An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
SimL
Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by SimL »

Hi ransek and amhoanna,

Thanks for your kind words about the information I gave on my Baba background. Well, in a sense I know a bit about this culture because I'm interested, and (through the years) I've asked my father about his childhood and Baba identity. But on the other hand, I'm also very aware that I left that culture at 14, and never went back. That might have the advantage that I can think more clearly or objectively about it, because of the greater distance, but has the disadvantage that I know a lot less about it than someone who continued to spend his or her teenage and early adult years in Penang. And there are lots of people like THAT, still living in Penang.

In a sense this Forum is the spot where I can share my knowledge of my Baba background with people who are interested. I hope it doesn't put people off that there is too much discussion about and space devoted to Baba and Penang Hokkien. I always encourage others to post about non-Penang Hokkien (and other Sinitic languages) because nothing exists in isolation. Everything we understand, we understand better if we know about other things. So, we understand about Penang Hokkien better if we know stuff about other Hokkien varieties (and vice versa); and we understand about Hokkien better if we know stuff about other Sinitic languages (and vice versa); and we understand "Chinese" better if we know stuff about other languages as well, etc. So, while I'm not claiming that any off-topic subject is cheerfully welcomed on this Forum, I think I can safely say that off-topic stuff is always welcome, if it has some connection with the topic :P.

>> Now I see Penang Hokkien has a really long history! So do Baba Hokkien
>> and Sinkheh Hokkien somehow "converge" into today's Penang Hokkien?

I suppose they must have, along with the disappearance of a Baba identity. It wouldn't surprise me though if the descendents of Babas have a higher proportion of Malay words in their vocabulary than the descendents of Sin-khehs. However, I think I'm correct in believing that even the non-Baba, South Malayan varieties of Hokkien use "pun" and "tapi". [Please contradict me if I'm wrong!]

Ransek, with the two sorts of Malaccans that you met, you experienced what I was trying to say about how nothing is "black and white". From the first friend's experience, he might claim "All Malaccan Chinese speak Baba Malay" and from your second friend's experience, he might claim "Many/Most Malaccan Chinese speak Hokkien". And in a way, both are correct, if seen in the light of "most" or "all" meaning "most/all of the people I think about or I come into regular contact with". In the same way as we in the West and richer Asian nations might say "Nowadays, everybody has a warm shower every day", whereas there might be huge parts of central Asia or Latin America which doesn't have access to a warm shower every day". Or "Nowadays, everybody uses running water from a tap" or "Nowadays, every adult has gone to primary school". We make statements like these because they are the genuine reflection of our daily experience, not because we are being chauvinistic or arrogant or wilfully ignorant about the lives of other human beings. And these statements are "true", within a certain context. Similarly for your two Chinese Malaccans.

>> I guess part of the reasons that Malacca Baba speaks Malay natively
>> might be that they lived longer in MSia and intermarried more with
>> Malays. Is my guess somewhat correct?

I think so. Malacca was already a thriving port (and the centre of a minor empire) when Penang and Singapore consisted of just sparse rural coastal settlements, with lots of jungle. So, it's quite plausible that there was an expatriate Chinese community in Malacca for *much* longer, and hence that they would have "become Baba" to a great extent (even to the extent of giving up Hokkien as a native language) many generations before a similar process took place in Penang and Singapore.

In fact, one could even ask oneself if it is appropriate to use the term "Baba" to cover the "nativized Chinese" of all 3 cities (and other parts of Indonesia). Is this conceptualization and terminology just a product of "later historians and anthropologists"? Just because 3 communities undergo roughly parallel processes doesn't make them "3 times 1/3 of 'the same community' ". Say if one group of Manchu troops were sent to Southern Tibet and settled down there and preserved one form of Manchu speech, and another group of Manchu troops were sent to Northern Tibet one hundred years later and settled down there and preserved a slightly different form of Manchu speech. And, in the course of time, they adopted slightly different, and to differing degrees Southern and Northern (respectively) Tibetan customs. Then say these are the only 2 groups of Manchu descendents who continue to speak Manchu, because the "mainstream" Manchus switched to Chinese. Then, 400 years later, it is certainly true that both groups are "Manchus who have adopted some Tibetan customs, and who have preserved Manchu as their native language"; but are these two groups actually "the same ethnic group" (or even "two distinct versions of the same ethnic group")? It's very hard to say, isn't it?

That's why I said in my original long posting that issues of ethnic identity are very complex. If the "intellectuals" from both Manchu groups above started mixing with one another, and "emphasizing the commonalities", and if these ideas drift "down" into the lay population, then after another 50 years, perhaps they *do* become "the same ethnic group". If Tibet were to get split into 2 independent, mutually hostile nations, and there was no contact and positive feelings between these two Manchu descendents, then perhaps "No". So much of identity consists of what people believe or want to believe. (Which is not to say that are entitled to believe *anything*, however kooky or great a distortion of historical reality...) All very complex!

[I hasten to acknowledge that amhoanna is sensitive and aware enough to use terminology like: "The Baba cultural complex was also found up in Phuket and down on Java, in and around Jakarta esp..." (my italics). This is obviously a very different sentence from "Babas were also found up in Phuket and down on Java, in and around Jakarta esp...", and shows that he's using the term for the sake of convenience (as I did in my initial long posting), and because there are indeed a lot of commonalities, but that he too is aware of the issue I'm talking about here.]

It was fascinating to read the discussion and information exchanged between both of you and Mark regarding Wu, Mandarin, and the loss of Wu over the years etc.

BTW, I think Ah-bin reported the same thing for Hokkien in Amoy: so many people living there nowadays come from other parts of China, that Amoy is no longer really a "Hokkien-speaking city" anymore. I wonder if people realised, in the 1950's, just what serious consequences there would be to making Mandarin the "national language of China". But I suppose if one is in charge of trying to build up a war-torn, previously Japanese-invaded, terribly poor, technologically way behind country, then perhaps a bit of sadness about loss of regional identity was the very least of one's concerns. (I say this in defence of the people I normally grumble about, in order to try to be fair!)

But, whatever the pros and cons, there's no doubt that the loss of these non-Mandarin Sinitic languages all over China is quite a sad loss for human cultural diversity. On the other hand, it's re-assuring to hear that there are efforts to preserve and revive Northern Wu. Whether these efforts have come in time - and whether they will succeed - is a totally different thing, of course.

One further reassuring thing I got out of your discussions was that I realised that you (ransek) would have easily understood all the qualifications I was making about Baba culture changing over time, and the markers of Baba identity changing, etc. The position of Wu - even just in the last 100 years, and even just in the city of Shanghai (or Suzhou) - has changed so dramatically that it's impossible to say "Suzhou Wu is <X>" or "Shanghainese is <Y>". And yet, it would also not be true to say that there are no generalizations possible. There are broad outline facts or patterns which are valid for the last 100 (perhaps even 200) years, for Babas, for Wu languages, etc; broad outline facts or patterns which are worth documenting and explaining, despite all their limitations. Which is obviously why I attempted to do this for "Baba culture".

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to lots of future discussions on these topics here :mrgreen:.

ransek
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:19 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi SimL,

I completely agree with you that nothing is "black and white" and people tend to generalize what they observed and experienced.

Surprisingly, this seems to be the ONLY active forum in this discussion site. And I'm glad to see so many interesting and in-depth (and equally importantly, friendly) interactions. In some other forums (mainly Chinese) I used to visit, many people are simply not tolerant of different opinions and discussions often become very hostile.

I like your Manchu example. The development of ethnic identity is a very complex subject. Social and political propaganda sometimes played an important role. In ancient times, most people only identify with their village or town, and are not aware of what the world is like outside their small life circles, let alone the fact that the neighboring communities might share a lot of commonalities with them. In the Wu dialect of my grandpa's hometown, Changshu 常熟(in Changshu Wu: zran-zruk), people from other towns are sometimes referred to as 野人 (barbarian people). This shows how narrowed and isolated people's views might have been, at least at some point in the history.

An interesting (although a little off-topic) thing is that there does exist a Manchurian-speaking community in Xinjiang. They were probably Manchurians who migrated to western China in the mid 1800s.

>> I wonder if people realised, in the 1950's, just what serious consequences there would be to making Mandarin the "national language of China".

I would like to point out that the concept of "national language" actually came into existence with the idea of "nation-state" and the popularity of nationalism in the western world. The nation-state model over-emphasizes the commonality of all people in the state, and promotes the mission of creating "one people, one culture and one language". Very typical example is how the government of France, a country labels herself as the role model of human liberty and equality, has continued to brutally oppress non-French languages within its border for the past few centuries, even to this day.

Unlike the "nation building" efforts, not until very recently did the world realize and (largely) agree upon the importance of preserving cultural diversity. And that's when people around the world started to promote minority cultures and languages. Yet it is sad to see a lot of these things were manipulated by politicians who did not really care about cultural and linguistic diversity.

Now back to the issue in China. The national language movement in China started in Qing dynasty, and became an important government policy in the 1930s (largely due to western influence). However, standard Mandarin did not become truly popular until the late 1990's when large scale of migration took place and Mandarin gradually became the medium of instruction in schools. Even in the early 1990's, most Chinese dialects (including Mandarin dialects and non-Mandarin southern Chinese languages) were in very good shape. I still remember some teachers taught entirely in Wu when I went to primary school (in mid-to-late 1990's). And even if the teacher taught in Mandarin, he/she often switched to Wu after class or even during class. Just a few years later when I went to high school, however, I found that most teachers were from the North and spoke only Mandarin (often heavily accented).

What I want to say is that the Mandarinization of China is quite different from that of Taiwan and Singapore. For one thing, there had been very few systematic efforts from the government to eradicate the usage of non-standard Mandarin or the non-Mandarin languages in China. Also, it happened quite recently (mainly after 1990). Compared to Taiwanese of my age (especially those live in the urban area), Chinese from Southern China actually use Southern Chinese languages a lot more often and probably (in general) better.

Mark Yong
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 3:52 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Mark Yong »

Hi, ransek,

One of the best available single-volume resources on Baba-Nyonya history and culture (daily life, traditions, language, cuisine, clothing, architecture) is Dr. Khoo Joo Ee’s The Straits Chinese - A Cultural History.

Image
http://pepinpress.com/catalogue/view/30
http://www.amazon.com/The-Straits-Chine ... 9054960086

While the section on languages is rather brief (and some parts, in my opinion,
inaccurate), it nonetheless provides a very good overview of this unique Chinese sub-culture, complemented by excellent photographs (both old and new).

Another book, but one that covers specifically the history of the Chinese in Penang is 陳劍虹 Tan Kim Hong’s “檳城嶼華人史圖錄The Chinese in Penang - A Cultural History”.
Image
http://www.arecabooks.com/?product=the- ... al-history

Sim raises some interesting points on Baba-Nyonya Hokkien vs. the Sin Kheh 新客 Hokkien in Penang. In a previous thread (http://www.chineselanguage.org/forums/v ... f=6&t=8795), I addressed the topic about what I found to be subtly different strains within the Penang Hokkien dialect group itself, one of them being the Baba-Nyonya strain.

I would be keen to further explore the Wu dialect, which I think I will reserve for posts under the actual Wu dialect Forum on this website (which has not been quite as active as this one!). But in the meantime:

Here is a recording of a speech made by 宋慶齡 Song Qingling (Mdm. Sun Yat Sen) using the Wu dialect. Would many people in the Wu-speaking region today be able to understand it without the sub-titles?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ7BkBZotX4

Ah-bin
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Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Ah-bin »

Mark Yong wrote: While the section on languages is rather brief (and some parts, in my opinion,
inaccurate), it nonetheless provides a very good overview of this unique Chinese sub-culture, complemented by excellent photographs (both old and new).
I'll just pop up for a second to mention that I was going to write a bit on this soon. I think the misinformation in this book (and a good many other books about Hokkien) derives ultimately from the book "The Chinese Language" by R.A.D. Forrest, published back in 1965 (second edition) when there was not much known about the Chinese languages outside the bigger cities along the coast, or those that the missionaries had studied. It is from this book where we hear that Min languages are unique for not having developed the f- sound, even though there are Gan languages in Jiangxi that have never developed it either. I think the "Tang min" thing comes from there as well. It was one of the few books for the general reader about Chinese linguistics written in English.

I also wanted to welcome Ransek along. It's so rare and wonderful to find any PRC Chinese who cares much about their local language, let alone the languages of other areas enough to go into a detailed study of them. Actually my own opinion here is based largely on the behaviour of people in Guangxi, who seemed to want their children to learn nothing but Mandarin, even though they themselves often spoke three languages well.

I don't have much time at the moment...but there's a lot I'd like to write about ethnic groups and Wu and so on....some day I'll have time to concentrate!

SimL
Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by SimL »

Hi ransek,
ransek wrote:Surprisingly, this seems to be the ONLY active forum in this discussion site.
Yes, and even then, activity fluctuates here. Until your posting with the Cuan-ciu interview, it had been pretty quiet compared to some of the earlier peaks of activity. I recall one of the regular posters pointing out that it was often the new posters who stimulated a huge amount of discussion with their questions about Hokkien. There were certainly major bursts of activity when Ah-bin joined. This makes sense - some of us longer-term Forum members have been here for more than 10 years, and after a while, we've said most of what we have to say to one another :shock:.

But as you can see if you look at some of the older threads, this Forum has had periods of remarkably active and interesting discussion in the past. (And such a period seems to be happening right now again!)
ransek wrote:And I'm glad to see so many interesting and in-depth (and equally importantly, friendly) interactions. In some other forums (mainly Chinese) I used to visit, many people are simply not tolerant of different opinions and discussions often become very hostile.
Yes, the politeness and friendliness is certainly a much-valued aspect of this Forum. Even when discussions have got slightly unpleasant in the past, they were nowhere near the flame wars which one can get in other forums. (And such times were extremely rare here anyway.) It helps that many of us have contact with one another outside the Forum, and a number of us have met in person as well.
ransek wrote:I like your Manchu example. [...] An interesting (although a little off-topic) thing is that there does exist a Manchurian-speaking community in Xinjiang. They were probably Manchurians who migrated to western China in the mid 1800s.
Thanks. Yes, indeed, I invented my example because I had read a little about one such community. I've always had a sort of peripheral interest in Manchu people and language - the Manchu people because they form a very interesting case of a dominant group which gave up their own language and culture; and the Manchu language because I think the script looks so beautiful. Other readers might like to get some information about the last remaining speakers of Manchu from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchurian_language" - look under "Current situation". Is this the same community as you had in mind? I didn't think there was a second such community, so that part of my example was invented :mrgreen:.
ransek wrote:Very typical example is how the government of France, a country labels herself as the role model of human liberty and equality, has continued to brutally oppress non-French languages within its border for the past few centuries, even to this day.
Indeed. Another example is the suppression of Catalan during the Franco era (though there of course, fascist Spain never claimed to be a role model for human liberty and equality!). I think, historically, there have been instances where such repressive policies worked *against* the people who instigated such a policy - people came to take pride in and defend their language against persecution, to a greater extent than they would have done if the oppressive policies hadn't existed. Sadly though, it's very often not the case, and such policies often do work.
ransek wrote:And that's when people around the world started to promote minority cultures and languages. Yet it is sad to see a lot of these things were manipulated by politicians who did not really care about cultural and linguistic diversity.
Yes. This is very often the case. IIRC, Ah-bin gave as an example the Zhuang of Guangxi and Guangdong (not sure which province exactly, could have been only one of the two or both).

But on this topic, I remain a "relativist". One could say the same thing about the forging together of the various German regional identities (Swabians, Bavarians, Prussians, etc) into one German national identity, starting from about 1871, upon the creation of the (first) unified German state; or about the forging together of the various Jurchen tribes into one Manchu identity, by Nurhaci, in the early 1600's. I mean, one could condemn them as "fake creations", driven only by political motives. But I also see other aspects.

I'm basically agreeing with you, but perhaps not quite ready to label such an act (even when carried out for political motives) as exclusively negative. I say this because I think there are also positive aspects to greater numbers of people having a shared identity - for example, a greater willingness to help one another, when one of the sub-components is in crisis, like a flood or an earthquake. I think North Italians would probably be more inclined to help South Italians than to help Spaniards, if they were in crisis, or North Germans helping South Germans rather than helping the Austrians or the Dutch, etc. Obviously I don't mean they would refuse to help another country, but if there's a feeling that they're helping their fellow countrymen, or people of the same ethnicity, then there is a greater willingness.

Of course, ideally, all human beings should help one another in such crises. But in the absence of the ultimate ideal, I'll settle for a scaled down version which is still positive.

And all this to say that while I acknowledge the point that identity creation can be manipulative and politically driven (and that I would, in many such cases, condemn such manipulation), some of the results can still be viewed as positive. (And, in any case, the resultant identities can be very "real" to the people who are born into that identity. And that it would be pointless and cruel to say to such people: "Your identity isn't a real one, it was created as a result of power-hungry political manipulation".)

Finally, thank you for sharing the very interesting information on the Mandarinization process in the PRC. It was all totally new information to me, and broadened my horizons a lot.

As you may have already worked out, in Malaya and Singapore (and presumably most other countries of S.E. Asia too), teaching in Chinese schools was done exclusively in the non-Mandarin forms of Sinitic up to the end of the 19th century. But probably, by the 1940's, all of these had given way to teaching in Mandarin* (people like Ah-bin and Mark will know the precise details much better).

Because I was so familiar with this pattern, AND because I felt that the Mandarinization was driven by such a movement in the "Fatherland" (a feeling which was probably in fact correct)**, I had always assumed that this process had - in S.E. Asia - followed more or less the same pattern as what had happened in mainland China, only lagging behind the same process on the Mainland.

Thanks to your exposition, I now realise how inaccurate this image was.

I also now see that there would have been more incentive for this process to take place more quickly in S.E. Asia than in mainland China. That is because (under the explanation I've just right now formulated) there were so many "dialect groups"***. It would have been difficult to have Teochew schools, Hockchew schools, Hakka schools, Cantonese schools, Hokkien schools, etc. Particularly as - with so much fragmentation - the support base for each of these schools would have been so much smaller. In contrast, on the mainland, one would have whole cities and towns where the vast majority of speakers would have been of such a "dialect group", giving a far bigger support base.

Having said all that, it's still with extreme amazement that I read that this degree of preservation of non-Mandarin forms existed up to the 1990's!

---

Notes (these are subsidiary points I would like to make, but didn't want to put in brackets to break up the main flow of my text):

*: My sin-kheh maternal grandfather (born in 1900) had his primary education in Hokkien (in China), but by the time he was a headmaster in Malaya at the end of the Second World War, the primary school for which he was headmaster of (founded and run by the Hakka-based hue-kuan) was using Mandarin exclusively as its medium of instruction. This was in Seremban, near KL, in the southern part of peninsular Malaysia. In the case of Penang, my father thinks that there were still a few non-Mandarin Chinese schools when he was a young boy growing up there in the 1930's, but he says that by the end of the Second World War, all the Chinese-run schools in Penang were teaching in Mandarin. ("All" is the sort of "all" that we've been discussing recently. There might have been one or two non-Mandarin ones, in obscure parts of town, but all the major, "famous" Chinese schools were using Mandarin.)

**: I had a reasonable idea that the Mandarinization movement would have started (a lot) earlier than the 1950's. My saying 1950's in my earlier posting was influenced by the fact that pinyin was promulgated in 1958, and I saw that as one of the most important milestones in the standardization of Mandarin (and its subsequent promotion/spread). As with so many of these topics, nothing is black and white. The "bai hua" movement was already embryonic in the middle of the Qing Dynasty (or perhaps even earlier), by the very existence of the great novels not written in Classical Chinese. So, the "starting point" could be placed anywhere between mid 1600's and 4 May 1919... Anyway, I hope you understand what I mean.

***: Ah-bin should not wince at my use of the word "dialect" here :mrgreen:. I subscribe totally to her view that these are independent Sinitic languages, but even I get tired of saying "non-Mandarin Sinitic forms", so I will occasionally lapse into the use of the word "dialect". My apologies!

---

PS. Please don't think that I'm knowledgeable enough to produce information about the date of German Unification or when Nurhaci lived, etc just off the top of my head. I know this sort of stuff "in broad outline", but when I need to write about it in detail, I have to look it up on Wikipedia!

ransek
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:19 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the books you recommended. I will look them up once I got time. And I read your post on Penang Hokkien. Very interesting and informative.

As for the video clip of 宋慶齡's speech, it is more like a "literary reading" largely in her native Wu but still there was some mixing of non-Wu pronunciation, such as “知識”. I guess that was a common way of making speech in that era, in order to try to make oneself understood by non-Wu speakers. So I would say it is not the kind of Wu people speak in real life. But yes it is easy for me (and I guess for most Wu-speaking people in South Jiangsu, Shanghai and North Zhejiang) to understand.

Also, it is clear that 宋慶齡's Wu is some kind of 上海本地話 ("Shanghai local tongues"), which is not the same as modern Shanghainese. I'm not so familiar with Shanghai local tongues (in fact there are more than 10 of them). But Song's Wu was definitely one of the closest relatives of Shanghainese.

And I look forward to more discussions on the Wu languages in the Wu forum!

ransek
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:19 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi Ah-bin,

Thanks for joining the discussion. I look forward to learning more from you!

>>I also wanted to welcome Ransek along. It's so rare and wonderful to find any PRC Chinese who cares much about their local language, let alone the languages of other areas enough to go into a detailed study of them. Actually my own opinion here is based largely on the behaviour of people in Guangxi, who seemed to want their children to learn nothing but Mandarin, even though they themselves often spoke three languages well.

There are actually plenty of Mainland Chinese who care about their mother tongues and the overall linguistic diversity issue. I used to frequent some of the Chinese forums on all kinds of non-Mandarin Chinese languages and I met a lot of young people who spent time to promote and study different Chinese languages.

I'm not sure if you heard about the protests in Guangzhou regarding the rumored reduction of Cantonese language usage on TV. Tens of thousands of Guangzhou residents went on street to defend their mother tongues. And the act received support from Chinese people all over the country. The Wu language activist community, although a lot smaller, also had their voice heard by organizing some public activities.

Regarding the people in Guangxi, I have similar observations. I have met more than 5 individuals from Nanning, Guangxi. 4 of them were from Cantonese-speaking families, but none of them could even say a complete sentence in Cantonese. The remaining one, however, speaks Hakka fluently. It is quite interesting to see that Cantonese, living vibrantly elsewhere in many parts of the world and assimilating many Hakka-speaking communities, is dying in Nanning where it is speaking natively by the majority.

I guess the attitude towards one's language differ greatly in different cities (language loss in China took place mainly in cities). A typical example is how Cantonese is treated as a prestige language in most parts of Guangdong (even in some non-Cantonese-speaking regions) while in Nanning parents somehow decided that they did not want their children to learn Cantonese at all.

In cities like Nanning and Fuzhou, the extent to which language loss has happened was absolutely shocking to me. In Guangzhou and Shanghai, the local language remain strong despite the influx of non-native speakers. In current Guangzhou and pre-1990's Shanghai, almost all children born to immigrants will learn the local language, because the locals are very proud of their languages and make efforts in using them in all domains of life.

ransek
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:19 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi SimL,

Glad to know that my post stimulated more discussions in this forum. I am trying read to a few old threads everyday. But frankly speaking my Hokkien isn't up to the level to understand many details, but I do enjoy the high-level discussions and interesting stories you guys told.
SimL wrote:Is this the same community as you had in mind? I didn't think there was a second such community, so that part of my example was invented
Yes I was referring to the Xibe people who continue to speak Manchu. Here I'd like to digress a little bit (hope you don't mind). I believe that Mandarin was heavily influenced by Manchurian (and by Khitan and Jurchen in earlier times). This kind of theory was used by many young Chinese netizens to promote Southern Chinese languages as being "true" Chinese (while labeling Mandarin Chinese as 金元虜語). This wasn't the invention of these young people though. A very renowned Chinese scholar 章太炎 coined the term 金元虜語 in early 1900s in order to prevent Mandarin from becoming the national language. Along this direction, there have been a lot of discussions in Chinese forums, many of them becoming politically-charged. I would stop here for now unless there are other people interested in it.
SimL wrote:And all this to say that while I acknowledge the point that identity creation can be manipulative and politically driven (and that I would, in many such cases, condemn such manipulation), some of the results can still be viewed as positive.
I completely agree with you on this. In fact, in many cases a sense of cultural identity came into existence when one's culture is being repressed. Without some kind of "creation" process, the culture may disappear without being noticed. Most ordinary people especially in the past would not understand the value of their cultures and in some sense they needed some politicians/intellectuals to help them realize how important their cultures/languages are.

A very interesting observation I had was regarding the Hoisanese/seiyap people. Most Seiyap people I met have a very strong Cantonese identity and claimed that their language were almost the same as Cantonese (while in fact the two were not mutually intellgible). The good side of this is that the (standard) Cantonese community becomes much stronger with all the Seiyap people speaking Cantonese in public and even using Cantonese in their schools. The bad side is that they do not value their true mother tongue that much and therefore the cultural value of Hoisanese has been largely ignored.
SimL wrote:Finally, thank you for sharing the very interesting information on the Mandarinization process in the PRC. It was all totally new information to me, and broadened my horizons a lot.
I'm glad that I might be the first who posted the situation in Mainland China. By the way I prefer "Mainland China" (or simply China) because I do not really identify myself with the PRC government, to the extent that I do not like the flag (which symbolizes their revolutionary idea rather than the Chinese culture). But I feel totally fine being referred to as "PRC Chinese" because I know you guys are not trying to convey any political meaning.

And I totally agree with your point that there were more incentives in SEA to teach in Mandarin. But i'd like to add that "teaching in Mandarin" does not necessarily lead to Mandariziation, or the loss of non-Mandarin Chinese languages. As far as I know, Hokkien remained strong in Singapore despite years of Mandarin-medium eduction until the onset of "speak Mandarin campaign". Also, after a decade or so of teaching in Mandarin in major Cantonese cities, Cantonese still dominates in the Pearl River Delta (with the exception of Shenzhen where the ratio of immigrants/natives is around 9:1--yet even in this case the vast majority of young people from Shenzhen, regardless of their background, are able to converse in Cantonese. This exemplifies how strong Cantonese is). The most important thing is still how people value their languages and if they make efforts to retain the usage of the language in family and in the public. Another important thing is media. In Italy, Italian did not become dominant in those non-Italian speaking regions until the rise of television. In the case of Cantonese, having so many TV channels greatly helps the preservation and promotion of the language.

SimL
Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by SimL »

Hi everyone!

I'm a bit busy at the moment, so just a very quick note. Thanks for all responses.

Thanks for posting information on those two books Mark. They're both very interesting, and I have them at home. The Baba one for more than 10 years now, the Penang Chinese one only in the last few years.

I have to admit that I hadn't noticed the dificiencies in the area of language, in the Baba book. Ah-bin: of all the Forum members, I'm the main one (probably the only one) who goes on about Tang-Min and the absence of the f-. The Tang-min stuff I read about in my early 20's already, and it's pretty fundamental to my conception of Hokkien - so, any detailed refutation or further explanation of its incorrectness would be much appreciated. In all probability I indeed learnt of this from R.A.D. Forrest, as this book was available in the State Library of the Northern Territory, when I was living in Darwin. The f-theory I only learnt about from Wikipedia in the last 1-2 years (and I know your reservations about Wikipedia!). Unfortunately, I can't even find that article again now.

I was lucky enough to meet the author of the Penang Chinese book when I was in Penang. He was a very helpful person - a sort of "Old World Gentleman", with an air of kindness and graciousness about him, totally unpretentious. I was seeking help on some background to my grandparents' marriage scroll, but unfortunately he was unable to throw any additional light on it.

I listened with great interest to the 宋慶齡 speech. Pity it was such a short fragment, but fascinating nevertheless. Many thanks, and I encourage all readers to post other such similar things in the future - and not to have any concerns about such things being "off-topic"!

I'll write/post more when I have more time.

amhoanna
Posts: 912
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:43 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by amhoanna »

I guess part of the reasons that Malacca Baba speaks Malay natively might be that they lived longer in MSia and intermarried more with Malays. Is my guess somewhat correct?
I think so, but to add to this, they arrived or began arriving in the area before Dutch and Anglo rule, which seems to have been the start of separation between "Chinese" and "Malay".

We hear a lot about 閩粵人 emigrating south during the Ming and the Ching, but I've been to many parts and many ports of SEA... Pretty much every single person I've ever spoken to here in a Sino language was the child or grandchild of people who emigrated in ROC times. I've never had the satisfaction of someone telling me in Hokkien or Cantonese that their people arrived in Ching times. Meanwhile, there are a lot of people who could pass for locals in modern-day 閩粵 and typically claim some or full Chinese ancestry, yet speak no Sino languages and don't have much of a Chinese identity. This suggests that ROC-era 閩粵 emigrants saw themselves in a starkly different way, poss. b/c of ROC-era nationalistic thought and propaganda, which the PRC has 発揚光大'd.

I was about to mention the 明鄉 and 清人, but maybe I already have.
In fact, one could even ask oneself if it is appropriate to use the term "Baba" to cover the "nativized Chinese" of all 3 cities (and other parts of Indonesia).
Very interesting pt. As for the "facts", I've a feeling most of the info on the web is actually mis-info.
So do Baba Hokkien and Sinkheh Hokkien somehow "converge" into today's Penang Hokkien?
I believe so. I've heard it's common for Penangites to speak "mainstream" Penang Hokkien when out and about, but switch to a slightly different dialect at home -- usually b/c the grandparents were born in Hokkien and speak a homeland dialect.
from Malacca who speaks fluent Hokkien and told me the opposite (that Hokkien was widely spoken there). His Hokkien is quite different from Taiwanese or Singapore Hokkien though.
I was there once. Didn't find the Hokkien to be too different, but I may've been talking to sinkheh. I knew someone from Muar whose pronunciation of 汝 had the central vowel. One time she mentioned that her mother also says "lí", like the TWese, but that in Muar this is regarded as a "country" pronunciation. And her mother came from somewhere in the countryside outside Muar.

amhoanna
Posts: 912
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:43 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by amhoanna »

In my previous work-life, I spent a bit of time in-and-out of Shanghai, and have always been very fascinated with the 吳 Wu dialect - to the extent that I even purchased 湯志祥’s books/CD's on 上海閒話 Zanhe Eiwo.
Mark, I've got to recommend as well a book published in HK that teaches Shanghaian from Cantonese. I found it in KL at a major non-chain Chinese-language bookstore on a major street right next to one of the stops on the KL "skytrain". I can't remember the names of any of this stuff, but U prob. know which store I mean!
What I want to say is that the Mandarinization of China is quite different from that of Taiwan and Singapore.
Absolutely. They're converging now, though. The most striking difference is that in China, "local power" generally speaks a local language while in TW even "local power" speaks Mandarin. In S'pore, power speaks English.
Very typical example is how the government of France, a country labels herself as the role model of human liberty and equality, has continued to brutally oppress non-French languages within its border for the past few centuries, even to this day.
Nice and ironic.
A very renowned Chinese scholar 章太炎 coined the term 金元虜語 in early 1900s in order to prevent Mandarin from becoming the national language.
This implies that Sino languages are somehow inherently superior to Tungusic languages. I'd also support any "retroactive prevention" :lol: of Mandarin becoming THE national language of China, but not b/c it somehow went to seed after being Tungusicized. That kind of reasoning is "mentally challenged".
It is sad to see that so many Wu people have given up our mother tongue, both in and out of the Wu region. May I ask which part of Wu you family are from?
浦江, 餘姚, 無錫. The latter two "elements" (my maternals) converged in Shanghai very early, c. late 19th cen. My parents were born on "the islands". My father never spoke 浦江 at any level, but my mother can speak Shanghaian at a higher level than she realizes. I find it easy to understand a lot of Shanghaian. I assumed it was b/c it was close to Mandarin, but friends w/o the heritage have told me they find it no easier than understanding Cantonese. This really surprised me. Early exposure does work wonders. I can't understand 浦江 at all. It's like a twilight zone when I go there.

I've toyed with learning Shanghaian and 浦江 on many occasions, but the pull hasn't been strong enough. The first factor against is that the languages have no currency outside lower 江南道, as I like to call it -- the diaspora is thin, and the young folks speak Mandarin (or Canto.) by default. Second, they seem too similar to Mandarin to be worth the effort -- even 浦江. If I had the time, though, I'd still like to learn Northern Wo, pref. Ningbo as it seems rough, ready and manly. :mrgreen:
And did you grow up speaking Mandarin at home? If so, how did you pick up Taiwanese and become so good at it?
Yes. I must say that I speak Hoklo quite badly, but since so many Hoklo people my age speak it even worse than me, people are willing to overlook this. :lol: I started before I knew much about the linguistics of it. Orig. I assumed it would be a snap. It was a surprise to find how different the two languages were, and how much of a non-Sino element lurked in Hoklo. This last part fascinated me and really drew me in, since it resonated with my forming identity. As a young person coming of age, seduced by the peaks and deep seas of Mother Taiwan, conscious of my lost "Wo" identity, I more or less adopted Hoklo has my "new" tribal tongue. The goal I had in mind was to improve my Hoklo to the then-level of my Mandarin. I didn't think it was really possible, but I think I may be close to that goal, although my Mandarin has improved too and remains two steps ahead.

I went about learning Hoklo in the dumbest ways at first, but I got here anyway b/c I never quit. Usually in language learning, U hit stretches where U lose interest. This never happened for me with Hoklo. I'd say I've put in the 10,000 hrs required to become a fully fluent spkr. Meanwhile, for learning other languages, I seek and exploit shortcuts to the fullest. May U learn Hoklo more efficiently than I did.
In fact, the similarities between Wu and Hokkien are more noticeable from a very "shallow" perspective. one example is that both have voiced plosives and nasalization. Of course these might be merely coincidence.
That's an iceberg U've got there. The Sinitic underpinnings of Hoklo, Hokciu, etc. are derived from an old "江東" Sino language or complex of languages. Poss. even some of the non-Sino underpinnings of Hoklo came down the coast the same way. The deep similarities are certainly there, it's just that very few of us are equipped to go find them.

Recently the issue of how to say 大閘蟹 in Hoklo came up on a forum on Facebook. A gentleman on the China side found out that the "閘" is actually a 假借 usage that came into Written Chinese via a Wo language where it represented an etymon meaning TO BOIL, most likely cognate to Hoklo "sah8", TO BOIL. Notice that these cognates are quite poss. non-Sino.
As for "reading Chinese texts in Wu", I have to confess that I am not able to do that. Before 1980s, education is largely done in Wu; So people who went to school then would have no problem speaking Wu in any scenario. The Mandarin-educated generations, however, have lost such ability.
My mother was born in TW and "Manducated" throughout. She learned Mandarin and Shanghaian side by side and most likely spoke Mandarin much better by the time she was 7. One time I called her to ask her how to pronounce 越 in Shanghaian. As expected, she said she didn't know. Then, five seconds later, she remembered and told me.

Five minutes later, she called back to tell me the other pronunciation of 越 in Shanghaian that she'd also just remembered. I was amazed at how deep her Shanghaian was despite non-use. She hasn't spoken it since HER grandmother passed away.
that there exist a large Hokkien community (~1.5 million people) in Southern Wu region!
Yet another linguistic Balkans. I spent some time there once, in 龍港 of 温州. I found their Hoklo quite difficult to eavesdrop on, and they didn't find it easy to understand me either. There seems to have been major convergence in the three major and two minor tongues of the land even before the Mandarin era. Here is our old thread: http://hakkadictionary.com/forums/viewt ... 2e3ef673dd

The 蛮話 language in the area seemed the most fascinating to me -- one of the hill languages, poss. with clear non-Sino roots and not really falling into any of the well-known Sino language groups.

Mark Yong
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 3:52 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Mark Yong »

amhoanna wrote:
Mark, I've got to recommend as well a book published in HK that teaches Shanghaian from Cantonese. I found it in KL at a major non-chain Chinese-language bookstore on a major street right next to one of the stops on the KL "skytrain". I can't remember the names of any of this stuff, but U prob. know which store I mean!
If it is a ‘major non-chain Chinese-language shop’ (which immediately excludes Popular Bookstore 大衆書局 and Mentor Bookstore 大將書局) and just off the train line, then I am guessing that you are referring to 學林書局 (is there a McDonald’s a couple of doors to the left, and did you have to go up a dodgy flight of stairs to get to it?). It’s quite popular with the students from the nearby 尊孔獨立中學. I picked up my copies of the 「 閩南話漳腔辭典」, 「閩南方言大辭典」 and the blue paper-back 「廈門方言誌」 from there.

Anyway, if you can flick the book title and/or author’s name across to me, finding it should be a piece of cake! Ironically, the majority of my Chinese-language book purchases in the last 12 months have been by mail-order from Taiwan’s 三民書局 (given my penchant for 繁體字-only books) :lol:

ransek
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:19 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

amhoanna wrote: This implies that Sino languages are somehow inherently superior to Tungusic languages. I'd also support any "retroactive prevention" :lol: of Mandarin becoming THE national language of China, but not b/c it somehow went to seed after being Tungusicized. That kind of reasoning is "mentally challenged".
I think 章太炎's argument was not based on the "superiority of Sino languages". It would be clear if you have the context. Anyway what he meant was that the phonology of Beijing dialect was too different from traditional Chinese phonology and therefore it was not "qualified" to become the national language.

Chinese intellectuals in the old times valued phonology (esp. tones and rhymes) a lot, mainly for literary purpose (e.g. 平仄,押韻). As many of you must be aware of, although Southern Chinese languages are very different with one another, they generally have good correspondence with traditional phonology. But in Mandarin the traditional tones and rhymes are mixed with one another, often without any clear rule.

My grandma started to write poems in the 1980s. Although all the poems she wrote was to be read in Mandarin only, she still followed traditional phonology books. And often times she needed to read the characters in Wu to check if the poems agree with the phonological rules.
I find it easy to understand a lot of Shanghaian. I assumed it was b/c it was close to Mandarin, but friends w/o the heritage have told me they find it no easier than understanding Cantonese..... Second, they seem too similar to Mandarin to be worth the effort -- even 浦江.
This can be a controversial topic. I agree that Shanghai Wu is in some way closer to Mandarin due to its simplified nature and the fact that it was in fact developed during a time when Mandarin already gained prestige and even much popularity. However, I don't think Northern Wu in general is closer to Mandarin than Cantonese. I've been trying to teach my Mandophone girlfriend both Suzhou Wu and Cantonese, and she clearly pick up Cantonese much more quickly. To her, Suzhou Wu sounded much more bizarre and she couldn't even make out the word boundaries. Northern Wu tends to treat a whole sentence as a unit---the pace is a lot higher (because of simplified rhymes) and Wu has a complex tone sandhi system which is sentence-based. From a phonetic point of view, I think Wu is more distant from Mandarin than Cantonese. The "similar" parts might come from modern vocabularies and literary reading.
However, I agree that Hokkien (and in general the Min languages) is much more distance from Mandarin than Wu.

Here is a video in modern Suzhou Wu with subtitles (and you can see the way junior high students speak it)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ773bA2WFg
That's an iceberg U've got there. The Sinitic underpinnings of Hoklo, Hokciu, etc. are derived from an old "江東" Sino language or complex of languages. Poss. even some of the non-Sino underpinnings of Hoklo came down the coast the same way. The deep similarities are certainly there, it's just that very few of us are equipped to go find them.
I'm aware of the deep similarities, which is why I'm so fascinated by Hokkien. I will try to discuss more when I have time.

Mark Yong
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 3:52 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Mark Yong »

Hi, ransek,

Quite an interesting series of posts. I really do not know where or how to slot in, so I thought I’d just give a brief overview of my background in relation to my interest in 閩南語.

I am a 4th generation Chinese Malaysian, born and raised in Kuala Lumpur. My ancestral dialect is 惠州話, but I cannot speak much of it (though, through exposure to the older generation during my formative years, I can understand it well when heard). Cantonese is my strongest Chinese dialect, given my KL upbringing.

As to how I encountered Hokkien, it was when I moved up north to Penang to work in the electronics industry for six years. I picked up the dialect partly out of necessity and convenience (everyone speaks it, from company suppliers to street vendors), but it was mainly because I was just fascinated by the dialect, and wanted to learn it. I picked up enough to function on the streets within six months, and was fairly conversant at it within three years. It also helped that I spent my weekends hanging around in places where ‘purer’ varieties of the dialect was spoken (e.g. martial arts academies, coffee shops, car workshops). And because of my passion (obsession?) towards the study of 本字, this further supplemented my learning.

amhoanna raised an interesting point about the Shanghai dialect being somewhat geographically-limited to the region (which is not to say that it makes me less interested to learn it!). What I mean is that, in contrast, what I find fascinating about the Hokkien dialect is that it is truly a diaspora dialect (although Cantonese can also claim to have a diaspora status, it has the advantage of Hong Kong both as a geographical anchor and having an environment that has always supported the dialect). Speakers of the various varieties of 閩南語, descendents of the migrants across the last two centuries or so, can be found across the Taiwanese Straits and South-East Asia. Within this Minnan Forum, we have representation hailing from Taiwan, Penang, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines (though, not all are active at any given time).

After reading through the old Forum threads, you will probably start to identify some of the more regular members, each bringing different perspectives and areas of emphasis (as illustrated by the recurring themes in their posts). I shall let the other Forumers introduce themselves and their respective interests, but as for me (and the older Forumers will probably attest to this), my primary interest in 閩南語 is in its Sinitic roots, and seeking out the 本字 for many of the unique words in its vocabulary that originate from Old Chinese and have fallen out of general use in the younger dialects such as Mandarin.

SimL
Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by SimL »

Sorry, I'm incredibly busy at the moment, so can't post much more. There are so many interesting issues raised by everyone. I hope to have more time next week. I'll just squeeze this in now.
amhoanna wrote:We hear a lot about 閩粵人 emigrating south during the Ming and the Ching, but I've been to many parts and many ports of SEA... Pretty much every single person I've ever spoken to here in a Sino language was the child or grandchild of people who emigrated in ROC times. I've never had the satisfaction of someone telling me in Hokkien or Cantonese that their people arrived in Ching times.
Right, here goes: "wa e tsO-kong (kui-na e, m-si ka-liau) si u-iaN ti tsheng-tiau e si lai kau ma-lai-a e." (That was my attempt at telling you in Hokkien that some of my ancestors really did arrive in Malaya in Ching times :mrgreen:).

The following link is a photograph of the grave inscription of one of my great-great-grandmothers. The far right column reads "光緒戊寅年孟冬", which I've translated as "[Died] 1878, first month of Winter (10th lunar month)".

This photo might already have been posted on this Forum earlier, when I was getting help from Forum members for doing the translation of the whole thing. The grave itself is in the Mount Erskine Cemetry in Penang.

Image

I'm not totally sure that she was born in Malaya - I can ask an uncle who has done a lot of research into that aspect of the family - but even if she wasn't, this would appear to prove that she had migrated to Malaya in Qing times. But in all probability, I think she was born in Malaya. IIRC, even her parents were born in Malaya.

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