SHANGHAI PRIDE.

Don’t miss Victor Mair’s latest post at the Log, which reproduces and translates a poster that “is circulating among students from Shanghai, both inside and outside of China”; it encourages the use of Shanghainese among those who speak it natively. An innocuous idea, you might think, but it goes against the policy of the Communist Party, which encourages everyone to use Standard Mandarin. Good for the students, say I, and down with imposed uniformity!

Comments

  1. Where imposed uniformity goes out, prestige-based uniformity sweeps in.

  2. As long as people are free to choose, if they choose to be uniform for whatever reason, that’s their business.

  3. Consider the relationship between Mandarin and Shanghainese, and the relationship between Russian and Ukrainian.
    They are at least as far apart from each other linguistically. Russian was used as a tool for unification of the Soviet empire, and the Ukrainian language was a rallying point for nationalists. So the use of Shanghainese as a means of communication on the same level as Mandarin has political implications that everyone in China is aware of.

  4. Further apart. Much further.

  5. Yes, much further apart. The relationship is more like Russian and Czech. And whatever “political implications” may exist are imposed by people obsessed with politics; it should be blindingly obvious that people have an inherent right to speak their own language.

  6. michael farris says:

    I think the Chinese government can outblind any blindingly obvious truth….
    I’ve heard so many contradictory things about Shanghainese (and their linguistic loyalty) that I don’t know what to believe.
    A co-worker who is very fluent in Mandarin said that the overall phonemic impression is so close to Mandarin that it sounds like scrambled Mandarin kind of like a language where “Can you tell me where there’s a good hotel?” sounded just like English “bicycle in for? about banana five dream!”

  7. marie-lucie says:

    At one time I used to hear a song played regularly on the radio, that not only I could not understand, but I did not even recognize what language it was in: it sounded like a bunch of scrambled French syllables, as if someone had taken a French tape, cut it up into little pieces and reassembled it at random. After hearing the song on a number of occasions I heard a word I could identify: coraçao (with tilde on the second a). Portuguese! It was one of the Brazilian bossa nova songs that were so popular at the time.

  8. There’s an old Portuguese poem with the refrain e u e? It turns out that it’s the same as “et ou est?”: “and where is [she]?”

  9. There’s an old Portuguese poem with the refrain e u e? It turns out that it’s the same as “et ou est?”: “and where is [she]?”

  10. Where is [he]? Meu amigo / amado. Orthography was variable, but it’s usually E hu é?.

  11. I googled to make sure my version was actually seen, but “e hu e” does seem more common.

  12. I googled to make sure my version was actually seen, but “e hu e” does seem more common.

  13. Oh, yes, I certainly didn’t mean to imply it wasn’t found that way. The h, which orignally represented some kind of hiatus with a preceding final vowel, was all over Old Portuguese. ha, hi, hum, honde, husar, hordenar. Going on step further in that direction, you can find it as e hu he; maybe that’s even how Dom Diniz spelled it. The Regras que ensinam a maneira de escreuer a orthographia da lingua portuguesa describes é with the accent as an innovation for he (see around p. 41 of the PDF).

  14. I still remember the complaints of my classmates (originally not from Shanghai) about delivering lectures in Shanghainese, which is almost unintelligible. But interestingly, those lecturers thought that they were actually speaking the standard Mandarin.

  15. Heh.

  16. Actually, what Mondain mentioned was the “Shanghai dialect” (of Mandarin) properly speaking, whereas Shanghainese itself is an entirely different language. In Taiwan a lot of effort was made to get the locals to speak Mandarin properly, to little avail.

  17. Actually, what Mondain mentioned was the “Shanghai dialect” (of Mandarin) properly speaking, whereas Shanghainese itself is an entirely different language. In Taiwan a lot of effort was made to get the locals to speak Mandarin properly, to little avail.

  18. Christophe Strobbe says:

    The poster doesn’t reject the use of Mandarin but assumes bilingualism. I prefer this to the situation in Flanders, which has seen the development of a variant of Flemish that is a cross-breed of dialects and Standard Dutch and which is referred to (usually in a derogatory way) as “Soapvlaams” (“soap Flemish” because of its use in soap operas) or “Verkavelingsvlaams” (I’m not sure how to translate this: “allotment Flemish”, “suburb Flemsih”?). This “Verkavelingsvlaams” tends to replace both Standard Dutch and dialects in many contexts. As a consequence, the number of people who speak their dialect in informal situations and Standard Dutch in more formal situations has been decreasing. It has been argued, for example by the dialectologist Johan Taeldeman, that this has a negative impact on people’s language skills. Possibly, Prof. Taeldeman would applaud this initiative in Shanghai.

  19. Christophe Strobbe says:

    I still remember the complaints of my classmates (originally not from Shanghai) about delivering lectures in Shanghainese, which is almost unintelligible. But interestingly, those lecturers thought that they were actually speaking the standard Mandarin.

    That reminds of the time when I was studying in Eichstätt (Bavaria, Germany). Eichstätt is situated near the dialectological tripoint of Bavarian, Franconian and Swabian, and some professors taught in a dialect that even German students from other parts of Germany could hardly understand (and sometimes not at all).

  20. You have to feel sorry for the Flemings, who have to learn three different languages in order to still be provincial.

  21. You have to feel sorry for the Flemings, who have to learn three different languages in order to still be provincial.

  22. In college there was a German teacher, learned and well-liked by the students, who spoke a dialect that caused his colleagues to smirk uncontrollably. I think that it was Swabian, but I wouldn’t really know.

  23. In college there was a German teacher, learned and well-liked by the students, who spoke a dialect that caused his colleagues to smirk uncontrollably. I think that it was Swabian, but I wouldn’t really know.

  24. Our Arabic teachers (Palestinian and Bene Hassan) smirked over the accent of another teacher, saying he must be from Kuwait. One of the students got engaged to him.

  25. Christophe Strobbe says:

    John Emerson wrote:

    (…) the Flemings, who have to learn three different languages in order to still be provincial.

    Could you explain why you think Flemings are provincial?

  26. Not speaking an international language. No offense intended, but all the native speakers of small languages I know of (Finns, Swedes, Dutch, Catalans, Slovenes, etc.) are pretty well aware that their native language opens onto a rather small world.

  27. Not speaking an international language. No offense intended, but all the native speakers of small languages I know of (Finns, Swedes, Dutch, Catalans, Slovenes, etc.) are pretty well aware that their native language opens onto a rather small world.

  28. And now could you explain why you didn’t include Norwegians? We’re just as provincial as the Finns and Swedes, and we’re on to you, Emersonø.

  29. Christophe Strobbe says:

    Actually, many Flemish do speak one or more international languages (English, French, occasionally German or Spanish). They’re just not native speakers of those languages. Why would that make one provincial?

    No offense intended, but all the native speakers of small languages I know of (Finns, Swedes, Dutch, Catalans, Slovenes, etc.) are pretty well aware that their native language opens onto a rather small world.

    In a European survey that I saw some time ago, native speakers of “small” languages score much better in foreign language skills than speakers of English or Spanish. So who has the more provincial attitude? Isn’t provincialism rather not being “aware that [one's] native language opens onto a rather small world”?

  30. Christophe, you’re taking offense where I assure you none was intended.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    The vast majority of Language Hatters, whether native or non-native speakers of English, are well-acquainted with other languages. The non-native speakers, such as myself and yourself, learned English at least partly because (in the present international conditions) it does open onto a larger world, and the native English speakers learned other languages (Russian, Chinese, etc) because of various personal reasons, including a fascination with languages in general. They are not pushing English on anyone, or making invidious comparisons.

  32. Christophe Strobbe says:

    What I was objecting to, rather than taking offence, was the apparent equation between provincialism and being a native speaker of a small language. I object that it is not the small language that causes a provincial attitude but ignorance of or lack of interest in things beyond one’s ken, such as other languages and cultures. The Eurobarometer “Europeans and Languages” from 2005 found that speakers of smaller European languages (with the curious exception of Hungarians) know significantly more foreign languages than speakers of international languages. This can mean any of the following: (1) speakers of small languages are not provincial because they are interested in learning foreign languages, (2) provincialism is very compatible with knowing foreign languages, and native speakers of small languages are provincial in spite of their interest in foreign languages, or (3) provincialism and being a native speaker of a small language are completely unrelated, and we should not try to draw conclusions on provincialism based on foreign language skills.
    Does the above statement amount to taking offence? Or is it just a discussion on the relationship between provincialism and foreign language skills? I thought it was the latter, and that was also how my previous comment was intended.
    Does the above statement deny that “[t]he vast majority of Language Hatters, whether native or non-native speakers of English, are well-acquainted with other languages”? Does it imply that I accuse anyone of pushing English? I don’t think so. When I wrote:’So who has the more provincial attitude? Isn’t provincialism rather not being “aware that [one's] native language opens onto a rather small world”?’ I was actually reducing to the absurd the connection between the size of a language community and provincialism.
    I hope this is clearer now.

  33. OK, fair enough, but I still think you’re taking a joke too seriously.

  34. What I meant was that, even after learning three languages, Flemings had not made it out to the greater world. To do that they need a fourth language.
    It wasn’t specific to Flemings. I’ve had the same thought about the Caucasus, where a lot of people can be trilingual (e.g. Ossete, Georgian, and a smaller language of the area) without learning a world language.

  35. What I meant was that, even after learning three languages, Flemings had not made it out to the greater world. To do that they need a fourth language.
    It wasn’t specific to Flemings. I’ve had the same thought about the Caucasus, where a lot of people can be trilingual (e.g. Ossete, Georgian, and a smaller language of the area) without learning a world language.

  36. John says rude things about everybody. There’s no reason why Flemings should be left out. Anyway, why should you care if someone thinks they’re provincial? Don’t be so chauvinistic. Apparently most Language Hatters think Britons are ugly but so what? It doesn’t make me ugly just because I was born in London. There are other reasons. So pull yourself together, man. As for pretending to be interested the connection between provincialism (a subjective label, if ever there was one) and how many languages you speak, I don’t believe you.

  37. Christophe Strobbe says:

    What I meant was that, even after learning three languages, Flemings had not made it out to the greater world. To do that they need a fourth language.

    I’m afraid it’s not an issue of foreign language skills but of confidence and communication skills. The Dutch surpass the Flemish in these areas, and they speak essentially the same language. When I was responding to the concept of provincialism, I was really expecting comments on the nature of the Flemish rather than a connection with speaking a small language. That’s why I was trying to draw out comments on that connection.

  38. I’ve actually wanted to see a study of monolingual Europeans. My guess is that they’d be provincial and poorly educated indeed, whereas very highly educated Americans are often monolingual. Language requirements in American high schools and colleges are so token that students rarely attain even minimal usable competence. The only departments that seem at all serious about language ability even at the graduate level are history, literature, international relations, religion, and some but not all philosophy departments.

  39. I’ve actually wanted to see a study of monolingual Europeans. My guess is that they’d be provincial and poorly educated indeed, whereas very highly educated Americans are often monolingual. Language requirements in American high schools and colleges are so token that students rarely attain even minimal usable competence. The only departments that seem at all serious about language ability even at the graduate level are history, literature, international relations, religion, and some but not all philosophy departments.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    Probably the main reason that most American students are not interested in learning other languages is that they do not have much opportunity to hear them spoken, and when they have neighbours who speak other languages (such as recent immigrants) those people are more often than not from countries where the students have no interest in going. With very few local exceptions, the choice of languages offered in schools is very limited.
    European students regularly encounter foreigners, especially tourists in famous cultural centres such as Paris, the Loire Valley, many Italian cities, etc, and French, Dutch or German students are also able to visit several different countries within a relatively short distance of where they live, where they will be the tourists (or sometimes workers) needing to speak another language. Learning other languages in school then has obvious practical advantages, especially in the small countries such as Holland. The proportion of students who become very fluent in another language is inversely proportional to the size of the country: I think that a much higher proportion becomes fluent in English in Holland than in France, for instance (the place of languages in education programs also has an influence). But those same students are rarely interested in learning the languages of recent immigrants, such as Arabic, Turkish or one of the many African languages, nor are courses in these languages offered in schools.

  41. JE: I’ve actually wanted to see a study of monolingual Europeans. My guess is that they’d be provincial and poorly educated indeed,
    I think it depends more on age and country than on education. All young Norwegians speak quite ok English, no matter how stupid, whereas a fair number of of middle-aged professional-class Germans don’t speak good English. Other tongues in both countries are acquired for odd reasons that don’t have anything to do with national policy. (Just my opinion.)

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