Re: Re: Peking/Beijing (Re: Burma/Myanmar) [bis]

From: Akerbeltz Alba (
Date: Fri Oct 08 1999 - 11:33:59 EDT

Norbaitek idatzi zuen:

>> >>Hmph, because Mandarin is a foreign language to anybody south of the
>> >>Yellow river.

[Yng Jin]
>Not quite true if one may admit that a period of nearly a thousand years
>mean something. In fact, dialects like that of Peking belong to the Northern
>dialects family, one of eight great dialect families in China. During the
>past thousand years, especially during the period of the Southern Dynasty
>Song, many people moved from the North China to the South China, bringing
>with them their dialects. Since the Dynasty Ming, there began to be a
>certain spoken form based on northern dialects and labeled "madarin speech
>(in Chinese: guan hu)" as it was typically spoken by mandarins (in modern
>language: civil servants). According to its regional variation (as a result
>of fusion between northern and southern dialects), it was called "northern
>mandarin", "southern mandarin", etc. That's why even in those south or
>southwest provinces like Sichuan, Yunnan and Guangxi (Han people), people
>speak dialects of the same family as in the North China (including Peking).
>There is no oral comprehension problem between people from those regions.
>Northern dialects are spoken by more than 70% of Han Chinese from North
>through to the South in the middle part of China.

true, the Mandarin speaking area does extend an arm down south to the west.

>Why call "dialects" some spoken systems even if there may not be oral
>comprehension between them (like between Peking and Cantonese spoken
>systems)? Because they share the same writing script and a considerable
>quantity of vocabulary and phrases, even syntactic characteristics

so do Catalan and Castilian

>(linguistic reason), as a result of more than two thousands years of common
>developping (historical reason):

more like 2000 years of time to split

>for example, in our days, one can read a
>written Chinese text in pure Peking dialect prononciation or in pure

nonononoNONONO!!! <pardon me for shouting, but I tend to get a bit upset about this "myth" of complete written comprehension>
Bear with me with a rather longish explanation.
I can speak only for Cantonese, but as far as I have heard, the situation for the other chinese languages like Hakka, Wu, Min (N/S), Gan etc. is very similar.
For whatever reasosn, sociological, political etc. we have 1 1/2 spoken languages and 2 written languages in Canton. First, there is "Colloquial" Cantonese (for the want of a better term) - the language people speak in their everyday life which is mutually unintelligebly with other languages, even neighbouring ones like Hakka. uses different grammatical particles, pronouns etc. e.g. 'jh' as a postposition indicating PAST, 'kuih' for 3.SING., 'kuih deih' 3.SING-PL. for "they" etc.
Because of these differences, we have "special charactesr" to write these words (sometimes called non-standard, Hong Kong characters etc.); but unfortunately few printed texts use it. Very few books are printed in Cantonese, humour sections in some newspapers are sometimes written in Cantonese, the occasional advertisment in magazines; apart from that, it is almost entirely restricted to personal communication, letters, cards, notes etc.
But people in Canton do write, don't they? Yes, we do, but, since written Cantonese is "officially inexistant" and not taught, we write, surprise surprise, in Mandarin. Of course the characters can be pronounced according to the Cantonese pronounciation. This brings us to the myth of written comprehension - if some guy from Peking came to HK, couldn't understand what I said and scribbled down "Nobody nicked his bike!" in Standard Mandarin Chinese (which would be HIS native tongue), yes, I could understand it, because that's the from of writing I would have been taught in school.
But if I went to Peking and scribbled "Nobody nicked his bike" in Cantonese, I doubt that a lot of people would understand what I meant, because out of the ... what, 8 characters 5 would be unknown to them.
So we have
1) Written Cantonese
2) Spoken Cantonese
3) Written Mandarin (which can be read according to cantonese pronounciation)

If the third didn't exist, neither would the myth of "mutual written comprehension" - if anybody want's some examples, I'll gladly provide them.

Thank god to Unicode you can't call it non-standardized anymore : )


>[Yng Jin]
>Had there been in Europe a king as strong and cruel as the First Emperor Qin
>in China, there might be the same situation now. But that's a pure
>speculation to answer a pure abstract question.

Huh, the situation is bad enough, running into people trying to convince me that Basque is a dialect of Spanish is nerve-racking enough as it is.


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