Cha-cha Cia-cia: the last dance

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In previous posts, I chronicled the bizarre story of how the Hangeul alphabet was chosen to be the "official" script for a language called Cia-Cia spoken by an obscure tribe in Indonesia:

Because the whole proposition was so iffy (a lost cause from the very beginning), I think I gave up after that.

Now, in an article by Yi Whan-woo from the Korea Times, we read:  "Sejong Institute withdrawal to leave Cia-Cia out in cold".

Here are the opening paragraphs (one sentence each):

A Korean teaching institute in Indonesia that taught the Korean alphabet or Hangeul to a small tribe using an aboriginal language has shut down.

The King Sejong Institute said Monday that it withdrew from Bau-Bau, a city located on the island of Buton, after a year-long operation.

The decision raises concerns that the Cia-Cia, an Indonesian ethnic minority that adopted the Korean alphabet to transcribe its native language, may suffer from the lack of a proper writing system.

I don't see why there should be any concerns about the lack of a proper writing system for Cia-Cia.  According to a stipulation in Indonesia's Basic Law, "all tribal languages must be recorded in Roman letters to preserve national unity."

It is apparent from this sign that Roman letters have already been used for Cia-Cia, and that the Hangeul is but a Johnny-come-lately add-on.

It was actually illegal for Hangeul to be used as the official writing system for Cia-Cia, thus it was doomed to failure from the start.

Lord knows I should by now be able to say "Cia-Cia" — having written four Language Log posts about it and having fretted mightily over the first syllable of my current favorite breakfast bread — but I must confess that I do not know how one should pronounce Cia-Cia in an Austronesian way.  I'm proud to declare, however, that I do know how to say "ciao!" as the Austrians do!

[A tip of the hat to Michael Rank]


  1. KWillets said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    I believe there's a native speaker pronouncing Cia-cia/찌아찌아 in this video at 4:28: . My ear and the wiki page give the consonant as [tʃ], which is more like ch and less like ㅉ, if that makes any sense.

  2. Jongseong Park said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    I must confess that I do not know how one should pronounce Cia-Cia in an Austronesian way.

    A reasonable guess would be /tʃia.tʃia/, with unaspirated [tʃ] (based on its being mapped to 찌아찌아 in hangul, with 'c' mapped to the letter representing the fortis unaspirated affricate in Korean rather than the fortis aspirated affricate used to represent most familiar foreign /tʃ/ sounds such as that of English).

  3. Jongseong Park said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    I didn't see KWillets's comment before I posted mine. I'll have to check out the video when I get home to see how much aspiration is present in the Cia-Cia /tʃ/…

  4. Anemos said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

    This link will send you directly to where he says it:

    (You can create these links by right clicking on the video or by appending t=Xs where X is the number of seconds into the video you want to jump to)

  5. MWarhol said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    Obviously it's pronounced "Tcho-Tcho", just as August Derleth, H. P. Lovecraft, and others spelled it. They weren't much interested in orthography, so they spelled it like they said it. Of course, they were talking about the Burmese branch of the family, well-known ne'er-do-wells.

  6. Jongseong said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    Yep, having checked out the video, the Cia-Cia /tʃ/ clearly sounds unaspirated, like the Korean fortis unaspirated affricate written ㅉ. English doesn't distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated versions of /tʃ/, but Korean does.

    In terms of place of articulation, it sounds to me rather closer to [tsʲ] or at least [tɕ] in this environment, rather like the Korean affricate.

  7. J. Goard said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    Well, it's certainly a lot closer to the Korean articulation of ㅉ than the regular Cia-Cia voiced pulmonic stops are to the Korean articulation of ㅍ or ㅌ!

  8. David Morris said,

    October 8, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

    I have just finished my masters degree. My last subject was Languages of Asia. The last topic was Writing Systems. For my assessable posting, I wrote about precisely this topic, which I remember reading about when it happened. I had not seen any of the previous posts here on Language Log.

  9. Matt said,

    October 9, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

    Did you learn anything interesting that wasn't covered in the previous posts (or the articles they link to), David? I think I speak for many Language Log readers when I say that I'm always down for writing system-related scuttlebutt.

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