Creolised Hokkien

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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Creolised Hokkien

Post by Ah-bin »

I've decided to write a bit about creolisation of Penang Hokkien due to intense contact with other languages, namely English, Malay, Cantonese, and Mandarin. These four languages have affected the structure of Penang Hokkien in many different ways. I'm not listing these features as anything one should aspire to using, but rather as a record of what to look out for in the speech of younger people and the younger generation of English- and Mandarin educated. First of all I want to concentrate on some feature that are due to English influence.

1) Borrowed clause heads

These are extremely common in the speech of younger speakers, I've noted a few in an eariler thread. The trend for code switching seems to be "Âng-mô•-thâu kā Hok-kiàn-bóe" (an English head and a Hokkien tail). These are the ones I hear most often.

I mean... (Wá ê ì-sū sī kóng...)
It means... (ì-sū sī kóng...)
I think... (Wá siāuⁿ kóng...)
after that...(hā-liáu...)
after... (...āu; kòe liáu...;
before.... (chá...; ...chêng)
at that time... (há-lê-sî...)
even though... (... pún hó; sui-liân)

2) Creolised syntax

Here's one I've mentioned before, which people commented they found unnatural.

Lú ē khah-êng thàn tioh° há-míh lú ài
You’ll be able to get what you want more easily

Where the "há-míh" is used in a similar way to "what" when introducing an English subordinate clause.

Much more common is the use of kā as a preposition before an indirect object or the object of a stative verb, placed after the verb in imitation of English idiom with "with" or "to" or the Bazaar/Baba Malay "sama".

"check kā lú"
check [it] with you

Sék kā Hút-lí
Familiar with the dharma

Kau-in kā hó-giáh-lâng ê kiáⁿ
Get married to a rich man’s son

Ū Koan-hè kā wá
Have some relationship to me

Khí-hông kā lâng
to be angry with someone

I ū sái sèng-tē kā wá
He lost his temper with me

I kóng-oā siâng-kā lú
He speaks in a similar way to you

I kiâⁿ-lé kā Hút
He did obeisance to Buddha

Tâu kā lâng
to inform on someone to someone else

m̄ chai kā i
I don’t want to know anything more about him! [have anything to do with him]

I tòa kā Tn̂g-lâng saⁿ-nî
He lived with Chinese people for three years

I have also seen kā used in the place of the construction iōng A chò B
sé kā sat-bûn = to wash with soap.

3) Calqued words, and loan translations

For example "Hoan-ná" meaning "a Malay" extended to mean the Malay language both as a spoken language and the subject taught in schools. "Âng-mô·" and "Hok-kiàn"

I ē-hiáu kóng Âng-mô·/Hoan-ná/Hok-kiàn
He speaks English/Malay/Hokkien

I thák Âng-mô·/Hoan-ná/Hok-kiàn
He/she studies English/Malay/Hokkien

Others I notice are:
Chhēng = to wear, for glasses, hats, where non-creolised usage has 戴 tì
Chhit-thô - to play, used for tennis,
Poe - used as a transitive verb, e.g. Poe poe-ki "To fly a plane"

This is a huge subject, and here I have only looked at a few examples of English syntactic influence. The placement of adverbial phrases of time, and the particle pún also deserve more discussion.

As far as the sociolinguistics goes, I notice that most people tend to focus on whether the vocabulary of their Hokkien is free of English and Malay loans (even to the point of seeking out the "real" words for "soap" and "money") rather than on the less obvious calquing and syntactic interference. I should write a whole article about it.

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Re: Creolised Hokkien

Post by amhoanna »

A good piece of scholarship. I tentatively believe Penang Hokkien went a few steps along yet another path of creolization, namely Siamization. This is not so obvious nowadays b/c there are so few Siamese speakers in Penang-Kedah-Taiping, and nationalization cut off much of the flow of people back and forth from Phuket and Trang. In the "formative years" of Penang Hokkien, the entire coast was a Malay-Siamese contact zone with contact through trade and interlocking settlement. My hunch is that Penang Hokkien "kā" "learned" some of its functions from Siamese กับ. From your examples it's clear that it's also reinforced and expanded itself through a psycho-syntactic association with "WITH".

The Siamization thing is not my theory, BTW. I heard it put forth by a gentleman from Kedah.