Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
Sign in to follow this  
channamasala

thanks, Hu Jintao. thanks a bloody lot.

Recommended Posts

channamasala

My students simply refuse to accept that Cantonese is not the same language as Mandarin. :roll:

Other than demeaning their government ("The party line is wrong, kiddos") and ending up being re-educated through labor, any way I could convince them that it's just not true?

Drawing the Sino-Tibetan language tree for them didn't work. Explaining the difference between a script and a spoken language didn't work. Showing how they are related but not the same with a diagram didn't work. Giving examples of Cantonese words that are nothing like Mandarin (and I don't know many Cantonese words at all) and telling them the grammar was different didn't work.

Since when does linguistic theory interfere with the Motherland?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Guest Anonymous

Whether Cantonese is a separate language or a dialect is highly debatable. First of all, concepts such as "language" and "dialect" are Western concepts. In Chinese, there is yuyan and fangyan. Cantonese is labelled as a fangyan as opposed to Japanese being a yuyan. Fangyan literally means "local language".

Also, if you look up "language" in an English dictionary, it would tell you that a language consists of both a spoken and written form. As far as we know, Cantonese has always used Hanzi, just as Mandarin. I don't know enough Cantonese to compare vocabularies with Mandarin but the grammar is pretty much the same (subject verb object... etc.) Personally, I believe the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin started off like the difference between British and Australian English. However, since Cantonese and Mandarin have been "separated" for thousands of years while British and Australian have only been separated a century or so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

See, but the thing is that they think it's exactly the same language with just different "pronunciations". From what little I've seen (not studied) of Cantonese grammar, it IS different...not terribly so, but it is in some ways. There's a lot more to grammar than the sentence structure. And although many of the words (including the numbers and some pronouns) are visibly related to those in Mandarin, many are completely new words and not just a "different pronunciation".

I personally still stick to it being a different language. I really don't think a dialect would be THAT different from Mandarin, and the amount of time Chinese and Cantonese had to develop separately probably means they qualify, and knowledge from linguistics courses I've taken backs that up.

Cognitive linguistics espouses that although most people consider writing and speaking to be both a part of what costitutes a "language", in reality a language's writing system is irrelevant to the language itself. Many languages (Korean and Japanese) did not develop independent writing systems until far later than the language actually appeared. Many (the Romance languages plus Vietnamese) use the Roman script.

The only reason that Cantonese and Mandarin aren't like, say, French and English (both use the Roman alphabet, I mean, but you can't "read" French even if you can say the words...then again, you can "read" Cantonese even if you can't speak it) is that it doesn't have an alphabet to convey that the words are, in fact, different. Uighur uses the Arabic alphabet, but Uighur and Arabic are NOT related (they do share many words, however). Uighur is Turkic and Arabic is Semitic. There has been a lot of argument over whether the various languages of northern India are actual languages or dialects...I don't know about that one, but they all use devanagiri script. It doesn't mean that they are the same. Urdu is similar, almost identical, to Hindi (with far more Persian words and fewer Sanskritic ones, however) and yet it uses the Arabic writing system and Hindi uses devanagiri.

But my students told me that since they learned in school that Mandarin and Cantonese were the same, that they must be the same. I'll be satisfied with them saying it's a dialect, but NOT that it is the same language. Also, "they are all 'Chinese'" - an ambiguous term, used to stop arguments - is something I'd let them get away with. But "Mandarin and Cantonese are the same language"? No.

However, they may be good at English but I can't expect them to grasp the difference between an accent (Guizhouhua), a dialect (Sichuanhua, maybe? Or Fujianhua? The latter is arguably a different language), and a separate language. For them to realize that they are different in some way is enough for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

Oh, notes I forgot above:

Another example - Korean and Japanese grammar is basically identical, and yet linguists don't even know if they are in the same family! Current theory is that they are related and both Uro-Altaic...but who knows?

The point of my rant about cognitive linguistics is that the learning processes that go on in the brain when you learn a script are far different and not closely related to those that go on when you learn to speak. There are, of course, some ties in there, but it is a different....uhh....I'm not a linguist, so I'll say it's a different "thing".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

From what I know about Chinese history, I believe that China was an early form of a "United States".

As we all know today, there are many non-Han ethnic minorities in China. Even within the Han ethnic, there are many subtle, and some not so subtle, differences. For example, someone from Dalian is more likely to be different in both appearance and custom than someone from Guangzhou. However, as communication and transportation means improve, people start to migrate more often and these differences started to slowly disappear.

Traditionally, it is thought that the Chinese (Han) culture started around the Yellow River basin and spred outwards. However, recent archeological expeditions (read the most recent issue of National Geographic) discovered that as early as the Shang Dynasty, there were many other non-Han cultures existed simultaneously with the Han culture. However, since the Han culture had the strongest influence at the time, it *SEEMED* like the Han culture was "spreading outwards". They have found artifacts around the Sichuan region that are thousands of years old but are nothing like the Han artifacts.

With that said, any leader of a strong nations knows that unity is the key to keep his/her nation strong. As China expanded its borders, it assimilated more non-Han ethnics, the "Chinese" population became multi-ethnic, much like the U.S. today. China needed a united sense of identity and that's probably where "we are all Chinese" started to appear. After thousands of years of having a single united sense of identity, the gap between the "original Han" and those who were assimilated became narrower.

As for the relation between Cantonese and Mandarin... I'm not sure what your point is but I get the impression that you're saying Cantonese and Mandarin are not related and are different languages. I have to disagree with you there. Cantonese and Mandarin are dfinitely related. Many Cantonese words or phrases are actually identical to ancient Chinese. The reason why Mandarin is so different from ancient Chinese is the fact that Mandarin is mainly spoken in the north where the geological formation is mostly plains. Therefore, Mandarin was exposed more to foreign influences. However, Southern China is more mountainous and tend to leave the population more isolated. This is why 6 of the 7 Chinese "dialects" or "language families" are in the South.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

Yes, I'm familiar with the history of Chinese civilization.

But no no no, I do not think that they are unrelated. They ARE related, but they are not the same language - or if they can be considered that (I really don't think so), they are such distinct dialects that a debate as to whether it is a separate language can be had. There ARE some differences in grammar and very marked differences in vocabulary. They are in no way mutually intelligible by speech alone, only by script, which I've already said I feel doesn't constitute "same language" status.

I know that Cantonese and Mandarin are related! Of course they are! They are both in the Sino-Tibetan language family and closely related (no, I do NOT know why Tibetan is in there, I've never studied a whit of it, so I really can't say).

But I do think that they are separate languages, or at least very, very distinct dialects. I'd accept either from my students, but not that they are exactly the same with different pronunciations.

But yes, I know they learn otherwise in school, and I can sort of see WHY the government does it that way, but I don't buy it and I won't take it as an answer from my students (I WILL accept essays that include references to Taiwan being a part of China only because I don't want to start a real argument, and I even ignored a reference to the Dalai Lama being evil...but this is something I think I can safely debunk without getting thrown in the brig by the PSB).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous
But no no no, I do not think that they are unrelated. They ARE related, but they are not the same language - or if they can be considered that (I really don't think so), they are such distinct dialects that a debate as to whether it is a separate language can be had. There ARE some differences in grammar and very marked differences in vocabulary. They are in no way mutually intelligible by speech alone, only by script, which I've already said I feel doesn't constitute "same language" status.

I see, that makes more sense. What are some of these differences in grammar that you speak of though? Like I said earlier, I only know a little Cantonese and as far as I know, the grammar is pretty much identical. Ni hao ma = Lei ho ma, Wo ai ni = Ngo oi lei, Wo yao chifan = Ngo yiu sicfan... etc. As for vocabulary, as we both know, Cantonese and Mandarin were separated for many hundreds of years. There are some difference in vocabulary even between the West and East coasts of the U.S. However, I would agree that there's no way a Mandarin speaker could understand a Cantonese speaker just purely by speech.

But yes, I know they learn otherwise in school, and I can sort of see WHY the government does it that way, but I don't buy it and I won't take it as an answer from my students (I WILL accept essays that include references to Taiwan being a part of China only because I don't want to start a real argument, and I even ignored a reference to the Dalai Lama being evil...but this is something I think I can safely debunk without getting thrown in the brig by the PSB).

This may be a little off topic but oh well. There are many Chinese (not necessarily from the mainland) believe that "Taiwan is part of China". By that I don't mean the island of Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China. When people say Taiwan is part of China they mean (most of the time) that Taiwan is part of "Zhongguo". It has more of a cultural than political meaning. I lived in Taiwan for about 10 years and believe it or not, not everyone wants independence for Taiwan. There are many (Nationalists) who wish to reunite China under the Nationalist government (or a new democratic government) and there are a *FEW* who wish to make Taiwan a "special district" much like Hong Kong under the PRC. I for one don't wish China to be splitted up. As for Dalai Lama, I never heard anyone accused him of being "evil" when I was in China.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TSkillet

just a quick example of cantonese differences in grammar from mandarin. take the sentence "she is faster than I am"

In mandarin, you'd say "Ta bi wo kuai 他比我快"

While you can certianly say in Cantonese "Keui bei ngoh fai" - it'll instantly reveal you as a non-native Cantonese speaker, because we'd use this phrase instead "keui fai gwo ngoh" - where it is adj. + adv.

So the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin are really spoken - since the Mandarin grammar is acceptable, but it's not really used in everyday speech.

channamasala - i think a lot of linguists view cantonese and mandarin - well, the relation may be that the Cantonese is much closer to original "Chinese" - while Mandarin is something much farther along the evolutionary lineage of Chinese. I've read that modern day cantonese is very close to ancient Chinese, or at least closer, while Mandarin is a relatively (last 500 years?) new language.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

Yes, that's once again my point. My students are Chinese (I'm living in mainland China). They do believe that Taiwan is a part of China, of course. I don't agree with them and they know it, but they also know that I'm not going to argue it with them in class. They get all miffed when I draw China on the board and don't include Taiwan. I know WHY they believe it and why its such a strong belief, and that I can't argue with it because it comes, thanks to the "educational" curriculum, from a strong sense of national pride.

And the reference to the Dalai Lama was, once again, in mainland China from a Chinese student. He shuddered with disgust when I mentioned that I'd seen the Dalai Lama speak in Washington DC. All I said was that I felt he was a very friendly man, and a very peaceful man, but that I don't expect them to believe me. I do wish they WOULD believe me, but really, who am I kidding...

I probably should have made it clear that I live in China and my students are Chinese, sorry! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

Well, things like that happen when you live outside the U.S. or countries the U.S. has strong influence of (Europe, Japan, Australia... etc.) There is always more than one side to any story. Ever since the Cold War, American students (and those who are deeply influenced by the U.S. including Taiwan) have been taught that Communism is evil and all those who believe in it are therefore evil as well. On the other hand, in "Communist" nations such as the former Soviet Union, China... etc. students were taught that Capitalism is evil and all those who believe (or rather practice it) are therefore, you guess it, evil.

You can probably imagine my shock when I discovered that Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) was thought as a lowlife scum in mainland China. I was educated (until the fourth grade) in Taiwan and Jiang Jieshi was a hero to us. On the other hand, Mao Zedong was our enemy and yet he's glorified in the mainland.

My point is that you can't expect everyone to believe in the same things. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're not and sometimes no one is right. Even in the U.S., some people love Bush and think of him as our savior (who these people are I don't know but they have got to exist otherwise Bush wouldn't still be in the office), and there are others who are almost ashamed that Bush is the president of the united states. Neither of these groups are absolutely right or wrong, it's just different point of views.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

Yes, I know, but my view happens to be that Taiwan is not a part of China, and their view happens to be that it is. Even in a country where it was legal to do so I wouldn't force them to believe (or pretend to believe) in my perspective...but here I can't even safely tell them what I really do think (although they've figured it out anyway). It's not my place to tell a bunch of mainland Chinese kids what is and isn't a part of China, no matter what I think.

Same goes for the Dalai Lama, but they asked me what I thought of him and I told him - I like the guy. I didn't tell them they had to like him too, or that I think Mao was a well-intentioned crackpot who destroyed a good deal of precious Chinese culture (that isn't even going to come up in class, I won't let it).

The compromise seems to be "the foreigner idiotically thinks that Taiwan is its own country but at least she isn't telling us we have to think it too".

Oh, I'm one of those people who's ashamed to have Bush as my "President" (no, I still don't buy that he's legitimately in office). Then again, I didn't like Gore either...I voted for Gore over Bush, absentee ballot, India (so it probably didn't get counted anyway) because I figured that voting for Gore was like choosing typhoid over bubonic plague. You don't necessarily WANT typhoid but you've got a better chance with it than with the plague.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

I understand where you're coming from and why you're so frustrated. Sometimes you just can't fight the "popular belief". There are many "myths" regarding the Chinese people and culture that the average American believe as facts. For example, (belief it or not), I've heard on more than one occasion that Communism was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago. I often try to correct these misguided individuals but in the end, I'm one person fighting against a whole society.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

Hmmm...maybe...but I grew up in America (yeah, I'm sorry too) and I've never heard that one. I've heard it all - I'm from a very small town in upstate New York and attended one of those tiny high schools where you think that the small number of students means a more interactive education. What I really got was an education in what ignorant people think - or more often than not, don't think - about the rest of the world. I was lucky to attend university in a place somewhat more cognizant of, well, everything. No to say that everyone I knew in my youth was so bad, but most people fit the bill for your average, stereotypical American.

But I've never heard that the Chinese invented Communism. I was of course taught that Communism was "evil" (it didn't stick, thankfully, I'm not Communist but I don't think it's evil even if it doesn't work so well). I was taught that China was "bad" because it wasn't friendly with the USA for so long and was Communist, and therefore evil, that India was "bad" because when we sided with Pakistan, they sided with Russia instead of begging the USA for favors and that everyone with the last name Bush is "good" because they fight for "freedom", whatever that is.

It's all a big joke, really...at least I think so. It seems like both countries (I'd say all countries, but I didn't really see it in India except among the communalist groups) have some form of indoctrination, but that America's just tries to be more subtle.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wix

I think the Chinese word fangyan creates a lot of misunderstanding about Chinese languages, especially among the Chinese people themselves. The word is used to refer to any language spoken in China, but it doesn't distinguish between dialects and languages.

Have a look at this excerpt taken from Asia's Orthographic Dilemma

Unification of Chinese "Dialects"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
channamasala

:lol:

thanks wix...that was really interesting. I just read through it.

It's good to know that all those linguistics courses I took in university (OK, those three courses, you couldn't exactly call me an expert) haven't been forgotten and aren't useless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kopernikus

Interesting subject, this whole thing about how kids are "indoctrinated" differently in every society. It was also really surprising how everybody here seems to have gotten enemies to dislike, making what I was told in school seem a bit... hippie-esque or something, hehe... I grew up in Sweden, and I remember drawing flags of lots of countries on the World UN Day, learning about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child/Human rights, and promising not be like the stupid adults who started wars. But I guess that the weirdest thing we did would be singing a certain song that's famous in Sweden, which goes something like "This night I dreamed that I woke up and and all the weapons were destroyed, everybody had made peace, and nobody knew the word "military" ", deng deng :D . Oh well, maybe a bit OT but..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

Wow, honestly, I wish all the kids in the world could've grown up in an environment like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
holyman

ok lets be fair. cantonese isnt entirely a chinese language cos canton wasnt part of china some 2200yrs ago. so when the chinese took canton that time, inevitably the language mixed with the local tongue, and gave us cantonese we see today. language and pronouciation in northern part of china evolved, but due to communication and transport problem much of the cantonese tongue is left unchange. so it seemed to u that its an entirely different language. not a good example but its like saying english is an anglo-saxon language. if say, there is this little county in uk which still maintained its saxon language centuries ago, it'll sound quite different from contemporary english. u cant say they are entirely unrelated.

for cantonese and chinese, the relationship is much closer. not only they share the same written form, its grammar usage is almost alike. if u look at chinese documents and literary works from ancient times until 1911, i would say the grammar is generally the same, the minor differences i'll just ignore. that is why present chinese people can still understand common ancient text nowadays.

for the pronouciation, not only a large portion of cantonese words can find their chinese counterparts in the written form, they followed a constant pattern of transformation that can be easily transformed into modern mandarin or any other dialects. i can say that all pinyin with an x- sound in mandarin equals to mostly h- sounds and some s- sounds in cantonese, all j- in modern mandarin will be mostly g- or sometimes k- in cantonese. if u pronouced the ancient chinese poems in cantonese u will find that they rythme even better than mandarin, meaning, the pronouciation they used thousands of yrs ago was something like cantonese. there are lots of other examples. this just go on to show that they are from the same source, just that certain pronouciation changed over time at some places while some maintained the old ways in canton.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wix
for cantonese and chinese, the relationship is much closer. not only they share the same written form, its grammar usage is almost alike.

Cantonese and Mandarin do not share a common written form. There are significant differences in syntax, use of particles, etc. In fact Cantonese as it is written in newspapers in HKG uses many characters that are not used in writing Mandarin or standard Chinese. Written Chinese is based on the way Mandarin is spoken.

if u look at chinese documents and literary works from ancient times until 1911, i would say the grammar is generally the same, the minor differences i'll just ignore. that is why present chinese people can still understand common ancient text nowadays.

These documents are written in classical Chinese and the written language bears little relationship to spoken Chinese languages. And these days most people cannot even understand it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
holyman

Cantonese and Mandarin do not share a common written form. There are significant differences in syntax, use of particles, etc. In fact Cantonese as it is written in newspapers in HKG uses many characters that are not used in writing Mandarin or standard Chinese. Written Chinese is based on the way Mandarin is spoken.

These documents are written in classical Chinese and the written language bears little relationship to spoken Chinese languages. And these days most people cannot even understand it.

my bad, i mean they shared the same written form to a large extent, not all, bcos some of the words were of non chinese origins. but cantonese and chinese shared the same written form especially in ancient text. most of the characters in modern hk papers can be found in dictionaries for classical chinese, while some are newly created words bcos they dont know the real written form of the word.

modern chinese language was derived from what we called 'baihua', or 'common tongue', as opposed to 'official tongue' in ancient official documents, but not in literary works. it was made official only a century ago. before that the ancient 'official tongue' was the official language. more recent examples like the 4 classics, ie, romance of the 3 kingdoms, journey to the west, dreams of the red chambers and heroes of the water margins, are all written in common tongue. much of the terms, like 'eat tea' instead of 'drink tea' are still in use in fujian and chaozhou dialects. ancient poems by libai or bai juyi could be easily understood by present chinese too. they were written mostly in common tongue. other examples include chinese idioms. these exist in both official tongue and common tongue, but chinese generally understood them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...