Ma administration still undecided on how to teach Taiwanese

Under the new administration of President Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has worked out its plan for teaching pretty much everything … except for Hoklo (the language better known in these parts as “Taiwanese”). There have been a lot of arguments. How early to start teaching the language? How much should be taught? Use romanization? Use zhuyin? May teachers use any kind of soap or only special kinds when washing out the mouths of students speaking the language? (OK, they don’t do that last one anymore.)

So the ministry has decided to appoint a new committee to review such questions. Decisions on these issues are expected in six months or so.

My guess would be that the ministry is going to pack the new committee with conservatives who will see to it that romanization is avoided or at least belittled, that little of the language will actually be taught, and that students will not be tested seriously on the subject. But I’ll be happy if I’m wrong.

sources:

software for Shanghainese

Professor Qián N?iróng (Qian Nairong / ???) of Shanghai University has just issued free software to help with the writing of Shanghainese (???). People may now download the 1.3 MB zip file of the program.

Some examples:

shanghe ??
shanghehhehho ???/???????
whangpugang ???
suzouhhu???
shyti ??????
makshy ??????
bhakxiang ?????
dangbhang ???????
ghakbhangyhou ????????
cakyhangxiang ???????????
linfhakqin ???(????)
dhaojiangwhu ??????
aoshaoxhin ?????????????
ghe ????
kang ????
yin ??????
dia ?
whakji ??

The program offers two flavors of romanization. Here are some examples of the differences between the two styles:

New Folk Old Timers
makshy ??????
bhakxiang ?????
dangbhang ???????
ghakbhangyhou ????????
cakyhangxiang ???????????
linfhakqin ???(????)
mekshy ??????
bhekxian ?????
danbhan ???????
ghakbhanyhou ????????
cekyhanxian ???????????
linfhekqin ???(????)

Here’s a brief story on this:

Xiànzài, w?men zài w?ngluò zh?ng liáoti?n de shíhou yuèláiyuè du? de péngyou d?u k?ish? x?huan yòng Shàngh?ihuà. Dànshì y?ushíhou shìbushì juéde xi?ng bi?odá dehuà bùzh?dào z?nme d?, nòng de y?udi?n bùlúnbùlèi ne? Xiànzài, y? ge k?y? q?ngs?ng d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà de chéngxù ch?lai le.

J?ngguò li?ng nián n?lì, Shàngh?i dàxué Zh?ngwénxì Qián N?iróng jiàoshòu jí t? de yánji?sh?ng hé d?dàng zh?ngyú yú b?nyuè wánchéng le Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? de zhìzuò. Zhíde gu?nzhù de shì, zhè tào sh?rùf? hái b?okuò x?n-l?o li?ng ge b?nb?n, 45 suì y?shàng de l?o Shàngh?i rénhé niánq?ng y? dài de Shàngh?irén d?u k?y? zh?odào zìj? de “d?f?.”

Háishi tóngyàng 26 ge zìm? de jiànpán, 8 yuè 1 rì q? xiàzài le Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? zh?hòu, nín jiù k?y? t?ngguò sh?rù “linfhakqin” d?ch? “l?n wù q?ng,” sh?rù “dhaojiangwhu” d?ch? “táo jiànghu” d?ng yuánzh? yuán wèi de Shàngh?ihuà le. Zuóti?n, jìzh? tíqián xiàzài dào g?i ru?njiàn. Ànzhào sh?yòng shu?míng, yòng quánp?n de f?ngshì chángshì sh?rù “laoselaosy” zhèxi? zìm?, píngmù shàng, lìjí ch?xiàn le “l?o s?nl?o sì” (Shàngh?ihuà, yìsi shì “màil?o, ch?ng l?ochéng de yàngzi”).

Jùx?, yóuyú Shàngh?ihuà y? P?t?nghuà de dúf? y?usu?bùtóng, su?y? zài p?ny?n p?nxi? f?ngshì shàng háishi x?yào sh?yòng shu?míng de b?ngzhù. B?rú jìzh? f?xiàn, fánshì y? P?t?nghuà sh?ngm?, yùnm? xi?ngtóng de zì, zài Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? zh?ng zuìzh?ng yòng de háishi P?t?nghuà p?ny?n, bùtóng de zé c?iyòng Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? de p?nxi? f?ngshì. Rú “chéngu?ng” de “chén,” “hu?tou” de “tóu” d?u f?chéng zhuóy?n, Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n sh?rùf? zh?ng yàozài sh?ngm? zh?ng ji? y? ge zìm? h, p?nchéng “shen,” “dhou;” fánshì rùsh?ng zì, zé zài p?ny?n hòu ji? zìm?k, rú “báixi?ng” de “bái” jiù p?nchéng bhek.

Bùguò, dàji? bùyào juéde tài nán. Jìzh? f?xiàn, Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? y? P?t?nghuà de sh?rùf? zuìdà xi?ngtóng zh? ch?zài yú, zh?yào liánxù sh?rù sh?ngm? hé yùnm? jiù k?y?, bùx? sh?rù sh?ngdiào. C?wài, Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n sh?rù xìt?ng háiy?u lèisì “zhìnéng” y?udi?n, k?yòng su?lüè f?ngshì b? cíy? p?nxi? ch?lai.

Zh?chí Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? k?if? de Shàngh?i dàxué Zh?ngwénxì Qián N?iróng jiàoshòu gàosu jìzh?, zhè tào sh?rùf? bùj?n néng d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà dà cídi?n zh?ng 15,000 du? ge cítiáo, érqi? hái néng yòng Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà zh?ng sh?yòng zhe de, y? P?t?nghuà cíyì xi?ngtóng dàn y?y?n bùtóng de chángyòng cíy?. Rú “Huángp? Ji?ng” sh?rù “whangpugang” , “l?xi?ng” zéshì lixiang d?ng, gòngjì 10,000 du? ge cítiáo.

sources:

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

Chinese New Year’s resolutions: a suggestion

Happy year of the rat, everyone!

Several years ago I made some resolutions for Chinese New Year that others might find useful, if you haven’t adopted similar ones already.

  1. If I’m referring to Mandarin I will use the word “Mandarin,” not “Chinese.”
  2. If I’m referring to a language, I’ll call it a language, not a dialect.

Pretty basic. But these greatly help clarity. And they have the benefit of being correct.

The reason you’ll sometimes find the phrase “Mandarin Chinese” rather than just “Mandarin” on my site is I want to help people find this through search engines. But for the most part the inclusion of the word “Chinese” is easily accomplished through tags or mention of “Chinese characters.”

I’d like to note that even many of those who really should know better have things backwards. They might note that “Chinese” is not a language but a family of languages — and even then one that should be known as Sinitic rather than “Chinese.” And they tend to spend a line or so explaining that what many people refer to as Chinese “dialects” are really languages. This is all well and good. But then they go on to use “Chinese” and “dialects” over and over.

The messages they’re sending out:

Chinese Chinese Chinese Mandarin Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese Chinese.

and

Dialect dialect language dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect dialect.

So what people hear is “Chinese” and “dialect” — both of which are usually wrong.

I have made some resolutions of my own for this year: the first being to answer e-mail messages much quicker than my present average of three or more months behind when I should. Although I’m terrible at writing, I am indeed grateful for all of the messages I receive.

Xinnian kuaile!

that demon grammar: lessons from Indian mythology

The most recent reissue from Sino-Platonic Papers is On Attitudes towards Language in Ancient India, by George Cardona of the University of Pennsylvania. Cardona discusses how grammar “became part of a soteriological system, with linguistic usage a means to acquiring merit and the ultimate good.” [I had to look that one up.]

“In this respect,” he concludes, “the Indian attitude towards language is probably unique.”

He gives several examples from early writings, including this one:

“The demons, with speech taken away from them, said he’lavo he ‘lavah? and were thus vanquished. They uttered this indistinct speech there. That is barbaric speech (mlecchah?). Therefore, a Br?hman?a is not to utter barbaric speech (na mlecchet), for this speech is of the demons. One who know thus takes the speech of his competitors who hate him; they are vanquished with their speech taken from them.”

Now, the contrast here is not between ?rya and non-?rya pure and simple. Instead, the emphasis is placed on usage that is correct according to an accepted norm and usage that is considered barbaric because of its deviation from the norm. Thus, the demons are said to have been vanquished because, incapable of uttering the correct form he3arayo he3arayah?, they said he’lavo he’lavah?. That is, instead of the accepted form arayah?, with -r- and -y-, they used a dialectal and unacceptable form alavah?, with -l- and -v-; and instead of using a prolated (trimoric) -e3 that is exempt from phonological alternation, they used an ordinary vowel -e and followed the rule of phonologic alternation whereby word-final -e and word-initial a- together give -e-.

Although some of that may sound complicated, depending on your familiarity with that field, the essay as a whole is aimed at nonspecialists.

This was first published in January 1990 as issue no. 15 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Dungan-language radio

The state radio station of Kyrgyzstan offers a weekly broadcast in Dungan, which is basically a spin-off of northwestern Mandarin with lots of loan words from Persian, Arabic, and Russian. Of particular interest is that the language — which, permit me to note again, is basically Mandarin — is written with an alphabet (at present, one based on the Cyrillic alphabet). Chinese characters are of course not necessary and are not used. For details of the language, script, and people, see Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform, by Victor H. Mair, and Ethnolinguistic Notes on the Dungan, by Lisa E. Husmann and William S-Y. Wang (available online in Schriftfestschrift: Essays in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday, pp. 71-84).

The Dungan radio show is broadcast on Mondays between 6:35 and 7:05 p.m., Taipei time (4:35-5:05 a.m. U.S. central standard time). The show usually starts closer to 6:40 and ends about 7:03.

I made a recording of the latest broadcast (Dec. 31, 2007): Dungan radio broadcast (23 MB mp3).

[Here’s another: Dungan radio broadcast, January 14, 2008 (23 MB mp3).]

I mainly understand words, not entire sentences, though my comprehension improves a little with repeated listenings.

This Kyrgyz radio station (?????????? ?????) is available through at least three different Internet links:

  1. www.radio.kg/RadioKTR.asx
  2. www.radio.kg/RadioKTR.ram
  3. mms://212.42.102.212:8554/RadioKTR, which is what you get by using the “Kyrgyz radio” link on the Web site for the State Broadcast Company of the Kyrgyz Republic

I have had the best luck with link no. 1.

I made the recording with Total Recorder for Windows and edited it in Audacity.

I’ve heard that Mac users can get good results with Audio Hijack.

The Gangou people of Qinghai / Koko Nor

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Interethnic Contact on the Inner Asian Frontier: The Gangou People of Minhe County, Qinghai (3.3 MB PDF), by FENG Lide and Kevin Stuart.

According to the authors, the Gangou people raise important questions as to the meaning of “Han” and indeed, to ethnic classification in China.

This work also contains a section on language in the area.

Here is the opening of the introduction, minus the Chinese characters:

China cultural studies have often pigeon-holed the subject in a convenient ethnic category giving cultural phenomena ethnic tabs. The preponderance of Han in China has meant that some minority groups or a substantial portion of the same have been sinicized to the extent that little remains of the original minority culture. Examples include the Manchu and nearly all minority people reared in urban areas.

Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to “Han” who have been much influenced by minority people, which this study focuses on. We have chosen a village in Qinghai that illustrates this. It is an area where multicultural contact and mingling have a history of more than 2,000 years. For example, in 202 BC, speakers of an eastern Iranian Indo-European language fled to Qinghai where they settled and were absorbed by Qiangh tribes. Succeeding centuries saw migrations of Xianbei, Xiongnu, Tuyuhun, Tibetans, Uygur, Mongolians, Han, and various Turkish stock into Qinghai, which formally became a province of China in 1928. Prior to that time, it was the Tibetan frontier district of the present Gansu Province (Schram 1954, 17-22).

The post-1949 period has seen a large influx of Han into Qinghai — particularly in urban areas.

This is issue no. 33 of Sino-Platonic Papers. It was first published in September 1992.

Reviews of books on oracle bones, language and script, violence in China, etc.: SPP

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased the third volume in its series of book reviews: Reviews III (8.3 MB PDF).

This volume was first published in October 1991.

The main topics of the books in this volume are

  • Violence in China
  • Scientific Stagnation in Traditional China.
  • Oracle Shell and Bone Inscriptions (OSBIs)
  • Proto-Language And Culture
  • Language and Script
  • Reference Tools for Sinitic Languages
  • Literature and the Life of Peking
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Words
  • The New World
  • “Barbarian” Business
  • South Asia
  • Miscellaneous

For those who hesitate to download such a large file without knowing which books were reviewed, you may consult the table of contents (small HTML file).