Tibetan language erasure

Source: Sup China (5/22/18)
Tibetan language erasure
By Lucas Niewenhuis

In November 2015, the New York Times published a 10-minute video about Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan businessman, that followed him as he travelled to Beijing to advocate for the preservation of his ethnic language. In Tashi’s telling, the poor standards for Tibetan language instruction in his hometown of Yushu (Gyegu in Tibetan), Qinghai Province, and pushing of Mandarin language instead was tantamount to “a systematic slaughter of our culture.” The video opens with an excerpt of China’s constitution:

All nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs. Continue reading

Taiwan’s laws on language

Source: Quartz (5/9/18)
Taiwan’s laws on language are showing China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country
By Nikhil Sonnad

Supporters react during a rally after Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry, the first such ruling in Asia, in Taipei. All are welcome. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Taiwan was once considered an economic miracle. Now economic progress there has slowed to a halt as China, Taiwan’s imposing neighbor, grows bigger by the day.

But in terms of social progress, Taiwan is decades ahead—showing people in China that a modern, multicultural, and tolerant Chinese society is possible.

Consider the difference between Taiwan and China’s language policies. Legislators in Taiwan are preparing to redefine what constitutes a “national language.” If the new definition is enacted, which is likely, Taiwanese—the local variant of the Minnan language of southern China—will receive equal treatment with Mandarin. That would be unthinkable in China, where Mandarin’s status as the sole standard language is absolute.

The Taiwanese language is everywhere in Taiwan. It is spoken at home by over 80% of the population. Would-be politicians feel the need to campaign in Taiwanese in order to win elections. Yet it has not been given the status of a national language. That is in part because the language has endured long periods of inequity relative to Mandarin, even in Taiwan. When the Kuomintang party arrived on the island in the 1940s, fleeing its losing battle with the Chinese communists, it banned the use of Taiwanese in schools and in the media, declaring that Mandarin should be the language of the island.

The new rule would change that, expanding on a separate act passed last year that gave several indigenous languages “national” status. Areas with large populations that speak Taiwanese will be allowed to use them in official documents and legal affairs. And the government will have an obligation to teach Taiwanese and the indigenous languages as part of the standard, 12-year curriculum, as well as to develop writing systems and dictionaries in those languages.

That level of commitment to minority languages would be impressive even for a Western country. In the United States, for example, it is hard to find national efforts to support any language other than English. But more than anything, the new rule reveals the growing cultural distance between Taiwan and China, and how much Taiwan has developed socially.

China doesn’t like the Minnan that can be heard in shops and food stalls across Taiwan. It considers Minnan, or Taiwanese, the language of the Taiwan independence movement. The prospect of possible retaliation from Beijing has long delayed Taiwan from giving the language a more official status.

China’s policies on minority languages, meanwhile, are stuck in the 20th century. Linguistically, China is extremely diverse. It is home to at least 100 distinct languages. Yet the Chinese government’s policy is based on the Stalinist assertion that a nation must have a single shared language, and that everyone in the nation must speak it. “A national community is inconceivable without a common language,” Stalin wrotein 1913. In 2000, China enacted a law to that effect, establishing putonghua—or “common speech,” as Mandarin is called in China—as the sole national language for the “unification of the country.” That means that Mandarin should come before all other languages.

The official rules in China don’t ban minority languages. And the same law that established Mandarin as the national language states that citizens “shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.”

But in many cases, the Communist Party perceives minority languages as being in conflict with higher-priority concerns, such as the nationwide promotion of Mandarin, national sovereignty, and cultural unification of the kind that Stalin advocated.

“If you promote the use of those [minority] languages in public domains, then the government might have a different view,” says Minglang Zhou, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies minority language policy in China. “They think that threatens the use of putonghua, and citizens’ identification with the Chinese nation.”

The Tibetan language is a good example of how these priorities shake out in practice.

“If you look at Tibetan, you can see this gradual shift from using Tibetan for instruction in classrooms to using Chinese,” Zhou adds. This is mostly the result of the 2000 language law. China might allow minority groups to develop their own languages, but the national effort is focused on getting 80% of citizens speaking Mandarin.

The two goals can be mutually exclusive. Mandarin-speaking teachers are sent to areas where Chinese is not spoken as well, and where they might not be able to speak the local language. The result is that in Tibet, the local language is, at best, relegated to a language class, and not used as the medium of instruction.

In addition to challenging the primacy of Mandarin, the party views the Tibetan language as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and identification with the nation of China. It doesn’t want citizens seeing themselves as Tibetans first. A strong Tibetan language movement might bring that about. China may claim that minorities have the right to develop their languages, but it also put on trial an activist who wanted more Tibetan in schools, accusing him of “inciting separatism.”

Essentially, China is not concerned with making minority languages more frequently spoken. It wants them to be preserved as interesting bits of Chinese history, like artifacts in a museum.

Therein lies the difference with Taiwan. Giving Taiwanese equal status will allow the language to thrive in everyday life, whether in schools, official documents, or popular media. It is not meant to be a historical artifact. If Mandarin is preferred in some setting, it will be because it is a common language, not because it has been deemed so from on high.

Taiwan has had enough time being governed independently from China to develop its own identity. The renewed emphasis on the Taiwanese language is one symptom of that. At the same time, its language policies show how Taiwan has developed into a pluralistic democracy, even as China moves in the opposite direction, toward greater unification. Taiwan’s renewed promotion of indigenous languages tries to reckon with historical injustices, even as China arrests Tibetan language activists. Last year, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage as China shut down a popular lesbian dating app.

In addition to being an act of pluralism, Taiwan’s proposed language law probably has political motivations. It sends a message to China that Taiwan does not need, or want, to abide by Beijing’s rules. But it also shows people in China that top-down unification is not the only way to govern an ethnically and linguistically diverse country where Mandarin is the lingua franca.

HK says no to Mandarin

Source: SCMP (5/3/18)
Should Mandarin replace Cantonese in Hong Kong? No, says Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, education secretary and mainland linguist all dismiss idea that Mandarin will be used to teach Chinese in city’s schools
By Su Xinqi/Sum Lok-kei

The debate over whether Cantonese was Hongkongers’ mother tongue has caused waves in the education sector. File photo

Hong Kong’s leader on Thursday dismissed a controversy over the use of Mandarin in public schools and whether Cantonese could be considered the city’s mother tongue as a “non-issue”, telling legislators her administration had no plan to change its policy on the language used to teach.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said two issues had caused waves in the education sector – the debate over whether Cantonese was Hongkongers’ mother tongue, and whether liberal studies should continue to be part of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam. Continue reading

Why has Cantonese fallen out of favor

Source: SCMP (3/12/18)
Why has Cantonese fallen out of favour with Guangzhou youngsters?
In provincial capital, formerly known as Canton, grandparents and parents find themselves having to communicate with children in Mandarin
By He Huifeng

Fans of Chinese soccer team Guangzhou Evergrande hold up banners during its AFC Champions League match with Hong Kong’s Eastern at Mong Kok Stadium in April last year. Photo: AFP

Cantonese is being spoken by fewer children and teenagers in Guangzhou, with locals and defenders of Cantonese heritage concerned that middle-aged and older Cantonese speakers are having to communicate with their children and grandchildren in Mandarin at home.

The reasons for the rapidly declining popularity of Cantonese – spoken by more than 60 million people round the world – among the Pearl River Delta’s young people were complex and linked to political and economic changes in the area, they said.

At taxi queues, bus stations, restaurants and street corners in delta cities such as Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital formerly known as Canton, Shenzhen and Dongguan, grandparents can often be heard speaking to their grandchildren in strongly accented Mandarin, while young parents also switch from Cantonese to Mandarin when talking with primary pupils and teenagers. Continue reading

Lexicopedia Manchu

Online Lexicopedia Manchu

The team of Manc.hu would like to make you aware of the online Manchu lexicopedia BULEKU.org . Although still in beta, it is already ready to use.

It now includes Jerry Norman’s Comprehensive Manchu-English Dictionary, as well as the Qing Mirror lexicon of the Qianlong court. Over 20 modern and Qing-contemporary lexicons will follow in the coming months. For this project, Manc.hu works together with Helsinki University, Tohoku University (K-dic database), Georgetown University at Qatar, Leiden University, as well as ca. ten database volunteers.

So, for anyone learning or reading Manchu sources, try BULEKU.org. It works on any device. For questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to email fresco@buleku.org

Team Manc.hu,
Léon Rodenburg
Fresco Sam-Sin <fresco@manc.hu>

PS: if you wish to follow the addition of sources, then follow our FB Manc.hu

Gaming slang enters popular culture

Source: World of Chinese (3/7/18)
Slang for Noobs
The chatter of the online gaming community has become part of popular Chinese culture
By Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

China is already one of the world’s largest and most rapidly growing online gaming markets. According to Statista, a market research and business intelligence portal, the country’s online gaming sector was worth 216 billion RMB in 2017 and is estimated to reach 324 billion RMB by 2020.

Whether PC or mobile games, people are increasingly turning on fantasy role-playing hits such as Honor of Kings or South Korea’s gory “battle royale” phenomenon Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, currently known as the “world’s hottest video game” (the latter has also been given a “socialist makeover” in China, AP reported).

In the process, many gaming terms and jargon have begun to embed themselves into Chinese popular culture and language (much like “Easter egg,” “pwn,” “noob,” “frag,” and other terms have in English). For example, during this year’s Black Friday, phrases like the following were repeated ad nauseum on online banner ads:

Black Friday promotion: all products seckilling for 50 percent off!
Hēiwǔ cùxiāo: Suǒyǒu shāngpǐn wǔ zhé miǎoshā!
黑五促销:所有商品五折秒杀! Continue reading

NACCL 30

The 30th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-30) will be held at The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus, Ohio. OSU is the birthplace of NACCL and the home of the largest East Asian Linguistics Program in the continental U.S., with M.A. and Ph.D. in both Chinese Linguistics and Japanese Linguistics. See details below.

NACCL-30 Conference  
Dates:  March 9-11, 2018
Venue: The Blackwell Inn and Pfahl Conference Center
2110 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, Ohio 43210
Program:  Pre-final Program
Website:  http://u.osu.edu/naccl30/
Email:   naccl30.osu@gmail.com Continue reading

Script reform and modernity–cfp

Script Reform and Modernity in East Asia
Panel at Modern Language Association Convention in Chicago
January 3-6, 2019

What role do scripts play in the shaping of literary cultures? How have script reforms across Asia affected the development of modern literature and national languages? From the creation of Korean Hangul in the fifteenth century to the adoption of a modified Roman alphabet in Vietnam in the nineteenth century to the promulgation of simplified characters in China in the early twentieth century, nearly all Asian countries have undergone significant script reform within the past 500 years. How have nationalism, colonialism (or anti-colonialism), education, democracy, and aesthetics contributed to these transformations? What conservative movements have opposed these reforms, on what grounds, and with what degree of success? What common themes emerge as we consider cases from across Asia, and what phenomena stand out in particular cases? In the hope of sparking a broadly comparative conversation, the panel welcomes papers on script reforms from across Asia. Please send 250 word abstracts to Rivi Handler-Spitz by March 16, 2018. rhandlerspitz@macalester.edu.

Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics

NEW! NOW PUBLISHED IN OPEN ACCESS. For the years 2018-2020 all articles in Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics are published as full open access articles. There are no submission charges and no Article Processing Charges as these are fully funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched, resulting in no direct charge to authors.

See all volumes and articles here: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/2405478x

Best wishes,

Victoria G. Menson
Assistant Editor, Asian Studies and Languages; Linguistics
Brill

HKU rallies behind suspended students

Source: Sup China (1/25/18)
Hong Kong University Groups Rally Behind Students Suspended For Protesting Mandarin Test
“We urge the president of other universities to stand out to safeguard free speech and academic freedom at Hong Kong universities”: joint statement from more than 10 Hong Kong university student unions.
By JIAYUN FENG

Andrew Chan Lok-hang 陈乐行 (left) and Lau Tsz-kei 刘子颀, Hong Kong Baptist University students

Lau Tsz-kei 刘子颀, the university’s student union president, and Andrew Chan Lok-hang 陈乐行, a fifth-year student at the HKBU School of Chinese Medicine, were barred from classes for violating the HKBU students’ code of conduct. They were involved in an eight-hour standoff at the school’s language center last week, in which they used foul language and appeared to aggressively confront the staff.

According to Chin, the decision had nothing to do with politics and was made because teachers at the scene felt threatened and insulted by the students’ behavior. He said that both he and the school were facing immense pressure due to the incident — from whom or what, he did not specify — adding that the ongoing disciplinary proceedings would take a few weeks to complete. At one moment during the announcement, Chin appeared to hold back tears. Continue reading

Buddy talk internet slang

Source: The World of Chinese (1/24/18)
Buddy Talk: A guide to internet slang for friendships, real and fake
By Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Friendship is a lasting theme in human life and literature. However, the proper way to address one’s friends has evolved over time. Poetic co-dependencies like ancient China’s “eight-bow friends” probably still exist, but these terms are seldom used now.

Fortunately, the internet is always evolving new buzzwords to supplement our Chinese friendship vocabulary.

“Old iron”(老铁)

老铁(lǎotiě) is a term usually associated with northeastern China, meaning a trustworthy buddy or alternative to “brother.” It has gained popularity online due to the predominance of northeastern anchors in live streaming, and can be applied to friends of any gender. Continue reading

Hakka made an official language in Taiwan

Source: Taipei Times (12/30/17)
Hakka made an official language
Townships in which half the people are Hakka are to make Hakka the primary language, while some civil servants are to take a language test
By Cheng Hung-ta and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Hakka has been made an official national language after the Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Hakka Basic Act (客家基本法).

According to the amendment, townships in which Hakka people make up at least one-third of the population are to be designated key developmental areas for Hakka culture by the Hakka Affairs Council, and Hakka is to be used as one of the main languages for communication.

Such areas should strive to bolster the teaching and speaking of Hakka, as well as the preservation of Hakka culture and related industries, the amendment said. Continue reading

Hottest internet slang of 2017

Source: People’s Daily Online (12/21/17)
China reveals hottest internet slangs of 2017
By Kou Jie

Chinese authorities on Thursday revealed the 10 most commonly used internet slangs of 2017, noting that the popular words and phrases are the best linguistic representations of China’s current cyber culture.

The selection, which was organized by China’s National Language Resource Monitoring and Research Center, combed through linguistic data from the country’s most popular forums, social media platforms, and online news portals, analyzing the collected information via its massive corpus of over 6 billion Chinese characters. Continue reading

Word of the year shortlist

Source: Sup China (12/11/17)
The Chinese Word Of The Year Shortlist
By JIAYUN FENG

On December 9, a group led by the People’s Daily including a panel of “experts” from the National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center, the Commercial Press, and Tencent’s QQ.com published a shortlist of contenders for the country’s 2017 “Character of the Year and Word of the Year.”

  • The nominating process officially began on November 20, with millions of Chinese internet users submitting their picks.
  • The contenders that made the final list were selected and announced by the judging panel.
  • A recently popular word — “low-end population” — was perhaps in the news too recently to make the list. Most of the words on the list are highly positive, and several government buzzwords are included.

Here is the shortlist (in Chinese). Continue reading