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Preserving China's Linguistic Heritage


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#16 xng

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 02:59 AM

which is spoken near Shenzhen preserves final consonants as strictly as Cantonese. They also distinguish clearly between palatal and non-palatal initials such as ny- and ng-. So if a dialect was to be 'preserved for linguistic heritage' of China, Huiyang Hakka is much more conservative than Guangzhou Cantonese and Moiyen Hakka.


I am confused here.

So you are saying that middle chinese has ny and ng consonants ? And that only ny is present in hakka but not in other chinese languages ? That's interesting.

I can't distinguish ny and ng ????

Edited by xng, 07 June 2007 - 03:06 AM.


#17 Fuyindefu

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 03:32 AM

I find it strange that people say that hakka and cantonese have only 50% intelligibility.
I don't speak hakka but I understand most of it due to my understanding of cantonese.
And most hakka people can speak cantonese without much problem due to their similarities.

Whereas minnan people have trouble speaking cantonese with the right pronounciation and tones due to their vast differences. Eg. Minnan don't have the 'f' consonant.

It is difficult to preserve all the chinese languages with the globalisation around. People in china would rather learn mandarin and english or cantonese and english. Or mandarin and japanese which they see as having more value.

So I would say that eventually in a few more decades, there would only be left mandarin, cantonese, minnan.


I got the figure of 54.7% from the glossika language website at http://www.glossika....tint/kejia.php; if you don't mind me asking, how many languages do you speak? I think my personal level of Hakka comprehension (not that much still) isn't due to me speaking Cantonese, but rather me having knowledge of "neighbor languages" like Cantonese, Mandarin, and Minnan, and being aware of sound changes in Hakka when I listen to it, such as characters with Mandarin h usually changing to f, and characters with Cantonese m but Mandarin w change to v.

I think that if the Chinese government stopped attacking the Wu language, it should be able to rise up again. It just needs time to rehabilitate, and ensure that the next generation is able to maintain Wu language ability. Having a written form for a standard Wu Chinese based on Shanghainese would probably work to preserve it. Wu also has a commercial center in Shanghai, as well as cultural centers in Suzhou and Hangzhou, so the potential is definitely there.

Unfortunately, Hakka does not have its own "Shanghai" or "Hong Kong" city to be its linguistic hub, as Meizhou is a relatively lesser known Chinese city. Also, Hakka does not form the majority in any province, just large minorities in Guangdong, Jiangxi, Fujian, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, while Wu is a majority language in Shanghai and Zhejiang, with a large minority in Jiangsu. Thus, the only advantage Hakka has over Wu is overseas Hakka, but Hakka has already started to decline among its overseas communities. Hakka also seems to be declining in Taiwan, even though the Taiwan government is relatively supportive of Minnan and Hakka nowadays.

Other Chinese languages seem to be down a certain steep decline in a generation or two. (Minbei, Xiang, Gan, etc.) However, much like among the Romance languages, there are several dominant languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian), I believe there is room for several Chinese languages. Chinese languages are complementary to each other, not contradictory to each other (ie. each branch of Chinese has its own special features, and combining them together they bring out each other's strengths).

#18 Fuyindefu

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 03:51 AM

Moiyen Hakka (and other 'northern' Hakka bordering Jiangxi and Fujian) are fairly corrupt, possibly from northern influence. They tended to merge velar finals such as -ng and -k into -n and -t. Also, their intials are undergoing palatalisation (ng- to ny-, h- to x- and k- to q- etc.). Hakka dialects bordering Cantonese dialects have preserved much more Middle Chinese features. Huiyang Hakka which is spoken near Shenzhen preserves final consonants as strictly as Cantonese. They also distinguish clearly between palatal and non-palatal initials such as ny- and ng-. So if a dialect was to be 'preserved for linguistic heritage' of China, Huiyang Hakka is much more conservative than Guangzhou Cantonese and Moiyen Hakka.


Well, Wikipedia says that the Yulin 玉林 Cantonese dialect is the best representative language according to some linguists. But I cannot verify this, and keep in mind it is Wikipedia. I think preserving language goes beyond just "here's the most historically phonetically accurate and precise language, everyone switch to speaking it." Language goes hand in hand with the culture who speaks it, as expressions and other intangible elements of culture are developed in language. The Chinese languages preserve features of the Chinese language in different stages; for example Wu preserves the original voiced consonants of Chinese, but lost many of the final consonants. Does Hong Kong Cantonese not deserve preservation because some sounds are merging (-n/-ng)? Of course there's no perfect way to decide which language is best "fit" for preservation, but at least by standardizing some of the other branches of Chinese, some languages will be able to be preserved through the next few generations to come.

#19 xng

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 04:50 AM

I got the figure of 54.7% from the glossika language website at http://www.glossika....tint/kejia.php; if you don't mind me asking, how many languages do you speak? I think my personal level of Hakka comprehension (not that much


I speak mandarin, cantonese, minnan with a smattering of putian (which not many people know).

But there are a lot of hakka people in my area, so when they talk to each other in hakka, I can understand most of it. So I don't think the wikipedia is that accurate.

Or maybe because I am a linguist so I can figure the pattern and meaning. But hakka is closest in sounds to cantonese (rather than minnan or mandarin). Not surprisingly, because both of them branched out from the same branch.

Eg.

I am chinese. (english)
Ngai Hay Jung Kwok Yin (hakka)
Ngo Hai Jung Kwok Yan (cantonese)

The reason why hakka didn't have a province to themselves was precisely because they are 'guest' (haak) people from north china who migrated south during the sung dynasty when the mongols invaded north china. The cantonese migrated earlier. The min people was also already there.

They carved a migration path through both fujien and gwangdung provinces. That is why they are in the MIDDLE of these provinces. You can go and lobby for a separate province for them but they will have to take away land from both fujien and gwangdung provinces ! LOL.

Edited by xng, 07 June 2007 - 05:14 AM.


#20 xng

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 05:11 AM

Jin Chinese is not a descendant of the ancient Jin language. According to the Sinitic Languages Flowchart, the ancient Jin language died out. Modern day Jin Chinese is instead basically an offshoot of the same branch as Mandarin.


How sure are you that Jin language died out ? I have never heard Jin language before so I cannot comment on it. But the wikipedia said it preserves p,k,t endings and tone sandhi which is not a characteristics of mandarin. So I won't trust too much on wikipedia.

#21 Fuyindefu

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 05:53 AM

I speak mandarin, cantonese, minnan with a smattering of putian (which not many people know).

But there are a lot of hakka people in my area, so when they talk to each other in hakka, I can understand most of it. So I don't think the wikipedia is that accurate.

Or maybe because I am a linguist so I can figure the pattern and meaning. But hakka is closest in sounds to cantonese (rather than minnan or mandarin). Not surprisingly, because both of them branched out from the same branch.

Eg.

I am chinese. (english)
Ngai Hay Jung Kwok Yin (hakka)
Ngo Hai Jung Kwok Yan (cantonese)

The reason why hakka didn't have a province to themselves was precisely because they are 'guest' (haak) people from north china who migrated south during the sung dynasty when the mongols invaded north china. The cantonese migrated earlier. The min people was also already there.

They carved a migration path through both fujien and gwangdung provinces. That is why they are in the MIDDLE of these provinces. You can go and lobby for a separate province for them but they will have to take away land from both fujien and gwangdung provinces ! LOL.


Hmm, where did you learn Putian-hua? Friends who speak it?
Yes, Hakka and Cantonese definitely share links with each other, but I think learning Mandarin and Minnan phonology plus being around lots of Hakka-speaking peoples help you understand Hakka more than the average monolingual Cantonese. Plus, there are probably some dialects of Hakka that are closer to Cantonese than others. Which Hakka dialect uses yin for 人? I've always heard either gnin or ngin. (They're all similar though).

Lol, steal away land from Guangdong and Fujian. That's the spirit! Well, borders change over time, so it's a remote possibility. When it comes to origin of Hakka people, I think that there really is no conclusion, as genetic studies show that Hakka are just as "Southern Chinese" as neighboring Punti/Hoklo/etc. populations. I kinda doubt the whole THEORY that Hakka are migrants from the North who settled in the leftover mountainous lands of the deep south. It has to be way more complicated than that. Hakka language also predates Cantonese in terms of development, which is wierd if they were the new arrivals from the north. Anyway, I'm sure there are ample amounts of Hakka discussion threads somewhere around here.

I think I read somewhere that the way the current provincial borders are set discourages regionalism, which makes sense, as the political borders do not match up with the linguistical borders. It would be nice if part of eastern Guangxi went to Guangdong, part of eastern Guangdong (Chaoshan region) went to Fujian, northeast Guangdong, southern Jiangxi, and western Fujian went into a Hakka province. Won't happen anytime soon.

#22 xng

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 07:45 AM

Maybe it is Ngin instead of Yin as they sound similar and I am not a hakka speaker.


How come I am the only one contributing to this thread besides thread starter ? What about the others ?

Edited by xng, 07 June 2007 - 07:46 AM.


#23 Fuyindefu

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 08:01 AM

Lol, I guess this type of topic discussion is kinda unpopular or something. Oh well, this board doesn't seem to have that many participants to start with. I really appreciate all your input though, xng.

#24 qrasy

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 08:57 AM

They tended to merge velar finals such as -ng and -k into -n and -t.

I never heard of them totally merging the velar endings into alveolar. But it's done in majority of Hakka under the condition that just before the final consonant there is -i- or -e-.

Also, their intials are undergoing palatalisation (ng- to ny-, h- to x- and k- to q- etc.). Hakka dialects bordering Cantonese dialects have preserved much more Middle Chinese features. Huiyang Hakka which is spoken near Shenzhen preserves final consonants as strictly as Cantonese.

I never heard of Moiyen Hakka changing velar to alveolo-palatal except ng-.
Its palatalization is rather for alveolar fricative series (ts/ts'/s) to alveolo-palatal.
Ng- and ny- are confused if the vowel is i. And ny- changes to ngi- instead of the other way around in some dialects.

They also distinguish clearly between palatal and non-palatal initials such as ny- and ng-.

ny- and ng- should be distinguished in some Hakka if the vowel is not i.

Not necessary means there are no unique features there that are not found in other chinese languages. Eg.

Mandarin - R consonant and other strange consonants.

Sichuanese does not contain the r, zh, ch, sh. So, now it's more like preserving which dialects instead of which languages.
Taishanese has the 'ls' that is not too common in Chinese, though we can still hear it in Putian.

Minnan - k, t, p, m endings, B, P, P', G, K, K' consonants.

B/P/P'/G/K/K' is common in Wu.

Cantonese - 8 middle chinese tones

There were only 4 middle Chinese tones. That's evident when you see 反切. 陰/陽 categories of 平 and 入 were the same tone.
陽上 and 陰上 were the same tone, except when 陽上 and 陽去 are confused.

(gained one Mid entering).

Whether the Yin-ru will split into Mid or High entering is very predictable if you compare to the vowels of other Chinese.

Hong kong cantonese has lost the Yang falling but gwangzhou cantonese still retains it.

Not Yang falling, but high falling Yin-ping. It's merged with the high flat Yin-ping.
I suspect "high flat Yin-ping" were originally just a tone change.
In Guangzhou Cantonese, most if not all of it are nouns (tone change is usually just for nouns: e.g. 魚錢拍玉 can be read with changed tone of rising contour; 尾 can be read with high flat tone).

So you are saying that middle chinese has ny and ng consonants ? And that only ny is present in hakka but not in other chinese languages ? That's interesting.

ny exists in Shanghainese as a variant of n- under the influence of i-

I can't distinguish ny and ng ????

Come on, they are distinguished in Malay.

such as characters with Mandarin h usually changing to f

Hakka change h to f is under the condition that the rhyme starts with "u-" in Mandarin.

Well, Wikipedia says that the Yulin 玉林 Cantonese dialect is the best representative language according to some linguists. But I cannot verify this, and keep in mind it is Wikipedia.

There's not even a single example there to support it.

Edited by qrasy, 07 June 2007 - 08:59 AM.

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#25 qrasy

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 09:03 AM

I am chinese. (english)
Ngai Hay Jung Kwok Yin (hakka)
Ngo Hai Jung Kwok Yan (cantonese)

The common method of guessing are usually flawed. 國 is Kwet or "Kuyet" in Hakka.
人 is ngin. The "ny" consonant from Middle Chinese changes to ngi in Hakka and r in Mandarin. The y/r distinction in Mandarin was not just randomly created. Some messing-up did occur, though, for example 'yong2'->'rong2' change. This is not really common, though.

How sure are you that Jin language died out ?

According to the tree that Jin and this Jin are different.

I have never heard Jin language before so I cannot comment on it. But the wikipedia said it preserves p,k,t endings and tone sandhi which is not a characteristics of mandarin.

No, it's only one glottal stop. It's also a characteristics of Jianghuai Mandarin.
(Don't you understand the term 'glottal stop' ? Don't confuse with 'stop/plosive'. The adjective 'glottal' there has a meaning.
Glottal stop means one consonant, not 3)

Yes, Hakka and Cantonese definitely share links with each other, but I think learning Mandarin and Minnan phonology plus being around lots of Hakka-speaking peoples help you understand Hakka more than the average monolingual Cantonese.

Yes, I agree that after studying the pattern it's easier to guess the meaning of some phrases.

Hakka language also predates Cantonese in terms of development, which is wierd if they were the new arrivals from the north. Anyway, I'm sure there are ample amounts of Hakka discussion threads somewhere around here.

Example of Hakka features "older" than Cantonese? Usually Hakka gives the impression that they are "newer" because of some Mandarin-like feature.
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#26 Fuyindefu

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 01:01 PM

Yes, I think superficially, Hakka seems like it's a step closer to Mandarin than Cantonese. I lost the page where I read about Hakka being older than Cantonese (it wasn't by much) so don't quote me on that yet (sorry). However, I think it was some kind of page that talked about possible origins of Hakka among the southern Chinese or something like that. I always hear different versions of stories about the origin of Hakka people, and I'm not sure exactly which is most accurate; for example I thought Hakka came from Shandong somewhere in the obscure past, but Wikipedia says Henan or Shanxi. Either way, genetically, I don't think they found particular evidence that Hakka are any more "Northerner" than Punti/Hoklo peoples, which makes sense since my greatgrandfather was Hakka and he didn't look northern Chinese.

#27 xng

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 01:16 AM

If you want to listen to the sounds of the major chinese languages, read my old thread here

http://www.chinahist...p...ic=5307&hl=

Edited by xng, 09 June 2007 - 01:31 AM.


#28 Fuyindefu

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 01:49 PM

Yeah, I also understand that it is impossible to preserve every single variant of every dialect of every topolect, and that's why I think standardizing other languages besides Mandarin is an important step for other Chinese languages, as well as officializing usage for some in certains areas to be "coofficial" with Mandarin. Yes, it is pretty much impossible to come up with the perfect script to express Chinese languages, but I think Chinese characters can make up for SOME of the differences in pronunciation, tones, etc.

Basically, it is too idealistic to expect to preserve each and every single variant of Chinese that ever sprang up, but I think reasonably, there is definitely potential for other languages besides Mandarin to be standardized and given some official status. Most ideally, I guess, I would be nice to have a situation where the Chinese languages parallel the situation of the Romance languages, with a few representative main languages being in official usage, and lesser ones experiencing the inevitable decline of this day and age. Multilingualism should also be strongly encouraged, instead of just "dialect" speakers conforming to Mandarin. Nowadays, people only aim to learn powerful, useful languages, which is very practical and logical, so I think making languages such as Minnan and Wu more useful to learn would be a good way to at least maintain language usage among the younger generations of its own population.

#29 ren

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 03:07 PM

Shanghainese and other Wu speakers tend to be doggedly stubborn in insisting on speaking their native tongue.
From personal first hand experience in southern Fujian, most people below 35 tended to prefer talking int he more "proper" national language, Mandarin.
So, I project Southern Min to die out within 1 generation in the metropolitan areas, since I've already met kids who can't speak a word of their parents native tongue.

Compare this to Jin Chinese, which is right next to Beijing but who insist on speaking their native tongue (fish in Jin is "nu" instead of the Mandarin "yu" for example).

It's all a matter of mentality. For some reason the Minnan community don't view their tongue as legit and wish to throw it away. The same case is seen in overseas Southern Min communities, and extreme national Speak Manrain programs in the form of Singapore. It's sad because linguists actually use languages such as Southern Min to reconstruct Shang/Zhou era Chinese. We still have these living fossils all over China, and as enthusiatic as the short-sighted Chinese government now in exterminating variation, in 2 decades they will be regretting it, and the extinction of various dialects would mean a homogenization of a rich and varied culture into something stale and static as well the loss of any reference into further work in language reconstruction.

I really urge everyone of you to do whatever you can in preserving diversity.

Edited by ren, 10 June 2007 - 03:08 PM.


#30 Fuyindefu

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 04:38 PM

Shanghainese and other Wu speakers tend to be doggedly stubborn in insisting on speaking their native tongue.
From personal first hand experience in southern Fujian, most people below 35 tended to prefer talking int he more "proper" national language, Mandarin.
So, I project Southern Min to die out within 1 generation in the metropolitan areas, since I've already met kids who can't speak a word of their parents native tongue.

It's all a matter of mentality. For some reason the Minnan community don't view their tongue as legit and wish to throw it away. The same case is seen in overseas Southern Min communities, and extreme national Speak Manrain programs in the form of Singapore. It's sad because linguists actually use languages such as Southern Min to reconstruct Shang/Zhou era Chinese. We still have these living fossils all over China, and as enthusiatic as the short-sighted Chinese government now in exterminating variation, in 2 decades they will be regretting it, and the extinction of various dialects would mean a homogenization of a rich and varied culture into something stale and static as well the loss of any reference into further work in language reconstruction.

I really urge everyone of you to do whatever you can in preserving diversity.


I wholeheartedly agree that mentality is a huge obstacle in keeping many languages such as Minnan or Wu alive. In the end, it's up to the next generation to continue using their language, and if they are continuously fed this image of Mandarin being the most culturally superior/elegant/modern/pretty/worth learning language and that the "dialects" are crude/worthless/ugly-sounding/uneducated/rural/poor, then many languages could see extinction in maybe a generation or two. I don't Minnan will face extinction on Taiwan, but I have a friend from Xiamen who can't understand (much less speak) a word of Minnan Chinese. He identifies solely with Mandarin as his heritage language, and he sees "dialects" as kind of backwards or silly. Of course, this is an extreme example, but still, it shows how much Mandarin has penetrated through the younger generation on the mainland.

Here's a question: What main branch of Chinese (or subbranch) do you see going extinct first?
Main branches of Chinese:

Mandarin (lol)

Yue- Cantonese, Toisanese, most of western Guangdong and eastern Guangxi, overseas communities in SE Asia and around the world

Wu- Shanghai, Suzhou, south end of Jiangsu, most of Zhejiang

Hakka- northeastern Guangdong, southern Jiangxi, western Fujian, parts of Taiwan, pockets here and there, a few overseas communities

Minnan- southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, most of Taiwan, Hainan islands, overseas communities in SE Asia and around the world

Jin- Shanxi, central Inner Mongolia

Gan- Jiangxi

Xiang- Hunan

Minbei/Mindong- northern part of Fujian, Matsu islands

I think Xiang- Old Xiang is pretty moribund, and New Xiang seems to be like Southwestern Mandarin. Then again, Minbei/Mindong could be too.




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