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Taishan dialect

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Taishan dialect

This article is about the dialect. For the people, see Taishanese people.
Taishanese
台山话 / 台山話 / 臺山話
Native to Southern China, Hong Kong, United States (mostly California and New York City), Canada and Vietnam
Region western and southern Guangdong; the Pearl River Delta; parts of Hainan
Native speakers 1–2 million  (date missing)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List
 
 
 
 
 
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Taishanese (Toisanese; simplified Chinese: 台山话; traditional Chinese: 臺山話; Taishanese: [hɔi˨san˧wa˧˨˥]) is a dialect of Yue Chinese. The dialect is closely related to Cantonese. Taishanese is spoken in the southern part of Guangdong Province in China, particularly in and around the city-level county of Taishan. In the mid to late 19th century, a significant number of Chinese emigrating to North America originated from this area, making Taishanese a dominant variety of the Chinese language spoken in North American Chinatowns. It was formerly the lingua franca of the overseas Chinese residing in the United States.[1] It is not currently recognized as having official status in any country.

Names

The earliest linguistic studies refer to the dialect of Llin-nen or Xinning (Chinese: 新寧).[2] Xinning was renamed Taishan in 1914, and linguistic literature has since generally referred to the local dialect as the Taishan dialect, a term based on the Mandarin pronunciation.[3][4][5][6][7][8] Alternative names have also been used. The term Toishan is a convention used by the United States Postal Service,[9] the Defense Language Institute[10] and the United States Census.[11] The terms Toishan, Toisan and Toisaan are all based on Cantonese pronunciation, and are also frequently found in linguistic and non-linguistic literature.[12][13][14][15] Hoisan is a term based on the local pronunciation, although it is generally not used in published literature.[16]

These terms have also been anglicized with the suffix -ese: Taishanese, Toishanese, and Toisanese. Of the previous three terms, Taishanese is most commonly used in academic literature, to about the same extent as the term Taishan dialect.[17][18] The term Hoisanese is rarely used in print literature, although it appears on the internet.[19][20]

Another term used is Siyi (also Seiyap, Szeyap or Szeyup, Chinese: 四邑), which refers to a previous administrative division which comprised the four counties of Taishan, Kaiping, Enping and Xinhui. In 1983, a fifth county (Heshan) was added to the Jiangmen prefecture, and so the term Siyi, which literally means "four counties", has become an anachronism.

The term Wuyi (Chinese: 五邑), literally "five counties", refers to the modern administrative region. This term is not used to refer to Taishanese.

History

Taishanese originates from the Taishan region, where it is spoken. Often regarded as a single language, Taishanese can also be seen as a group of very closely related, mutually intelligible subdialects spoken in the various towns and villages in and around Siyi (the four counties of Taishan, Enping, Kaiping, Xinhui).

A vast number of Taishanese immigrants journeyed worldwide through the Taishan diaspora. The Taishan region was a major source of Chinese immigrants in the Americas from the mid-19th and late-20th centuries. Approximately 1.3 million people are estimated to have origins in Taishan.[21] Prior to the signing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which allowed new waves of Chinese immigrants, Taishanese was the dominant dialect spoken in Chinatowns across North America.[22] It is also spoken in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City Cholon neighborhood.

Taishanese is still spoken in many Chinatowns throughout North America, including those of San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal by older generations of Chinese immigrants and their children, but is today being supplanted by mainstream Cantonese and increasingly by Mandarin in both older and newer Chinese communities alike, across the country.

Relationship with Cantonese

Taishanese is a dialect of the Yue branch of the Chinese language, which means that it can be considered a dialect of Cantonese. However, due to ambiguities in the meaning of "Cantonese" in the English language, as it can refer to both the greater Yue dialect group or its prestige standard (Standard Cantonese), "Taishanese" and "Cantonese" are commonly used in mutually exclusive contexts, i.e. Taishanese is treated separately from "Cantonese". Speakers of Cantonese often find it difficult to understand Taishanese.[5][23] The phonology of Taishanese bears a lot of resemblance to Cantonese, since both of them have common historical roots. Like other Cantonese dialects, such as the Goulou dialects, Taishanese pronunciation and vocabulary may sometimes differ greatly from Cantonese. Despite the fact that Taishan stands only 60 miles (97 km) from the city of Guangzhou, the dialect of Taishan is linguistically far removed from the Guangzhou dialect because of the numerous rivers that separate the two.[24] However, because Cantonese is one of the lingua francas of Guangdong, virtually all Taishanese-speakers also understand it. In fact, most Sze Yup people in Guangdong regard their own tongue as merely a differently-accented form of Cantonese.

Standard Cantonese functions as a lingua franca in Guangdong province, and speakers of other Sinitic languages (such as Chaozhou, Minnan, Hakka) living in Guangdong may also speak Cantonese. On the other hand, Mandarin is the standard language of the People's Republic of China and the only legally-allowed medium for teaching in schools throughout most of the country (except minority areas), so residents of Taishan speak Mandarin as well. Although the Chinese government has been making great efforts to popularize Mandarin by administrative means, most Taishan residents do not speak Mandarin in their daily lives, but treat it as a foreign language, with Cantonese being the lingua franca of their region.

One distinction between Taishanese and Cantonese is the use of the voiceless lateral fricative (IPA ɬ),[25][26] e.g., 三 (meaning "three") is pronounced saam1 in Cantonese and lhaam2 in Taishanese. Voiceless lateral fricatives can also be found in many other western dialects of Cantonese, such as the Gaoyang and Guinan dialects.

Tones

Taishanese is tonal. There are five contrastive lexical tones: high, mid, low, mid falling, and low falling.[4] In at least one Taishanese dialect, the two falling tones have merged into a low falling tone.[27] There is no tone sandhi.[9]

Tone Tone contour[28] Example Changed tone Chao Number Cantonese tone number
high (yin shang) ˥ (55) hau˥ 口 (mouth) (none) - 1
mid (yin ping) ˧ (33) hau˧ 偷 (to steal) mid rising ˧˥ (35) 3
low (yang ping) ˨ or ˩ (22 or 11) hau˨ 頭 (head) low rising ˨˥ (25) 6 (qu)
mid falling ˧˩ (31) hau˧˩ 皓 (bright) mid dipping ˧˨˥ (325) -
low falling (yang shang) ˨˩ (21) hau˨˩ 厚 (thick) low dipping ˨˩˥ (215) 4

Taishanese has four changed tones: mid rising, low rising, mid dipping and low dipping. These tones are called changed tones because they are the product of morphological processes (e.g. pluralization of pronouns) on four of the lexical tones. These tones have been analyzed as the addition of a high floating tone to the end of the mid, low, mid falling and low falling tones.[7][27][29][30] The high endpoint of the changed tone often reaches an even higher pitch than the level high tone; this fact has led to the proposal of an expanded number of pitch levels for Taishanese tones.[4] The changed tone can change the meaning of a word, and this distinguishes the changed tones from tone sandhi, which does not change a word's meaning.[3] An example of a changed tone contrast is 刷 /tʃat˧/ (to brush) and 刷 /tʃat˨˩˥/ (a brush).

Writing system

Writing uses Chinese characters and Mandarin vocabulary and grammar, with many common words used in spoken Taishanese having no corresponding Chinese characters. No standard romanization system for Taishanese exists. The ones given on this page are merely traditional.

The sound represented by the IPA symbol ⟨ɬ⟩ (the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative) is particularly challenging, as it has no standard romanization. The digraph "lh" used above to represent this sound is used in Totonac, Chickasaw and Choctaw, which are among several written representations in the languages that include the sound. The alternative "hl" is used in Xhosa and Zulu, while "ll" is used in Welsh. Other written forms occur as well.

The following chart compares the plural pronouns among Taishanese (which are formed by changing the tone[24]), Cantonese, and Mandarin.

Glossary Taishanese Standard
Cantonese
Mandarin
transliteration IPA
we/us ngoi (呆) [ŋɔɪ] ngo5 dei6 (我地) wǒmen (我们)
you (plural) niek (聶) [nɪɛk] nei5 dei6 (你地) nǐmen (你们)
they/them kiek (劇) [kɪɛk] keoi5 dei6 (佢地) tāmen (他们)

See also

  • List of Chinese dialects

References

  • (Ph.D. Dissertation)
  • (Ph.D. Dissertation)
Notes

External links

  • Includes short grammatical overview of Hoisanese.
  • Taishanese Resources Website
  • Taishanese Language Blog
  • Taishanese Language Blog
  • You can download the Defense Language Institute's 'Chinese-Cantonese (Toishan) Basic Course' audio and text material here
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