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Chinese language/dialects Options
yongxin
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 7:44:33 AM
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Please help me to understand. I'm currently conducting a language experiment. One requirement for participating is that Cantonese has to be your mother tongue (i.e. first language). If one of our subjects turns out to have i.e. Hakka as their mother tongue, and we are strict, we have to remove him from our data set.
But let's consider this: What if this subject's mother tongue is indeed Hakka but doesn't speak it at all, only understands it, and speaks Cantonese instead - is it still possible to use his data?

MOre generally, I'd like to know how strict the boundaries are of the different Chinese dialects. We call it 'dialects' (probably because they have the same writing system) but since they are not totally mutually intelligible shouldn't we consider them as different languages? Is there, according to you guys, just one Chinese language or are there several Chinese languages? How do Chinese people see the different 'dialects' of the Chinese language?
sisikou
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 10:13:55 AM
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Hi~yongxin,

Do you have "Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics"--a down to earth linguistic book :P ?


According to the definition of L1(first language):
(generally) a person's mother tongue or the language acquired first. In multilingual communities, however, where a child may gradually shift from the main use of one language to the main use of another (eg., because of the influence of a school lanaguage), first langauge may refer to the language the child feels most comfortable using. Often this term is used synonymously with NATIVE LANGUAGE.

Regarding your 1st question, I will say: Maybe, but it's better to let your participant do a langauge accessment--a concrete cutting point or baseline / standard to group your participants before the research.
(eg., Hong Kong Cantonese Oral Language Assessment Scale (HKCOLAS).
Cantonese Basic Speech Perception Test (CBAPT). )
You research would be more convincing if a language assessment is done.
sisikou
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 10:40:57 AM
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Location: Taiwan
Regarding your 2nd question...ahhh!! Very very complicated...I'll try my best...><...

(generally)from Longman dictionary:

The definition of a dialect:
a variety of a language , spoken in one part of a country (regional dialect), or by people belonging to a particular social class (social dialect or SOCIOLECT), which is different in some words, grammar, and/or pronunciation from other forms of the same language. A dialect is often associated with a particular ACCENT. Sometimes a dialect gains status amd becomes the STANDARD VARIETY of a country.

The definition of a language:
any particular system of human communication(eg., French, Hindi). Sometimes a langauge is spoken by most people in a particular country(eg., Japanese in Japan), but sometimes a language is spoken by only part of the population of a country(eg., Tamil in India, French in Canada). Language are usually not spoken in exactly the same way from one part of a country to the other. Differences in the way a language is spokem by different people are described in terms of regional and social variation. In some cases, there is a continuum from one language to another. Dialect A of Language X on one side of the border may be very similar to Dialect B of Language Y on the other side of the border if language X and language Y are related. This is the case between Sweden and Norway and between Germany and the Netherlands. (Do you also consider Hakka and Cantanese as this case? :P)

Haven't answer your 2nd question, but please allow me to take a break and reset my brain first. Pray
See if other nice fellow members can answer it. Pray Pray
yongxin
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 2:43:42 AM
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Thank you for your reply so far, Sisi. I understand that this is a difficult one, as I've let my brain work on this as well and have not come with an answer yet. A native Chinese told me that having Hakka as your first language would not influence his performance on the task as Hakka and Cantonese don't differ that much from eacht other (compared to Cantonese-Mandarin). And besides, both Hakka and Cantonese use the same grammar (i.e. writing system). I do know is that most Hakka speaking Chinese over here also speak Cantonese, probably because it used to be the most spoken Chinese dialect over here.

Anyway, looking forward to your answer. Thanks!
sisikou
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 7:39:54 AM
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Hi~yongxin,

Actually, I don't agree with your friend. It might be possible that the distance between Hakka language and Cantonese is close, thus negative transfer is not obvious. However, you still need to consider the influence of positive transfer.

Language transfer:(According to Longman)the effect of one language on the learning of another. Two types of language transfer may occur.

Negative transfer, also known as interference, is the use of a native-language pattern or rule which leads to an ERROR or inappropriate form in the TARGET LANGUAGE (eg., a Cantonese learner of Mandarin may produce the incorrect sentence 我電頭髮{ǒ din tou fa; I perm my hair} of 我燙頭髮{Wǒ tàng tóufà; I perm my hair}, because of the transfer of Cantonese).

Positive transfer is transfer which makes learning easier, and may occur when both the native language and the target language have the same form (eg., both Cantonese and Mandarin have the word 電視{dinsi / diànshì; TV} )which have the same meaning in both languages.

sisikou
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 12:00:58 PM
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First, thanks Yongxin, as I also learned much here. :P Since your experiment is more about Cantonese and Hakka, therefore I focus on these two dialects here.


Quote:
how strict the boundaries are of the different Chinese dialects.


Source
Nowadays, Chinese talk about JiangNan versus JiangBei to tell the difference between south and north China. Shanghai people call Mandarin a northern dialect, and called themselves southerners.

It is probably during the Qing dynasty that the mandarin dialect finally established itself through out China as the 官話{Guan Hua; offical language} . The original Han tongue, which was probably closer to Hakka, Cantonese and Hoklo than Mandarin, actually is preserved in the south, furthest from the northern influence.



1. The dominance of Mandarin as a northern dialect

The influence of northern Mandarin dialect gradually increased during the dynasties with dominant rulers from northern China:
1. 16 kingdoms during East Jin4 dynasty 317-420 AD (~ 100 years) [rather localized]
2. South-North dynasties 420-589 AD (~170 years) [localized]
3. Liao during North Song 960-1127 AD (~170 years) [minor]
4. Jin1 during South Song 1127-1279 AD (~150 years) [Major influence north of Yangtze Jiang]
5. Yuan 1271-1368 AD (~100 years)[Major influence]
6. Qing 1644-1911 AD (330 years) [Major influence]

Certain old Chinese tongues are still preserved. During the Cunqiu and Warring-States era, there was a need to communicate between the kingdoms. Messengers were sent back and forth. Negotiation, battling, migration of people from one state to another as forced by the wars, all caused a blending and unification of languages.


2. Hakka as one of the oldest Chinese dialects

The Hakka dialect should be regarded as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of Chinese dialects. Although it is now less spoken than Mandarin.

Mandarin/putonghua was probably not the original spoken Chinese language during the Tang dynasty ( 618 - 907 BC ) , but a northern dialect that became popularized after the Song dynasty (A.D.960-1279) .



3. Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin and other dialects compared
To trace the development of Chinese dialect/languages, and the migration of "Chinese", the preservation of certain phonetics is interesting.

Hakka "has the same initial consonants, final consonents, and syllabic nasals as Standard Cantonese; the vowels are close to Modern Standard Chinese [Mandarin]. Medial and final semivowels are y and w. There are two tones in syllables with final stops, four in the other syllabic types." (Enc. Brit., "Languages of the World") This statement may be particularly true for Meixien Hakka.


4. An interesting phonological observation on Mandarin,Wu, Min,Cantonese and Hakka

There is an interesting phenomenon regarding the empahsis of the phonetic mechanism of the different dialects. If one maps where the sound is mostly produced in each dialect, in comparative terms of course, the following pattern is obvious.

Wu - upper front, teeth
Min - upper back palate to nasal
Cantonese - throat
Hakka - throat
Manadarin - tongue(roll ing) [Beijing-type, not Taiwanese-type]




So, one can imagine travelling from Jiangsu to Guangdong via Fujian, the phonological "points" would migrate from the front teeth to the nasal and upper palate, arriving at the throat. Manadarin completes the circle on the cross section of the mouth.


Somehow, there must be certain genetic characteristics that is linked to this development, at least in the beginning of civilization. Once habitualized, each tongue can be quite exclusive to new intrusion. It is quite difficult for Mandarin-speaking people and Cantonese-speaking people to speak the other tongue like a native.

Copyright. 1995. S. L. Lee.
Initial posting on May 17, 1995. Sections updated as indicated.
yongxin
Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 5:17:56 PM
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Xie xie ni Sisi :)
Your posts are quite interesting. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert in linguistics so it's actually the first time I hear about positive/negative transfer. However, I'll take it into account when my data isn't as expected ;) Your last post makes the case more difficult for me lol! One thing: why is it not possible to speak as a native for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers? I mean I do have friends from Guangdong who speak Mandarin as natives (at least that's what I think)
sisikou
Posted: Monday, July 18, 2011 11:20:18 AM
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Hi~Yongxin: you are more than welcome...Drool

Regarding your confusion-->
Quote:
One thing: why is it not possible to speak as a native for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers? I mean I do have friends from Guangdong who speak Mandarin as natives


In this case, your friend might be a bilingual or a multilingual

I think what the article mentions is the case of a Cantonese or a Mandarin monolingual .
They know their first language well, but not successful in learning their second language / dialect. (Since the phonetic mechanism of Cantonese(tongue) and Mandarin(throat) are different.)
sisikou
Posted: Monday, July 18, 2011 11:29:31 AM
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About the Chinese dialects or languages, please check:

Standard Chinese

Mandarin Chinese

List of varieties of Chinese

I really think the language or dialect issue is not easy to define. Maybe we can exchange some thoughts here. Angel



yongxin
Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2011 3:34:36 PM
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sisikou wrote:


In this case, your friend might be a bilingual or a multilingual

I think what the article mentions is the case of a Cantonese or a Mandarin monolingual .
They know their first language well, but not successful in learning their second language / dialect. (Since the phonetic mechanism of Cantonese(tongue) and Mandarin(throat) are different.)


I actually wanted to say that it made sense (about being bi-, or multilingual), but! then we are assuming that the different dialects can be considered as different languages! ;)

I'd already checked the wikis on the chinese language before I posted on here, but it didn't answer the questions I had... Not talking
sisikou
Posted: Monday, July 25, 2011 7:57:43 AM
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Well...yongxin,

[image not available]

if Mandarin and Cantonese are two dialects, as a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker, I'm a bi dialectal but not a bilingual(sorry, I don't know how to call a person who speaks two dialects).


Actually, there are two main perspectives in the view of dialects.

The first one is like what you mentioned before: mutual intelligibility. If different language systems are mutual intelligibility, they are called dialects. Yes, you are right. Most Chinese dialects are not totally mutual intelligibility (eg., Mandarin speakers might not understand Cantonese speakers).

The second one is the written and spoken systems. Though dialects are pronounced differently, they might share the same written characters. Although you might claim that some dialects have their own characters witch are separated from standard Chinese, you'll also find out those specific dialect speakers are able to read standard Chinese (eg., most Cantonese speakers can read Mandarin). Thus, do you think Chinese dialects are called dialects under this situation? I know, some problems remains unsolved. For example, Cantonese speakers can read Mandarin, but Mandarin speakers can't read Cantonese characters. In this case, can we claim that Chinese dialects are called dialects due to convention which follows thousand years?
yongxin
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 7:25:45 AM
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sisikou wrote:
Well...yongxin,

[image not available]

if Mandarin and Cantonese are two dialects, as a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker, I'm a bi dialectal but not a bilingual(sorry, I don't know how to call a person who speaks two dialects).


Actually, there are two main perspectives in the view of dialects.

The first one is like what you mentioned before: mutual intelligibility. If different language systems are mutual intelligibility, they are called dialects. Yes, you are right. Most Chinese dialects are not totally mutual intelligibility (eg., Mandarin speakers might not understand Cantonese speakers).

The second one is the written and spoken systems. Though dialects are pronounced differently, they might share the same written characters. Although you might claim that some dialects have their own characters witch are separated from standard Chinese, you'll also find out those specific dialect speakers are able to read standard Chinese (eg., most Cantonese speakers can read Mandarin). Thus, do you think Chinese dialects are called dialects under this situation? I know, some problems remains unsolved. For example, Cantonese speakers can read Mandarin, but Mandarin speakers can't read Cantonese characters. In this case, can we claim that Chinese dialects are called dialects due to convention which follows thousand years?


There's no such as "Cantonese characters" and "Mandarin characters" - to me there is just one writing system. The "Cantonese characters" you refer to is either the traditional writing system (then we're just talking about a form of writing) or the physical display of the Cantonese dialect. This can be in characters, but also using the latin alphabet (i.e. transliteration). The written form of Cantonese, so to say, is just based on the speaking language. So in this case you could say that Cantonese (and maybe also the other Chinese dialects) only exist colloquially.

I've always 'learned' that Chinese consists of several dialects, and I've never bothered myself with this question before wasn't it for the experiment I'm conducting now :)

By the way, I was told that long time ago the people in the north wanted to have one language and started to jot everything down, and have a writing system. It wasn't till years later that people from the south got acquainted with this system. Do you know whether this is true? And you said that you speak Cantonese as well, may I ask where you're from? Or was it just an example? ;)



sisikou
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 7:25:52 PM
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Yongxin, thanks for reminding me that there is no writing system in Cantonese and this dialect only exists colloquially. I doubt about this statement though. Nevertheless, it is more reasonable to explain why Cantonese is called a dialect.

I was born in Macau and emigrated to Taiwan at the age of 11. Both Cantonese and Mandarin are my mother tongue. In my humble opinion, I think colloquial Cantonese is also a writing system.
According to the Blackwell Encyclopedia, the definition of writing system is a set of visible or tactile signs used to represent units of language in a systematic way. Cantonese has appeared in writing since the 17th century and the specific characters is intelligible within Cantonese speakers.



You may see the character
represents this; represents a location--> 呢度 means here; the same logic in 個度there, 邊度where
I think it is a language that could be systematically learned.

Also, throughout the world, at least 71 million people speak Cantonese (eg., HongKong, Macau, Singaporean, Chinese immigrants in US...). The popularity of this dialect might change it into a language someday.
sisikou
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 7:38:58 PM
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Regarding the unity of Chinese writing systems, do you mean the critical period of Qin Dynasty? If so, the answer is affirmative!

http://www.ancientscripts.com/chinese.html
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