An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
amhoanna
Posts: 912
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:43 pm

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by amhoanna »

Mark:

Hit pún cheh chehmiâ goá boēkì ·a, ah iā bô cah tī sinkhu piⁿ. Lí ēsái khíkhì Hiongkáng ê bāngcām chē khoàⁿ o̍h Siōnghái oē ê cheh.

Hit kaiⁿ chehtiàm tiàm tólo̍h, ci̍t sî goá siūⁿ boē khí ·lâi. Goá khoàⁿ tētô͘ kámkah sī MEDAN TOANKU cām piⁿ ·á.
"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."
Goá hit kù oē kóng soah ciah siūⁿ ·tio̍h, "Chám ·a, goá boēkìtit aSim kah só·'ū ê Bābā-té Pineng lâng ·khì ·a."
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.
My apologies to the man.

Maybe an "Arabic"-type solution would've been best: a "reconstructed" "Classic Chinese" language could've been fabricated and installed as a pan-Sinitic lingua franca. In practice, people would've tended to use it as little as possible, and local languages would've been safe for another few centuries.
But in Mandarin the traditional tones and rhymes are mixed with one another, often without any clear rule.
Esp. in the "northeasternmost" Mandarin that became national. AFAIK, many other Mandarin dialects have kept clear correspondences to traditional tones, at least.
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.
U may be right! I've suspected the same for some time.

On the other hand, we need to keep in mind that Canton Cantonese is probably heavier on Northern influences as well, compared to Hoisan and other "country" or Tanka dialects.

Hokkien is pretty unique in that the "representative", metropolitan dialects (Coanciu City + Amoy) are poss. even less Northernized than the others.

Another factor I forgot to mention is that one reason for the lexical proximity btw Mandarin and Northern Wo is actually Northern Wo influence on Mandarin. Here the influence seems to hv been two-way for a long time, both in the 20th cen. when many leading 白話文 writers came from Wo-phone backgrounds, or in the days of the Nanjing koine. And two-way influence is the essence of globalization, i.e. nothing to be ashamed of!

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi Mark,

Great to know your interesting background!

One of my good friends from college was from KL. He speaks Cantonese natively but always claimed Mandarin was his mother tongue, and he just "picked up" Cantonese from his family. I think it has to do with the Chinese education in MSia (he went to 尊孔獨中 and said they needed to pay fines if caught speaking Cantonese). I'll go visit him this winter and hopefully I will have chance to observe the linguistic environment there.

It was amazing that you could pick up Hokkien in six months. I guess you might have some exposure to Hokkien even before you went to Penang. The friend I mentioned didn't speak Hokkien but knew quite some words and expressions.

And it is great to know the contributors of this forum came from such diverse background. But it seems to be a pity that there is no one from the Hokkien province. I came across many online Hokkien "activists" in Chinese forums. It might be a good idea to invite them to here.

Finding 本字 is a tough task. I've been frequenting linguistic forums for some years but there are still so many Wu words that I had no clue what their 本字 are. And I guess in many cases there are no conclusive results---sometimes even when some scholars came up with some theories, I find the evidence flimsy and could not buy it. That said, i also think it is a very interesting and rewarding task.
Last edited by ransek on Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

amhoanna wrote: Maybe an "Arabic"-type solution would've been best: a "reconstructed" "Classic Chinese" language could've been fabricated and installed as a pan-Sinitic lingua franca. In practice, people would've tended to use it as little as possible, and local languages would've been safe for another few centuries.
I agree with you. And the reconstruction isn't that hard at all. The pronunciations of 漢字 in Cantonese, Hakka and literary reading 文讀音 of Hokkien have very good similarities. The latter two are in particular very very close. I think these represent 中原雅音 in the Sui-Tang-Song era. There were actually people proposing similar solutions in pku forum.
Esp. in the "northeasternmost" Mandarin that became national. AFAIK, many other Mandarin dialects have kept clear correspondences to traditional tones, at least.
Yea this seems to be true. There was a theory that even the Beijing dialect outside the inner city was better. There seemed to be two different dialects in and outside the core of the imperial capital. Inside the dialect is closer to Northeastern Mandarin while outside it is closer to the general Hebei Mandarin. I guess the development of Mandarin had two major steps. The first was due to the Khitan and Mongolian influence, the second attributed to Manchu. The first one seemed to be more decisive, though. The population displacement and large-scale genocide during the Mongo-Jurchen war made Northern China very scarcely populated. A more striking evidence is that the only region in North China that did not suffer from such tragedy is Shanxi and guess what---Shanxi dialect seems to be the only Northern dialect that has kept 入聲!
On the other hand, we need to keep in mind that Canton Cantonese is probably heavier on Northern influences as well, compared to Hoisan and other "country" or Tanka dialects.
That's true and standard Cantonese even has quite some borrowings directly from Modern Mandarin (like 玩waan2 and 呆daai1). But IMHO the main factor that made standard Cantonese closer to Mandarin is that the main "layer" of it was developed quite recently from Northern Chinese in that time (so-called Middle Chinese). In contrast, Wu (and Min) has become a separate branch for a much longer time and has received later influences in subsequent periods. That is why there is so little 文白異讀 in Cantonese.
Hokkien is pretty unique in that the "representative", metropolitan dialects (Coanciu City + Amoy) are poss. even less Northernized than the others.
That is brand new information to me! Can you elaborate a bit? And what exactly do you mean by "Northernized" here? By Middle Chinese or Modern Mandarin?
Here the influence seems to hv been two-way for a long time, both in the 20th cen. when many leading 白話文 writers came from Wo-phone backgrounds, or in the days of the Nanjing koine. And two-way influence is the essence of globalization, i.e. nothing to be ashamed of!
True. I also mentioned this two-way influences earlier.

By the way, why did you use "Wo" instead of "Wu"? The pronunciation of 吳 varies in different Wu dialects so I don't really know what might be a better name than Wu. Personally I would prefer "Ng" which is the traditional pronunciation in Taihu-region.

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by SimL »

Gosh, such stimulating discussions at a moment when I can't respond much!
amhoanna wrote:
SimL wrote:"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."
Goá hit kù oē kóng soah ciah siūⁿ ·tio̍h, "Chám ·a, goá boēkìtit aSim kah só·'ū ê Bābā-té Pineng lâng ·khì ·a."
miEn phaiN-se là! lu an-nE khuan kong, wa soah u tsán [that's "chance" in Penang Hokkien :mrgreen:] thang hE-loh wa-e a-ma e a-ma e bong e foto ti cit-peng.

ransek wrote:Hi Mark,

Great to know your interesting background!
Ransek: it's lovely that you're so positive in expressing that you find our backgrounds interesting. I remember you said something very positive about the other Forum members, including about me, in earlier replies.

You were also slightly self-deprecatory about your own background:
ransek wrote:My background isn't that interesting. I was born in Northern China and raised in Suzhou, China. My family is 3/4 Wu and 1/4 Northern. Mandarin is my mother tongue, but I speak Suzhou Wu fluently (and a little bit of Changshu and Shanghai Wu). I went to college in Hong Kong so I have no problem conversing in Cantonese (Cantonese is fairly easy to pick up for Wu people). Then I moved to the states for more school and work.
I just wanted to say that there is absolutely no need to be modest or self-deprecatory! I think it's often the case that people think of their own lives as "normal", "boring", whatever. Like (and this is not false modestry) I really don't think of my own life as being that remarkable or interesting. For me, it's quite "exotic" and "remarkable" and "worthy of admiration" that someone can be a native Mandarin speaker, speaker various forms of Wu - some very fluently, some less so - AND can converse in Cantonese, AND have a very high level of mastery of English. From my point of view, your background, skills, and course in life are far more interesting than my own :P.

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Mark Yong »

ransek wrote:
It was amazing that you could pick up Hokkien in six months. I guess you might have some exposure to Hokkien even before you went to Penang.
Okay, admittedly I did have some exposure to Hokkien before I went up to Penang. 8) But it was limited to a smattering of basic words - toa , se, 淡薄 tam-poh, joah, leng, 會使 e-sai. Hardly enough to string a sentence more than five words long, and absolutely no way that I could have carried out a conversation. And at that time, partly due to limited exposure, I looked upon Hokkien with disdain, seeing it as crude, lexically-limited, and unconnected with the Chinese language as a whole. That all changed when I went up to Penang (partly because it also coincided with a period of renewed interest in the Chinese language for me). As to how I picked up the dialect quickly, there really are no two ways about it. Listen hard and absorb words like a sponge. And here’s the next crucial step: You must constantly use what you have learnt, at every possible opportunity. This takes a bit of thick skin (and unfortunately, some people are just too darn proud to risk making mistakes), but it has to be done. Then you get to experience the language ‘at work’.

That said, it is not impossible to learn the language outside of its native environment. We have Ah-bin on this Forum who is a prime example of one who has pretty much mastered the intricacies of 閩南 Minnan without having had the advantage of spending an extended period of time immersed in a 閩南 Minnan-speaking environment.
ransek wrote:
Finding 本字 is a tough task. I've been frequenting linguistic forums for some years but there are still so many Wu words that I had no clue what their 本字 are.
It’s a similar challenge for 閩南 Minnan, too. The more difficult ones come in the form of:
1. Grammatical particles and functional words (虛詞). E.g. where 閩南 Minnan has tsit7-e5 ‘this’, Wu has ɡə.tɐ.
2. Words of non-Sinitic origin (probably less of a challenge with 吳 Wu). These I do not even try to artifically-impose 本字 on them, as I feel there is no point in denying their non-Sinitic roots.
That is the reason why my primary focus are on content words (實詞) - nouns, verbs, adjectives - as those are the ones more likely to have 本字. That way, I amass more characters right off the bat (sort of like quickly completing all the easy questions on an examination paper first, before flogging yourself to death with the more difficult ones!), thus making the exercise a lot less discouraging.

To ease the exercise somewhat, I normally approach it from two directions, and in the process, see if I can meet halfway:
1. Identify the word(s), and then search for the 本字.
2. Identify the Chinese character, and then find out how it is pronounced (both in 文讀 and 白讀).
By this method, every now and again I find that (2) leads me to identify a 本字 in (1), via word combinations or cross-references to related words.

This is part of the reason why I generally commence 本字 analysis via 文言文 Literary Chinese texts. In the past, they must have been recited using the standard 文讀 readings of the region, with each character mapped to a known regional standard pronunciation. And Wu should be no exception. I realise it imposes a somewhat artificial structure, as the spoken vernacular would correspond to 白讀, but if the 文白 patterns can somehow be established, it forms a pretty good guide (imperfect though it may be).

Regarding the similarities between 閩南 Minnan and Wu, one aspect that comes to mind is the consistent pattern in the dropping of the consonant -n endings and replacing them with nasalised endings in the 白讀 colloquial readings. E.g. is khoaⁿ3 in 閩南 Minnan and khuə in Wu; is uaⁿ3 in 閩南 Minnan and in Wu. Vocabulary-wise, the most obvious example that comes to mind is as the 3rd person pronoun.

One aspect that intrigues me about 上海話 are the dual readings - as in, I am not sure if they are simply 文白 pairs, or different readings depending on context. E.g. is zeng in 人民 zeng-ming, but is ning in 人家 ning-ka. And there again, can be either ka or jia. Somehow, I get the feeling that the zeng reading for and jia reading for is a stratum from Northern influence.

Since you have now renewed my interest in Wu, I just downloaded an old book 『蘇州方言誌』(plus a couple of others). Chapter 8 『蘇州話標音舉例』 has example texts with each character marked with its pronunciation and tone mark, totalling close to 100 pages. As to why I am focussing on 蘇州話 rather than 上海話, what little I have read seems to point towards 蘇州話 as the “orthodox” Wu, rather than 上海話 which is more of a “Wu-eclectic” dialect that has - as amhoanna pointed out - suffered the onslaught of 北方語 influences. I realise that I am swimming upstream, as 上海話 is the de facto standard for Wu today - but then again, isn’t all dialect study and preservation? :P

By the way, thanks for the YouTube link - most interesting. I had to rely on the subtitles to get through the dialogue, and even that took three viewings!
ransek wrote:
...he went to 尊孔獨中 and said they needed to pay fines if caught speaking Cantonese...
Yes, 尊孔獨中 Confucian Private High School and 中華獨中 Chung Hwa Independent High School are two of the more well-known Chinese Independent High Schools in Kuala Lumpur (there are currently a total 60 獨立中學 across the whole of Malaysia; it is the only country outside of mainland China and Taiwan where a fully Chinese language-based education system all the way to the end of upper secondary still exists. As I did not attend Chinese school (yes, I am part of the estimated 30% minority in my generation of Chinese Malaysians who are bananas - yellow outside, white inside!), I am not entirely familiar with the strict rules in regards to the use of dialect within the school compound, though I recall hearing of such a rule being imposed at the 檳城鍾靈國民型中學 Chung Ling High School (Penang).

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by ransek »

Hi everyone! I just got back from my Thanksgiving vacation. Seems like everybody has been busy.

SimL: Thanks for your nice words. I agree that it's common for people to think their own lives as normal and boring. It's just that I always consider lives of oversea Chinese (esp Malaysian Chinese) to be a lot more interesting than my own^^

Mark: So glad that you are so into the Wu language. May I know where did you download the book? I went through the book briefly a few years ago when I was in Hong Kong. It would be great if I can have a more detailed look. My Wu is getting worse since I left Suzhou more than 8 years ago so I may need to learn it again...

I have so much to talk about the points you mentioned about Wu. But I guess a separate thread in the Wu forum would be more appropriate. I hope I will have time to start one soon. Here I just gave some brief pointers

- Personal pronouns vary greatly in different Wu dialects. 伊 in Shanghai Wu might have come from different origins as 伊 in Hokkien
- The dual readings you mentioned are indeed 文白異讀.
- Suzhou Wu is more "orthodox" than Shanghai Wu, but is actually very "advanced" (heavily influenced by Northern Chinese since Qing dynasty) compared to some other Wu dialects. My grandfather's native tongue, Changshu Wu, has 8 tones, more vowels and consonants and a lot more traditional Wu vocabulary than Suzhou Wu, is probably the most orthodox Wu dialect in the Taihu region. The sound of Suzhou Wu is a lot more "pleasing", though.

I will talk more on the similarities between Hokkien&Wu and Wu itself in separate posts.

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

Re: An Interesting interview in Hokkien

Post by Mark Yong »

ransek wrote:
May I know where did you download the book? I went through the book briefly a few years ago when I was in Hong Kong. It would be great if I can have a more detailed look.
Hi, ransek,

http://ishare.iask.sina.com.cn/
I don't think you will be requiring instructions from me on how to use it. :) But be fore-warned: Download speed can be painfully slow if you are doing it from outside of China.

The Wu-related books that I downloaded are:
1. 上海話大詞典
2. 上海話 900 句
3. 吳語本字舉例
4. 蘇州方言誌
5. 蘇州方言詞典


Do share your findings and insights, once you have had a chance to go through it in greater detail. :)

There may be more in there, but my eyes were already glazed just working through those few! :P

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