Retaining Hokkien Language

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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Mark
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Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Mark » Fri Jul 12, 2002 12:05 pm

James:

I think it would be an amazing feat of NLP if you could have a large database of terms in two or more languages and translate programmes on CNN or telephone conversations. You seem to refer to what I was speaking of in more that way than in simply doing the one-word-and-get-by thing (if you want water but you only know how to say "water", say "water" and deal with the consequences) of which I was speaking.

As for faults in the Ethnologue: yes, I'm quite aware of that. However it's a reliable source if you want information fast. If you're writing a report or talking on a more formal level, then perhaps you should check your facts against a more reputable source before using them.

Personally I would regard the different Mins as different languages, although comparing them to Catalan and Spanish or French and Provençal isn't very accurate. I think it would be better to say Spanish and Portuguese, although they are a bit further than that.

As for the Chaoshan dialect- I think you're correct there. However speakers of any language will blow it out of proportion as too large or too small. It's natural. For example most people I know who speak only English would say that 90% of the world speaks it, or that .1% of the world speaks it. Generally they have troubles shooting for somewhere in between when it is their own precious language.

And why not a Wu forum? Well, there's really no reason why not. However I think that not only is a Wu forum in order, but there should be another forum for "other Sinitic languages" (recently I was at a forum where a few people knew a lot about Chinese languages, and the rest were all clueless, one thought that when a more educated one said Sinitic that he was accusing them of being sinful for messing up each other's place names) such as Gan, Xiang, Minbei, etc.

But as for a Wu forum-- perhaps it should be Wu (Shanghainese) Forum, following the style of our Minnan (Hokkien) Forum which seems to exclude other varieties of Minnan such as Chaozhou.

Mark
ppk

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by ppk » Fri Jul 12, 2002 2:48 pm

i think chaoshan influence was exaggerated cos the teochews dun recognised themselves with cantonese, and tried very hard to preserve their own dialect... and besides, the wealthiest chinese is a teochew...
Mark
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Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Mark » Fri Jul 12, 2002 2:51 pm

Teochews AREN't Cantonese, but rather Minnan.
Yeo Boon Hong

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Yeo Boon Hong » Sun Jul 14, 2002 7:53 am

Mark,

Your idea of language database readings in Hokkien is great but it looks like more advanced language technology involving various languages is being developed by James Campbell & Co. and perhaps others having similar idea. Standard romanization is indeed important but it should cater for provincial variations in pronunciation such as the Penang Hokkien which is predominantly spoken by the Chinese community in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia. Amoy romanization which is closer to the Tongyong Pinyin romanization system adopted recently by the Taiwanese Government sounds more familiar and friendly to me than the Hanyu Pinyin system. Word like 'jiaoza' should be written and pronounced as 'tiau-cha' in the Amoy romanization which means to investigate. Perhaps the Tongyong Pinyin romanization system should be adopted as the standard romanization system for the Hokkien language as it is able to accomodate sounds in Hokkien and other dialects more accurately.
ppk

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by ppk » Sun Jul 14, 2002 9:03 am

i didnt say teochew are cantonese. i am saying teochew area is officially under the jurisdiction of canton but they dun admit it among themselves.
James Campbell

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by James Campbell » Sun Jul 14, 2002 7:50 pm

About the technology: such a solution cannot be built on a one-to-one basis (like Systran builds a translation machine for each and every pair). With our system, each time a new language is added, it can be translated in any number of combinations with any other language. As soon as languages are coded for the system, they can be added, and this can be done for hundreds of languages and dialects as long as the data exists. Databases are not built with a matching definition in every other language--it can't and will not work that way. The technology also would never be perfect and could never replace the fluid nuances of language, unless it could be taught a billion ways to learn (maybe that would take a few more generations of R&D). But if we started using such a system, we would get used to how things are said cross-linguistically and we would start grasping ideas and concepts, though said in our own language, but expressed in a foreign way. I mean, we don't say: you're making an elephant out of a mosquito, and we do have a direct translation of this in English, but even if we didn't and you heard this, you could still grasp the speaker's intention based on context.

By the way: the 'n' should not be inserted into Shanghaiese, even though you'll see both forms used throughout the internet. The -ese endings are a borrowing in English from Italian, and most place names end in one of several endings including -ese, depending on the phonology of the end of the word. You'll mostly find -ino/-ano (Italiano) and -ese (Portughese) with their variant endings in -o/-e/-i. The -ese ending is added in some cases directly on to a vowel ending as well (in some Italian place names--but not regularly found in English) and you will not find the insertion of an 'n'. The same applies for the Italian use of -ese in Chinese place names. I've still to figure out what a person from Taipei is called, even though an Italian friend confirmed that Taipeiese is possible. I personally think of Taipaker or Taipakese (from Minnan) easier to say. Any ideas for Taipei?

So I favor what you say Mark, but why not set a standard and write it as: Wu (Shanghaiese)

Mark, thank you for your response about the Min languages. I have to think about it.

You wrote "a Wu forum" and I'm sorry to bug you about it, but I find that hard to pronounce according to English pronunciation rules. I would rather write "an Wu forum".

PPK wrote that the wealthiest Chinese is a teochew. That I didn't know. Can you tell me who this person is? I know who some of the wealthiest Taiwanese are (if they can be considered Chinese), and they have US$billions in wealth, but I can't be sure they are the wealthiest of Chinese. So this wealthy teochew must have even more billions and be even more famous, but I still can't think of who it is you're referring to. I do know that the wealthiest American is Bill Gates--that's easy. But this is a good question: who's the wealthiest Chinese? And is this person a teochew?
Mark
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Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Mark » Sun Jul 14, 2002 9:53 pm

James: I think we had a misunderstanding about the translation thing. I simply thought that you meant you were building a word database and that for some reason you expected to be able to use just that to be able to accurately translate texts. Of course that isn't realistic, and I think you probably know that too.

As for Shanghainese/Shanghaiese: While it might be proper to say Shanghaiese, it's harder to say by the standards of English pronunciation and it isn't normal. Generally, even if I were to learn it as Shanghaiese (which I did), I would change it to Shanghainese in speech because it comes much more naturally. Often, English words ending with -ese have that suffix preceeded by a nasal sound, and it feels natural to most to say "Shanghainese" instead of "Shanghaiese". Of course, if you so desire, I'll use "Shanghaiese".

As for Taipei-- I would personally say Taipeian, or Taipeier, although these might not be correct.

An Wu forum-- yes, that does make sense, as does "an HTML" or "a UN document", so I think it should be that way.

As long as we're stereotyping localities, I want to say that Hakkas turn up everywhere. Deng Xiaoping is a Hakka, and there are loads more famous Hakkas.
Sum Won

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Sum Won » Sat Jul 20, 2002 12:13 am

Actually, in English, the whole a/an issue depends on pronounciation. I'm sure all of us know that if the word following the article (a/an) begins with a vowel sound, we'd use "an", and if it begins with a consonant sound, we'd used "a".
Ex: "A Unicorn", not "An unicorn"

I don't know anything about the Wu dialect, and maybe Wu would sound like a vowel by itself --I wouldn't know. However, the typical English reader would see it and say "A Wu forum", because a W is a consonant sound.
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About the richest Chinese person, isn't that Lee Ka Shing from Macau or Hong Kong (I forgot where he was from). Don't know if he's Cantonese or ChiuChau, but I wouldn't care what race he's from, "just share the wealth!"
Yeo Boon Hong

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Yeo Boon Hong » Sat Jul 20, 2002 2:09 am

Lee Ka Shing is a Chiuchow(Teochew) from Swatow in Quangdong Province who migrated to Hong Kong and made it good there. Whether he is the richest Chinese person is questionable. I think many of the richest oversea Chinese including those in Taiwan are Hokkiens.
BHYeo

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by BHYeo » Fri Sep 20, 2002 3:07 pm

Look like the Hokkien language is slowly dying. In Malaysia, at one time the Chinese languages offerred to Malaysian government servants in the national training institute comprised of Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien. But Hokkien was scrapped some 3 years ago because of its declining popularity. The Malaysian national TV network also discontinued with the Hokkien programmes while the private ASTRO satellite TV network in Malaysia not only do not show any Hokkien programmes but discriminates against those Malaysians of Chinese descent who speak Hokkien but not Mandarin or Cantonese in that they do not qualify to participate in beauty pageant and talentine contests organised by ASTRO but opened only to Malaysians of Chinese descent. This is really unfair considering that the Hokkiens form the largest Chinese dialect group in Malaysia outnumbering the Cantonese by 2 to 1. And with what the Singaporean Government is also doing to wipe out the Chinese dialects with Hokkien being the biggest loser, ultimately Hokkien would die a natural death unless something is done to correct this disturbing trend. Any ideas from fellow Hokkiens and sympathisers who are keen to retain the Hokkien language?
James Campbell

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by James Campbell » Sat Sep 21, 2002 4:58 pm

Geographically speaking, Malaysia and Singapore were never meant for Hokkien speakers. These are not the countries where Hokkien was born. This is an import. Retaining native Malay languages should be of more importance than Hokkien. And adopting a more 'official' Chinese over Hokkien does not seem to be an irrational decision as Mandarin has more prestige, even if the majority of people are Hokkien speakers. This also happened in Taiwan. But since Hokkien has been spoken in China for thousands of years, and in Taiwan already for hundreds, it's not going to die out soon. Why do I keep saying this? I keep reading that Hokkien is doomed to die, and yet I keep repeating myself that it's a real living and growing language.

Sum Won,

You wrote "because a W is a consonant sound". I don't know where you learned this from, but 'w' is NOT a consonant sound; it is a semivowel. Just like 'y'. A consonant must obstruct the airflow or some point of articulation. The semivowels only compress the airflow through a space smaller than vowels, but larger than consonants. And in Chinese, based on b, p, m, f ordering you don't find 'w' (ㄨ) listed under the consonants. Chinese has three semivowels, the other being 'yu' (ㄩ).

James
BHYeo

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by BHYeo » Sun Sep 22, 2002 3:47 am

Hokkien language maybe really living and growing in Taiwan but the fact is it is gradually dying in Malaysia and Singapore unless Taiwanese Hokkien can give it a booster like what Hong Kong is doing for Cantonese through the so-called high quality and exciting Cantonese movies and TV series as well as Cantonese songs. Of course, a lot depends on the Hokkiens themselves as parents to ensure their children continue to speak their language. But in Malaysia and Singapore, this is not so. Mandarin, English or Cantonese is fast replacing Hokkien as a medium of communication in Hokkien families due mainly to the surroundings, media and the medium of education in schools.
Mark
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Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by Mark » Tue Sep 24, 2002 5:40 am

James: currently Malay does not appear to be an endangered language in Malaysia and perhaps marginally in Singapore.

However, if you think about it, Indo-European languages are an import to Europe... nearly all languages are "imports" from elsewhere.
YM

Re: Retaining Hokkien Language

Post by YM » Tue Oct 01, 2002 3:53 am

BH Yeo,
Why do you keep saying Hokkien is threatened in Malaysia?

Here in Penang, it's alive and well.

As an English-speaking Cantonese in Penang, I sometimes feel pressured to speak in Hokkien. In some circles, they'll just freeze you out if you don't speak Hokkien. There are many Cantonese families in Penang who use Hokkien as the only Chinese language.

I'm tired of some Hokkien Malaysian whingeing about the dominance of Cantonese in the broadcast media in Malaysia. There's no stopping any enterprising person from setting up a Hokkien network if he/she wants to. And there's no shortage of Hokkien songs and films on CD either.

I detect a whiff of inferiority complex when I (personally) hear negative racist sterotyping of Cantonese by Hokkiens (e.g. Cantonese are rude etc. etc.)

If you ask me, _Hainanese_ is the threatened Chinese language in Malaysia, not Hokkien.
:-)

Re: Retaining Language

Post by :-) » Tue Oct 01, 2002 10:09 pm

To anyone interested:

"Hainanese" is classified under the Hokkien/Min language family.

The problem with preserving Hokkien is that no one will agree to which dialect sould be the standards for Hokkien. If we go to the source of the Hokkien Motherland in Fujian Province, Hokkien is sub-classified into 3 groups such as Min-bei, Min-zhong, Min-nan. Among each of these language families of Hokkien(Min), each villiage(town) will have it's own variation of Hokkien just like the Cantonese languages in Guangdong & Guangxi & Annam, or like the Wu language of the Yangzi Delta, or the Gan languages of Hunan, etc... The difference in Cantonese is that the Pearl Delta dialect is widley accepted to be the standards for Cantonese without contest; and with Wu, Shanghainese is accepted to be the standards, but just because there is a standard, that doesn't mean people will force themselves to speak it.

Hokkien is very alive in East Broadway street in New York City (which is a very long commercial strip) and I believe it is Minnan (Xiamen/Amoy) dialect that dominates. Taiwanese is classified under the Xiamen/Amoy language group and has a strong presence in Flushings, New York. The Hokkien (Fujianese/Taiwanese) community in Manhattan & Flushings combined makes them a very significant community in Greater New York City to be defined as a rising political market group which in the future will challenge the local Cantonese political economic dominence. (Eventually, Mandarin, not English, is going to be the political unifier for these 2 groups in New York as it is in Singapore as it is unlikely that each group will want to learn the other's native language.) I believe that New York City is not an attractive migration trend to the overseas Cantonese anymore as much as it is for the Hokkien for the Cantonese are finding better networking opportunities/alternatives in California & Canada. I'm not saying the local Cantonese of New York City is going to disappear, however, it's size has already peaked and maxed out it's local resources i.e. community-defined real estate. The main obsticle that prevents the unity of the Hokkien community in Manhattan & Flushings is that of class distinction, economic & political clout, & legal status in the USA. I believe that Chinese, especially Hokkiens from SE Asia who are planning to move to the USA will find ample economic opportunity to bridge the Chinese communities in New York.

It's funny that people form other language groups find other people's languages funny. If we all thought our very own languages were funny, wouldn't we all be laughing at ourselves right now?

:-)
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