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:

more Dungan

Since earlier this month when I wrote a post on Dungan-language radio, I’ve discovered that Olli Salmi has some great Dungan material on his website, including a paper he wrote and a couple of stories in Dungan, including one he has translated into English.

And for lagniappe he offers “An Unofficial Practical Orthography for the Kiowa Language.”

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.

‘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.

Festschrift for John DeFrancis now available for free

Most readers of Pinyin News will already know of John DeFrancis, editor of the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary and author of The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy and many other important works. (If you haven’t read The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy yet, order it now.)

In recognition of the 95th(!) birthday today of Professor DeFrancis, Sino-Platonic Papers is rereleasing Schriftfestschrift: Essays in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday. Previously, this important compilation, which runs more than 250 pages, was available only in a printed edition priced at US$35. The fifteenth-anniversary edition, however, is being released for free as a PDF (15 MB — so have a fast Internet connection, or a lot of patience).

I’d like to draw special attention to an article written in Pinyin: “Hanzi Bu Tebie Biaoyi,” by Zhang Liqing. (Zhang’s work also appears here on Pinyin Info, in her translations of The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts and of the amazing Comparing Chinese Characters and a Chinese Spelling Script — an evening conversation on the reform of Chinese characters.)

Feel free to print out a copy of the Schriftfestschrift for your own use or for inclusion in a library. Just don’t sell it.

The original publication contained several color photos. I’ll add those later. Also, the English tex is searchable to some degree, as I used OCR after scanning these pages; but the results weren’t perfect.

Here are the contents:

  • Tabula Gratulatoria
  • Introduction, by Victor H. Mair
  • Publications of John DeFrancis
  • Hanzi Bu Tebie Biaoyi, by Zhang Liqing
  • Typology of Writing Systems, by Zhou Youguang
  • Dui Hanzi de Jizhong Wujie, by Yin Binyong
  • The Information Society and Terminology, by Liu Yongquan
  • A Bilingual Mosaic, by Einar Haugen
  • The Polysemy of the Term Kokugo, by S. Robert Ramsey
  • Memorizing Kanji: Lessons from a Pro, by J. Marshall Unger
  • Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard, by David Moser
  • Ethnolinguistic Notes on the Dungan, by Lisa E. Husmann and William S-Y. Wang
  • Korean Views on Writing Reform, by Wm. C. Hannas
  • Language Policies and Linguistic Divergence in the Two Koreas, by Ho-min Sohn
  • Okinawan Writing Systems, Past, Present, and Future, by Leon A. Serafim
  • Proposal of a Comparative Study of Language Policies and Their Implementation in Singapore, Taiwan, and China (PRC), by Robert L. Cheng
  • The Topical Function of Preverbal Locatives and Temporals in Chinese, by Feng-fu Tsao
  • Yes-No Questions in Taipei and Peking Mandarin, by Robert M. Sanders
  • Patronizing Uses of the Particle ma: Bureaucratic Chinese Bids for Dominance in Personal Interactions, by Beverly Hong Fincher
  • Gender and Sexism in Chinese Language and Literature, by Angela Jung-Palandri
  • A zhezi Anagram Poem of the Song Dynasty, by John Marney
  • Some Remarks on Differing Correspondences in Old Chinese Assumed to Represent Different Chinese Dialects, by Nicholas C. Bodman
  • Can Taiwanese Recognize Simplified Characters?, by John S. Rohsenow
  • Simplified Characters and Their (Un)relatedness, by Chauncey C. Chu
  • The Teaching of Culture and the Culture of Teaching: Problems, Challenges, and Opportunities in Language Instruction, by Eugene Eoyang
  • The Culture Component of Language Teaching, by Kyoko Hijirida
  • Thinking About Prof. John DeFrancis, by Apollo Wu
  • Wo suo Renshi de De Xiansheng, by Chih-yu Ho
  • Two Poems for Professor John DeFrancis, by Richard F. S. Yang
  • Announcement, by Stephen Fleming

Happy birthday, John! And many happy returns!