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

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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.

Well, I did find "Yibin BBQ", and I did enjoy it, especially the sharp string plucking and the crisp vocals (complete lyrics below in the Appendix).

I asked speakers of relevant topolects if they thought this sounded like Yibin.

From a grad student who went to college in Chengdu, Sichuan:

I have been listening to the rap for ten times, and I’m sure that the singers are actually using Yibin Sichuanese. Sounds to me, the lyrics match the words of the singers. I also asked my college classmate from Sichuan about this and she is 100% sure that the singers are using Yibin Sichuanese in the whole rap. 

I think the problem lies in the abnormal segmentations in the rap. Sometimes, the rappers say two or three sentences in one breath without any stop. This would mislead some people who are not familiar with Yibin Sichuanese into thinking that those clusters of sentences are just one sentence. And also, in some situations, for the effect of good sense of rhythm in the rap, rappers would make a dramatic pause in the middle of the sentence. So this may make people confused about the match between lyrics and sounds.

To be honest, I cannot hear those final consonant stops at the places Chas Belov mentioned. But for one thing, I can be quite sure that there’s no Mandarin or Cantonese sounds in this rap. And the words are totally Yibin Sichuanese.

From a graduate student who grew up in Guangzhou (Cantonese speaking area), but has roots in Dongbei (the northeast), and has a keen sensitivity  to language varieties across China:

For the characters which stop at 0:57-0:58 and 1:10, I think they are yòu luòle 又落了 ("is falling again") and tǎshān 塔山 ("pagoda mountain"), I don't think they have final consonants, and I also double checked with my friends who can speak Yibin Sichuanese. They speak these words without final consonants. But I think, in the song, tǎ 塔 seems to have a final consonant, and it may be because the singer sang this part fast.  I think the lyrics exactly match all the words of the singer. I agree that in Yibin Sichuanese the pronunciation of 1 is similar to that of Cantonese, but I think this pronunciation of 1(jat: jyutping) also appears in other topolects.

With regard to the comment that this song may be regarded as a Mandarin song for people who do not know Mandarin, I agree with it, and I also think that most of the topolects would be regarded as Mandarin if people do not know Mandarin. And this is the reason why some foreigners firstly intend to learn Chinese (indicates Mandarin), but they mistakenly learn some other topolects. They cannot distinguish the differences. But, once people learn Mandarin, they could tell the differences.

Here is a good example, one of the members of this band Yīshī yuèduì 衣湿乐队 ("Wet clothes band") had participated in a singing competition, and he recomposed a famous song, "Nunchucks" (shuāngjié gùn 双截棍), originally sung by Jay Chou 周杰伦, a Taiwanese singer, by using Yibin Sichuanese. There are also other versions in which  singers adapted it by using topolects. I put the links below and once you listen to the same song sung in different topolects, it will be easy to find some differences.

Yibin Sichuanese
Sichuanese
Maoming (in Guangdong)
Changde (in Changsha)
Hunan topolect
The original

To my ear, the pronunciation of certain words in some of the versions sound operatic (exaggerated, drawn out, histrionically modulated), as they are in Peking and other dramatic traditions.

Some earlier posts on Sichuanese:

"Anti-MSM sentiment in Sichuan" (3/12/18)

"Mutual unintelligibility among Sinitic lects" (10/5/14)

"English and Mandarin juxtaposed" (9/6/13)

"Plum > apricot and wine > brew: the language of poetry and painting" (7/14/17)

"Chinese pentaglot rap" (12/28/17)

————–

Appendix:  Complete lyrics for "Yibin BBQ" by Yishi Band

(transcription only)

yòu luòle yīgè duō yuè de yǔ

jīn wǎn xiē tiānqì kàn qǐ hái kěyǐ

wǒ zài wū tóu kūle sān tiān méi chūmén

juédé háishì yīnggāi yào zǒu chūqù

wǒ zǒuguò dōng jiē de yèshì

mō chū yī gēn tǎshān lái diǎn qǐ

zhōuwéi tuán zhuàn dōu shì xiē guǐ mí rì yǎn de rén

chúle hàn chòu wǒ zhǐ wén dào shāokǎo de qì qì

shāokǎo tān tān de niáng niáng shuō

yāo gē lái chī ma chī ma

wǒmen zhè de bǎbǎ shāo zuì ānyì zuì ānyì

lǎobǎn'er lái bǎ niúròu

zàilái yī bǎ bíjīn ma

hái yǒu páigǔ páigǔ hā

jī qiàoqiào shǎo fàng diǎn zhīma duō fàng diǎn hǎijiāo

lái píng lǎo shānchéng

zàilái yī píng lǎo shānchéng

zàilái sānpíng lǎo shānchéng

zàilái píng xù fǔ hē hē hē

hē jiàshì hē lǎozi hē bùdéliǎo hē bùdéliǎo

hē dé èr má èr má de shíhòu wǒ jiù xǐngle

fāxiàn zhěng tiáo dōng jiē dōu qīngjìngle zhǐ shèng wǒ yīgè rén zuò zài lù zhōngjiān

wǒ xiǎngdào dōng jiē yèshì zǎo dōu zāo guānle dá

zǎ kěnéng wǒ yīgè rén zài zhè lái chī bǎbǎ shāo

zuǐbā tóu míngmíng hái yǒu jī pìgu de wèidào

bàn biān de tànhuǒ lúzǐ háishì yān xūn huǒ liǎo

yī liàng lǜ yánsè de sānlúnchē cóng wǒ bàn biān dēng guòqù

zuòwèi shàng de xiǎo mèimei tā wàng dòu wǒ xiào

xiào tā wàng dòu wǒ xiào xiào dé wǒ xīntóu shāo wǒ xīntóu shāo

shāo wǒ xīntóu shāo xiàng bèi chuàn chéng yī bǎ yī bǎ de bǎbǎ shāo bǎbǎ shāo

又落了一个多月的雨

今晚些天气看起还可以

我在屋头哭了三天没出门

觉得还是应该要走出去

我走过东街的夜市

摸出一根塔山来点起

周围团转都是些鬼迷日眼的人

除了汗臭 我只闻到烧烤的气气

烧烤摊摊的嬢嬢说

幺哥来吃嘛 吃嘛

我们这的把把烧最安逸 最安逸

老板儿 来把牛肉

再来一把鼻筋嘛

还有排骨 排骨哈

鸡翘翘 少放点芝麻多放点海椒

来瓶老山城

再来一瓶老山城

再来三瓶老山城

      再来瓶叙府 喝喝喝

喝 架势喝 老子喝不得了 喝不得了

喝得二麻二麻的时候我就醒了

发现整条东街都清净了只剩我一个人坐在路中间

我想到东街夜市早都遭关了哒

咋可能我一个人在这来吃把把烧

嘴巴头明明还有鸡屁股的味道

伴边的炭火炉子还是烟熏火燎

一辆绿颜色的 三轮车 从我伴边 蹬过去

座位上的 小妹妹 她望斗我笑

笑 她望斗我笑 笑得我心头烧 我心头烧

烧 我心头烧 像被串成一把一把的 把把烧 把把烧

[Thanks to Zeyao Wu, Tao Tang, and Fangyi Cheng]



12 Comments »

  1. Back of beyond said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 11:08 am

    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.

    I wondered why "Yibin BBQ" was associated with Yugoslav music. Google Translate gave me the following:
    yibin topolect
    fuckin' English

    Yibin toplect
    jebena Serbo-Croatian

  2. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 11:17 am

    Thank you and your graduate students for the detailed responses, and pleased to be adding to the number of languages I've heard popular music in. I look forward to listening to the various cover videos.

    Readers/listeners may also want to check out:
    Hip Hop in China: Language (Part I)
    Hip Hop in China: Language (Part II)
    Hip Hop in China blog
    by anthropologists Angela Steele and Lila Babb.

  3. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 11:22 am

    @Back of beyond: I suspect there is no relationship between Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian rock and Chinese hip hop. It's an artifact of Apple Music trying to make sense of my music listening history. Other languages commonly making appearances in my AI playlist include Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, and Tagalog. I wish it could pick up that I want to hear this music in as many different languages as possible but I guess that's asking too much of AI.

  4. Back of beyond said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 9:52 pm

    @Belov. I was only wondering why a Chinese number would appear together with music from the Yugoslavian republics. Knowing a South Slavic language, it struck me that the word "Yibin", pronounced as spelled sounds much like the pronunciation of "yèbena", especially since the final 'a' given would likely be a feminine ending. That would mean that the similarity of the two sounds might indicate why the Chinese was appreciated in a Slavic tongue.
    There was no intended comment about playlists of music in any other language or languages. Sorry if my remark led to a misunderstanding.

  5. Jonathan Smith said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

    This song is apparently called 把把烧 which an awesome mixed translation of "barbeque"

    Also, other versions of the lyrics consistently have "我在屋头ku了三天没出门" for the third line so not sure if the word at issue is really 'cry' — or if so why romanization?

  6. Jonathan Smith said,

    April 16, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

    …which *is* an…

    https://www.indievox.com/song/134199

  7. Chas Belov said,

    April 17, 2018 @ 1:26 am

    Yishi Band also has a an album 流杯池 streamed on Apple Music. Nice that an obscure topolect can make its way around the world so easily nowadays.

  8. You Miao said,

    April 18, 2018 @ 10:26 am

    To Victor Mair and Charles Belov,

    Greetings from me, You Miao, the lead vocal of Yishi band!!! It’s amazing that recently many friends told me a blog at UPenn has been discussing my song, and I found it true! I can’t imagine a thing more amazing than this through my life! What’s more magic is that this song has been categorized in a playlist of former Yugoslavia, but identified correctly as Chinese, Sichuanese and even Yibin topolect! You guys rock!

    Regarding the issue raised by Charles Belov on final consonant stop:
    I am pretty sure I did not sing/rap words ending with consonants, and there are no such words in Yibin topolect. I guess it is when I was singing “了/le/” and “塔/tǎ/”, I tried to emphasize rhythm and pace, I chose to pronounce in a heavier but rapid manner, misleading to be sound like ending with consonants.

    Regarding the issue brought up by Jonathan Smith:
    In the lyric “我在屋头ku了三天都没出门”, this word ku is a unique word in Yibin topolect which cannot be presented in writing by Chinese character. Its pronunciation is similar to “哭(cry)” but its meaning is completely different, its meaning is close to “蹲(squat)”.

    About this song:
    is a type of snacks popular in Yibin area, it was spread widely inside Sichuan province recently, and even in the scope of China. It might be brought to the US some day probably. For Yibin BBQ, you have to process the food into small pieces and plug them on skewers, then get those skewers of meat and veggies and even Chinese main courses grilled/roasted on charcoal fire, but it has to be fast. Finally apply specially made sources and flavors, here comes the delicious! I sincerely invite you to China, to Sichuan and to Yibin to feel the charm. I did also make an MV for this song, in which I presented Yibin sceneries, street views, and preparation and enjoying of Yibin BBQ, I will upload to Youtube ASAP, so that you could have a better picture of this song, of Yibin BBQ and the locality of Sichuan Yibin.

    In the last place:
    My daytime job is certified veterinarian, I serve as the lead vocal during off hours, to study, protect and develop topolects is of my personal interest. I now live in Guangdong, can speak Cantonese fluently, and did some study in Cantonese slangs and Cantonese cultures, and my understanding is deeper in terms of my mother tongue Yibin topolect and Sichuanese, if you need further assistance in this regard, please feel free to reach me at my email: 77222359@qq.com.

    Additionally:
    I do hope my songs could provide you with more elements for research and study.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    April 18, 2018 @ 10:52 am

    @You Miao

    Thank you for responding and for clarifying so many issues about your band, your great song, and your topolect (!!).

    We are looking forward eagerly to the video of "Yibin BBQ" that you will soon be uploading to YouTube.

    You've made my day, and I'm sure that many other readers of Language Log feel the same way I do.

    Feichang ganxie!

  10. Chas Belov said,

    April 18, 2018 @ 12:16 pm

    @You Miao:

    I too am getting a thrill that we made the path from you to Apple Music to me to Professor Mair to Language Log to your friends to you to Language Log! This made my day! (American slang; it's a good thing)

    Thank you for all the explanations. Do you know why Apple Music displays 哭 instead of ku?

  11. Chas Belov said,

    April 18, 2018 @ 12:21 pm

    I also would not take too much from the song being lumped in with songs from former Yugoslavian countries. My Apple Music playlist will typically be a mix of languages. Actually, the odd thing was that there were only three songs neither in English nor Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian. These were your song, one in Tagalog, and one in Spanish.

  12. krogerfoot said,

    April 19, 2018 @ 5:49 am

    This made my day as well. Not only does a song in a language that I'd previously never heard of get a detailed scholarly description from Professor Mair, but within hours the singer himself rings into the conversation and turns out to be a very fluent user of English with a great deal of linguistic expertise. The Internet can be a wonderful thing.

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