By chance, I came across this most revealing section of a perceptive book by Linda Jakobson entitled A Million Truths: A Decade in China (pp. 175-177), which shows how people from different parts of China often don't really understand each other. That includes people who are supposedly speaking different varieties of Mandarin. I know this from my own experience travelling across the length and breadth of China. For instance, see the second paragraph of this post, "Mutual Intelligibility of Sinitic Languages", also the next to the last paragraph of this article, "English and Mandarin juxtaposed", where I describe a climb up Emei Mountain in Sichuan, during which incomprehension among "Mandarin" speakers was a demonstrable, inescapable fact. Seldom, however, do people write about this semi-taboo topic so clearly as Linda Jakobson.
Read the rest of this entry »