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oceancalligraphy

suggested terms for describing the Chinese-diaspora

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oceancalligraphy

In English, many things fall under the term Chinese, but this is not so in Chinese. I'm just writing what I suggest to use instead of making everything 中國 or 中文, because it's more complicated than that. Obviously I cannot speak for everyone, and others may have other terms they prefer.

 

華人 is probably the most generic term that can be used to describe a Chinese person, regardless of nationality and immigrant generation status. 華僑 typically means an overseas immigrant who still has their original nationality. 華裔 means a Chinese ethnic background, for example, 華裔美國人 is one way of saying Chinese American.

 

中文 means Chinese characters specifically, as in the characters and words used to denote what we speak. 文 does mean writing, after all. Spoken Chinese can be 華語 or 漢語, which basically covers all the different dialects or local variants of the spoken language. 

 

國語 is a government connotation. When Taiwan was under Japanese rule, 國語 was Japanese; now under Republic of China rule, 國語 is Mandarin. But the people of Taiwan communicate in so many more dialects and languages.

 

中文 is the official language in many places: 中國, 香港, 澳門, 臺灣, 新加坡. It is also used by 華人 all over the world. Now what each person identifies as is a matter of their own identity. But don't reduce their identity down to a nationality or broad ethnic group. And furthermore, please don't tell people what they should identify as.

 

The term Chinese in English often refers to Han culture or language. But in reality, there are different ethnic groups and languages within each place where 中文 is the official language, so that may also play a role in each person's identity.

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MarsBlackman

Good summary!

 

Should we further classify 中文 to be official written language? 

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skylee

If you want more neutral terms, I think you could consider those used in Singapore/ Malaysia. I have no objection to 華人/華語/華文.

PS - I think 華 sounds a lot better than 漢. I also like 唐, but it has fallen out of fashion, it seems.

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Angelina

@skylee 我覺得你的母語接近唐代的官話  :P

 

@yst 多謝 !

 

Yes,  -文 refers to written language 

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Hofmann

I prefer 漢 because 華 has conflated to mean more than the Han ethnicity.

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geraldc

I grew up with the term 唐人街 to describe Chinatown, I can't get used to the modern terms. One thing I grew up with, in informal conversations only Chinese are 人, other nationalities would be 佬or 

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dwq

What Chinese term would you suggest for Mandarin, the dialect, not the government standardized Putonghua? For example, sometimes I hear people from Beijing do not speak Putunghua but their northern dialect, or perhaps I want to describe the language Taiwanese people use without using the term 國語 (which as you mention literally means National Language and not any specific one) how would you express these in Chinese?

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Angelina

Didn't Mandarin (the English term) originally mean 官話?

But when did people start using 漢族 instead of 唐人?Or they didn't. Did people in Beijing call themselves 唐人 100 years ago?

I remember I once thought 天下 means 世界, but someone told me that it actually meant what we now call 中國. So yeah, 仔

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889

Why in 19th century books you'll sometimes find Chinese called the Celestials.

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gato

Alternative names for Mandarin.

One possibility is "CCTV汉语"(CCTV Chinese), following the naming convention for "BBC English". As opposed to Cockney or Birmingham.

Another possibility is 哈尔滨话 (Harbinese):

http://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/哈尔滨话

哈尔滨话是全中国最接近中央人民广播电台普通话发音的方言,也是最接近普通话的。该语音以普通,清晰,明了为优点。

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Angelina

But 汉语 comes from 汉代, so CCTV汉语 will still have that problem. 

 

哈尔滨话 makes sense for the topolect. Perfect. 

 

 

I personally don't like 汉语 and prefer not to use it. I usually use 中文 for the written language and 普通话 for the language I am being taught at school. 

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skylee

But 汉语 comes from 汉代, so CCTV汉语 will still have that problem.

I think it comes from 漢族/漢人, really.

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oceancalligraphy

Interesting, I didn't know that about 哈爾濱話. As far as I know, the Mandarin standardized in Taiwan was based on 北京官話.

 

I suppose the most generic term is probably 官話, and avoids any locations. I've also heard 標準漢語.

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dwq

I looked up the etymology of the word Mandarin and it does seem that 官話 would be the appropriate direct translation. I hardly ever hear this term in use though, certainly much less frequently than the terms 吳語、粵語、閩語 etc.

I didn't know Wikipedia has a classification system for all those dialects under 官話, it's quite educational to read 揚州話 being a sort of 江淮官話, and 臺灣國語 being different from 中華民國國語, for example.

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dwq

I grew up with the term 唐人街 to describe Chinatown, I can't get used to the modern terms. One thing I grew up with, in informal conversations only Chinese are 人, other nationalities would be 佬 or 仔

Technically, other nationalities are 鬼.

佬 or 仔 applies to Chinese as well. e.g. 「果個衰仔」

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Angelina

普通话 is the closest thing we have to 官话 nowadays, at least in 中华人民共和国.

I am going to attend this lecture tomorrow, notes coming soon.

post-44480-0-77138000-1433654445_thumb.jpg

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Demonic_Duck

I just feel this whole topic is a minefield. What I'd like to be able to do is to use terminology that is a) completely neutral, b) widely understood (and ideally widely used too) and c) completely accurate. However, it seems that a lot of the time, such terminology simply doesn't exist. As such, here's what I hope is a mostly neutral, mostly understood and mostly accurate taxonomy of Greater China (actually, "Greater China" isn't as neutral as I'd like, but I'm at a loss for an equally accurate yet neutral way of saying it):

  • "China"/“中国”, when used without any adornment, conventionally refers to the PRC. I only use it like this when I am clearly talking about the mainland and don't require any contrast with Taiwan, HK or Macao.
  • "Mainland China"/“中国大陆”, to make it clear that it does not include ROC administrated areas, and nor does it include HK or Macao. I'd use this where a contrast is being made.
  • "Taiwan"/“台湾”, i.e. the island of Taiwan.
  • "ROC"/“中华民国”, i.e. the island of Taiwan plus the other islands administered by the ROC government.
  • Similarly, "PRC/“中华人民共和国” refers to the area under the control of the PRC government (in this case including HK and Macao, but obviously excluding Taiwan and other ROC-controlled islands)

Add "-nese", “-人” etc. to the end of any of these words and you get an appropriate demonym. “华人” is ethnic Chinese. Different ethnic groups within that category can be differentiated by the name of the individual group when needed.

 

As for the languages of China, a lot of the time this is equally tricky.

  • "Chinese"/“中文” seems to be a fairly uncontroversial term for the written language. “华文” may be more neutral, but at least in mainland China, I've literally never heard it used.
  • "Chinese"/“汉语” seems to me to be a rather vague term that may technically include any Chinese language, but de-facto tends to refer exclusively to Mandarin in a non-academic context. I'm just as guilty of using it like this as anyone else.
  • It seems to me "Mandarin" can either mean “官话”, “北方方言”, “普通话” or “国语”.
  • “官话” actually refers to a crapload of more-or-less mutually intelligable dialects. With that said, some of these dialects are really stretching that mutual intelligability - I learnt a few odd phrases of 赣州话 which is apparently technically a dialect of 官话, and when I repeat these phrases to my friends in Beijing, they have no idea what I'm saying. Also, “官话” might be understood by linguists in this usage, but it seems the average 老百姓 thinks it only refers to the dialect originally referred to as 官话, i.e. the predecessor of modern Mandarin.
  • “北方话” or “北方方言” seems to be the word that most folks use in place of this when referring to the Mandarin language in its broad sense.
  • “普通话” is the mainland standard.
  • “国语” is the Taiwan standard. However, if you ask the average mainlander if there's any difference between 普通话 and 国语, they'll probably say they mean one and the same thing.
  • ...and that's all before you begin to get into non-Mandarin Chinese languages.

Any thoughts? Does all of that broadly fulfil my stated goal of neutrality, understandability and accuracy?

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陳德聰

When talking about the diaspora, not the language, I think 华人 and 华裔 just about do it. I make a distinction between 华人 and 华裔, because I am not 华人 but I am certainly 华裔. I think if we were looking for a term as vague as "Chinese" is, 华语 is an appropriate translation. The thing is that I have never actually used this term either because of its utter lack of practicality considering it literally tells you nothing about what actual language is being spoken. I think that's a pretty good comparison to the word "Chinese" to be honest. I find 中文 is my default, but this is also the term used in Cantonese to refer to Cantonese. So I think that the vagueness of the term "Chinese" can be captured by both 华文/华语 and 中文. I don't feel comfortable using the word 汉语 except when contrasting ethnic minority languages, despite the fact that this term also refers to the same subset of languages that 中文 does.

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Silent

 

Now what each person identifies as is a matter of their own identity. But don't reduce their identity down to a nationality or broad ethnic group. And furthermore, please don't tell people what they should identify as.

What they identify as is indeed up to them, that doesn't mean that other people should go along with that. Even if people don't like  it, facts remain facts.

 

 

I just feel this whole topic is a minefield.

The moment ethnicity is involved (explicit, implied or just perceived) you indeed step into a minefield. Specially as a foreigner it's hard to decide on all the sensitivities that exist and I think it's better to stick to the most frequently used general terminology and plea ignorance when people dislike it. Often a good moment to start a conversation and learn some about sensitivities and worldviews that people have. More specific terms are obviously needed when you want to discuss the differences/relations etc but I would expect that many of the definitions the locals use may be influenced by their background and political orientation and not really adhere to the academic definitions. 

 

 

Any thoughts? Does all of that broadly fulfil my stated goal of neutrality, understandability and accuracy?

I've too little info to judge, to me the first list, the area's sound fair. The second list, the language, I'm more hesitant to accept it, with my limited knowledge several don't sound that neutral/unambiguous to me. Personally I use 中文, 汉语 and in lesser extent 普通话 more or less interchangable for pretty much the same thing. However 普通话 for me refers specifically to standard chinese while the others may be any chinese. If I want to refer to a local dialect I generally use city/area-语. Though often technically incorrect it's easy and gets the message across.

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oceancalligraphy

@Demonic_Duck (#17): I think you've hit on the three things that are difficult to achieve with the terminology. I think the terms you've suggested are relatively neutral and widely understood.

 

Accuracy is where it gets tricky, because I think that's where it becomes dependent on the audience, since we know historians, sociologists, linguists, politicians, and just regular people can argue about this forever. I think you've got it. But again, I can't say everyone will agree. For example, to me, 臺灣 includes the outer islands, while 臺灣本島 is the main island of Taiwan. I don't know if it's accurate, but that's what I'm accustomed to.

 

On the other hand, if we were in conversation and I slowly realized that for you, 臺灣 meant only the main island, I would just switch my thinking. It's not far off to acknowledge that someone would take 臺灣 to only mean the main island - that is the island's name after all.

 

So I think you have a vocabulary that works for your needs.

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