|Parallels with Shanghainese|
|Written by Nick Westra|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2007|
Page 1 of 4Cantonese is not the only widely spoken dialect in China. A closer look at Shanghai shows that Shanghainese has both parallels and contrasts with Cantonese.
Shanghainese vs. Mandarin
Shanghai has been under increasing pressure from the Mainland government to promote Mandarin more aggressively.
Kathy, a Shanghai native, told this reporter that she could notice a gradual shift toward Mandarin, "Shanghainese
used to be the language spoken at home, but it depends on the
family. It's changing a bit," she said.
The China Daily ran an interesting story in late 2005 to offer some preliminary, anecdotal evidence about how the change is proceeding in Shanghai.
A senior official the in Shanghai government, Sun Xiaoxian, said, "It can be hard to change old habits in a short time."
A prominent Shanghai writer, Ye Xin, felt that Shanghainese was quickly disappearing. He lamented this trend, and said, "There is already evidence showing that Shanghai dialect is on a quick trend of declining. A proper protection of it is very necessary."
The Mainland government took matters into its own hands when it passed a series of laws in 2001 mandating that public officials speak Mandarin not Shanghainese. Another law came in 2004 when the government decreed that dialects (namely Shanghainese) should no longer be broadcast. And with Shanghai scheduled to host the World Expo in 2010, the Mainland government has called upon Shanghai people to improve their Mandarin proficiency by that time or face stiff fines.
Regardless of the pace of its decline, it seems clear that Shanghainese is making way for Mandarin.
What does this have to do with Cantonese?
There are many parallels between Shanghainese and Cantonese - both are regional dialects in China's most prominent cities, both are deeply rooted in their respective cities, and both are being threatened by the encroachments of Mandarin. The difference between the two - Shanghainese is losing the battle and Cantonese is winning it.
A viewpoint in The Standard takes the perspective that Hong Kong will not be pressured to adopt Mandarin like Shanghai was.
"With [Hong Kong's] financial and trading might, its popular films and the secure foundation for Cantonese it provides through its government, business, education and broadcasting, the territory is the force behind Cantonese today," the editor writes.
The viewpoint also could have mentioned that Hong Kong is indirectly protected by the "one country, two systems" idea , in which it is generally understood that the Mainland government will not interfere with Hong Kong's internal affairs.
Finally, Cantonese is a language for an entire region of people - it is the main tongue of the Guangdong region - whereas Shanghainese, is only spoken within the limits of Shanghai itself.
It would be much more difficult for the Mainland government to pursue a campaign to call upon the entire region of Guangdong to change its language policy.
It seems unlikely that the Mainland government would aggressively promote Mandarin in Hong Kong like it has in Shanghai.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 June 2007 )|
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