Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
Ah-bin
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Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Ah-bin »

In the KL airport I happened to come across Tan Choon Hoe's new book "Penang Hokkien Conversations" Thicker than the earlier two books by 50 pages it is also a bit better organised into thematic conversations. The best part of it is it gives hundreds of sentences (rather than words) in Hokkien and gives many good ways to express English ideas in Penang Hokkien. The worst part is the spelling system, which means one needs a certain base knowledge of Hokkien before one can use the book effectively.

AndrewAndrew
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Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:26 am

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by AndrewAndrew »

Surely it can't be too difficult for one of us to get in contact with him to introduce him to some form of romanisation? Whether it's Pehoeji, Bodman or Tailo, doesn't matter. All of his books could easily be republished.

aokh1979
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Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by aokh1979 »

I tried last year. Maybe I was not convincing...... :P

AndrewAndrew
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Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by AndrewAndrew »

No reply? Maybe a few bad reviews in Amazon will attract his attention ...

Ah-bin
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Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Ah-bin »

I met him this morning, and had a great conversation with him over kopi beng. He was also kind enough to give me a copy of the Malay version of the first book, in which the spelling system is slightly different and more consistant. I pointed him towards my introduction to POJ in the Penang Hokkien, and introduced the tonal system and how to use superscript n to avoid writing "enee" for "iN".

I asked about some of the things I had noticed as misspellings, like "ta-lee-knia" for "coin" and "kha-lie-chheah" for "bicycle" but it turns out these are actually the way that he pronounces the words, so not really misspellings after all, but perhaps local variations from his kampong.

Someone even told me kha-chhia was the "correct" Penang word for bicycle yesterday, and there seem to be two words for "tap" Mr. Tan also told me there are two commonly-used words for "candle" chek-a and liet-chek (? I think this was how he said it)

He also told me about another book:
"Peng Sneah Hock Kien Wua 檳城福建話" by Cheah Cheng Seang 謝清祥

This is for sale at the entrance to the Khoo Kongsi, and very kindly took me all the way there on the back of his bike to buy it.

It is a 129-page Hokkien to English word list in vaguely alphabetical order, has characters (but some rather odd choices for these), some kind of romanization that is inconsistant (final h and aspirations with no rhyme or reason, sampai kasi gua naik angin!!!!) and Mandarin translations and definitions. Much of the vocabulary is like that in the deGijzel dictionary - sometimes more reflective of Chinese usage than Penang usage - but there is a nice appndix of malay words. The author makes it clear that the book is written in the Sam Toh 三都 accent.

Now I think I must have every Penang Hokkien book ever published:

Three books by Tan Choon Hoe (four if you count the Malay version)
Four books by Raymond Kwok
"A Tapestry of Baba Poetry"
The Penang Hokkien Pocket Dictionary by Luc deGijzel
This new book I describe above

They are all spelt differently, so to use them you have to have some base in Hokkien to start with. But eleven books is quite a few!

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by SimL »

Hi Ah-bin,

So you're in Penang! Hope it has lived up to your expectations: "the Hokkien-speaking city". I'm on holiday in Germany, where the y- and z- key are swapped on the keyboard - very awkward for me to use.

Can't write much as the money is running out in this internet cafe.

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Mark Yong »

Hi, Ah-bin,

Interesting that you should mention 謝清祥 Cheah Cheng Seang's "檳城福建話 Peng Sneah Hock Kien Wua". aokh1979 was kind enough to pick up a copy for me not so long ago.

aokh1979 and I discussed the contents, and if I may speak on behalf of him, we agree on the following 2 points:

1. Yes, it is a good source of Penang Hokkien vocabulary, containing quite a few words not regularly used by the younger man-in-the street.

2. His decision to use Simplified Characters inevitably leads to the high-handed (the adjective is my own) adoption of quite a few Mandarin equivalents for words that are quite clearly not the 本字 benzi. This is not consistent throughout the book, however - one finds quite a few 'intrusions' of Traditional Characters here-and-there.

I am not sure if I can fully agree with his historical account of the pattern of development of Penang Hokkien as a sub-dialect from the original 漳州三都 Chiang Chiu Sam Toh sub-dialect. But I will give him this much - the gentleman does write with admirable passion about the need to preserve the dialect.

Ah-bin
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Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Ah-bin »

Ah yes, I would have picked up more copies too, but it seems only one was left when I got there.

I should have added, that I think it is a great resource for learning (or re-learning) the "deeper" vocabulary, but like all of the materials I listed above, you really have to have some base in Hokkien (and in this case, Mandarin) to use them properly.

It was interesting too to have met people in Penang who speak NO English whatsoever! So the statistics someone wrote here before of Penang Hokkien vocabulary being 10% Hokkien, 20% Malay, and 60% English are just rubbish. Even people younger than me were speaking great Hokkien. From listening to conversations, I think the problem groups are young women and people under 15 though.

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Mark Yong »

Ah-bin,

Perhaps this could be an opportune time for you to start a new thread on your experiences with the Penang Hokkien dialect in its motherland Penang - from the perspective of a visitor who also happens to speak the dialect and read decent Chinese. :P

Cheers,
Mark

Ah-bin
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Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:10 am
Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Ah-bin »

I'd like to write a bit about it too. I think I really need to go again and stay for a bit longer. It was good to start understanding a lot of ordinary phrases that one cannot learn from a book.

I have a few questions about vocab in this book now, though.

Alamak! Translated as "Oh my goodness"?

Is this Malay? Is it commonly used?

I've heard kái-sek 解釋 for "explain", but this book has kóe-soeh 解說 instead. What do Penangites use more often? Do the two words have the same meaning?

One of the people in the book is called 躼骹蠓 lò-kha-báng - meaning a tall person, lit. "tall mosquito". I know the 躼 lò from Taiwanese, meaning "tall" but is it ever used in PGHK separately, or only in compound words?

This isn't from the book but I'll ask it anyway. It seems like PGHK has lost the verb chiāuⁿ 上 "to rise, to get up on, to go up" and only has khí 起 instead. Is that really the case, is chiāuⁿ ever used separately? What is the difference between them? I am quite sure Penang people don't say chiāuⁿ-chhia 上車 for "get in the car", but use khí-chhia 起車 instead, the same goes for khí-lâu 起樓 "go upstairs" I think. But the chiāuⁿ exists in other places like chiāuⁿ-thâu 上頭 the hair-combing ritual the night before a wedding. Does it exist anywhere else? Thanks for your answers.

Just remembered one more: som for "warm". This is an unusual ending in Hokkien, in China it exists only in Chiang-chiu Hokkien. Anybody have an idea of the tone or a character? I can only find "ginseng" in Douglas

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Mark Yong »

From my personal experience...

1. I have always heard/used kái-sek 解釋.

2. You are right, the verb chiāuⁿ (and, for that matter, the adjective siāng ) has just about disappeared from everyday Penang Hokkien. In fact, the only time I have heard used is in ma-seong 馬上.

3. I always had the impression that som for 'warm' was derived from the Malay suam - but I could be wrong, i.e. it's the other way round.

4. Yes, alamak is a Malay-originated exclamation. Decomposing it into its individual elements, it literally means "Oh, mother!". But from my experience, not everyone uses it as a "natural" part of Penang Hokkien vocabulary.

SimL
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Location: Amsterdam

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by SimL »

Hi Ah-bin,

>> Alamak! Translated as "Oh my goodness"?

>> Yes, alamak is a Malay-originated exclamation. Decomposing it
>> into its individual elements, it literally means "Oh, mother!".
>> But from my experience, not everyone uses it as a "natural"
>> part of Penang Hokkien vocabulary.

Yes, as Mark says, it's very common in Malay. I've always suspected it comes from (the now rather old fashioned) Dutch "allemachtig!", which is used in very similar ways. This (as Ah-bin would know) is short for "God Allemachtig!" (="God Almighty!"), used as an exclamation of surprise or strong emotion. In Malay already, and certainly in Penang Hokkien, it's restricted to negative situations. Personally, I use it only to mean "Oh dear!". E.g. In Dutch, if your friend bought an extravagantly expensive car, and you didn't know about it, and you suddenly saw him drive up in it, when you could say "allemachtig!", just an expression of strong emotion - a sort of "OMG!", without that much of a negative connotation, whereas both Malay and Penang Hokkien "alamak", a more negative situation is needed (even if only minorly negative, like having to go back home to get something one forgot to bring).

>> But the chiāuⁿ exists in other places like chiāuⁿ-thâu 上頭 the
>> hair-combing ritual the night before a wedding.

Is this combing of the hair ceremony well known in the rest of the Hokkien-speaking world? My great-uncles were the last ones I know of in my family who practiced this, on their wedding day, in a traditional Baba wedding ceremony. In my parents' generation, they all had "modern" western weddings, so no one did 上頭 any more. After skipping one generation, I think a number of my cousins, who got married in Australia, in the 1980's, did it again, as a sort of "throw-back" to their Baba roots. (As my cousins - my age and younger - would not have known anything about this ritual from their own personal experience, they probably allowed it to be done to them more because their *parents* wanted it, when the parents thought back to their childhoods and their own uncles having had it done.)

>> Just remembered one more: som for "warm". ...
>> Anybody have an idea of the tone or a character?

I'd venture to say that the tone is som1. In my usage, there are 2 restrictions. 1) I only ever use it in the reduplicated form, i.e. "som7-som1" (with sandhi-tone indicated on the first syllable), 2) It can only be used for liquids - the temperature in a room, an iron which has been turned off and cooling down, a radiator, etc would NOT be "som7-som1" - only say a cup of tea.

There may be even more restrictions in its usage:

E.g. I'm not even sure if it might be limited to *drinkable* liquids; i.e. I'm unsure if it could be used for the temperature of the water in a warm bath.

Perhaps it might be limited to drinkable liquids which are cooling *down*; i.e. I'm unsure if one could say ?*"cit le tE bo kau som" (= "this tea isn't warm enough").

Bottom line: I only use if for a bowl of soup or a cup of tea, which has slowly cooled down from being too hot to drink to being a nice comfortable temperature to drink. For all other usages - heating a drinkable liquid *up* until it's nice to drink, or the physical temperature of non-liquid objects - I'd be unsure whether to use "som1". [Which, I guess, is part of the reason why I only use it in reduplicated form - it suggests the nice, positive, sensual feelings associated with this particular context.]

I would be interested to know if other Penang Hokkien speakers use it in a more general way, without reduplication.

PS. Is this the new format for this Forum? I don't really find it easier to use - the old format seemed to me to separate the different replies better, and it was easier to skim read through the different replies (or the individual topics too).

Ah-bin
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Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Ah-bin »

PS. Is this the new format for this Forum? I don't really find it easier to use - the old format seemed to me to separate the different replies better, and it was easier to skim read through the different replies (or the individual topics too).
Ah, so it's happening to you too? I thought it was just me. This has happened to me before when the page doesn't load properly because of speed issues, so I thought it was because I was here in China trying to access an overseas site.
Is this combing of the hair ceremony well known in the rest of the Hokkien-speaking world?
Actually I first came across it at my friend's wedding in Hong Kong, he is a Hainanese and his mother explained it to me as a Hainanese thing. They lit huge joss-stcks as well, and because it was a hotel room, the fire alarm had to be covered so the smoke wouldn't set it off, so I watched the ceremony while standing on a chair with my arms outstretched pressing a box against the ceiling over the alarm! Then I had to wait about an hour for the joss stick to burn down.

The ritual is described in some Chinese Hokkien dictionaries. I haven't checked Taiwan yet.

That's an interesting theory about Alamak. Maybe it's in that dictionary of loanwords.

It seems likely that som is just suam in disguise. Perhaps it has the same range of meaning in Malay?

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by Mark Yong »

I'm getting the "no frills" webpage format, too. Doesn't look like a deliberate thing, perhaps something for Webmaster Mr. Thomas Chin to look into?

Hi, Sim,

My personal experience with sōm is the same, i.e. only used for liquids. I very vaguely recall it also being used for bathwater (the only time I remember hearing it used for non-potable fluids).

As for re-duplication, strangely my experience has been quite the opposite - nine out of ten times, I hear it without the re-duplication.

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

Re: Tan Choon Hoe's new book

Post by SimL »

Hi Mark,

Thanks for confirming much of what I felt were the semantic restrictions on the use of "som1". As for our radically different perception of the reduplication issue, my current take would be that "your" usage is the normal one, and that my reduplication is more an illusion caused by the fact that I left as a youngish boy, with a much more "childish" vocabulary.

[My leaving Penang at such an early age actually has some strange pschological side-effects... When I'm back in Penang, and see a man or woman in their mid-20's, my first impulse is to address them as "A Cek" or "A I", but then I realise that they would find that rather odd, because they would be tempted to address me as "A Pek"!!! :-P.]

Looks like we're all suffering from this "new" format...

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