Hunting! Ha ha!

24 Nov 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

My company has been doing some Thanksgiving activities lately. It’s my responsibility to help design the activities to make them educational both in basic vocabulary as well as in cultural content. It’s also my responsibility to execute some of the activities. This involves such excellent speaking opportunities as explaining in Chinese to a group of kids the basic history and traditions of American Thanksgiving.

So the other day I found myself explaining to some kindergarteners about the Indians (my company’s choice of vocabulary, not mine). It seems that the Chinese would be happy to portray them as ridiculous savages, so I go out of my way to make them seem badass in their own way. I tell the kids how the Indians were really in tune with nature, and how they knew all about the plants and animals, and how they never had problems finding food on the land.

During my narration I mentioned that the Indians would hunt. I used the Chinese word ´òÁÔ. A simple translation. But when I used the word, I noticed that one of my co-workers laughed. I was suddenly self-conscious. Did I pronounce the word wrong? ´ò: third tone, ÁÔ: fourth tone. No, no problems there…. So what could have been funny about that?

Afterward I asked her why she laughed when I said ´òÁÔ. Laughing again, she replied, “kids don’t know that word!” I was a little confused. I felt pretty sure the word is not at all formal or complicated. Huh?

I asked for clarification. “What, because no one hunts in China?”

“Right. It’s just not something they ever come into contact with.”

Whaaat…? Were these city kids really that removed from nature? But, when I thought about it, it actually made sense. So then I thought about the USA. Why does “hunt” seem like such a basic word to me, even in modern society? Is it partly because of the role “Indians” still play in our culture? Is it because of the American pioneers? Is it because the word “hunt” has crossed over into so many other areas of the language, like “Easter egg hunt” and “manhunt?”

OK, there’s a really obvious reason: that there are actually large sections of America where hunting is considered a legitimate form of recreation. There are gun freaks and gun shows. “Hunt” is the only acceptable verbal refuge for what they do with their guns. And the USA still has lots of land where animals roam free.

In China, I’m guessing, the majority of “hunting” that goes on is “poaching.” It’s pretty clear that the average Chinese person has seen very little wildlife (in a natural setting) in his lifetime. If you go on a trip to Huangshan or some other mountain, you can witness Chinese people freaking out in glee over a brief squirrel sighting.

But animals and overpopulation: vehicle for linguistic change? Weird thought.

P.S. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I feel unable to write normally due to my recent obsession with Daily Dinosaur Comics. If you read them, you’ll understand why. I must read them all….

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I have a Chinese friend and his English name is Hunt.

  2. Da Xiangchang Says: November 24, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Hunting a barbaric activity and should be outlawed. This is for a very simple reason: hunters cause physical pain to animals when they shoot them. Essentially, hunters get off by causing pain to other living beings, which is sadistic as hell. I will never be a hunter. I’m still traumatized by the birds I killed with my BB gun as a kid! (However, I would have NO compunctions about killing people. If I could get paid to personally shoot terrorists and murderers and rapists [without getting shot in return, of course!], I would happily do this–then go home and have a deep, pleasant sleep!)

  3. I have seen more than one Chinese freak out at a squirrel sighting. I’ve also been asked if I would tackle a duck and several geese in a local park (not in jest), because they looked so damn delicious. I don’t know if that would quailfy as ‘hunting’ or not…

  4. John,

    Would you have spent your time doing a lesson on Thanksgiving had your company not arranged it?

  5. Tim H,

    No, probably not for kids this young. None of the vocabulary (Indian, turkey, etc.) is even remotely useful or applicable to anything in their lives. Learning about other cultures is important, but it would be more effective when the kids are a little older and know something more about their own culture.

  6. How do you tell that to your boss?

  7. Where I’m from, we eat squirrels. As they’re not exactly easy to come by in the grocery store, we have to hunt them. Simple as pie.

    That being said….
    Re: Poaching: Have you seen Ke Ke Xi Li? It deals with the poaching of Tibetan antelope and apparently did rather well. I’m quite sure that your kids would be too young to have seen it, though. (And now I find myself feeling rathe thankful that I wasn’t asked to explain Thanksgiving to the kindergarteners I teach every two weeks.)

  8. china is nation of farming, this is true even today. when i was a kid, my relatives in countryside laughed at me for i was not be able to tell the difference between, say, rice and wheat. noboday laughed at me because i don’t know swallow.

    it’s said that eskimos have hundreds of words for SNOW.

  9. the word of HUNTING is usually associated with negative meanings like ÁÔÑÞ(hunt for beauties),ÁÔÆ棨hunt for novelty£©

  10. I hunted when I was a kid. I took a rifle, went with my dad, looked all over for a deer, never saw one, went home. I did that a couple of times. I wish I had gotten to fire my rifle, at least at a deer, but I wasn’t a gun freak or looking for justification for…what are you saying…I never went to a gun show… I hate to say but this sounds too much like the red state/blue state nonsense being traded back and forth in US political blogs at the moment. Hunting does not correlate with lack of education, (lack of) thoughtfulness, coveting automatic firepower or ownership of a truck (though it’s one of the few actual, real reasons to own a truck — and I have to admit, urban truck drivers, especially on Japan’s narrow streets, irritate the heck out of me). Where was I…oh yea, people (at least where I grew up, in New Mexico) hunt because they live near mountains and wide open spaces and take any excuse they can get to go out there and walk around in it. There are places in the US where people have never hunted, like in the middle of major US cities. Most of those people have never been in real wilderness, stayed out overnight in a tent, backpacked, climbed a mountain. It’s really too bad for them. It’s no reason to throw jabs at people who do have access to the outdoors and go enjoy it. Of course, there are idiots wandering around do stupic things in the woods of Wisconsin and probably ever state in America, but they are a small minority (at least I hope so).

    By the way, any decent hunter who manages to kill a deer will bring it home and eat it. The same goes for fishermen (who kill fish, not deer…). From what I understand, the “cruelty” that goes on in the meat and dairy industries far exceeds any pain inflicted by hunters. Personally, I also regret my own sparrow killing exploits with my first BB gun, but that had nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with putting firepower in the hands of an unsupervised 11 year old boy.

  11. bingfeng,

    Sorry, but the thing about eskimos and words for snow is a hoax. Or urban legend, or exaggeration. In any case, not accurate.

  12. Andy,

    You make a good point.

    But no one really needs hunting as an excuse to go outside and enjoy nature!

  13. Very interesting post. As a beginning Chinese student I was trying to explain something to my teacher about hunting and said the closest I could think of — “kill animals.” She was amused by that…

    Isn’t the da third tone, though? Or is it really pronounced second tone here?

  14. I haven’t hunted since high school and don’t have any plans to go, but I certainly will continue to get out and enjoy nature. I think you understand my point, so I won’t belabor it. Anyway, I remember playing a game with a bunch of Chinese friends in the state. You have to write several obscure facts about yourself on a paper (everyone does it), and then the whole group (or in teams) tries to match the people with what they wrote (slowly reading one obscure fact at a time). Among other things, I wrote that I owned (I’m assuming I still do technically) two guns. It was fun to watch all the strange thoughts passing over their faces as they looked around the room and tried to figure out which of the Americans could be a potentially crazed whacko. As in your case, I realized that they had absolutely no experiece with normal (or “normal” 🙂 people owning a gun, let alone two (a rifle and a shotgun…um, did I mention dove hunting ((twice)) of the instant torture-free death and BBQ variety?).

    Anyway, not many guns in Japan. But I’m feeling a rant coming about those trucks I mentioned before.

  15. Carly,

    Oops, how embarrassing! I went to the trouble to provide the pinyin (and it was accurate), and then I went and wrote “second” instead of “third.” Don’t know what I was thinking. Thanks for pointing that out; I fixed it.

  16. I’m with the Big Sausage on this one. I killed a bird with my bb gun when I was 10 and have never felt whole since. I even gave it a burial with full honors. This belies the fact that I served 4 years active duty in the Army: Field Artillery (King of Battle).

    I used to love fishing, too, and for the final few years I was totally catch and release. But now I’ve even given that up. I guess Louisiana will excommunicate me any day now.

  17. Another excellent posting, John. And I see you’ve upgraded from the kid’s mouth to your TA’s mouth, haha.

    Chinese do not hunt becuase of overpopulation and lack of guns. They invented the gun powder but lagged far behind in guns. (Chinese shooters are good at the Olympics though, Hmmm…) The last hunt in China was by the Manchu royals and nobles in a deer range near Chengde, and they were using bow and arrows when the Brits at that time were already all guns! BTW, Americans didn’t learn hunting from the natives, rather the whites brought them from England, correct? Native Americans hunt with bow and arrows and that flinger thingy.

    I would like to look at this issue from a different angle: the impact of lack of hunting in China.

    Once an interpersonal skills class theorized that there are four types of personality: the hunters, the shepherds, the farmers, and the fourth type I forgot maybe the carpenters. The hunter personality refers to those confident, decisive, quick, aggressive and less worried about consequences. This is the Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, President Richard Nixon, and General George Patton type, the leader type, the killers.

    The Chinese race, perhaps related to their lack of hunting, have not produced many such hunters since the revolution. Chinese tend to be nonaggressive, which they’d glorify as “peace loving,” yeah, right. Today China’s male population are seen as very much wimps. Many Chinese educators have started to take note and worry about this deficiency in their training of boys. Perhaps, a little hunting as action training, at a game-play scale, wouldn’t hurt (coupled with a balanced teaching in confidence and modesty). I know Da Xiangchang, Prince Roy and others wouldn’t be for it but to me, at least, they should have some concept of hunting, at an age a few years older than John’s kindergarteners, of course.

  18. Ahh, so much to comment, so little time!

    I would agree with Bingfeng and Gin that China has been a farming civilisation for so long the hunting and gathering aren’t really relevant — except that there are still minority groups that practice it today! But for kids in Shanghai, yes. I know people who still hunt pigs in northern Sichuan, just like their Kiwi co-hunters in NZ! Places like the US and NZ still have hunting and gathering in their fairly recent history … whiteman agriculture didn’t arrive here until the 1800s, along with a whole lot of pests to our native bush such as possums, deer and pigs, which we have to hunt to save our land from destruction (self-inflicted destruction, yes).

    Although I must say, I took some Chinese students to collect “pipi” — shellfish just below the surface of the sand at lowtide. They proudly told their fellow classmates that they had been “pipi-hunting” (about as ridiculous as saying “scallop-hunting”). So they definitely were able to (mis) use the word in English.

  19. I grew up in Shanghai, the concept of hunting is definitely familiar, although not the Mandarin pronunciation “dalie” (which sounds retarded to Shanghainese speakers). If you pronounce “dang1le2” (tanlach), I bet all the kids will know what you are talking about.

    The Chinese aristocracies have always hunted (I don’t mean poaching, but with arrows, spears, and later guns), mainly to reinforce the notion of Wu (martial) over Wen (scholarship) and the Emperor’s say over life and death. Hence it was also a ceremonious affair like much of hunting in the West. It’s just simply wrong to say Chinese civilization didn’t have hunting.

  20. I knew the term for “hunting” in Shanghainese well before school from stories my parents told me and words like “rifle” ÁÔǹ (latchan in the dialect), but I didn’t know the Mandarin pronunciation “dalie” until much later (like 4th-5th grade) and to this day I still cannot connect the Mandarin term “dalie” with the idea of “hunting.” But the Shanghainese term for hunting is as natural as the act of hunting to me (and many others, because I just asked some of my Shanghainese friends about it).

  21. Let’s clear up a few things. 1) If people didn’t hunt in some states deer would become extremely overpopulated and many deer would die of starvation. In addition, there would be more deer on the roads, highways, and interstates and more car accidents killing deer and people. I’m not a fan of guns…in fact they scare the crap out of me…but I’m guessing dying of starvation or being hit by a car is less painful then getting shot (and if you happen to know anyone who hunts you’d know that hunters want to kill the deer as quickly and cleanly as possible because 1) they don’t want to trail the deer for hours in the woods-killing it immediately is much easier. 2) All hunters I know process the meat (venison is much better and leaner than beef!) and therefore don’t want to ruin the meat by placing multiple bullets in the deer’s body. 2) Furthermore, hunting is not just a bunch of crazy men in blaze orange going on a massive deer killing spree. Each state¡¯s DNR department implements rules and regulations regarding who can hunt, where they can hunt, and the limits of how many deer can be killed. You need to apply for a license, complete hunter safety courses, and in many cases (to get rid of those who hunt just for the sport of killing a big buck) you need to hunt and tag a doe before you can shoot a buck. 3) The ¡°hunting rampage,¡± which is what I¡¯m told they are calling it back, took PLACE in Wisconsin, but the SHOOTER was from Minnesota (I¡¯m sure the writer who wrote that post is aware of that, but I¡¯m always up for a chance to blame things on Minnesotans). Well, my dad would be proud. Being the only girl in my family I¡¯ve come along way from being dragged hunting with my dad (that father daughter activity quickly ended when I brought a book along and he said that it made too much noise when I turned the pages) to actually defending what I once thought was barbaric and silly.

    On a different note, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! John-wish you could be in HZ for the Holiday Inn Turkey Extravaganza 🙂

  22. You can actually go hunting for wild boar about an hour outside Hangzhou. Big, long rifles, that look they were made in the 19th century, are used. They can be seen in many places just outside many cities.

  23. John,

    Now I was wondering how satisfied you are at your workplace.

    How often does it feel like you are just there to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s?

  24. While many city-dwelling Chinese have no idea about hunting, I was once fortunate enough to see it up close and personal in China. Check out the picture at “Nanjingren follows the hunt”

  25. Hi! It is 1 AM in the morning on Thanksgiving. But, I just came from watching the movie, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” Bridget Jones is all about self-reflection and such. So, out of a whim, I decided to “google” something about myself. I googled something about Shanghai and girl, I think heh..well anyways…your website was the first on the list. It’s been so interesting reading it 🙂

    I will comment on this particular entry of yours, the turkey “hunt” issue. Well, in my communications course, I learned about the “epistemic function of language.” Language shapes reality. So, if the city-born Chinese children cannot grasp “hunt” as a reality, it is b/c their worlds do not include such concepts b/c there is no exact chinese word for “hunt” that is equivalent to the American version.

    Anyways…I just thought I’d share that b/c when the professor was talking about “epistemic” I thought to myself…such a lofty term..when am I ever going to use this?! ha!

    Well a little about myself:

    I was born in Shanghai in 1985.
    I came to America when I was six years old.
    I am now a University of Maryland College Park student in the sophomore year majoring in journalism.

    Ok, I think i’ve blabbed enough.

    Thanks!

  26. Regarding the last post on epistemology, does anyone else really dig Wittgenstein? He wrote, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

    Wittgenstein also talks about language games… Is there any rule that all games share? If no, then what do they all have in common? Does languaging = playing? Perhaps games are just rule-constrained behavior. But there is no behavior without rules, no yin without yang, right?

    Hmmmm… Hunting is so different from culture to culture. The animal is not even killed in some rituals 🙂 e.g. catch and release. And hunting metaphors are likewise probably very different cross-culturally. In English we say “job hunting.” Don’t we also hunt for fame and success? But Bing Feng said this about Chinese:

    “the word HUNTING [in Chinese] is usually associated with negative meanings like ÁÔÑÞ(hunt for beauties),ÁÔÆ棨hunt for novelty”

    Whatever the case, hunting, it seems, is a game, even when it is a game for survival.

    Then again for every example there is a counter-example, no?

  27. Naus said dalie sounds retarded to Shanghainese speakers… veyr interesting. Why/how does it sound retarded.

    You also said that to this day you have trouble connecting connecting the Mandarin term to the concept. That’s also very interesting. Could you explain/expand? Is this true all words or just words that you don’t usually say in Mandarin? Mandarin vocabulary must be associated, I suppose, with different realms from Shanghainese vocabulary. So are there any words in Shanghainese that sound retarded because they are more natural in Mandarin?

  28. Da Xiangchang,

    I hope after reading your post that you are a vegetarian.

    You have some serious issues 🙁

  29. Da Xiangchang Says: November 26, 2004 at 3:55 am

    No, I’m not a vegetarian. I find it too hard to be a vegetarian with all these hamburger places and Chinese-takeout places near where I live. Too bad. I’m betraying my principles in eating meat; I’m a hypocrite. 🙁 However, I do think there’s a difference between buying meat from a supermarket or a McDonald’s and buying a gun and going out and shooting animals. And if the whole world turned vegetarian and make tasty dishes from only vegetables, I would go along with that, but that’s not going to happen. I think the intellectual foundations behind vegetarianism are airtight, and it’s a shame more people aren’t vegetarians.

  30. It’s also worth noting that while Indians lived much closer to nature and valued nature more highly on a spiritual level, most of em were horticultural (ie lived by high intensity slash and burn crop rotation gardening.) This was particularly true in the southeast and southwest; Indians in the SW managed a massive irrigation system for some thousand or more odd years, long enough in some places to actually put themselves out of business by unwittingly raising the amount of salt in the ground through irrigation from mineral rich water that crops wouldn’t grow as well in some parts of the country. Hunting was a more important source of food as you headed north and east.

    This of course was all interupted by the Spaniards showing up and accidentally killing 90% of the settled peoples with disease. The following two centuries (until the east coast was colonized by England + France) was mostly a time of regrouping and reorganizing into new groups of people. Then… they were all pretty much compacted into tiny tracts of land and or shot up / starved.

    I think that Thanksgiving should really be something of a more somber holiday than it currently is. It seems like the logical time to acknowlege that genocide is a pretty common and tragic thing that we humans do to each other, and that we need to remember that there’s a lot of harvests people are never going to be able to make, and that we need to work together to make sure this kind of thing happens as seldom as possible. (COUGH! Sudan! COUGH!)

  31. Naus said dalie sounds retarded to Shanghainese speakers… veyr interesting. Why/how does it sound retarded. >You also said that to this day you have trouble connecting connecting the Mandarin term to the concept. That’s also very interesting. Could you explain/expand? Is this true all words or just words that you don’t usually say in Mandarin? >Mandarin vocabulary must be associated, I suppose, with different realms from Shanghainese vocabulary. So are there any words in Shanghainese that sound retarded because they are more natural in Mandarin?

  32. Naus said dalie sounds retarded to Shanghainese speakers… veyr interesting. Why/how does it sound retarded. >>>>
    Because the term in Mandarin is usually learned along with the writing, it underscores the point that hunting is two morphemes “da” and “lie” in Chinese, weird in that it sounds like a phrase rather than a word. In Shanghainese because the term is often learned before writing, it registers as ONE WORD to native Shanghainese speakers, the second character has no independent meaning in Shanghainese.

    You also said that to this day you have trouble connecting connecting the Mandarin term to the concept. That’s also very interesting. Could you explain/expand? Is this true all words or just words that you don’t usually say in Mandarin?>>>>
    Yes, it ususally applies to words that are not commonly spoken or heard in Mandarin, but were learned in Shanghainese at an early age.

    Mandarin vocabulary must be associated, I suppose, with different realms from Shanghainese vocabulary. So are there any words in Shanghainese that sound retarded because they are more natural in Mandarin? >>>>
    There are of course. Like Áµ°® (lian’ai, love) would sound quite awkward if pronounced in Shanghainese (hence this word is almost ALWAYS pronounced in Mandarin in a Shanghainese conversation). But that is only because the term Áµ°® doesn’t really exist in Shanghainese.

    Mandarin has a way to make every word sound “Mandarin” even if it’s completely new or gibberish. Shanghainese is much harder because it has more tone sandhi, there is more tendency in Shanghainese for words rather than characters to register as single units. Like “stoplight” (“honglvdeng” doesn’t register in Shanghainese at all as red-green-light but simply “stoplight”, the tones in Shanghainese are different between red-green-light and stoplight). This means nearly all newly coined Mandarin words do not easily develop a Shanghainese equivalent, while Mandarin is able to create all kinds of vocabulary simply by artificial construction. But some of those constructions are a little too detached (like dalie) and becomes a vague phrase to Shanghainese ears.

    To summarize, Shanghainese functions in an aural way with little thought to the individual characters (more like Western languages), while Mandarin is more literary and tends to revolve around characters and their compounds.

  33. Thanks very much Naus. Because you both are a native speaker and have a high level of awareness about your language feeling, your analysis gives us a lot of insight.

    I’m wondering,you know, about how Shanghainese changing so much in the last 80 years with waves of immigrants, for example from Ningbo. I’ve heard somewhere some people saying that Shanghainese is becoming Mandarinized. How does Shanghainese maintain such a strong identity in the face of so much change? Or has the identity significantly shifted in the last 50 years?

    Also, do you think your feelings about Mandarin are shared with other Shanghainese? In a way, Shanghainese is a very prestigious dialect–you must know it and speak it perfectly or you are waidiren. And the Shanghainese have high self-esteem. But at the same time, I often get the feeling from younger people that their dialect is nanting–or is this just something they say to me because I am a foreigner?

  34. Naus,

    Thanks for your insights. Very interesting stuff.

    Laska,

    What is your experience with Shanghainese? Are you in Shanghai now?

  35. I’m wondering,you know, about how Shanghainese changing so much in the last 80 years with waves of immigrants, for example from Ningbo. I’ve heard somewhere some people saying that Shanghainese is becoming Mandarinized. How does Shanghainese maintain such a strong identity in the face of so much change? Or has the identity significantly shifted in the last 50 years? >>>>

    Shanghainese (SHH) has been slowly Mandarinized since the early 1900’s. The grammar has been the most susceptible to Mandarin influence, probably due to lack of mass vernacular writing. A look at SHH grammar during the Qing period will show a very different language from what it is today.

    Today, thousands of SHH vocabulary are becoming archaic with each generation. Also for Shanghainese under 20 years old, words like Èç¹û are becoming pronounced as “luku” instead of the “zku” (devoiced zu, English “z” sound) of my generation, and I’m not old. Similarly, ÈËÃñ is becoming “lenmin” instead of the more orthodox “zenmin.” ±ä̬ is pronounced today in Hanyu Pinyin as “bita” instead of “bitei.” etc.

    So no doubt, Mandarin influence is very strong, but SHH is also developing on its own path. The tones in SHH are becoming very much irrelevant, some younger speakers I know speak without tone differentiation. I wouldn’t be surprised that it will be completely stress-accent 30 years from now. Even my speech is similar to pitch-accent systems, quite different from other Chinese dialects. This development of SHH will lead to a problem of homophony which will naturally resolve itself by expanding the number of syllables in a word.

    Also, do you think your feelings about Mandarin are shared with other Shanghainese? In a way, Shanghainese is a very prestigious dialect–you must know it and speak it perfectly or you are waidiren. And the Shanghainese have high self-esteem. But at the same time, I often get the feeling from younger people that their dialect is nanting–or is this just something they say to me because I am a foreigner? >>>>>

    Shanghainese people in general speak very good Mandarin, there is a very strong desire to adapt what is official or standardized and to be a national leader. This disadvantages SHH considerably. But I believe the native population are very proud of their lingo. So you have one desire to maintain a distinct identity, and another not to be marginized by the nation. If the Shanghainese one day feel certain that their dialect is being threatened, and that their grandchildren’s first words will be in Mandarin, I do believe that we will see more proactive promotion of the dialect by the local residents if not the city government. It will be interesting to see where the Shanghainese will take SHH.

  36. If the Shanghainese one day feel certain that their dialect is being threatened, and that their grandchildren’s first words will be in Mandarin, I do believe that we will see more proactive promotion of the dialect by the local residents if not the city government.

    Don’t expect the government to do anything, they usually think in the direction of economical progression, which naturally counters the individuality of a local language in the face of a standard language. Don’t expect common citizens to initiate anything that can be of impact. If the langage is to be preserved/maintained, there must be a calling and proactive actions from intellectuals and language experts. Question is, are there enough (any) willing and determined experts? Is there even an organization devoted to non-Mandarin langages in Shanghai, or anywhere in the country?

    It is a difficult tack to defend a local langage againt Mandarin, since the local langage has only a spoken base. A language draws life from being spoken. Take a look at the proportion of Shanghai kids who are using Mandarin exclusively today and compare that to a generation ago, and draw your own conclusion of whether Shanghainese is developing or dying. Without a speaking population, how is a language going to be preserved? I don’t know.

  37. Three misspells: non-mandarin languages

    a difficult task to defend a local laguage

  38. How does Shanghainese maintain such a strong identity in the face of so much change? Or has the identity significantly shifted in the last 50 years?>>>

    I didn’t clearly answer this question in the above post. SHH is mostly a combination of Suzhou-hua, Ningbo-hua, Changshu-hua, Hangzhou-hua, and the original dialects around the Shanghai area (something close to the Songjiang and Pudong dialects of SHH today). All these dialects are actually quite similar to each other phonologically (often called Wu or Jiangnan dialects, ÎâÓï or ½­ÄÏ»°) and blended very well to form what is today SHH (which is kind of like a Wu Creole). When Ningbo immigrants arrived, they bought with them characteristics of Ningbo-hua (most notably the personal pronouns, such as the first-person plural “ala” °¢À­). These usages then became synonyms with existing usages (ÎÒÄá and ÎÒ´ï in this case), and eventually “ala” was more successful and replaced ÎÒÄá/ÎÒ´ï completely throughout the city regardless of the speaker’s origin. When non-native speakers think of SHH today, they first think of “ala” “°¢À­”. Shanghai was a very successful melting pot for the Jiangnan region, and SHH is surviving evidence. Even as SHH changed, it was still able to maintain a continuous identity through the city and its assimilated residents. Unfortunately, recent Mandarin-speaking migrants (so called “New Shanghainese” ÐÂÉϺ£ÈË) are less inclined to participate into the Shanghai melting pot, and so SHH’s future is more uncertain. They stress that Shanghai belongs to China; the melting pot is now China instead of Shanghai.

  39. a debate on how to preserve dialects in china:
    http://cul.sohu.com/6/0404/67/blank219986757.shtml

    in 1980s, there was a radio channel in shanghai dialect called °¢¸»¸ù̸Éú²ú (Mr. A-fugen talks about production), this is dedicated to farmers living in the surburbs of shanghai, most of them don’t understand Putonghua.

    although nobody can stop the trend, but i don’t think shanghai dialect is dying. generations at their late 20s or 30s still prefer SHH at home or when they get together with shanghai natives. i have been working in a large firm in which my colleagues are from different parts of the country, i used to speak Putonghua in front of colleagues who don’t speak SHH, but when there is one shanghai native presents, i have an “urge” to speak SHH.

    the puzzle for me is that SHH doesn’t have a written system and therefore whenever i write sth, i HAVE TO use Putonghua to do that, and on another hand, a lot of the vocabulary in Putonghua is missing in SHH (or SHH don’t have the correspoonding words?). so SHH and PTH seem to be separated from each other, this caused a lot of troubles to me.

    another phenomenon i think is equally serious is the impact of english and computer, i know many chinese who work in MNCs or return from english-speaking countries would prefer using english in their working place and even in occasions socializing with friends. for a short period of time a few years ago, my working language was english, and because i use computer a lot, sometime i can’t express a concept in chinese, even more embarrassing, sometimes i forgot how to write a very common chinese character.

    it will be very interesting to see how english influence or re-shape the Putonghua, and also how using computer make peoples writing capability degenerate.

    both exicting and sad

  40. Naus, Bingfeng, Gin–Please be assured you have a very captive audience for your thought-provoking posts. I feel really grateful for your taking the time to share write informative pieces–they are being read with great interest.

    “New Shanghainese” refers, doesn’t it, to the large percentage of new immigrants working in multinational companies? Meanwhile, I assume migrant laborers and migrant small shop owners are still assimilating by learning to speak Shanghainese–so it seems to me, anyway. So it seems as though the ability to speak the dialect may in the future divide more sharply along class lines?

    The tones in SHH are becoming very much irrelevant, some younger speakers I know speak without tone differentiation.>i know many chinese who work in MNCs or return from english-speaking countries would prefer using english in their working place and even in occasions socializing with friends…it will be very interesting to see how english influence or re-shape the Putonghua, and also how using computer make peoples writing capability degenerate.

  41. John–It looks like my cover is blown :-)… In fact, I think I saw you a couple weeks ago walking south on Shaanxi Nan Lu right next to Changle Lu.

  42. Da Xiangchang Says: November 29, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    A stalker! How very interesting . . . 😉

  43. You might what to check out: http://www.zanhe.com/ for more information on Shanghainese. It’s in English.

  44. Great site. Thanks. Is it yours?

  45. It’s a college friend’s site, Shanghainese.

    He’s trying to devise a SHH romanization that’s both aesthetically pleasing and accurate. Really creative guy 🙂 Hopefully it will get more people aware of the qualities and differences of SHH. I am also really tired of Shanghainese people writing Ò» to mean ÒÁ (he) or Äþ in place of ÈË, etc etc etc.

  46. laska said:
    “New Shanghainese” refers, doesn’t it, to the large percentage of new immigrants working in multinational companies? Meanwhile, I assume migrant laborers and migrant small shop owners are still assimilating by learning to speak Shanghainese–so it seems to me, anyway. So it seems as though the ability to speak the dialect may in the future divide more sharply along class lines?

    my comment:
    for those who come to shanghai at an age over 20, it’s a tough job to learn shanghai dialect. i think so-called “new shanghainese” refers to those who decide to settle down here, no matter s/he works in a MNC or not. the propect of their kids speaking shanghai dialect depends on the language environment, suppose one of their parents speaks shanghai dialect, then the kid will very probably get teh ability to speak it.

    laska said:
    And now you say some people will even use English on some occasions to socialize with their friends. Yet there have always been so many dialects in China–perhaps this use of English just fits into an old pattern of pervasive diglossia–many codes, one speaker? How do you think English is reshaping putonghua?

    my comments:
    english is different from other dialects in terms of how it influences chinese and putonghua, chinese people who speak english develop a taste of using long sentences when they write or talk, this is the first level of influence (maybe vocabulary is the 1st level?), as a result, written chinese today is much longer than those before (you could do a research to see if i am wrong). the second level of influence, i guess, is the pattern of thinking. the mindset of english-speaking chinese becomes a bit more logical and organized because of the influence of english (or the process of learning and speaking english), on the other side, english-style putonghua, with the long sentences and many redundant words, is no doubt (to me) a big hurdle for people to grasp the abstract concepts or the key points of sth. compare the classical chinese language to today’s putonghua, you can find a lot of merits in classical chinese
    laska said:
    Also, Bingfeng you said there are some words in Shanghainese that you cannot say write in Mandarin, which causes a problem sometimes when you want to express your feelings in writing. It may seem like a simple thing for you, but I would be very curious about specific examples of these kinds of words if you have time… 🙂

    this makes me stump:(
    anyone can help laska? john?

  47. Thanks bingfeng. I’m not a researcher, so we’ll just have to look for empirical evidence to check your theory about English syntax affecting Mandarin syntax. I must admit it’s a compelling idea. Your input and discussion are really appreciated!

  48. I have been folowing the conversation about shanghainese with some interest, and do see the problem with being able to preserve the language especially as there is no written equivalent. My wife is from Hangzhou, and she speaks a lot of Hangzhou-hua with her friends, while her parents and a lot of her family only speak Hangzhou/Shaoxing nearby – Hua and not much putonghua.

    I can now understand a fair bit of hangzhou-hua, although can’t speak it, or if I do speak it, people don’t understand what I’m trying to say.
    However, looking a the examples of Shanghai-hua given I can understand most, as well as being able to understand some people from around Zhejiang that I work with who don’t exactly speak standard putonghua.

    Interestingly enough, when I try to speak Hangzhou-Hua (usually to swear at someone), I often get the tone wrong, but it is recognised by another colleague from Shaoxing or Taizhou or Ningbo as being correct in thier part of Jiangnan-Hua.

  49. http://www.tianyaclub.com/New/TechForum/Content.asp?idWriter=0&Key=0&idItem=148&idArticle=329343

    When this above song in flash came out, no one knew what dialect it was actually in. Shanghainese people claimed it was SHH, Hangzhou people said it was Hangzhou-hua, Shaoxing people thought it was Shaoxing-hua. People from each city thought it shocking that others from the Jiangnan region understood it. It is actually in Hangzhou-hua.

    The tones in the Jiangnan area are all different, though they pretty much all correspond neatly (except SHH which has merged a few of the tones). Suzhou-hua’s tones are almost the exact reverse in pitch level as Shanghai just nearby. This is similar to how Japanese pitch accents are often reversed from region to region. It also explains the general trend in Wu dialects to place less importance on tones. Of all the Jiangnan dialects, SHH is most tolerant to tone variation, and easiest for Wu speakers to learn and speak fluidly. Makes sense, since SHH is the Wu creole. SHH also has less slurs and often sounds pretty sterile like Putonghua is to the Northern Mandarin dialects.

    Most Wu speakers think Hangzhou-hua is just Mandarin with a Wu accent. Hangzhou-hua even has the Mandarin ¶ù»¯ “Er-hua.” This is a result of Hangzhou’s role in history. Surrounding people from Zhejiang often give Hangzhou a hard time, the “Henan beggar” jokes, etc. But actually, Hangzhou-hua is still very much Wu, many grammatical particles and adjectives remain Wu, phonology is also similar to SHH. Native SHH speakers don’t have much trouble listening to Hangzhou-hua (especially with Mandarin knowledge).

    The most orthodox Wu dialect today is probably found in Wuxi ÎÞÎý.

  50. 梦今昔 Says: October 14, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    怒翻坟贴

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