Pushing Pekingese

« previous post | next post »

At the expense of English and of other Chinese topolects and languages?

We have seen that, in recent weeks and months, there has been considerable agitation against the increasing role of English in Chinese education and life in general. Supposedly, overemphasis on English is leading to the deterioration of Chinese language skills. Consequently, the amount of time devoted to English in schools is to be reduced, the weight placed upon English in college entrance examinations is to be decreased, and there are calls for children to begin to study English later than first grade of elementary school, which is the case now.

What is surprising is that, at the same time these criticisms are being leveled against English, Pekingese dialect is being promoted in the capital. This is a bit strange in light of the fact that, in every other major city of China, local languages are constrained by diktats from the central government. Slogans decreeing that it is "civilized" to speak Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM]) are prominently displayed in schools and in other public places, local language broadcasts are severely restricted or prohibited, and other policies against local language usage are imposed.

I am actually a great fan of Pekingese, having collected a large amount of materials for studying it, and am fascinated by its colorful expressions. I have often written about Pekingese, extolling its virtues and explaining its usages (see, for example, "Pekingese put-downs"). At the same time, I also harbor warm appreciation for Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Sichuanese, Shangdongese, Dungan, and all the other topolects (not to mention Uyghur, Tibetan, and the non-Sinitic languages) that I have encountered across the length and breadth of China over the years. Consequently, I wonder how best to come to terms with this preferential treatment for Pekingese.

This is a question that I pose to Language Log readers and leave for discussion in the comments and in future posts. For the time being, I would simply like to analyze the Pekingese expressions introduced on three posters that have been prominently displayed in Beijing subways during recent weeks. First the posters, then transcription and translation.

On all three posters, the three big characters in flourishing, calligraphic style are Běijīnghuà 北京话 ("Beijing dialect", i.e., "Pekingese").

In smaller characters, running vertically along the left edge, are the following: dìdào Běijīnghuà, chuánchéng jīng wénhuà 地道北京话, 传承京文化 ("authentic Pekingese, inheriting Beijing culture" [the latter phrase is often translated as "Beijing cultural heritage"]).

Then, on the right side, we have the actual Pekingese expressions that are being featured (with phonetic annotation and translations / explanations in MSM thoughtfully provided):

hērlouzhe 呵儿喽着 ("carry a child on one's shoulders [behind one's neck -- almost always the father's, so far as I can tell] with his / her legs dangling down in front of one's chest")

lèngshénr 愣神儿 ("to space out / stare vacantly")

sāhuānr 撒欢儿 ("to frolic")

The first item merits further scrutiny. When spoken, it usually sounds more like hērlezhe than hērlouzhe. It may also be written as hēirlouzhe 嘿儿喽着, with a spoken realization that is closer to hēirlezhe than to hēirlouzhe. Whether hērlezhe or hēirlezhe, the accent is on the first syllable, as one might expect from the neutral tones of the following two syllables. However, as one of my informants has pointed out, if he enunciates the word slowly and clearly, he thinks that the second syllable sounds like lòu, but it is hard to equate that with any suitable character. Interestingly, this informant states that he has also seen this expression written as hēirlouzhe 嘿儿搂着 or hērlouzhe 呵儿搂着, where the third syllable is transcribed as lǒu 搂 ("hug"). This might, as it were, give a false sense of security, that the "lou" syllable has something to do with "carrying", but hugging is done on the chest, and lǒu 搂 ("hug") is in the third tone, not the neutral tone (which is how everyone I know says it) or the fourth tone (as even the informant who told me about the lǒu 搂 ["hug"] transcription pronounces it slowly and deliberately). He himself normally says hērlouzhe, like most people.

To return to the question posed at the very beginning of this post, what does all of this presage for English, for Pekingese, and for the other topolects of China? As David Moser, who kindly sent the above three photographs to me, observed:

This seems to me part of a general agenda of pushing Chinese characters and language to the forefront (such as the recent 汉字英雄 and 汉字听写大会 etc.), and pushing English to the back of the bus (e.g., recently lowering the English requirement for the gaokao, etc.).

In the first parenthetical comment, David is referring to the character writing contests that were described in "Spelling bees and character amnesia" and "Of toads, modernization, and simplified characters". His reference to "gaokao" in the second parenthetical comment is to the extremely competitive college entrance examinations in China.

I personally doubt that, despite government initiatives such as Pekingese posters in Beijing subways and changes in the amount of English on the college entrance exam, the ascent of English in China will be much diminished, since it is generally viewed as a means to get a better job, to go abroad, and to gain access to global communication networks. As for the other topolects in China, no legislation will prevent people from loving their mother tongue, so they will always have their adherents and proponents.

A few final words on the relationship between speech and writing in China.

As I have stressed in the past, the Chinese character orthography for many expressions, not only in Pekingese, but also in other topolects, is not always a good indicator of how they are actually pronounced. A striking example of this sort of disconnect between writing and speech is discussed in detail in "Surprising Transformations of a Beijing Street Name" where I showed how the Beijing street name, Dà Zhàlán 大柵欄, comes out sounding like "Dashlar".

For other examples, see "Russian Loans in Northeast and Northwest Mandarin: The Power of Script to Influence Pronunciation".

As one of my informants said about hērlouzhe 呵儿喽着 ("carry a child on one's shoulders [behind one's neck] with his / her legs dangling down in front of one's chest"), such expressions "are so highly colloquial that we normally don't think or even care about how they might be written in characters, and we certainly don't expect to find them in dictionaries."

Since these words were spoken by a highly literate, genuinely Pekingese individual, they merit serious reflection about the relationship between the spoken languages of China and their representation in Chinese characters. In many cases, the character representations are merely ad hoc approximations of what is really spoken, and often they are very poor approximations at that. The fact that the characters used to write the constituent syllables of spoken expressions normally carry heavy semantic weight (unless they are semantically neutralized by the addition of "mouth" 口 radicals) only leads to confusion about the overall meaning of the words in question. This tension between speech and morphosyllabic writing has existed since the earliest known stages of the script more than three millennia ago.

[Thanks to David Moser, Jing Wen, Zhao Lu, and Jiajia Wang]



  1. Nuno said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    I really like these posters. They're a great idea neatly executed. There should be some like these in every city of the World. Regarding the whole Chinese-English situation, they couldn't resist writing “BEIJING DIALECT” on the posters (clearly ment for Chinese consumption.) I think that says a lot.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    Very well put, Nuno!

  3. Bruce Humes said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    "What is surprising is that, at the same time these criticisms are being leveled against English, Pekingese dialect is being promoted in the capital."

    Surprising? Not to me, it ain't. Based on how Beijingers, including those who live for fairly long periods of time in Guangdong, often react to the local dialect, I'd say their preferred hierarchy may well be "Beijing Hua at the front of the bus, English to the back, and off the bus with anybody speaking niǎo yǔ!"

  4. Wentao said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

    I reserve my opinion on Professor Mair's suggestion of Beijing dialect being "promoted in the capital". Although the posters are part of a government initiative, I believe the authority's intention is merely to propagate the city as a cultural attraction (just as too many Chinese cities try to do), and show a kind of benign acknowledgement of folk culture. I don't think they are trying to educate, or encourage widespread usage of Beijing dialect. The government promotes MSM only, and the purist Putonghua proponents are as disdainful to dialectal expressions of Beijing as, say, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

    I think the widespread presence of the posters does demonstrate a growing leniency on the authority's part regarding linguistic diversity. I have seen quite a few topolect-related TV programs recently. A particularly good example is the Hunan dialect quiz on the influential TV channel 湖南卫视 (because the political division of provinces does not coincide with linguistic maps, the quiz includes varieties of both Xiang and Gan!) It seems that there is growing awareness and pride in topolects across the country.

    I agree that Beijing dialect has been very well preserved and is much more "alive" than other topolects, but I don't think this is due to political prestige. I have found that the closer a dialect to MSM, the more chance it has to flourish – because its users can be understood more easily by others, even if they don't speak MSM at all. Northeastern and Sichuan Mandarin are good examples: My 3-year-old cousin speaks perfect Chongqinghua even when he is at home, despite going to an MSM-only kindergarten. The same cannot be said in Shanghai, where kids' ability to speak Wu is quickly waning.

    On the other hand, for Min speakers, communication with anyone outside of their province (or even outside their county) makes learning MSM necessary. Obviously, this is as arduous a task as learning a foreign language, and many people see this as a burden.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

    For those who do not understand the reference at the end of Bruce Humes' comment to "niǎo yǔ", it is niǎoyǔ 鸟语 ("bird language / talk"), which echoes Mencius, Book3, Part 1.4 "shrike-tongued barbarian of the south" (nán mán jué shé zhī rén 南蠻鴃舌之人).

  6. dainichi said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

    To add more color on the 鸟语, ("bird language"), my understanding is that niǎo is an euphemism for diǎo, which means "dick".

    I think I've heard that 鸟 was originally pronounced diǎo, but the pronunciation changed to niǎo basically to avoid having to say something you don't want to say. But I guess diǎo is catching up, with niǎo both meaning "bird" and being a euphemism for the aforementioned unmentionable.

    Someone please correct me if I've got the etymology wrong here.

  7. David Moser said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

    Wonderful post, Victor! Just as a follow up to "this tension between speech and morphosyllabic writing", and the attitude of Beijingers, for fun I've been asking my friends if they know the characters for "hērlouzhe", and an answer I've gotten many times is something like "The characters for it? Oh, there aren't any. You see, this is totally a spoken form (kouyu 口语), it was never meant to be written down." I think this is a fairly common notion, that there are many lexical items that just "can't be written".

  8. Chau said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

    @ dainichi: “I think I’ve heard that 鳥 was originally pronounced diăo, ….”

    You are right on the money. According to Kangxi zidian 康熙字典 (1716) which cites 唐韻 Táng Yùn (Tang Rhymes), a long-lost work by Sun Miăn 孫愐 some time after AD 732, 鳥 was pronounced with 都了切 du-liăo-qiè, i.e., with the initial of 都 [du] and the final of 了 [liăo], hence diăo. (Here 都 and 了 are given in Modern Standard Mandarin pronunciation.)

  9. Jiajia said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

    Actually, I suspect that most of these colloquial expressions from the old Pekingese have a Manchu origin. This came to my mind only after I saw a recent post regarding the Munchu influence of Pekingese on weibo. Here is a similar version that I found through google.

  10. Larry Murray said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 3:39 am

    Thank all of you very much, I found this very interesting

  11. Daniel said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 5:20 am

    Isn't it true that many people in the PRC (perhaps especially in Beijing) believe something along the lines of "putonghua is based on Beijinghua"? Based on this assumption, it wouldn't be surprising that people would be more willing to celebrate, even officially, the distinctive features of Pekingese than those of other topolects.

    During my own period of language study in the PRC about ten years ago, I gained the impression that foreign students studying in Beijing were encouraged to pick up local expressions in order to speak a more "authentic" (地道) version of the language, but that this was not true in other parts of the country. (I attended language classes in Beijing, Tianjin and Chengdu.)

  12. flow said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 7:20 am

    " This tension between speech and morphosyllabic writing has existed since the earliest known stages of the script more than three millennia ago."—standing in front of some unearthed ancient vessel with characters inscribed which was on display in a museum in, maybe, xi'an years ago, this is exactly the hunch that crept on me: that chinese writing, at its origin, is the attempt to record ceremonial / liturgical language for the ages, and that it started out by associating written marks with the most 'pithy' (最有實心的), most pertinent parts of speech, opting to omit whatever can be omitted without negatively affecting the contents of the message. as such, a 'telegram style' system of writing from the outset.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 9:49 am


    On the other hand, many people I know from other parts of the country who have struggled to become fluent in Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM]) find dìdào Běijīng tǔhuà 地道北京土话 ("authentic Beijing colloquial") to be crude, vulgar, and often even "unlearned".

    This interview with Y. R. Chao may be relevant, since Chao — who, in a sense, invented MSM — is one of those non-Beijing speakers who care very much about linguistic accuracy:



    Some of my friends who moved to Beijing from places like Sichuan and Suzhou and brought up their families in the capital occasionally complained to me that they couldn't understand much of what their own children — born and reared in Beijing — said to them, what with all the slurring, excessive retroflexion / rhoticity (érhuà 儿化), huge number of patois expressions that are not in MSM and are not understood outside of Beijing, and so forth. In this connection, we should not overlook the comment of Jiajia Wang (a thoroughly genuine Beijinger herself, though a highly learned one and an esteemed MSM language teacher) above and the link she cites about Manchu terms in Pekingese.

    A colleague, Liu Yongquan 刘永泉, who spent most of his life working in Beijing as an applied linguist (especially concerned with machine translation and computer applications), spoke quite good MSM, referred to people who speak "like that" (as I have described colloquial Pekingese in the above paragraph) as méi xiūyǎng 没修养 ("lacking cultivation"). I'm not sure where Liu originally came from, though I think it was from somewhere in the northeast. He had a curious speech mannerism: whenever he said zhè'er / zhèr 这儿 ("here") and nà'er / nàr ("there"), they always came out as zhèher and nàher. For the first few months when I heard him talk like that, I thought that it was an affectation, but later I heard the same pronunciation from a few other people, so I suppose it has some basis in a regional variety of Mandarin.

    A final point on Beijing place names. During Manchu times, they were originally very colorful, to put it mildly, but were only later gradually cleaned up, so to speak. I will give a single example, but a whole book could be written along these lines. For thirty years, whenever I went to Beijing, I usually stayed in the Lǐ shì bīnguǎn 礼士宾馆 ("Courteous Gentleman Guest House / Hotel"), because it was very close to where many of my linguist friends lived. That's a very fancy, high-sounding name for a modest establishment. The hotel gets its name from the alley (hútòng 胡同 / 衚衕) in which it is located. The word hútòng 胡同 / 衚衕, incidentally, comes from a Mongolian term meaning "well", cf. худаг: http://www.bolor-toli.com/index.php?pageId=10&go=1&direction=mn-en&search=%D1%85%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%B3
    I stayed in the Lǐ shì bīnguǎn 礼士宾馆 ("Courteous Gentleman Guest House / Hotel") for many years before someone told me that the name of the hutong was originally Lǘ shǐ hútòng 驴屎胡同 ("Donkey Feces Alley"), which made it sound a lot less elegant!

    Warts and all, I still love Pekingese, just as I love Taiwanese, Sichuanese, Cantonese, and all the other languages and topolects of China!

  14. John said,

    November 11, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    It's interesting that Beijingers don't want to write down their colloquial expressions. In Hong Kong (and Guangdong to some extent) there appears to be a way to write down anything you can say. Some people claim that this proved necessary in order to have accurate transcriptions in court. Also for movie scripts / subtitles (but not on mainstream HK TV, which uses MSM with HK-specific vocabulary), and newspaper comics.

    How do Beijingers get around this? Say what you like about the rule of law in the PRC, but surely they need to accurately transcribe what people say too?

  15. flow said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 7:44 am

    @john this is positively not possible for quite a few topo / regiolects in china, including taiwan… no idea what they do in court. of course you can, in theory, write down the very 'sounds' of an utterance, but then you face the same problem that steven pinker described:

    "The Watergate tapes are the most famous and extensive transcripts of real-life speech ever published. When they were released, Americans were shocked, though not all for the same reason. … One thing that surprised everyone was what ordinary conversation looks like when it is written down verbatim."
    —Steven Pinker, Canadian psycholinguist, The Language Instinct, 1994

    as pinker writes, listeners found it quite hard to impossible to make sense out of the recordings, on more than one level: first to construct meaningful words from the recorded sounds, then to construct meaningful phrases from the words, without all of the context that two insiders doing a casual face-to-face briefing on affairs share. so a faithful recording might be of little utility where a record of *what* was said is needed, not so much of *how* it was said.

    my guess is that court records the world over are, as a rule, not high fidelity records (extensional), but rather (hopefully faithful) interpretations / translations into whatever language is deemed practical or allowed for the purpose (intentional).

  16. Dashan 大山 said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 9:23 am

    I agree with Daniel's comment: while studying Mandarin in Beijing one is often encouraged to learn Beijing colloquialisms to be more "authentic". This was certainly the case with the very first performance I did as "Dashan", where the entire point of the skit was that we were speaking the non-Putonghua street language of Beijing.

    Travelling around China, speaking with a Beijing accent one will often receive the compliment: "哇,你的汉语说得好标准!Wow, you're Chinese is so standard/proper." The only exception I've ever received was in Taiwan: "你的中文是在北京学的吧?难怪你说得那么怪怪的!You must have studied Chinese in Beijing. No wonder you speak so strangely!"

  17. Dashan 大山 said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    *your, not you're. Can believe I made such a mistake on a linguistics blog of all places….

  18. wgj said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 9:48 am

    "Pekingese dialect is being promoted in the capital"? As a native Pekingese living in Peking today, I am utterly unaware of such promotion.

    Yes, I've notice those subway posters, but I too think they intend to promoting more interest in and better understanding of the Chinese language as a whole, while the dialect is only a mean towards that end – one of many possible vessels to draw the interest of the viewers. So the posters discuss Pekingese, but their purpose is not about Pekingese. In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if the same kinds of posters appear in Shanghai und Guangdong, with Shanghainese and Kantonese words as specific examples.

  19. wgj said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    @Victor Mair:

    Authentic Pekingese has that "uneducated" impression associated with it because it's often spoken by uneducated people, which in turn is because those people constitute the majority of the true, multi-generation natives. That is the curse of a capital city: Politics is volatile, powerful people come and go, only the underclass is sure to stay.

    But it is actually possible to hear "well educated Pekingese" – spoken by well educated natives. One of the – somewhat curious but super interesting – places to hear that is the Ox Street (牛街) area, among older Hui Muslims native to Peking. (Like minorities everywhere in the world, the Huis, especially families that have become established members of the local society for generations, put particular emphasis on education and proper social behavior. So even many Huis who work simple jobs make a very educated, very respectable impression.)

    The Pekingese spoken by some older Ox Street residents – in their fifties and sixties – sounds like music to my ears, which is one of many reasons I love to chat with them. Those guys are articulate, never use vulgar expressions, always speak clearly and don't even get slurry in their pronunciation of the syllables (like the arch-typical Pekingese). But they're still unmistakably recognizable as absolutely authentic Pekingese due to the use of the Pekingese vocabulary, the special pronunciation of specific words, the obvious but not overt er-ization, as well as other subtleties of the pronunciation that I – as a non-linguist – can't properly describe. (For example, I feel that the -ng ending sounds differently in the Pekingese dialect than in the Standard Mandarin – somewhat rounder maybe).

    If you get the chance, try talk to some older, well educated Pekingese, and you will lose the notion that Pekingese inherently, invariably sounds uneducated.

  20. Victor Mair said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 11:00 am


    "…Pekingese inherently, invariably sounds uneducated."

    That is certainly *not* MY impression, since I have many friends who speak beautiful, elegant Pekingese of the sort you describe, and I have been to Ox Street and know what you mean about the older Hui people there.

  21. Victor Mair said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 11:11 am


    You have asked an excellent question!

    Throughout Chinese history, of the hundreds and thousands of distinct topolects that have existed, it is really only with Pekingese and Cantonese, and to a lesser extent Taiwanese and Shanghainese, that efforts have been made to write full-blown versions of them in characters. This was actually strongly frowned upon by both the political and the intellectual authorities. The only acceptable forms of writing have been Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese and, after the advent of Buddhism (which played a key role in legitimizing it), the koine or vernacular lingua franca (which was usually based upon the language of the capital, wherever that happened to be). Of course, there have often been rare colloquial terms and expressions adopted into the acceptable written forms, but that only by way of local color.

    Even for Cantonese, it is not such a simple matter as that speakers of the language are able " to write down anything [they] can say." Quite the contrary, writing in Cantonese involves a rather tour de force affair of employing over a thousand special characters (many of them with mouth radicals implying that they are being used for purely phonetic purposes), using existing characters in ways that do not make sense in other topolects (e.g., the ubiquitous expression mǎidān 买单 [lit., "buy the bill"] // máidān 埋单 [lit., "bury the bill"], which actually means "bring the bill" — countless other examples of this sort could be given), or even resorting to Roman letters from time to time.

    For the difficult and problematic nature of writing Cantonese in characters, those who are interested may consult the publications of Robert S. Bauer and Donald Snow, who are authorities on this subject.

    Furthermore, seldom is Cantonese written in its pure, unadulterated form, and even a sprinkling of Cantonese expressions (even as little as 10% or less of the total) in a Mandarin matrix counts, more or less, as "written Cantonese". In addition, it is not all Cantonese who are able to write with any sort of proficiency in their mother tongue, only those who have a special interest in doing so. Remember that, throughout the entire education process, from kindergarten through college and graduate school, using Cantonese will get you bad grades and punishment.

    As to why a modicum of written Cantonese did develop — mostly in Hong Kong, but also serving as a model for writers in Canton (Guangzhou) and surrounding areas — this was almost certainly the result of British governance affording writers the opportunity (freedom and space) to experiment with it without being stigmatized or penalized.

    Finally, on the very interesting matter of legal language and the presumed necessity of recording accurately the words of witnesses, defendants, and plaintiffs in judicial cases, I hope that others who are expert in Chinese jurisprudence will comment on this issue, but I can say two things by way of preface to further discussion:

    1. already back in 2002-2003, there were debates over whether to permit translations from Cantonese to Mandarin and vice versa to stand as official testimony in Hong Kong courts, with adherents of a strong British tradition of jurisprudence declaring that it was necessary to keep Cantonese testimony in Cantonese and not let Mandarin translations of Cantonese count as official

    2. much earlier than that, in a text by Jen Fang / Ren Fang 任昉 (460-508) called "Memorial of Indictment Against Liu Cheng", the original version had a fair number of early colloquialisms cited in the court depositions, but these were removed by literati editors; see pp. 542-547 in Victor H. Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

  22. Victor Mair said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 11:15 am


    "I wouldn't be surprised if the same kinds of posters appear in Shanghai und Guangdong, with Shanghainese and Kantonese words as specific examples."

    I would be surprised to see such posters and would be very grateful if you or others could document them. What I do see in Shanghai, Guangdong, and other cities outside of Beijing are slogans exhorting people to "Be civilized; speak Putonghua (MSM)."

  23. Victor Mair said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

    From Jonathan Ocko:

    I'll get back in a couple of days on contemporary China. I want to do some quick checking. I can say that in the Qing, magistrate's courts were required to have translators. Moreover, the parties' complaints are in standard Mandarin, with few local colloquialisms. In the transcripts of oral testimonies, the language is again fairly standard and for the most part reads the same whether it's from Taiwan or Sichuan, but one does run across phrases from time to time for which one can locate the unusual characters but not the meaning. Of course, in terms of property rights as well as business and marital relationships, there are all sorts of local expressions.

  24. Janet Williams said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    @ Victor Mair

    "Be civilized; speak Putonghua (MSM)." The sentiment strikes me to be similar to that of the Speak Mandarin Campaign in Singapore. The campaign was launched by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1979.

    Slogans for the specific yearly campaigns include:

    1983: Mandarin’s In. Dialect’s Out.
    华人讲华语,合情又合理 huá rén jiǎng huá yǔ,hé qíng yòu hé lǐ
    (The Chinese text: Chinese people speak Mandarin – it is fair and reasonable.)

    1984: Speak Mandarin. Your children’s future depends on your effort today.
    请讲华语,儿女的前途,操在您手里:qǐng jiǎng huá yǔ,ér nǚ de qián tú, cāo zài nín shǒu lǐ
    (Speak Mandarin. The future of your children is in your hands.)

    1985 and 1990: Mandarin is Chinese
    华人•华语 huá rén •huá yǔ
    (Chinese people. Mandarin.)

    1989: More Mandarin, Less Dialect. Make it a way of life.
    常讲华语,自然流利 cháng jiǎng huá yǔ,zì rán liú lì
    (Speak Mandarin often, and you will be fluent.)

    Here are a few campaign posters.

  25. Janet Williams said,

    November 12, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    Ref to my previous post:

    Posters of the Speak Mandarin Campaign in Singapore | Ghetto Singapore

  26. Victor Mair said,

    November 14, 2013 @ 4:04 am

    From Bob Bauer, who knows as much about written Cantonese as anyone:

    As for the written form of Cantonese, it needs to undergo standardization which would tackle several issues; among these would be promoting consistency and assigning graphemes to the currently unwritable words. Until this is done, writing in Cantonese will be a challenge.

  27. Victor Mair said,

    November 19, 2013 @ 1:27 am


    I'd love to have a copy of this new dictionary:

    《北京话词典》【摘要 书评 试读】- 京东图书 a new Pekingese/Beijing Hua dictionary released 1.1.2013// 作 者从小说、戏曲、曲艺、影视作品中选取北京话词语作为词条,并以北京话实际读音注音,简要释义,配以切合恰当的例句。《北京话词典》有利于对汉语、特别是 对普通话的研究;可以使我们了解普通话中一些词的来历;也有利于读者阅读和理解京味儿作品;同时有助于读者了解和认识社会,一些时代特有词语的解释,可以 帮助读者了解当时的风土人情和社会风貌。


  28. Matt Kosko said,

    December 8, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

    I second 大山, except to say that it's not just Beijing huà that will get you mocked in Taiwan; just about any trace of mainland talk is enough. I remember Taiwanese making fun of my putting ér at the end of characters like diǎn, which were taught as a standard part of Putonghua when I studied in Hangzhou.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment