Literal Taiwanese

Linguistic and Social Considerations

  1. Some Linguistic Classifications
  2. Dealing with Homonyms: Morphophonemic spelling
  3. Tones in Taiwanese: Surface vs. Lexical tones
  4. Representing Dialects: Picking a standard written form or representing all dialects
  5. Summary of Linguistic Concerns: Deciding the degree of coding
  6. Writing, Reading, Printing, Computing, Indexing and other Practical Concerns
  7. Social Concerns: Tradition and Political Meaning
  8. Conclusion: Future Orthography Policy on Taiwan

Bibliography
Appendices:

  • Email Survey
  • Pronunciation guide to church romanization

List of Tables and Illustrations:

  • Table 1: Suggested Characters for Taiwanese Morphemes from Three Sources
  • Figure 1: Yang Qingchu’s Taiwanese-Mandarin Dictionary
  • Figure 2: Church romanization
  • Figure 3: Modern Literal Taiwanese
  • Figure 4: Sample e-mail from Taigu listserver

This was first published in 1999 as issue number 89 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, and the word for ‘wheel’

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is “Sino-Tibetan *kolo ‘Wheel‘” (800 KB PDF), by Robert S. Bauer. Those of you who like historical linguistics should be sure to read this one.

Abstract:

That the horse-drawn chariot appeared suddenly in China in the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1500-1066 BC) has led some Western scholars to believe that it was not independently invented by the Chinese but was introduced there by Western invaders. This paper is based on the premise that there is a connection between the transmission of the horse-drawn chariot from the West into China and the origin of some words meaning “wheel” and “wheeled-vehicle” in Sino-Tibetan languages. In particular, the paper proposes that words for “wheel” in some northern Chinese dialects and Bodic (Tibetan) languages are ultimately derived from an Indo-European source. On the basis of the comparison of words for “wheel” from various Sinitic and Bodic languages, the author has reconstructed the Proto-Sino-Tibetan root *kolo “wheel” which is itself an Indo-European contact loanword.

This was first published in August 1994 as issue no. 47 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

gov’t unveils online Taiwanese dictionary

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has put online its new Taiwanese (Hoklo) dictionary, the Táiw?n M?nnány? chángyòngcí cídi?n (giving the Mandarin name) (??????????). The preliminary version, which is to be amended in six months, contains 16,000 entries.

I especially welcome the section on Taiwan place-names.

further reading: MOE launches first Hoklo-language online dictionary, Taipei Times, October 20, 2008 [Note: The headline's use of "first" is almost certainly incorrect.]