Fixed point

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From dako-xiaweiyi:

Some years ago I was hiking in a remote part of Inner Mongolia with some Chinese friends when we came into a larger than normal village with a larger than normal building with the sign in the attached picture:

The sign on the wall says:

lǚyóu shèwài dìngdiǎn dānwèi 旅游涉外定点单位
(Chinglish translation: "pointed unit for foreign tourist")

Before trying to figure out what it really means, here are dako-xiaweiyi's reactions to what was written on the sign:

I was in China on a student visa, not tourist, but still thought this had something to do with me.  My friends thought that I probably needed to register or something with the local officials.  We asked the young woman in the one chair at the single bare desk in the reinforced concrete office what I was supposed to do at the pointed unit, and I remember her becoming very flustered and giving answers that were non-sensical bureaucratic gibberish even to my native Chinese speaking friends.  She finally admitted that she had never seen a foreign tourist before and didn't know what they were supposed to do, but she was paid to come to work every day and sit in the office labeled "Pointed Unit for Foreign Tourist."

We ended up going away without me doing anything, and her pretending like I never darkened her doorway.

What was supposed to happen at the "pointed unit?  Was that where I was supposed to get my Friend of China Medal?"

The four large characters — Duōlún bīnguǎn 多倫賓館  — on the top brass plaque indicate that this is a guest house of Duolun County in Xilin Gol League in Inner Mongolia.

Now, to break down the essential components of the problematic designation for this guest house:

lǚyóu shèwài dìngdiǎn dānwèi 旅游涉外定点单位

lǚyóu 旅游 ("tourism; travel")

shèwài 涉外 ("concerning / involving / having to do with foreign [affairs / nationals]")

dānwèi 单位 ("[work] unit", i.e., place of employment) — a characteristic feature of the PRC socialist economy

dìngdiǎn 定点 — this is the hardest part of the designation to grasp, so I put it last and will expatiate upon it at greater length than I did for the other elements.  Dìngdiǎn 定点 is short for zhǐdìng de dìdiǎn 指的地 ("designated location").  It indicates an authorized location for conducting business.

In the period of the planned socialist economy, the system of dìngdiǎn 定点 ("designated locations") meant that foreigners were not permitted to stay or even eat or buy things elsewhere than in those particular places designated by the government.  During the 80s, I often ran afoul of the authorities when I tried to stay in unauthorized hotels or eat in restaurants restricted to Chinese citizens or buy things in stores reserved for Chinese.  This was especially the case when I was in some godforsaken place where there were no dìngdiǎn 定点 ("designated locations").  What did they expect me to do?  Sleep on the ground?  Go hunting for food?  No, what they really wanted was for me to go away, get lost.

The places where we foreigners were permitted to frequent were usually called "friendship" stores and hotels.  The English word "friendship" renders the Chinese yǒuyì 友谊, which was the Chinese rendering of Russian druzhba дружба.  To complement these "friendship /  yǒuyì 友谊 / druzhba дружба establishments, China had, in addition to RMB / Yuan (which foreigners were not allowed to hold), a currency (I called it "funny money") that foreigners were forced to use, called wàihuì quàn 外汇券 ("foreign exchange certificates [FECs]").  I hated those FECs with a passion, because they prevented me from shopping anywhere I wished and meant that I paid grossly inflated prices for everything — often ten times or more what Chinese paid for something (including train and airplane tickets and entrance fees to museums, etc.).

A rather harrowing event that I experienced in Xinjiang in the 80s may shed some light on the Chinese thinking for setting up such "fixed points".  Without going into all the gory details (the situation was really tense and almost resulted in an "international incident"), I'll briefly describe what happened.

During the early or mid-80s, I went to Xinjiang with the distinguished Iranian scholar, Richard Frye (1920-2014), to attend what was probably the first international conference on the Silk Road held under PRC auspices.  Except for a famous Japanese art historian, Akiyama Terukazu (1918-2009), Frye and I were the "international" component of the conference.  We were met at the airport and driven to the conference site in the city of Urumchi in a retinue of vehicles and accompanied by television crews.

[This is a highly abbreviated account, mind you.]

As soon as we reached the conference venue, Frye and I were taken to a room, on the door of which it said something like "Office for looking after the foreign guests".  They marched us straight inside and demanded $500 each for conference fees and hotel costs.  Frye and I looked at each other in astonishment, since the organizers of the conference had sent us multiple communications saying that they would "cover all local costs".

Frye said to me, "Victor, we're leaving."

Then it became very ugly.  I should mention that the officials who were tasked with "looking after" us were wearing military uniforms.  I won't recount here how the standoff was defused, but what it really boiled down to, and this takes us back to what happened to dako in Inner Mongolia, is that they wanted their blood money, i.e., greenbacks.  In those days, China was absolutely desperate for foreign currency, above all American dollars.  The economists among us can explain why the Chinese wanted American dollars so badly, but they would do almost anything to get hold of them.

As to how the crisis over the extortion of dollars from Frye and Mair was resolved at that moment when we were among the handful of foreigners in the whole of vast Xinjiang, I'll just put it this way for the sake of simplicity.  Somebody gave those bloodthirsty officials / officers the dollars they demanded, but it wasn't Frye and and it wasn't Mair.

[Thanks to Yixue Yang and Jing Wen]



37 Comments

  1. Bathrobe said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

    I first went to China in 1988, when FEC ('funny money') was still in full force, and then went back as a student shortly before it was abolished. It felt like a fairly momentous occasion when it was.

    Although Professor Mair is not a fan, my understanding is that many ordinary Chinese were also desperate to get hold of FEC because it would allow them to buy coveted items (imported items) that they could never buy with RMB.

  2. AntC said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

    @Bathrobe, yes that was exactly my experience, at almost exactly the same time (just before the Tiananmen Square protests).

    I was travelling as a tourist in a tour party, visiting major sites (Guilin, Beijing/Great Wall, Xian). We of course had all sightseeing pre-booked, with a separate tour leader and minders in each city. The main job of the minders seemed to be to facilitate currency transactions. Greenbacks were most in demand; Sterling not so much; FEC very welcome; but we always got change in RMB; which was the very devil to get any trader to accept back.

    My impression was the "coveted items" you could buy only with FEC were just as likely to be locally produced as imported

    There was a curious incident where our tour bus (supposedly) committed a traffic offense. Long discussion between the police and driver and tour leader. Then the tour leader explained it all to us and said the driver was very worried he'd lose his licence and be unable to drive us back to our hotel. (We were of course miles from nowhere.) So we suckers ponied up the fine (which didn't amount to much per tourist). Again it seemed traffic offences were denominated in Greenbacks and FEC.
    .

  3. J said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

    I apologize if this is a stupid question, but in the quote,

    "Dìngdiǎn 定点 is short for zhǐdìng dì dìdiǎn 指定的地点 ("designated location")"

    You use dì as the pinyin for the relative suffix 的, and this threw me, and yet it didn't.
    Normally, 的 is 'de', as it's toneless. However, I have known for some time that when Mandarin was sung, 的 would be 'di' (as in Teresa Teng's 月亮代表我的心 , where she sings 我的情也真,我的爱也真, which should be 'wǒ de qíng yě zhēn, wǒ de ài yě zhēn', but she sings 'wǒ di'). But this is the first time I've seen 'di' used to gloss a written form in this manner.

    Was that a slip, a preference in speakers of Taiwan-style 國語 when using pinyin, an actual rule of 漢語拼音 I've somehow missed, a combination of all three, or just another conspiracy between my half-baked ideas about all things Mandarin? :-)

    [VHM: I changed it to "de". In the mid-60s, when I was learning Mandarin from teachers who had come to America from Taiwan, many of them used the "di" pronunciation, and I got used to that. I also heard it a lot when I lived in Taiwan from 1970-72, and it's still always lurking in the back of my mind.]

    Asking for a friend! (Almost obligatory these days to add that!)

  4. J said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 6:38 pm

    P.S. Professor Mair, you really do need to write a memoir! You have too many good stories to leave us hanging there for more details!

    If Edward Conze can leave a 3-volume book of memoirs, with a 'tell-all' third volume never published, surely you could, too!

  5. Matt said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 8:05 pm

    Seconding the call for a memoir!

  6. J said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 8:18 pm

    @Matt

    We need to organize a write-in campaign! ;-)

    What do we want? A Victor Mair Memoir! When do we want it? After a sufficiently long enough time to write it properly, but probably yesterday, as most of us are GenXers and Millennials who don't understand patience! (Try chanting that three times fast!)

  7. Codrington said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

    @Victor Mair: Don't be such a tease!

    @J: Rumour has it that the third, supposedly unpublished, volume of Conze's memoirs are actually languishing in some university archives somewhere, and are indeed accessible, provided one knows where, how, etc.

    But I wouldn't know anything about that.

  8. J said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 8:50 pm

    Thanks for the tip!

  9. Victor Mair said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

    From dako-xiaweiyi:

    Your explanation makes sense. This happened to me in October 2000, long after the demise of FECs. I suspected this was some kind of artifact of a previous policy which was no longer enforced, which is what you assess. In any case, I only had RMB and nobody asked me for U.S. dollars.

    When I was in school in Beijing, I remember the breathtaking pace of change. I watched a large neighborhood next to the campus get forcibly evicted almost overnight; it was ugly. Within a few days a road crew was building the 4th Ring Road there. A week or two after that the crew had moved on and there was a highway where once people had lived.

    When hiking outside the city with friends in places like the mountains of Hebei, Inner Mongolia, or high villages in in Anhui, it was the opposite. Rural China was a land frozen in time, where fifty years ago might as well have been yesterday.

  10. J said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 9:49 pm

    I was also living in Beijing in 1999-2001 and watched them hoodwink… I mean court the Olympics. They built the fourth ring road, painted just the sides of buildings facing the ring road, painted the grass green, and for one day propped trees up along it. After the Olympics committee left town, the trees disappeared…

  11. Michael Watts said,

    November 2, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

    I have known for some time that when Mandarin was sung, 的 would be 'di'

    Singing has nothing to do with it. de or di is a difference in regional accent.

    You can hear a song that uses de here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0dMz8RBG7g .

  12. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:04 am

    I don't believe dialect has anything to do with it. 'Di' as a sung form was used by speakers who used 'de' in speech (e.g. Teresa Teng), so it wouldn't be dialect. Dialect doesn't create a sung form and a spoken form. That usually takes some top-down management of language. However, nowadays most contemporary music on the mainland uses 'de' almost exclusively; however, if you listen to mainland music from Shanghai in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Mandarin songs had almost always 'di'. So I'm asking Victor Mair if he could lend his expertise.

    I suspect it's comparable to how 李白 is still read as Lǐ Bó among literati in early 20th-century China and Taiwan, and as Lǐ Bái in most of mainland China today. But I could be wrong.

    However, I have heard some dialects (e.g. Shǎnxī province) use 'di' in spoken language. If you watch 'Among White Clouds', the old Zen master uses 'di' a lot.

    I just noticed that professor Mair answered! (D'oh!) He wrote: "[VHM: I changed it to "de". In the mid-60s, when I was learning Mandarin from teachers who had come to America from Taiwan, many of them used the "di" pronunciation, and I got used to that. I also heard it a lot when I lived in Taiwan from 1970-72, and it's still always lurking in the back of my mind.]"

    Isn't it true that teachers in southern Taiwan also read 兒 as a separate syllable, so 一點兒, instead of being read 'Yīdiǎnr' > [Yīdiǎr] they read 'Yī.diǎn.er'? I had heard that but never encountered it…

  13. Michael Watts said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 1:34 am

    Dialect doesn't create a sung form and a spoken form.

    On the contrary, that is the only way to create a sung form and a spoken form. Nobody arbitrarily decides to sing differently than they would speak. But they may sing in a foreign style if that is the way they were trained, or if the song was written in that style. Cf. prior posts on Language Log about British singers singing in American accents because "that's just how you sing". But how did that get to be "how you sing"? Because American singers made popular music.

    Compare also ancient Greek poetry, which evolved such that different regional Greeks were associated with different poetic styles, and new compositions in a style used the dialect appropriate to that style.

  14. galanx said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 2:25 am

    I was there as a student a couple of years earlier (1986) and there were all kinds of exceptions and special cases. Foreign 'experts' were paid in FECs, mostly locally-hired foreign 'helpers' were paid in RMB- generally unqualified English teachers, though a friend in Beijing (Canadian) was hired as a proof-reader by some periodical that printed in English.
    Basically anybody that needed low-level foreigners but didn't have enough FECs paid in RMB.
    I had a funny visa, as my Canadian college's programme wasn't yet fully official, so could pay for most things in RMB, usually after some argument.
    I remember the most reliable place to change FECs for RMB were the clothes-dealers next to the Beijing Department Store.

  15. philip said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 2:36 am

    Yer woman in the office sounds like that character in a Russian short story who keeps turning up to work and collecting a salary in the civil service even though he has no job to do.

    Anyone remember the title and the author? I want to read it again.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 8:02 am

    From an ethnic Mongolian who grew up in (or has close family links to) Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia (she went to college in America and is currently a graduate student in America as well):

    Unfortunately, this phenomenon still holds true, albeit in a diluted form. I needed a surgery last year, and my parents convinced me to have it done in Huhhot instead of Ulaanbaatar (bad idea, but that's a separate story). There were many smaller hotels around the hospital, but they were not authorized to accept foreign nationals. We had to go to the authorized and expensive ones. Also, in 2009, when my husband and I tried to take a taxi from Ereen (Er Lian) to Beijing, we were stopped and searched at a checkpoint. The policemen reprimanded the driver for taking foreign nationals on "国家秘道," whatever that's supposed to mean…

    [VHM: Guójiā mì dào 国家秘道 ("national secret road"). When I was on field trips and expeditions in the PRC — e.g., in Gansu, Xinjiang, Sichuan, etc. — I was often stopped and interrogated by police or the military for being on roads or in places where I was apparently not supposed to be.]

  17. Bathrobe said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 8:24 am

    国家秘道 ("national secret road"): I assume they're too secret to be marked. I mean, if foreigners keep bumbling into off-limits areas, it suggests they are not properly signposted.

  18. Ellen K. said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 8:50 am

    I would say, based on my experience with English, that different sung versus spoken forms can be a result of dialect, but not always. I agree with Michael Watts that the same speaker pronouncing it differently definitely does not mean it's not a dialect thing. But the word "Alleluia" comes to mind. Schwa in the 2nd syllable when spoken, but not when sung. And that last syllable as well is only sometimes a schwa when sung.

  19. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 9:47 am

    @That's exactly what I'm talking about. Using forms in,musical language to make meaning clearer.

    Another example Michael's dialect approach cannot explain is how tone is changed, if not ignored, in sung Mandarin. That's not dialectical; it's a compromise between the melody of language and the song's melody.

  20. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 9:48 am

    Dialect is not deliberate. Phil Collins choosing to sing in a dialect isn't dialect, it's style. Employing [di] in sing but [de] in speech isn't dialect.

  21. Ellen K. said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:00 am

    If a singer pronounces a word differently when singing than in speech because they are singing in a different dialect than they speaking, the difference in pronunciation of the word is still a dialect difference.

  22. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:21 am

    "If a singer pronounces a word differently when singing than in speech because they are singing in a different dialect than they speaking, the difference in pronunciation of the word is still a dialect difference."–Ellen K.

    I don't think you understand my point. Or I think your definition of 'dialect' is so broad as to make it useless.

    If a person says 'bubbler' (a feature of the dialect where I grew up that still startles me when I return home) when they see a drinking fountain, then they are using dialect. If a person uses 'drinking fountain' in speech, but chooses to say 'bubbler' in song, and only in song, then this isn't dialect. That's a style choice. Obviously, when a writer chooses to write in dialect, that's a choice. It is not a feature of their unaltered speech. Mark Twain could choose to write in a southern dialect in English, but, then again, so could Nabokov. But while we could attribute the southern dialect to Mark Twain's own natural speech, we could not in the case of Nabokov.

    Teresa Teng (to use the original example), while born in Taiwan, had northern Chinese parents. In her songs, she sings standard Mandarin 國語, but there is one key change: she sings [di] for 的,even though in speech she would use [de]. I am not familiar with any Chinese linguists who define any Chinese dialects by a single feature. Nor am I familiar with any dialect feature that people use in song and only song but not in speech in English. However, I am familiar with a number of conventions used in Chinese poetry that are not used in speech.

    In both Shandong and Hebei (the two provinces her parents came from), I have never heard [di] used in speech for 的 or other particles. Of course, there might be. I haven't spent a great deal of time in Shandong, but I did in Hebei. Also, in music popular in the early 20th century, many singers were from all over China, but they all sang in 國語; also, they all used [di] (or at least those I listened to. I can't pretend I did an exhaustive study. Here's the source: http://radiooooo.com/ This site allows you to choose any country in any decade and listen to popular music). If you can find examples, I'm open. Like I said originally, I'm asking about the convention.

    Using a single feature, [di] for [de], does not look like dialect as 'dialect' is understood in linguistics. Some speakers pronounce the vowels of 'caught' and 'cot' differently (i.e. they do not rhyme). Other speakers pronounce 'caught' and 'cot' with the same vowel (i.e. they rhyme). We use that, among many tests, to define differences in dialect among English speakers (full disclosure, for 'caught' and 'cot' do not rhyme, although it appears that the majority of the U.S. do pronounce them as rhyming). But I do not know of anyone that speaks 'caught' and 'cot' with one vowel, but sings them with separate vowels. That wouldn't be an example of dialect. That would be something else, and quite interesting (to me).

    Is that clearer? Or am I just hopelessly muddled?

  23. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:23 am

    Typo correction: "Full disclosure, for ME 'caught' and 'cot' do not rhyme…." Obviously, for many other speakers, they do rhyme! I am not trying to say that I'm right and they're 'wrong'. Just a typo!

  24. Ellen K. said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

    Accent is a part of dialect. Certainly some aspects of dialect don't come into play when singing a pre-existing song (as opposed to someone singing something they wrote). But one can sing in an accent, as well as make other pronunciation choices that are how to pronounce a word, rather than which word to use.

  25. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

    'Accent' is a colloquial expression for non-standard speech. To again return to the same example, Teresa Teng both spoke and sang in 'standard Mandarin'. She didn't use any overt dialectical features, such as differences in tone, lexicon, different phonemes, etc.

    I've been searching the internet and I have found that this phenomenon of pronouncing 的 as [di] is not dialectical but an example of 文白异读 (literary-colloquial distinct readings).

    I found this:

    "For much of the last century the "di" usage has been losing popularity, particularly because the Communist Party took a very practical approach to pronunciation (by trying to merge redundant sounds), but it is still used from time to time. You'll see it used particularly often by older speakers or more traditional singers.

    Here are some examples of literary-colloquial differences (c=colloquial, l=literary):

    Standard Mandarin (Pinyin):

    血 xiě (C), xuè (L)

    露 lòu (C), lù (L)

    薄 báo (C), bó (L)
    Standard Cantonese (Jyutping):

    血 hyut (C,L)

    听 teng (C), ting (L) (this is a "long i", similar to the one in English)

    正 zeng (C), zing (L)

    的 ge (C), dik (L)

    给 bei (C), kap (L)
    Taiwanese Minnan:

    血 hueh (C), hiat (L)

    听 tiann (C), ting (L) (this is a "short i", similar to the one in Mandarin)

    正 ziann (C), zing (L)

    的 e (C), dik (L)

    给 ka/ho (C), kip (L)
    As you can see, literary readings tend to be pretty similar across languages (because they arise from cross-language borrowing). Colloquial readings, on the other hand, are the result of sound change, so they are (predictably) different across dialects. Here are some examples of usages for 血 in Mandarin:

    (C) xiě: 血淋淋, 鸡血, 流血

    (L) xuè: 血汗, 血缘, 血案"

  26. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

    Here's the first part:

    "The true reason why there are many distinct pronunciations is a historical/cultural phenomenon called 文白异读 (literary-colloquial distinct readings). This refers to the phenomenon that "formal" words or words used in "elegant" settings are pronounced in a (slightly) different way than the same words in "vulgar" or "ordinary" settings. This most often occurs in southern languages such as Cantonese and Hokkien, where the literati often imitated Mandarin sounds (of the Song-Ming variant) for some "cultured" phrases but retained most of the local pronunciations for other uses.

    But this phenomenon happens occasionally in Standard (Beijing) Mandarin too. During most of the Qing dynasty, Nanjing Mandarin was the official language of the court, so many of the Northern Mandarin speakers tried to follow the Nanjing sound. The word 的 was pronounced as "di" or "dih" (with h representing a glottal stop/入声) in most of the southern dialects of Mandarin. At the same time, it was being "merged" with the sound of 得 in Beijing Mandarin. Thus two distinct pronunciations came into place – it retained the "di" pronunciation for more cultured usage (such as transliterated names, or in singing) while it changed into "de" for more popular uses such as possessive particle. This is the theory at least; in the actual world, phonological shifts are often highly confusing and convoluted."

    And here's the link:

    https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/318/why-is-%E7%9A%84-de-sometimes-pronounced-di-even-though-it-is-used-as-a-possessive-p

    I cannot vouch for the credentials of this person posting on stack exchange, but it has the virtue of being consistent with my observations. ;-)

  27. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:46 pm

    The key phrase in this passage is "Thus two distinct pronunciations came into place – it retained the "di" pronunciation for more cultured usage (such as transliterated names, or in singing) while it changed into "de" for more popular uses such as possessive particle."

    'Cultured usage' isn't a dialect per se, although often 'standard' languages are prestige dialects. 'Cultured usage' can evolve borrowings and artificial forms (e.g. the plural 'syllabi' is neither dialect nor standard Latin but a modern invention). This looks like an obvious candidate for an artificial form for 'cultured activity'.

  28. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

    The explanation also explains why [di] was so prevalent in music from the 1930s and 40s, and even Mandarin music from the 80s, and why that has been dying out.

  29. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

    I just realized that I've written a great deal over what was essentially a typo. So I'm going to go do something more constructive now, like take a walk!

  30. Chris Button said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

    @ Michael Watts

    [blockquote] Cf. prior posts on Language Log about British singers singing in American accents because "that's just how you sing". But how did that get to be "how you sing"? Because American singers made popular music. [/blockquote]

    Singing often neutralizes allophonic variation to cause a degree of convergence which goes well beyond obvious intonational/tonal effects. What's interesting is that it is not just restricted to synchronic phenomena like Americans and Brits no longer replacing "t" with flaps and glottals, but goes all the way through to things like /æ/ being lengthened in accordance with the melody to encroach upon /ɑ:/ which correlates with the diachronic explanation for "grass" as Southern British /grɑ:s/ versus General American /græs/ due to lengthening before fricatives etc. While Adele might indeed be easier to understand for Americans when singing than when speaking naturally, this has little to do with any notion of her intentionally putting on an American accent when singing (whether she chooses to do so or not). If you listen closely there are always giveaway clues as to a singer's origin. For example, while rhotic dialects often lose some of the prominence of their syllable final "r" sounds when extended out across a melody there is often still some vocalic coloring at least; the fact that Boy George has none of this coloring in "Karma Chameleon" leaves little doubt as to his origin.

  31. J said,

    November 3, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    That's a very interesting point, Chris.

  32. liuyao said,

    November 4, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

    Not sure if it's worth getting into the de/di phenomenon. It may be influenced by non-native speakers of Mandarin from the South. While it may seem odd today to have words sung differently than in every-day speech, it was not so strange in earlier generations. Take Peking Opera: it is almost entirely sung or recited in an artificial dialect/language (of Mandarin), occasionally interspersed with the most authentic Pekingnese (spoken, not sung, particularly by the "comical" or "clown" roles), yet the audience was expected to understand everything!

  33. Victor Mair said,

    November 4, 2017 @ 5:28 pm

    That's a good point, liuyao. I haven't heard Peking Opera for quite a long while, but my recollection is that 的 often comes across as "di" instead of "de". I believe that the same is true in other performing arts (qǔyì 曲艺) genres.

  34. J said,

    November 4, 2017 @ 6:02 pm

    An analogous situation in English would be British actors trilling (i.e. rolling) their syllable-initial 'r's in Shakespeare.

  35. Jason M said,

    November 5, 2017 @ 9:19 am

    The de di discussion has been really helpful to me. Most of the foundation for my pidgin Mandarin I learned from my friend in grad school who was from Shanghai. He mostly used "de", but sometimes he would say something like: "Ni hao ma? Wo di mei guo peng you." It was usually in either a warm — haven't seen you in a while — or teasing tone ("Wo di da bi zi mei guo peng you). I always wondered whst it meant. Sometimes, to gather empirical usage evidence firsthand, in a situation where I could draw out or emphasize the possessive for effect, I have also used Wo DI with other Mandarin speakers, and no one had ever corrected me. So I had wondered what foes it all mean? A Shanghainese thing? A pedantic or literary thing? etc.

  36. mg said,

    November 5, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

    As someone who sang in choirs and took singing lessons in my youth, I'd like to add that singers were often taught to make changes in pronunciation that had nothing to do with dialect or trying to sound like someone else. Some are for clarity, some are to avoid unpleasant sounds (like hissing S's), and there are some vowel changes that improve sound and projection.

  37. BZ said,

    November 6, 2017 @ 10:34 am

    So what is this particular location in inner Mongolia for? It's a place of employment dealing with tourists I guess. Or a location where tourists are allowed to do something (as opposed to everyone else where they can do it in other places), but what?

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