Re: writing Chinese dialects

From: Douglas Davidson (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2007 - 13:14:56 CST

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    On Jan 25, 2007, at 10:26 AM, John H. Jenkins wrote:

    > So far as I know, Cantonese-specific writing is *not* taught in
    > schools. In the mainland, there is a push to get everyone to
    > switch from local dialects to Mandarin. Cantonese is only really
    > written at all (and then not very much) in Hong Kong and Macao, and
    > there I believe the emphasis is also on standard written Chinese.

    There actually are two bilingual Cantonese-English public elementary
    school programs in San Francisco (
    CIP.html and
    page=es.fong_yu&show_descr=true&len=348); their material states that
    they aim for literacy in both Cantonese and English, but I haven't
    seen anything in enough detail to say to what extent Cantonese-
    specific characters might be used.

    > OTOH, Unicode *has* made an effort to cull Cantonese-specific
    > characters from such references as exist for such. When Extension
    > D is encoded in the (hopefully) near future, there will be as
    > complete a repertoire of Cantonese-specific characters as is
    > reasonably possible.

    My impression is that Cantonese is in a better position here than
    most other dialects--that is, that there are dialect-specific
    characters used in writing other dialects, but that the usage is
    usually not as widespread or consistent as with Cantonese. Are these
    being gathered as well?

    Naturally there are political aspects to all of this. On the
    mainland, as you say, the push is toward Mandarin. In Taiwan there
    has recently been something of a revival of Taiwanese, but my
    impression is that this is primarily as a spoken language, and that
    when it is written, one of the romanizations is often used rather
    than characters; however, this is not first-hand information, and I
    would welcome correction on this.

    Douglas Davidson

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