Topolects and texts

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Illuminating new book from Hong Kong University Press edited by Richard VanNess Simmons:

Studies in Colloquial Chinese and Its History:  Dialect and Text

ISBN : 978-988-8754-09-0

The book also has a Chinese title:

Hànyǔ kǒuyǔ de lìshǐ yánjiū: fāngyán hé wénxiàn


I would prefer to render this into English as:

Studies on the History of Spoken Sinitic:  Topolects and Texts

Here's a description of the book:

Studies in Colloquial Chinese and Its History: Dialect and Text presents cutting-edge research into issues regarding prestige colloquial languages in China in their spoken forms and as well as their relationship to written forms and the colloquial literary language. These include the standard regional languages and prestige dialects of the past, the influence of historical forms of spoken Chinese on written Chinese, the history of guānhuà [VHM: Mandarin, lit. "officials' speech"] and the history of báihuà [VHM:  vernacular, lit., "plain speech"], proto-dialects and supra-regional common languages (koines), and their relationship to spoken dialects. The various studies in this collection focus on the dialect groups with the most substantial written tradition, including Mandarin, Wu, Min, and Cantonese, in north, central and eastern coastal, and southern China respectively. The contributors explore the histories of these dialects in their written and spoken forms, presenting a variegated view of the history and development of the regional forms, including their evolution and influence. This edited volume expands our understanding of the underlying factors in the formation of supra-regional common languages in China, and the written forms to which they gave rise. It broadens our understanding of the evolution of written and spoken forms of Chinese from a comparative perspective, revealing the interrelationships of various areal forms of Chinese and historical koines in China.

The stellar list of contributors includes the following:

David Prager Branner (林德威,號茶米) is a sinologist who studies Chinese language and lexicography.

"Does Taiwanese Cantillation Reflect the Sound of the Táng?"

Marjorie K. M. Chan (陳潔雯) is associate professor at The Ohio State University.

"Vernacular Written Cantonese in the Twentieth Century: The Role of
Cantonese Opera in Its Growth and Spread"

Kengo CHIBA (千葉謙悟) is professor at Chuo University in Tokyo.

"The Demarcation of Western Mandarin and the Designation of the
Chéngdū Dialect as Its Standard Form in Modern China"

Weldon South Coblin (柯蔚南) was professor at the University of Iowa.

"A Question in the Final Systems of Míng-Time Guānhuà"

GUŌ Lìxiá (郭利霞) is professor at Nánkāi University, China.

"On the Variation of the Tone in the Shānyīn Dialect of Shānxī"

Henning Klöter (韓可龍) is professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies (IAAW), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

"Language Use in the Chinese Community of Manila in the Seventeenth
Century: A Case of Occasional Diglossia?"

HUÁNG Lín (黃霖) is professor emeritus at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"Changes in Language Use as Reflected in Shuǐhǔ zhuàn Passages
Embedded in the Jīn Píng Méi cíhuà"

HUÁNG Xiǎodōng (黃曉東) is professor at Beijing Language and Culture University.

"The Hénán Xìnyáng Dialect of 150 Years Ago: Evidence from Dialect
Islands in Jiāngsū, Zhèjiāng, and Ānhuī"

LIÚ Xīnzhōng (劉新中) is professor at Jinan University.

"Tonal Features Based on Acoustic Analysis and Historical Development
in Mùlěi Mandarin in Xīnjiāng"

NÍ Zhìjiā (倪志佳) is a PhD student at Peking University.

"The Origin and Evolution of the Dialect Word yá 伢 ‘Child’"

SHÍ Rǔjié (石汝杰) is professor at Kumamoto Gaku’en University.

"The Mix of Dialect and Guānhuà Elements in the Wú Folk Songs
Collected in Féng Mènglóng’s Shāngē"


Richard VanNess Simmons (史皓元) is professor in the School of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong.

"Introduction: Facets of the History of Colloquial Chinese as Reflected in the
Dialects and in Texts"

"Frontier Mandarins and Lán Mào's Yùnlüè yìtōng in the Ming"

ZĒNG Xiǎoyú (曾曉渝) is professor at Nánkāi University.

"An Exploration of the Nature of Nánjīng Mandarin in the Míng Dynasty"

ZHĀNG Huìyīng (張惠英) is a research professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and professor at Hǎinán Normal University.

"Wordplay in Jīn Píng Méi"

ZHĀNG Měilán (張美蘭) is professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

"Division of Old and New Shànghǎi Dialects: A Comparative Study of
Tǔhuà zhǐnán and Hùyǔ zhǐnán"

The book weighs in at 296 pages, so the average length of a chapter is around twenty pages.


Selected readings


  1. Jonathan Smith said,

    June 22, 2023 @ 6:24 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up about this volume. Re: title, I assume the work was first christened in English, with the problems inherent in translating terms like "Colloquial Chinese" into Chinese languages well-known to LL readers…

  2. Victor Mair said,

    June 23, 2023 @ 5:47 am

    @Jonathan Smith:

    I concur.

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