Archive for Topolects

Yibin, Sichuanese, Cantonese, Mandarin…; topolect, dialect, language

From Charles Belov:

My Apple Music subscription served me a folk-pop hip-hop song "Yibin BBQ" by Yishi Band at the tail end of a playlist mostly made up of rock from the former Yugoslavian republics.

Googling this band reveals that they sing in a dialect called Yibin.

I thought I heard a final consonant stop at 0:57-58 and 1:10 but I imagine that's a mishearing as the Wikipedia entry for Sichuan dialect does not list any consonant stops as possible finals. Also, as someone who doesn't know Mandarin, I fear this could be standard Mandarin without my knowing it. That said, when I try to match the first few words, what they rap doesn't quite match the printed lyric, and in particular, the character for the number one appears in the printed lyric and I'm hearing something that sounds like the number one in Cantonese and not in standard Mandarin.

(I took three semesters of Cantonese but never became fluent.)

I couldn't find this on YouTube and hope you either have streaming or know someone who can stream this for you.  Hope you can find and enjoy this.

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"Topolect" is in China!

Readers of Language Log will be thoroughly familiar with "topolect", since it is one of our regular categories (see, for example, hereherehereherehere, and especially here).  Imagine my delight when I received from Neil Kubler the following photograph of a label in an ethnographical museum in China:

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Mighty Maithili, monstrous Mandarin

In case you're in need of some intensely elegiac and panegyric reading material, this lovely volume just might fit the bill:

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Cantonese term on a traffic sign

Jeff Demarco writes:

My son snapped this photo on his way home from Hong Kong Disneyland. Wasn't quite sure what was intended…

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Writing topolects with Chinese characters

While Chinese characters are inimical to the full writing of the topolects, they occasionally can be used to convey a sense of certain aspects of various local or regional forms of speech.

Here are some examples from the Northeast / Dongbei:

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Anti-MSM sentiment in Sichuan

Photograph of a slide shown during a lecture at a university in Sichuan:

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Forcing Mandarin on Hong Kong

According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by the Prime Ministers of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the United Kingdom (UK) governments on December 19, 1984, the way of life in Hong Kong would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years from the time of its handover to the PRC in 1997. This would have left Hong Kong unchanged until 2047.  I never for a moment thought that China would adhere to this agreement, and we see in countless ways how basic rights, laws, and socio-political institutions have been changing radically since the handover in 1997, only twenty years ago.  One of the most noticeable aspects of these changes has to do with language.

Cantonese is rapidly being pushed aside in favor of Mandarin, and this is not what the people of Hong Kong would have wanted to happen.  The threat to Cantonese is manifested in many ways, such as more and more schools being required to provide classroom instruction in Mandarin instead of Cantonese.

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Using Chinese nonstandard characters to talk cute

Nikita Kuzmin told me about a trend among young Chinese to exchange certain characters with other phonetically close characters in their Internet writings, so that the words sound more "cute".

Here are some examples of such substitutions:

jiègè 介個 —  zhège 這個 ("this")
pényǒu 盆友 — péngyǒu 朋友 ("friend")
nánpiào 男票 — nán péngyǒu 男朋友 ("boyfriend")
xièxiè 蟹蟹 — xièxiè 謝謝 ("thanks")
kāisēn 開森 — kāixīn 開心 ("happy")
suìjué/jiào 碎觉 — shuìjiào 睡覺 ("sleep")

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The Australian people have stood up

In recent months, one after another, instances of Chinese interference in Australian politics have come to light.  After a series of outstanding investigative reports in the media, finally Australia is starting to push back against Chinese encroachment:

"Laws on foreign influence just the beginning in fight against Chinese coercion", Peter Mattis, Sydney Morning Herald (12/7/17).

Most conspicuously, earlier today, the Prime Minister has spoken out, and in Mandarin, no less:

"Malcolm Turnbull declares he will 'stand up' for Australia in response to China's criticism", Caitlyn Gribbin, ABC (12/9/17).

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"Sexual harassment dried bamboo shoot"

Given the bevy of shamed politicians and celebrities who have been paraded before the public in recent weeks, it may be of interest that the word for "sexual harassment" in Chinese is quite a colorful one:


(Source)

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Varieties of Mandarin

Speakers of Northeastern / Dongbei topolect and Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin) speaking very common equivalent expressions and holding up cards with the written forms of what they are saying:

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Correction of a public sign

Photograph taken by Adrian Thieret in Shanghai (Pudong) about a month ago.

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Imperial miscommunication

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

I came across a fun anecdote from The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty,  which is the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty from 1413-1865, a national treasure of Korea. It is full of interesting, authentic records, since no one, including the kings themselves, could revise the records.  Consequently, even funny mistakes made by the Kings will be recorded in detail.

The story of failed communication between a Goryo Dynasty diplomat and the Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398; r. 1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The story is as below (I have translated into English what I read in Korean, so what was actually said in Chinese at the time could be slightly different but the meaning should be the same):

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