Archive for the ‘Language preservation’ Category

E-mng (Xiamen) moves to protect Southern Min

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

xiamen-uni.jpgIn Ho̍k-kiàn (Fujian Province), the ancestral home of Southern Min (of which Taiwanese is one form), the local language is under pressure from the growth of Mandarin. In the past few decades the People’s Republic of China has pursued an aggressive campaign of Mandarinization, resulting in many areas which were formerly bastions of other Chinese languages (Min, Wu, Gan, Cantonese and more) becoming progressively stronger in Putonghua (Mandarin) and weaker in the local language.

A recent China News article raises some points which will seem very familiar to those who follow the demographics and trends of the Southern Min-speaking population in Taiwan.

在厦门市语言文字委员会办公室日前召开“闽南方言与闽南文化学术研讨会”上,专家们建议以“考级”的形式来保护闽南话。

In Xiamen City in the past few days a committee named the “Southern Min Language and Literature Academic Discussion Forum” has been convened by the Xiamen City Language Committee; the experts suggest a “tiered exam” system to help preserve Southern Min.

据香港大公报报 道,闽南话历史悠久,文化底蕴深厚,是东南部最早的汉语方言之一,被称为“古汉语活化石”,广泛的分布在闽南、台湾、潮汕、海南等地区。

According to Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper Southern Min has a long established history, bringing together a profound culture and South-Eastern China’s oldest Chinese topolect, which has been dubbed a “living fossil of Ancient Chinese” and is spoken in Southern Fujian, Taiwan, Chaoshan and Hainan, amongst other places.

随着普通话的推广 普及,越来越多的家庭关注新一代青少年的普通话教育,作为本土语言的闽南话逐渐被普通话所替代。

As a consequence of the proliferation of Putonghua more and more families are emphasising Putonghua education for youngsters, meaning that the language is gradually replacing Southern Min in the Min heartlands.

(My English translation is rough and ready, as always)

China’s record in protecting minority Chinese languages is just as poor as Taiwan’s and it remains to be seen whether this initiative will bear any fruit (and what exactly is a tiered system of testing supposed to do anyway?). It is both heartening that the problem is being recognised and worrying that Southern Min is under threat on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Photo: Xiamen University at night, by Miaobz.