Annals of Wu

a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog

Name Changes And Challenging Orthographies discussion - orthography

A recent Article in the New York Times, Tribes See Name on Oregon Maps as Being Out of Bounds which addressed efforts by local native groups to replace certain toponyms in the area. Specifically the term "squaw" was targeted as being offensive. As a solution, the groups provided a number of alternatives that would better reflect their culture as the indigenous peoples. From the article:

“I really didn’t think it would be this hard,” said Teara Farrow Ferman, manager of cultural resource programs for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. “I didn’t think that we would still be disputing this after so much time.”

The county agreed to change most of the names, but it would not accept the Indian names proposed by the tribes.

The reason given being that they are seen as too difficult to pronounce. "United States Board on Geographic Names… will not accept new ones without a consensus among interested local groups and state and local officials" the article goes on to say.

Officials protested that some of the name changes proposed by Native Americans — like Sáykiptatpa and Nikéemex — were too hard to pronounce, prompting the tribes to create an interactive pronunciation guide.
“Seriously, can you pronounce them?” asked Mr. Britton, the county commissioner. “It’s a safety issue. Someone making a 911 call has to say the location, and the dispatcher has to understand and repeat it to the sheriff.”

Setting aside the fact that people will probably still say "Squaw Lake" when making a panicked 911 call (just like people tended to dial the more familiar 411 instead), I think there's a different issue here and one which is much easier to address. The issue, I believe, is ultimately with orthography. Or maybe racism, but then racism and orthography. I'll stick to orthography for now.

An example I brought up earlier is the proposed name Weelikéecet Creek. In recordings provided by the supporters of the name changes, this sounds to me like /wɛlikætsɪt/. Without trying to dictate orthographies since this is an incredibly sensitive topic, I would like to argue that there must be some middle ground since /wɛlikætsɪt/ is actually not particularly difficult for the average resident. I think instead people are getting thrown off by the unfamiliar orthography.

I don't know if this is a standard orthography for the language, but if this were happening in the not-too-distant past, I have no doubt that would have been rendered as and no one living there today would think twice about the name of their town, having grown up with it being as familiar a word as Chicago or Topeka or Biloxi.

It seems to me, understanding full well my position as an uninformed outsider, that the issue may not be the names themselves as much as it is about how people are seeing them for the first time.

    Shanghai Dialect For Foreigners books - learning

    I swear I'd already written a review of this on an earlier version of the site back in 2007, but now I can't seem to find it. So this is actually the second time I'm reviewing this book. Let's get right to it.

    Shanghai Dialect for Foreigners is a great way to get into Shanghainese if you're comfortable with IPA and don't need too much help with tones.

    The following is a quick sample of some of the dialogue to give an idea of the transcription:

      A: 侬好!
      noŋ hɔ!

      B: 侬早!我来撘浓介绍,搿为是王先生。
      noŋ ʦɔ! ŋu le təˀ noŋ ʨia zɔ, gəˀ ɦue zɿ ɦuaŋ ɕi saŋ.

      A: 侬好,王先生,我姓李。
      noŋ hɔ, ɦuaŋ ɕi saŋ, ŋu ɕiŋ li.

      C: 侬好,李先生。
      noŋ hɔ, li ɕi saŋ.

    If you're comfortable with that, and with the non-standardness of the IPA, then you'll be fine. The book also comes with a CD of the dialogues, and the audio quality is tolerable. That's a major plus over the many phrasebooks you'll find which lack audio.

    But as I mentioned above, you're not going to get much help with tones. This is actually pretty problematic unless you're really out there pounding the pavement talking to people in your daily life. Tone contours are not described, and not provided for vocabulary within a given lesson. This means you basically have to sort it out yourself.

    That's not entirely a problem since you do know a few important features from the transcription; entering tone syllables are marked and voicing distinctions are given, and with only 5 tones in Shanghainese, it's not actually impossible to figure out which is which to some degree just based on the pronunciation. And since Shanghainese is basically a pitch-accent system rather than a strictly tonal one, you can get by.

    Description of pronunciation is thorough, which is nice for those less comfortable with IPA.

    This is actually one of the very first books I picked up on Shanghainese when I started my collection.

    As an added bonus, rumour has it you can find a bootleg pdf online if you dig around a little bit, not that I condone that sort of thing.


      Title:Shanghai Dialect For Foreigners
      Author:Xú Ziliàng
      Publisher: Shanghai Haiwen Audio-Video Publishers


      Confusing Etymologies In Hakka discussion - orthography

      There are some intereting things going on with characters as used by a large number of Taiwanese Hakka speakers. There's a phrase, dá sóng (here rendered in Hoiliuk dialect). It basically means to waste. The usual way this gets written by a lot of speakers these days is 打爽. Note the second character 爽 would normally mean "refreshing" or "pleasurable". What sense, then, does "hit/do refreshing" make as a phrase meaning "to waste"?

      The obvious answer is that 爽 is not the original character for this phrase. In fact, it should be 喪. However in Hakka 喪 is pronounced sòng, while the second syllable in 打喪 is sóng. The tone is wrong. Meanwhile since 爽 in the same dialect is sóng, people have taken to writing the phrase as 打爽.

      I was speaking with a friend of mine, a native speaker, about how there's no real reason not to use 喪 to write the phrase, since a lot of characters have multiple readings, and many varying on tone alone. After some discussion she conceded that her own teacher, a highly respected Hakka scholar in the area, would also agree that 喪 is the way it should be written, and that he laments people's use of 爽.

      Historically, etymologically, semantically, the "correct" character for this phrase is 喪. So what do you do with 本字 when general usage has otherwise abandoned it? My answer is that you should resist, and that the value in having cognates preserved in the orthography is sufficient enough that it's worth pushing for the use of the "correct" character.

      Interestingly enough is the use in the same dialect of the character 冇, rendered mao in Mandarin and borrowed from a Cantonese simplification of 無. This is sort of the opposide side of the same sort of problem discussed above. In Hakka, the word represented by 冇 isn't pronounced anything like 無, and doesn't share any etymological connection. Instead it's pronoucned pǎng and means "hollow". It should be apparent that the borrowing is the result of the graphical comparison between 有 and 冇, which in following the same logic is what many people argue is the origin of the glyph in the first place (though that's not actually true; it really is just a simplification of 無).

      An example of the use of pǎng is the phrase 打冇嘴 dá pǎng zhǒi which means to speak about something about which you don't actually know or haven't considered.

      This actually illustrates for me the problem with sòng. That is, the origin of pǎng isn't clear in the written form since the character doesn't reflect its origins. It's not a simple task to track down how it originated or what the cognate might be, assuming there is on. It might also be the restult of some substratum. At this point I don't know.

      I feel pretty strongly that there is real value in having this stuff encoded in the orthography. "But that's prescriptivism" you might say. You're right. But prescriptivism isn't really the problem with prescriptivists, now is it?

        Cantonese Coming To Google Translate tools

        Google has been sending out emails regarding a push to get them to include Cantonese. It reads as follows:
        Help improve Google Translate
        We've heard your feedback about adding Cantonese to Google Translate. You can now improve Cantonese translations and help us get closer to our goal of adding it.
        To get started, simply visit Google Translate Community and invite others to participate.
        Thank you in advance,
        Google Translate Community team
        Internationally, it makes sense to do Cantonese before Shanghainese. Logistically as well since there's a much greater corpus of standardised Cantonese data. Still makes me sad not to see Hakka or Wu anywhere on their list.

        Still, it's progress.

        To contribute, go to this link and start translating.

          Revisiting Tianweiban discussion - general

          Today I was having a conversation with a friend about placenames in Southern China. I brought up Sawndip and the occasional non-Mandarin characters that show up in placenames coming from languages like Zhuang, with 岜 bya being one of the more common ones as well as one of the few encoded in Unicode.
          In our discussion I did a quick Google search to bring up some visual examples and came across an old post on Language Hat from 2007 which quotes from an AP article.
          Quoting a local resident speaking to Xinhua:
          The character ere described is 湴, likely pronounced bàn in MSM. The interesting thing is that the problem which the villagers were facing, and the reason anyone was writing about this at all in 2007, was that people couldn't type the character 湴 for things like legal documents. The reason? The PRC is using an outdated character encoding standard, GB 2312. Newer standards such as GB 18030 or Unicode do support the character. It's not even an issue in the style of Ma Cheng (馬馬馬馬) where even modern systems have problems, but rather just that the systems in use by the State are outdated.
          I realise I'm a few years late in writing about this. I vaguely recall being aware of it when it was happening, but since it came up and took a fair amount of time from the discussion today I thought it worth revisiting.

            A Possible Tonal Connection To Shanghainese Voiced Implosive Onsets discussion - tone

            Zhengzhang Shangfang has previously written about voiced implosives in Shanghainese and Southern Wú. The very short summary is that in some Wú dialects implosives are found in place of the voiceless unaspirated onsets. So instead of [pʰ] [p] and [b], we see [pʰ] [ɓ] and [b]. They do not have corresponding vowel quality changes, so there is still a clear difference between /ɓa/ and /ba/ where the former lacks the breathy voicing found in the latter.

            An oft-cited reason for this is that there must be some substratum, Tai-Kadai or otherwise, which had implosive obstruents and that's why they're showing up in Modern Wú.

            This never sat well with me, and I know I'm not the only one. I recall talking to a respected scholar about this at one point and was answered with a comment along the lines of "substrates are what scholars point to when they really just don't know the answer".

            There is one other possibility. The following is from a piece on phonemic tone but may apply here:

            We can speculate both on articulatory and perceptual grounds [for a particular tonal phenomenon]. First, a possible explanation is that the voiced consonants went through an implosive stage (b > ɓ) before merging with the voiceless series. Since implosives have a tendency to raise the F0 of the following vowel, it would not be surprising to find lower tonal reflexes on vowels following historically voiceless consonants.

            The significant part is this: Implosives do not do anything significant to fundamental frequency if developing from previously voiceless stops. A change from [b] to [ɓ] would result in a raising of F0, but [p] to [ɓ] wouldn't. No contrast would be lost by this change. It is conceivable that there are phonological motivations for this development. Rather than grasping at the substratum cause, which doesn't itself actually address the issue but rather only gives a convenient "hey look over there", there may be room for analysis on phonological grounds taking tone into consideration.

            I'm not offering that here. But it's not a bad possibility for some future research.
            1. Jean-Marie Hombert. Consonnt Types, Vowel Quality, and Tone. In Fromkin, Victoria: Tone. 1978

            Languages, Dialects And Varieties discussion - general

            Very often, people ask what the difference is between a langauge and a dialect, the idea being that there is some scientificly justified line in the sand. Linguists spend all this time studying language, so clearly they would have an answer.

            The problem is that there isn't one. There simply is no scientifically objective difference between a language and a dialect on any linguistic grounds. The distinction is entirely extra-linguistic, and is instead based on sociopolitical factors. That said, an military force is not a necessary or sufficient condition, and even those who are fans of quoting Weinreich would agree that some languages lack both but still get to be called languages.

            A common follow up question is about what linguists use. If the terms are based on extralinguistic determiners, then how do linguists talk about speech varieties? One way is simply to call them varieties, since that's a term which lacks the baggage of the other two options. I know a number of people who only use this term. Alternatively, linguists use the terms language and dialect, but with the full understanding that these are sociological labels and not scientific ones and are flexible regarding their referents. Of course, sometimes they are used with some intent, an effort to bring the listener to a certain frame of thought. If I call Cantonese a language, it's possible I mean something very specific by doing so. But even then, it's extra-linguistic. It might be a matter of minority langauge rights or it might be a point being made about distance to related languages. But in any case, it's not a scientifically meaningful term with static boundaries.

            There's another common response, which is to bring up mutual intelligibility. This is also insufficient for a couple reasons. To begin with, mutual intellibility doesn't take into account dialect continua. I can provide two dialects that everyone would agree are Mandarin but which to native speakers would not be mutually intelligible. A person from rural Nantong would need to accomodate pretty significantly to be understood in Beijing, to the point of speaking a whole different variety altogether. Another problem with mutual intelligibility is that it's very difficult to test objectively. I can find a number of Beijing Mandarin speakers who have no experience with Cantonese. It will be harder to find Cantonese speakers without any exposure to Mandarin. And then finally, you cannot account for motivation when determining mutual intelligibility. The two speakers do not have the same sorts of sociolinguistic pressures to understand the other's variety, especially when one speaks something quite close to the prestige variety.

            So it's problematic as we've established. That's not to say there aren't useful solutions, so long as we can keep in mind that they're simply terms of convention and not of scientific description. The following is a quote from Furgeson & Glumperz regarding the difference between languages, dialects and varieties. It's a set of definitions I find myself often repeating for how simply and intuitively they are defined.
            A variety is any body of human speech patterns which is sufficiently homogeneous to be analyzed by available techniques of synchronic description and which has a sufficiently large repertory with broad enough semantic scope to function in all normal contexts of communication.

            A language consists of all varieties which share a single super-posed variety having substantial similarity in phonology and grammar with the included varieties of which are mutually intelligible or are connected by a series of mutually intelligible varieties.

            A dialect is any set of one or more varieties of a language which share at least sone feature or combination of features setting them apart from other varieties of the language, and which may appropriately be treated as a unit on linguistic or non-linguistic grounds.
            Simple as that. I particularly like how it takes into account dialect continua. It's inclusive enough to be fairly unobjectionable, but simple enough to not get bogged down in the details or exceptions to the definitions.
            1. Furgeson, Charles A. & Gumperz, John J., Linguistic Diversity in South Asia, International Journal of American Linguistics, 1960

            Phonemica 4.0 Changelog phonemica - development

            In keeping with the theme of "Annals of Wu as Phonemica devblog", I thought I'd outline the changes in the latest rewriting of the site. I spent a week of 14 hour days this past week rewriting the whole system, almost from scractch. Here's what's new.

            version 3.9 changes

            These are old changes from a few weeks ago that mostly just deal with the transcript and segmenting, but they're part of the larger push to give people more power and offer greater automation.

          1. users can now control segmenting of audio better
            • you can drag segments to other timings
            • added ability to add segments by clicking anywhere in the waveform
            • added said waveform to help visualise the recording for segmenting
          2. vastly improved automatic scrolling
          3. included a second copy of the transcript in plain text further down, by request

          4. version 4.0 changes

          5. greater control for editing information on your uploaded storytellers
          6. can now upload multiple recordings under a single speaker
          7. specify if a story is told in a dialect other than the speaker's native dialect
          8. upload storyteller photos directly to the site, available immediately
          9. upload a wider range of audio formats to the site
          10. a Korean version of the UI is now available, though it needs a few more translations. thanks go to Minkyu for helping get that started
          11. profile pages are back. show off what you've done on the site.
          12. delete stories you've uploaded, like for example if you upload the same one twice. that's happened a couple times too

          13. Most importly, as of this latest update:
          14. your submitted audio is available on the site immediately.

          15. There's no more need to wait for us to hand-process every submission. Up until now, due to limitations with our old hosting company, we simply couldn't automate this in a way that was satisfactory to us.

            Other less visible changes

            First, we've changed hosting companies. The best part about this change is that we're off shared hosting and on a VPS, which means we now have full control of the server that the site is on. This let me upload all the software and write all the code I needed to to allow for the above automation. This flexibility is also giving us even greater opportunities for future improvements already in the works.

            Second, the site has been moved to a server based in Tokyo rather than Singapore. This has already proven to be a great benefit for site speeds for users in China, which is most of our users at this point.

            The database has been completely redone. We've moved a lot of the data off MySQL and onto NoSQL. Without getting too much into it, this allows us to put less strain on the server in peak use periods, and also lets us organise our data a bit better. The old system was a bunch of revisions and amendments and changes built on top of each other going back to 2011. It was clunky and we hated it. It lead to a couple site crashes and slow load speeds.

            We've also done a lot of opimisation. I'm a reasonably capable programmer. I wasn't when we started. There was a lot of bad legacy code that could have been improved on. We didn't do that, opting instead to throw it out and start fresh.

            Changes coming this weekend

          16. reassign stories from one speaker to another in case you upload it for the wrong person. it's happened
          17. customise your profile by adding a picture and specifying your mother tongue, and whatever else you want people to know

          18. Here's the thing. We're trusting you, the user, to take care of your own recordings and the associated data. But then in the past version, we didn't give you enough control of that. You still had to rely on us, usually really just me, to help you out with that. But I don't have that sort of bandwidth in my life. This latest round of changes is meant to kill two birds with one stone. You get more control, and I have some time freed up to work on more improvements rather than going around and fixing earlier slipups.

            We think you'll like the new site. We do. There are still a couple bugs to work out, and some features to implement. But feel free to comment here with feedback/bugs anwyay. Or just comments in general.

            I'll update this post when the "4.1" changes get made in a couple days.

              Breaking Out The Microcrontrollers tinkering - tools

              More and more I've been thinking about changing the way I interact with the information that's most important to my daily life. I've started to look for ways – just as one example – to get notifications when the shit is getting very close to the fan so that I can do something about it when it finally hits it. One of the most stressful examples if Phonemica. As it goes, we're running a couple hundred simultaneous users when there's absolutely no recent press coverage. But then all it takes is one semi-big article, or even not so big blog post, and now we're up to 500 simultaneous users and whatever the last upgrade I made a couple months back was, it's now starting to fall apart at the seams. Running a site in China isn't low volume by any means. It might be quiet most of the time, but when it gets loud, it can be deafening.

              After the most recent spike, I decided it was time to do something about it. Not that the site itself can't really handle the traffit, but I still like to be informed so that if there's some sort of traffic control that might be useful, I have the option to jump on in and do it. We are on the cheapest hosting possible, after all, so sometimes that's required. So to combat this sort of thing, I threw together this:

              using an Arduino board, in this case an Intel Galileo Rev 2, I put together a quick sketch that gets the number of current users from Google Analytics and displays it on a 16x2 LCD screen. I've since moved it off the Galileo and on to a Leonardo with ethernet access, but the purpose is the same: I have a constantly available up-to-date display of how many users are on the site at a given moment.

              It also keeps a log of traffic over the past 30 minutes (or hour) which can also be displayed so that if I want to see what the current trend is. If it's at 400 and the numbers are steadily going up, I might want to make sure the server is doing okay. Again, shared hosting on the cheap.

              Unfortunately there's a wiring issue with this particular display, and everyone in town that sells 16x2 displays sells this exact model, so I've actually wired up an alternative way to get the information so I don't burn out the board. Instead of the LCD it has the option to show the numbers as colour-coded LCDs, with additional audio alerts. This has the benefit of using less power too, so it's something I can throw on a Yún that I can toss on a shelf somewhere.

              I actually bought the Galileo for the Intel chip specifically to do a bit of automation on the site, coding a sort of maintenence spider that could get rid of unnecessary files and create them when they're needed (such as cases where we might have ogg and mp3 but no wav files for a given entry). That's still on the to-do list, but will have to wait a couple weeks until I can find a little more free time.

                Developing A Cooperative Dictionary Creation Tool tools - dictionary

                I was frustrated that TLex, despite being a great piece of software, is so darn expensive. I don't fault the developers for that. It's their every right to try to make back some of the money spent in creating it. Still, I can't afford it. So instead, I'm working on my own such software, with the added intent to have a more cooperative focus to include crowd-sourced dictionaries, much the way we've been running Phonemica from the start. The idea is to have the data exist in the cloud as much as possible with locally stored revisions and logs for each contributor, since you can't always be online. Then that way multiple people can work on a single language's dictionary as they go, with edits and revisions checked and confirmed against the time they were done rather than the time they were uploaded. Here's a preview of one of the screens, still very much in progress:

                An additional hope for the future is that much of what's being done on the back end of this will have later implications for Phonemica and how data is handled there, especially in terms of being able to work on entries offline and then uploading the data later without fears of someone immediately wiping out another person's hard work without even realising it. Or as I call it, the "n00b effect" as is often seen on OpenStreetMap.

                I'm working on a few things still. The screenshot is just the minimum functionality to get it up to where the older PHP based version is at.

                The most recent edition, not pictured, is offline revision logging. You and a colleague/friend/neighbour/classmate are both working on a dictionary for Waxiang. You're up in the mountains with spotty internet access and knockoff Erguotou while they're chilling in their flat in Lujiazui streaming Netflix and drinking single malt. Not to worry because your edits are still being saved, even if they're not immediately applying to the database. Then when you have internet access again, your logged edits are checked against theirs to see if you both edited a single entry. If so, you have the option to choose one of the two most recent edits to be applied to the database. This way you can both be working even if you're not both online.

                  Fluffy Benches discussion - orthography

                  "Sofa" as 沙發 is one of the widely cited examples of words in Mandarin which came from a foreign language by way of Shanghainese, still pronounced /so.fa/. I'd made a comment on this just in passing while speaking to a Hakka friend of mine, only to quickly be reminded that Hakka does not use the word 沙發, despite being widespread elsewhere.

                  In Níngbō a hundred years ago, you might have been likely to hear 春凳 instead. But in Hakka, a sofa is referred to as 肨凳. If you're unsure of that first character, it's a variant of 胖. Except that in Hakka it's not. Every non-Hakka character dictionary I've checked has 肨 listed as a variant of 胖, and thus meaning "fat" and pronounced the same. Hakka meanwhile has split these. 肨 is pronounced pong55 – with a meaning of fluffy (or swollen) – while 胖 is pang55 – meaning fat. You can't call a sofa 胖凳, and you won't refer to a fat kid as being 肨. There's an additional meaning to 肨, pang24, which has the meaning "scent".

                  As far as I can gather without spending a few hours in the library, the two words 肨 and 胖 may originally have just been character variants, and then through Mandarin influence, they became split with 胖, the more commonly used word up north, took on the more focused meaning of "fat" compared to "fluffy" or "swollen", and carried a more Mandarin-like pronunciation with it. 肨 meanwhile was left to its original pronunciation with the meaning of "fat but not like that guy over there is fat".

                  There's an alternative possibility, which is that 肨凳 could be a fossil and the orthography is just meant to represent the different pronunciation. If that's the case, 肨凳 isn't the only case. There are other words listed that use 肨 as pong55xien55sam24 in Siyan dialect and pong11sa53sam53 in Hoiliuk dialect mean "sweater", a.k.a. "fluffy thread shirt".

                    Nonstandard IPA – φ And η discussion - phonology

                    In general, I'm a big fan of not being too strict about what gets counted in phonetic/phonemic transcriptions. My use of IPA is conditioned by years of Siniticists not doing much better in terms of reaching the standard. You will find /ᴇ/ and/ɿ/ in much of what I've written, and I'll surely continue to use them. Well, /ᴇ/ at least.

                    Today I found something confusing. I was reading through 绍兴方言研究 edited by 寿永明 and came across two glyps that I've never seen in any variation of IPA before today.

                    First is Greek φ, not to be confused with IPA ɸ which is also used in transcriptions. In the typeface of the book, they are visually quite distinct. I have no idea what sound this φ is representing. I first thought it might be /ɤ/ since I didn't see that used elsewhere at first, but I quickly found instances of /ɤ/ on the same page as \φ\ so I know it's not that.

                    The second glyph is also from the Greek section of the Unicode tables: \η\. This is also visually quite unlike /ŋ/ since the IPA velar nasal has a left hook, while \η\ does not. Just going by Greek, it might be /ɛ/, which I don't see elsewhere. That's my best guess based on the environment it's showing up in. This seems the most likely.

                    Phi on the other hand seems to denote breathy voicing. What would normally be written /ɦm/ in other sources corresponds with instances of \φ\ here. That makes some sense. <A> is used in place of <ᴀ> here as well, so my best guess is that the typesetter didn't have proper access to IPA glyphs and had to use alternatives in their place.
                    1. 寿永明. 绍兴方言研究. 2005. 三联书店上海分店. 上海

                    An Move To Better Transcriptions And Offline Support phonemica - development

                    We're at a point in our lives where we need to make some hard decisions about Phonemica. It's not sustainable to keep it going the way it is. Expenses are out of pocket, and we're just not able to keep funneling earnings from our day jobs into the project when there are so many other bills that also need paying. Since we're not ready to give up on the project (and I probably won't ever be at that point), one of the things that absolutely has to happen with the project is better automation. We need to be able to give users more control over the data, and make things so ridiculously easy to use that our miniscule but awesome team doesn't need to be in there manually processing everything. A huge step toward that end is the new transcript system, which I've recent about previously.

                    Another important step is to get more linguists involved. Not necessarily in consultant roles or active with other people's recordings. Instead, we'd like to see more people using Phonemica as a platform for sharing their data with the world. While we understand the desire to keep things under wraps while in the publishing process, we're strong believers in open data and making things available. We would also love to see people fine tuning transcriptions and improving on the data.

                    One way we're doing that is by offering exports of the transcript data for use with software like EXMARaLDA. Starting now, transcripts from entries can be downloaded as .eaf transcript files for use with ELAN. These are generated on the fly, so the file will reflect the transcript as it is the moment you download it.

                    In addition to this, I'm nearly done coding an .eaf importer. It will be made available for people who wish to work on transcripts on their computers and then upload the files to Phonemica to be converted into an online entry. To better integrate this, we need to establish better entry ownership so that people can lock and hide their own submissions while they work on the data offline. In general this is somethign we want to do anyway just to give people more control, and so that they can prepare the entry to completion before letting it be public.

                    The new transcript system is going up tonight. The .eaf downloads are already there, but a little bit hidden at the bottom of the entry pages. With a little luck the .eaf importer will be done some time next week.

                    These are all thigns we wanted to have from the start but never had the resources. Now that the site is up and stable and has the data and users to test new features with, we can start to integrate these ideas that until now had never seen the light of day. There's much more we want to include in the future, and we will keep trying to get that up.

                    In the mean time, we think these last few changes will really impact the way you use the site in a very positive way.

                      47th Int'l Conference On Sino-Tibetan Languages And Linguistics events - conferences

                      The 47th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics will be at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming. Dates for the conference are 17 to 19 October. Registration is on the 16th.

                      For more information check out the conference website.

                        Displaying Tone Contours On-Site phonemica - development

                        I've already mentioned the new transcript system and segment editor. There's actually one more big thing that we're adding to that. The waveform is new to most users, though we've had it implemented for site admins for some time now. However the new version is much less demanding on the server or users' download times.

                        But in addition to the waveform we're adding something else, seen here in red:

                        While not present on all entries, many will start to get pitch contours added to the display. Does this help the transcription? No not really. Does it do anything for the average user? Probably not, unless they're uncertain of what tone is being produced and this somehow clears it up for them. So why do it?

                        One of the big things we set out to be from the very beginning was an openly accesisble source for data on Sinotibetan dialects. It was our hope that this would eventually become a resource for academics who are working to better document the language family. Over the past few years that we've developed the system, that has never changed. The goal will always be to increase the quality and amount of data available for analysis.

                        One big area of analysis in Sinotibetan is tones. There's a lot of good work that's been done in the past, and a lot of serious data gathering and analysis that is still ongoing today. By including tonal contours in the data on Phonemica, we're hoping it can be one more reason way to quickly communicate the data to researchers without them having to go through the extra steps to display the contours themselves.

                        Of course, they could. Anyone could open up the audio in Praat and quickly get a contour. For the point of analysis where frequencies are being analyses, that will still probably be the way to go. But for the inital inspection, presenting the data in a quickly visible way may prove useful for some people.

                        There are other reasons to include it as well, such as simply wanting to develop better tools for documentation. I'll get into that in a little more detail in a later post.

                          Improved Segmenting On Phonemica phonemica - development

                          Segmenting is a pain. It's the most time consuming part of processing recordings for the site.

                          In general, for each file that's submitted, about 30 minutes gets spent in preparing the story for transcription. About 10 minutes of that is spent on file preparation and then 5 on getting the database information corrected and another 15 for cutting the sound up into the segments you see in the transcript.

                          It's just not sustainable. I'm the only one doing it, and it's incredibly time consuming when the submissions start building up. To solve the processing time before segmenting, I've written a script that runs on the main Phonemica computer which automates all the file conversion work that needs to be done. There's a lot of it.

                          The other major improvement is with the segmenter. The site administrators have access to a tool that allows them to segment recordings. This involves working with a waveform that goes along with the audio, and then manually marking the start and stop of each segment. It works, and it's what we've used for the past year, but it's pretty awful for how much time it still takes to do the work.

                          Starting this coming weekend, that iteration of the tool will be deleted forever. In it's place, we now have something much more useful. Below is a shot of the new system.

                          This is the new version. Note that this isn't just a replacement for the segmenter tool that you've probably never seen or heard of before now; It's also a replacement for the old transcript system on the pages of individual entries.

                          For users, this will be something immediately available for transcription and cleanup. For me, the bigger part is replacing the segmenter, since that was the major time suck on our end. Rather than me having to go through and segment, and then only other admins being able to edit, now anyone who's signed in can not only edit the transcription as before, but also fine tune the timing of each phrase. If you don't like how an entry is segmented, and there are plenty that need cleaning up, you now have the power to do something about it. Want to add another segment? Go for it. Are there too many segments in a small space? Now you can delete them. Don't delete all of them though, becuase that would stuck.

                          We really think this is going to be a huge improvement in usability, and we hope you'll agree. This is part of a larger push to give people more control over their stories, as well as getting the data in better shape for future uses by researchers or language learners.

                          If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email. Otherwise stay tuned as the update should be in place by the weekend.

                            Seeking Jingjiang's River-crossing Past discussion

                            Some time ago I was reading about Jingjiang 靖江市, the city on the northern bank of the Yangtze, and how the town was once on the southern bank before a shift in the river's course to the south of the town put it where it is today. If you look at modern satellite photography of the area you can see what the contours of the river used to be.

                            Thing is, I can't for the life of me remember where I read it, and an afternoon of Google- and Baidu-fu turned up nothing of value.

                            I know I've read about this, and I remember at the time thinking it was a trustworthy source. Something like YR Chao's own writings. And not I can't find it.

                            If anyone has an idea of where I can find this information, I'd be ever grateful. Otherwise I'm spending the day in the library tomorrow and I'll have to see what I can dig up there.

                              Language Atlas Of China, 2nd Ed. (review) books - academic

                              For many years one of the best games in town as far as language maps went was the Language Atlas of China (中国语言地图集) published by the Chinese Academy of Social Science (中国社会科学院). The original 1987 edition was not without its problems, and there was a fair amount that was just left unclear due to insufficient data at the time (the same sort of lack of data that poked a few then-unknown holes in Jerry Norman's 1988 Chinese). But, generally, it was a good atlas representing the combined efforts of a great many scholars.

                              For the last couple years we've been talking about picking up the second edition, published in 2012. You can find an article from 2008 floating around online that shows the new classification system of the second edition. From this article I already knew that I wasn't the biggest fan of the new system, but at least in some areas there was huge improvement. It was enough to give me hope for the second edition. Last week I finally picked up a copy. I hate to say it, but I'm really quite disappointed.

                              The way the Academy gathers resources — as told to me from their own mouths on a couple visits to their offices this past year — is by essentially outsourcing the data. This makes sense, since there's so much to be addressed. The Academy contacts various researchers throughout China and Taiwan and requests their data to go into the Atlas. This sounds like it would get the best data from the people who know the areas the best. But in talking to a number of regional scholars, I'm by far not the only one upset with the latest version.

                              The Wú section

                              I don't know where to start with the Wú map. I see so much wrong with it that I think it needs a separate post. Unfortunately Hangzhou is still listed as Wú, but that's not terribly surprising. Changzhou is now grouped with Wuxi — despite some superficial similarities — as well as with Suzhou. That's a bit odd. So I'm actually going to leave Wú out of this post for now beyond what I've already said, and then more fully address it at a later time.

                              Taiwan & the Hakka section

                              The Taiwan map is pretty atrocious. Look at a city like Hsinchu 新竹. You have Hoiliuk 海陆 dialect/accent spoken in the city and Siyen 四县 dialect/accent spoken to both the north and the south. If you ask any Hakka speaker in the area, scholar or layperson, they will tell you that Hsinchu is clearly a Hoiliuk city.

                              In the Language Atlas, Hsinchu isn't shown as Hakka speaking at all. In fact there are 5 distinct Hakka dialects spoken in Taiwan, but according to the Atlas we're only four, with Rhaoping 饶平 dialect absent. Speaking of Rhaoping, in the mainland city after which the dialect is named, there's also not any Hakka being represented in the Atlas.

                              Meanwhile Hoiluk is over-represented outside of Hsinchu as well, but completely absent from Hualien County where it's one of the dominant dialects. In fact no Hakka is shown in Hualien at all.


                              Just so that it's not all negative, I will say there's been some good improvement in Manchuria. In the 1987 edition, there were huge gaps where it showed no Mandarin speakers at all, despite there being speakers with their own non-Putonghua dialects. This has been remedied, with towns like New Barag Right Banner (新巴尔虎右旗) now properly represented as speaking a 黑松片 dialect. Big improvement there.

                              Sampling methodology issues

                              This is a big issue for me in how a lot of dialect work is done in China. It's something we try very hard to avoid with Phonemica. The idea is that you go in and ask around and find the most representative speaker of the dialect in the town. You then talk to him for hours and hours and hours and take him as representative of the whole town. This ignores peripheral dialects. This doesn't show how large the area is of that one person's dialect. And it also obviously ignores ongoing changes in the dialect or small variations. I'm pretty sure that's what's going on with this second edition in most cases.

                              On the one hand, dialects are now drawn following county lines rather than random smooth lines throughout the blank map space. Cool, except dialects don't always follow county lines. But if you're only talking to one dude in the middle of the administrative division, then that's what you're going to see. You say "Zhang Dou is representative of Minhang" so all of Minhang gets marked as that dialect, right up to the political boundaries of Minhang. That doesn't work when you have Southern Minhang sounding very different from Northern Minhang (which it does). Grab a guy from Wujing and you're going to get pieces of both North and South dialects, ultimately giving a clean representation of neither.

                              It's obvious why it's done this way. It is already time consuming and expensive to do the fieldwork. But now that the work is being done (for example 汪平's multiple speakers from Suzhou for 江苏方言研究丛书 or 徐越's mutlple towns in North Zhejiang, and now that the data is out there, it'd be great to see it being used for such major project as this.


                              In biology you have what's called the type species. It's the species that best represents the defining qualities of the group. This happens in dialectology as well. However I think in some cases people are just a little too focused on finding the type species, that they miss all of the other incredibly valuable information on the periphery. This is a bigger issue when less data is used or available. So for that I can only hope that the third edition, if there ever is one, will be a significant improvement over the second.

                              It would also be quite nice to see them include more than just the PRC's political claims, since that reflects neither jurisdiction nor linguistic distribution.


                                Title:中国语言地图集 第二版
                                Language Atlas Of China, 2nd Edition
                                Publisher: The Commercial Press


                                Plotting Shanghainese Tone Contours In Praat discussion - tone

                                As mentioned in the last post, the excellent Shanghai Dialect — An Introduction to Speaking the Contemporary Language, Lance Eccles gives a good introduction to the language.

                                Last week my buddy Qi and I sat down to record the tone contours as given in the book, to set up a comparison between the contours as represented in the book and the same words plotted in Praat.

                                Altogether there are 5 groups of phrases given as examples of tone contours, each with a monosyllabic word, a bisyllabic word and a trisyllabic one to show spreading of the inital syllables tone over the whole word. In the images below, I've grouped the phrases by initial syllable.

                                Falling tone

                                For falling tone words, the examples given were fi (fly), fici (airplane), and ficizang (airport). The following graph shows those words in that order. You can ignore the extra high mark in the middle word. This is a mistake in Praat where the formants were too weak so the line was drawn in the wrong place.

                                Middle tone

                                Examples for mid-tone words are given for both checked and non-checked tone intial syllables. For non-checked, the examples are sa (what), saning (who) and sameqzï (also "what"). Again the following shows those words in that order.

                                Checked examples are iq (one), iqti (a bit) and iqngenge (also "a bit"). Again, you can ignore the small anomaly at the end of the second word.

                                For mid-tone words of 2 or more syllables, the pattern is the same for checked and non-checked tones with the exception of syllable length.

                                Low tone

                                Low tone is also split between checked and non-checked syllable initials. Examples are mwo (horse), mwozâng (immediately) and mwotongke (washroom) for non-checked.

                                For checked tones, exmple words are liq (stand), liqchi (stand up) and liqchile (also "stand up).

                                The isolated utterances shown on Praat are not identical to Eccles' but are certainly close enough to be of substantial value to the Shanghainese learner.

                                  Shanghai Dialect: An Introduction books - learning

                                  In Shanghai Dialect — An Introduction to Speaking the Contemporary Language, Lance Eccles gives a very solid introduction for learners of the dialect. While there are a number or errors — in addition to the fact that the book represents a late 1980's variety of the dialect and therefore has a number of things that are no longer considered current — it may soon replace Kiso Karano Shanhaigo as my favourite.

                                  The reason is simple: He provides every discussion and vocabulary term in four systems: Sinitic characters; pinyin, IPA transcription; English translation. If you don't read IPA, you can go by his pinyin, but if you do then it's right there, and pretty clearly transcribed. There are some anomolies in the transcription, but nothing too significant.

                                  I think my favourite part of the book is how tones are managed. Having been used to hanyu pinyin with tones represented as dialects, the most bothersome thing of learning Hakka has been the post-syllabic tone marks. This is consistent with zhuyin fuhao so it's understandable why Taiwan's MOE does this. But I really don't like it. For example in transcribed Hakka it's common to see something like

                                    ngai heˇ rhi` lam
                                  That's fine, but I don't like it because if I am just reading pinyin (for example if it's unfamiliar vocabulary) then I tend to forget about the tone until the end. It feels like I have to slow down and read the word in my head then go back and say it out loud once I've gotten to the tone.

                                  With Eccles book, tone marks precede the transcription, as follows:

                                    `igeq ´zï sameqzï ´a
                                  I'm possibly imagining it, but it feels like this gives me time to process the contour I'm about to pronounce before I have to start saying it. It feels like I can read it faster. Not a very good sample size, I admit. But there it is.

                                  The Good
                                  • Tone is done beautifully. Only what you need to know it marked. Honestly this is one of the most well done books I've seen as far as how tone is dealth with. That alone would make it worth having.

                                  • Has IPA and romanisation side by side. Makes it easy to learn either the romanisation system or the relevant IPA.

                                  • Very practical dialogues that use the vocabulary as well as show examples of the more important grammar you'd need without fretting too much on grammar for grammar's sake like many books do.

                                  The Bad
                                  • The book is from 1993, and the Shanghainese that's represented in the dialect is that spoken in the 1980s. That's really not much of a strike against the book, however. You can easily adapt from what you learn to what's said. The changes aren't going to be significant enough for most learners to need to worry about.

                                  If you can track down a copy, I do recommend it. Completely worth it.
                                  1. Eccles, Lance. Shanghai Dialect: Contemporary Language. Dunwoody 1993


                                  Title:Shanghai Dialect: An Introduction To Speaking The Contemporary Language
                                  Author:Lance Eccles
                                  Publisher: Dunwoody Press


                                  Language Policy In China, Taiwan And Singapore preservation - policy

                                  I just gave a talk at the Royal Asiatic Society about language loss in East Asia, typically due to the handiwork of those in various ministries of education in China, Taiwan and Singapore. In each of these places, the respective governments have similar policies to encourage the local version of Standard Mandarin wins out over the various other Sinitic languages.

                                  In Singapore, the government has been pushing since the 1970s for Mandarin to replace Hakka, Min and anything else the Chinese population may speak. This is in addition to the English education system. Interesting, some of the backlash has come from non-Chinese Singaporeans, who are concerned that Mandarin will then transplant English as the lingua franca.

                                  Meanwhile the Taiwanese Ministry of Education goes back and forth on what's to be done with minority languages. At least for now, things look considerably better than in other countries in the Sinosphere, despite continued decline in use of the language among Taiwanese youths.

                                  China has had a policy since 1992 of pushing Standard Mandarin use in schools and not allowing other Sinitic languages to be spoken. In recent years there has been a big of push back from local governments and organisations, and while it may be the result of the recency illusion it does seem that the number of speakers of other dialects and languages are starting to see the threat to their languages and thus are starting to take action.

                                  In all these places, the trend is definitely one of Mandarinisation. Fortunately, we're now seeing not just post-80s speakers taking action to preserve their languages, but post-90s speakers also taking an interest. This is key, since they are the ones that are most affected by the 1992 policy in China. As a generation they are unquestionably more Mandarinised and less confident in speaking the local languages.

                                  It's too soon to say at this point, but I'm hopeful that there may be a reverse in the trend, at least among a certain part of the population.

                                  I'll put the notes for my talk up here shortly, once I'm settled back in from the week of travel.

                                    A Return To The Annals meta

                                    After a long absence I'm returning to blogging. With the first redesign since the blog launched 5 1/2 years ago, the blog is being repurposed with a more academic purpose. I'll still write about the language learning books and news relating to the language, but I'll also include more technical posts that may not have broad appeal.

                                    There have been a number of emails that we've received at Phonemica asking if we're going to still blog at Sinoglot. Truth is, we're all just too busy. We talk a couple times a week about stuff that would make for interesting posts, but then nothing comes of it because we're busy with school, with work, with travel, with events or other things to maintain Phonemica.

                                    So, no, probably Sinoglot won't get updates in the near future. But this blog will. Hopefully that will be satisfactory to at least some of the old regular Sinoglot readers.

                                      Shanghainese Medical Dictionary App guanxi - apps

                                      "esotericlinguist" left a comment on the old WordPress version of this blog. It reads as follows:

                                      Here's a new Shanghainese app for Android. It uses a modified version of Wu Association pinyin, so it's not as confusing as the one Dr. Qian came up with.

                                      The app is developed by Robert Theis and is dated January 2014. There are actually two apps. One is a military medical phrasebook and ones is a more basic phrasebook, though also militarily connected. This is the developer's description:

                                      Military-related medical phrases for foreign language learners of Shanghainese (沪语/上海言话), the largest variety of Wu Chinese (吴语), with audio, Romanization, and Chinese script. Use this app to select an English phrase and view its translation and how to pronounce it in Shanghainese. Texts are given in Simplified Chinese script.

                                      This app uses modified Wu Association Romanization. High tones are induced by voiceless initial consonants p(h), mh, f, t(h), nh, lh, tz, ts, s, c(h), sh, k(h), h, and ∅, and low tones are induced by voiced initial consonants b, m, v, d, n, l, z, j, zh, g, ng, hh. For more detailed explanation of the Romanization system, please visit https://www.google.com/url?q=http://esotericlinguist.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/shanghainese-romanization/

                                      This app was originally developed as an entry to the 2010 CIO/G6 "Apps for the Army" competition, and it is based on the modules publicly available online from the U.S. Defense Language Institute. Content edited and arranged by Percy Wong; app development by Robert Theis.

                                      Looks pretty decent, although the same developer has put out dozens of identical apps for different languages, all on the same basic cookie cutter template. There are no tones given, but the presence of a Play button makes me think there is perhaps audio. I'd be interested to know where it comes from if that's the case. I haven't personally given it a try but if I can dig up my older Android phone I'll definitely give it a shot.

                                        Subway Announcements In Wu preservation

                                        Sina recently reported that line 12 and line 16 of the Shanghai Metro will be making announcements in Shanghainese. This is a pretty big step toward public acknowledgement of the language as a legitimate form of communication.

                                        The original article doesn't say much about it, except the following:


                                        That is, it's the first time that Shanghainese has been used, along with English and Mandarin, for such announcements on public transport in the city.

                                        Yet to be seen is whether or not this spreads to other lines, or is abandoned completely.

                                          Shanhaigo Jōyō Dōon Jiten books - learning

                                          Maybe less exciting than 基礎からの上海語, but still useful: Miyata Ichirō's dictionary of Shanghainese homophones. It's still a bit expensive at 3200 yen, but then maybe Japan just isn't down with cheap books the way the PRC is. I could see this costing 30RMB at Xinhua. But no.

                                          As the title suggests, 上海語常用同音字典 is essentially a list of syllables with each followed by a list of the individual characters which share that pronunciation. Tones are included in the Chao numerals, and aside from the ubiquitous ᴇ, everything's given in IPA.

                                          There are a couple nice features that make this worth having. In addition to the index-by-stroke, there is also an index arranged by hanyu pinyin for the Mandarin pronunciation of the characters. So you're not sure how 但 should be pronounced and you're too lazy to go by stroke, you look up "dan" and get page 65, [tᴇ]. What's more, in most cases if a character has different pronunciations in different environments, that's provided as well (e.g. 大家 vs 大夫).

                                          Tone sandhi is discussed in the first few pages as well, which is nice.

                                          It's a great quick reference that provides another set of representations alternative to the Qian Nairong dictionaries.

                                          If I have a break from working on Phonemica this month, I'll get into why that's a good thing to have.


                                            Title: 上海語常用同音字典
                                            Shanhaigo Jōyō Dōon Jiten
                                            Author: 宮田 一郎
                                            Miyata Ichirō
                                            ISBN: 9784332800125


                                            Growing Collection Of Wú Recordings phonemica

                                            We're making some good progress at presenting Wu dialects over at Phonemica. Below is a live map showing just the Wu recordings. At this time there are around 40 Wu recordings, and most of those are Taihu varieties. Still, good to see some around Wenzhou, Shangrao and Nanjing.

                                            You can preview any of these directly on the map. To hear the full stories, be sure to head over to the main project site.

                                              Kiso Karano Shanhaigo books - learning

                                              I picked up a couple good books in Osaka last month. This is a quick introduction to one of the two.

                                              This is a fantastic book. This is easily my favourite of all the different books which set out to teach you Shanghainese. It has a few great things going for it, which I'll explain below. First though, it's worth mentioning that this book cost a solid 6000円 (~370RMB, ~NT$1820, US$60). It's not cheap. Still, I was happy to pay it. Here's why:

                                              1. IPA. The book skips over all the annoying romanisation systems that other similar books use, saving you from having to learn one more way to read Shanghainese. The International Phonetic Alphabet (though with A and E in place of the more standard glyphs) is all you'll see. Of course, you need to be comfortable with IPA in the first place, but honestly learning IPA once is unquestionably better than re-learning multiple unique systems. Having to learn a new romanisation system pretty much kills my desire to use any such book.

                                              2. Well formatted spaced dialoges where syllables line up between characters and pronunciation. I'm a big span of how white space is used in this text. A lot of similar books are over-designed. Here you don't feel like any space is wasted and it makes the price tag all the more acceptable since the book is dense with good information.

                                              3. Appropriate vocabulary in an appropriate order. The dialogues follow ones you'd actually hear on the streets of Shanghai. No complaints there.

                                              4. Tones done in a non-stupid manner. Lots of these kinds of books either skip tone entirely or give you too much information, either showing the underlying tone for every syllable or, even worse, showing the underlying and post-sandhi tones for each syllable. That's great for a dictionary. Terrible for this kind of self-study textbook.

                                              The (not quite) bad:

                                              1. It's in Japanese. But actually, even if you don't read Japanese, that's not much of an issue if you have any background in Chinese languages because you can still easily tell what's going on on each page.

                                              2. Lots of information. This is also not really bad. This is the kind of book that I feel can be useful beyond the time it'd take to go through the lessons. There's lots of information on the underlying goings-on of the language and it doesn't shy away from linguistics. Really this means it's a steeper learning curve than a book like "Shanghai Dialect for Foreigners" that you might find in the subway bookshop. But in the end I think that's a good thing.

                                              Well worth the 6000 yen.


                                                Kiso Karano Shanhaigo
                                                Go Etsu


                                                Update Coming For Shanghainese Phonetic Corpus tools - corpus

                                                In a couple weeks I'll have a huge update done to the phonetic corpus. Previously I put together a rough tool of a few thousand characters being based on the Guanyun tables, but obviously this takes a big his in accuracy.

                                                The latest update will cover over 8400 characters, plus a pretty large set of mono- and multi-syllabic words, over 30,000 in all.

                                                In addition to the IPA data, the new set also includes uniform romanisation and tentative definitions pulled from a number of open source dictionaries and open forums covering this sort of thing.

                                                Also as part of this update I'll be updating the version of the data used on Tatoeba and similar sites.

                                                If you'd like to take the romanisation for a test run, you can do so at this page:

                                                Note that it currently only supports traditional characters.

                                                Very busy week coming up, but after June 20 I'll have a lot more free time, and I'll be trying to update here regularly.

                                                  PVG To Use Some Shanghainese preservation

                                                  I just saw this. A post on China Daily from 5/27. For some flights, Shanghai Pudong airport will be using Shanghainese for departure announcements. Pretty rad.


                                                    Shanghainese Corpus Is Back Up tools - corpus

                                                    The Shanghainese IPA tool is back up, but with a caveat: The data is not guaranteed to be accurate. The current data set is taken from various resources, and then applied to and extrapolated from the 广韵 rime tables. As such some characters may not return accurate readings. The data will be updated, but likely not until this summer.

                                                      Help Support Phonemica phonemica

                                                      As you probably know, I've been busy lately with another project called Phonemica or 乡音苑. To quote the description from the project page:

                                                      Phonemica is a project to record spoken stories in every one of the thousands of varieties of Chinese in order to preserve both stories and language for future generations. We are a team of volunteers working within China and abroad.

                                                      Our mission: Bringing the richness of oral Chinese to a wider audience, through the words of natural storytellers, from every corner of the world where Chinese is spoken.

                                                      Now Phonemica is raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign that runs through June 9. Contributions will cover some new hardware, hosting, and other costs for the coming year. We need your help to keep it going and to continue being able to provide recordings of spoken Wu. How do we need help?

                                                      1. Financially, if you can swing it. We'd love if you could donate to the project fundraiser.
                                                      2. Helping us spread the word. If you know anyone who might be interested in the project, please let them know.

                                                      You can read more about the whole thing on the Phonemica blog or else on the fundraiser page.

                                                        Haimen Dialect phonemica

                                                        It's been a good couple of weeks for Wu at Phonemica. We just put up two recordings of 海门话. Head over to Phonemica to check it out.

                                                          Gaochun Dialect Recordings phonemica

                                                          I'm super thrilled to announce that we now have recordings of Gaochun Wu at Phonemica. Gaochun dialect was my very first experience with Wu, and it's basically what got me started down the very specific path I've been travelling for the past 5 years.

                                                          Gaochun 高淳 is a dialect in the Xuanzhou 宣州 dialect group. Xuanzhou is most significantly the dialect family of Wu spoken in Anhui 安徽 province, with Gaochun (on the outskirts of Nanjing 南京) being one of the few dialects in the group that are spoken in Jiangsu 江苏. If any Wu dialect could be classified as threatened, Gaochun and related Xuanzhou dialects would be it.

                                                          This group of dialects is a pretty good example of Mandarinisation (官话化), with clear changes from one generation to the next. With a much smaller speaker base than Suzhou or even Ningbo, there's less potential resistance to these sorts of changes.

                                                          Head over to Phonemica and have a listen. It may be one of the few place on the web you can find such recordings of the dialect.

                                                          Many thanks to Claire in helping me get the recordings, and for introducing me to the dialect back in 2007.

                                                            慕家花園黹繡學校 moka mission

                                                            Just a quick note to say that I've been working on a couple small side projects, one of which involves re-approaching the Moka Garden Embroidery Mission publications, as well as trying to track down some of the sister-school publications from the era and area.

                                                            I've also managed to dig up a number of passport applications, consular registration papers, US census reports and alumni newsletters from which I've been able to populate a pretty clear timeline of the lives of those involved in the mission, in particular that of Frances Burkhead who for many years was the superintendent of the Moka Garden mission. I was pleased to learn she lived to the age of 85, and ended her life in the same town where it began. More on all that later.

                                                            CNY is fast upon us, and I'm hoping that in addition to a little bit of domestic travel I'll be able to get a lot done with Phonemica as well as working on a number of such side projects as Moka Garden.

                                                              A Brief Introduction To Northern Wu Tones lessons - tone

                                                              The following is from the tone sandhi section of a writeup on Wu I've been working on for Phonemica. It's a draft of a single section. The full version will appear on Phonemica in the near future. I've decided to post it here in its current form in case it proves useful to have a clearer explanation than some of the other sources on the topic.

                                                              Wu dialects typically have 7 or 8 tones which follow the traditional system of four tones (ping, shang, qu, ru) with two registers (yin and yang). Tone sandhi — the way in which tones interact with eachother — is remarkable in a number of dialects, most notably that spoken in urban Shanghai.

                                                              In Mandarin, tone sandhi is limited to a few specific combinations, such as when two dipping tones becoming a rising followed by a dipping tones, e.g. 老虎 lǎohǔ becomes láohǔ. However in dialects of Wu, specifically in the northern Taihu dialects which we’ll look at here, the tones follow a set pitch contour that runs throughout a whole multi-syllabic word or phrase. This contour can be determined in one of two ways.

                                                              First, for multisyllabic words, the contour is determined by the first syllable and follows a pattern based on the number of syllables in the word. The following is an example from the Changzhou Taihu dialect. Two four-syllable words are given below, the second having different syllable-level tones than the first. The numbers correspond to the tones of the characters in isolation, 1 being low and 5 being high, thus 24 indicates a rising tone while 55 is a high level tone.

                                                              大清老早 → 大24 清55 老45 早45
                                                              動手動腳 → 動24 手45 動24 腳55

                                                              Since it is the first or left-most syllable that determines the pattern, we say that word-based sandhi is left-prominent. In these cases, That is, the tones of the other syllables in the word are ignored in favour of those assigned by the phrase contour called upon by the first. Since both of these examples begin with a syllable having a mid-rising (24) tone contour, and since both are 4 syllables in length, the resulting contour for both phrases should be the same after sandhi changes, which are as follows:

                                                              大24 清55 老45 早45 → 大21 清21 老44 早21
                                                              動24 手45 動24 腳55 → 動21 手21 動44 腳21

                                                              Despite these two examples having different underlying tones, the left-prominent sandhi system assigns both words the same surface contours since they share a tone on the first syllable. In the dialect of Changzhou, a four-syllable word beginning in a yang-qu tone (the above 24 tone) will always result in a overall contour like that above, with the stress falling on the third syllable. For this reason, it is often said that Northern Wu isn’t a tonal language in the typical sense, but rather should be considered a pitch accent system like some dialects of Japanese and Korean. Of course, different Wu dialects have different ways of handling the tones. In most Northern Wu dialects, however, we should expect a system like that outlined above.

                                                              As mentioned above, for multi-syllabic words, the sandhi system is referred to as left-prominent. That is, only the left-most syllable matters for the overall contour. However for bi-syllabic phrases which themselves do not make up single words, the sandhi rules are different. In these multi-word phrases, the system is right-prominent. That is, the right syllable retains its original tone, while the left syllable is neutralised within its register (yin or yang, as mentioned above). Looking at and example from urban Shanghainese, we have the phrase 讀書 /dɤ sɿ/. These two characters have two different readings: to read a book and to study. Since to read a book is a phrase, it would have a different tone contour than the same syllables meaning to study, the latter being a single word in Shanghainese. The phrase would have application tone sandhi as follows based on word-based left-prominent sandhi and phrase-based right-prominent sandhi:

                                                              to read a book (right-prominent phrase)
                                                              讀12書53 → 讀22書53 / 12 53 → 22 53
                                                              to study (left-prominent word)
                                                              讀12書53 → 讀11書23 / 12 53 → 11 23

                                                              In the first example, to read a book, The tone on 讀 is 24 in isolation, however it is an entering tone and so it gets neutralised to 22. 書 retains its original tone of 53 because it’s the prominent word in the phrase. In the second example, to study functions as a single word, so that the tonal curve of the whole word is determined by 讀. Like the four-syllable example above, two-syllable words also have set contours, and the contour for such sentences beginning with an entering-tone syllable is 11.23. Thus, in the example of to study, the tone on both syllables is modified from the isolated tone, however it’s happening in a pattern determined by the first syllable.

                                                              In addition to the set word-level contours, there are set values for tone neutralisation in phrase-level sandhi. Specifically, yin tones neutralise to 44 while yang tones neutralise to 33. The exception is for the ru class of tones, in which case the tone is neutralised to 22 regardless of register..

                                                              This again is common in Northern Wu dialects, though each dialect will follow a set of sandhi rules unique to that dialect. For that reason we won’t go into more detail here.
                                                              1. 錢乃榮,上海話語法,上海人民出版社,上海,1997
                                                              2. 賀建國,'常州方言多字組連讀變調',鎮江師範專科學校中文系,鎮江,1998
                                                              3. 錢乃榮,上海語言發展史,上海人民出版社,上海,2003
                                                              4. 朱曉農 Zhu Xiaonong,A Grammar of Shanghai Wu,Lincom Europa,München,2006
                                                              5. 錢乃榮等,上海話大詞典,上海辭書出版社,上海,2007
                                                              6. 周晓东等,常州方言詞典,江苏教育出版社,南京,2011

                                                              Phonetic Corpora Updates tools - corpus

                                                              As part of my efforts to improve the accuracy and usability of the Shanghainese phonetic data set, I'm going through and running parallel collections for Suzhou and Changzhou. This is all being done by filling out a copy of 方言调查字表 for each, putting that data into an online database and then applying it to a second database, itself based roughly on the 廣韻, but with revisions. If you look for more than 2 seconds on Google you can find a pdf of 方言调查字表, however the retail price for a nice clean published version is 16RMB or anywhere from NT$40 to NT$70 on Taiwan. That store to which I linked just now is a great place to buy Mainland-published books in Taiwan, by the way.

                                                              This approach has yielded some interesting discoveries. For starter, there's a lot of evidence for plain old borrowing from Mandarin, tone class and all, for a number of words that otherwise should be entering tones, about which I wrote fairly recently. Beyond that, it's also good to see, side by side, pronunciations for common words in Suzhou, Changzhou and Shanghai. That brings me to another excellent book for fangyan research/comparison, 汉语方言字汇, edited by 王福堂. It's basically 方言调查字表, filled out for twenty different dialects including Suzhou and Wenzhou. While I'm relying more on 汪平's Suzhou dialect dictionary, it'll surely be useful to fill in some inevitable holes. I'm hesitant to include Wenzhou too much, as in general it's far removed from Taihu dialects like Changzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai, and at this stage it'll be too likely to influence my judgements of what's been borrowed versus what's a natural phonetic divergence. Still, a great book for a general overview.

                                                              Beware shopping on Kongfz.com. While I've had great luck with them in the past for buying antique books, shipped from Jiangsu to Jiangsu, I'm a little weary about whether or not my latest purchase will actually make it to Ilha Formosa as it should.

                                                                Sometimes 入声 Isn't 入声 discussion

                                                                I've working with some data on Changzhou Wu these days. It's interesting because aside from the merger of 上 tones into one the redistribution of some shang tones, Changzhou preserves the rest of the 8 tones*. This is true for most Northern Wu dialects, including some Pudong varieties of Shanghainese which has otherwise merged itself into 5 tones which are mostly disregarded anyway.

                                                                In an oversimplification of the relationship between dialects, we can pretty much say that two dialects of two different Sinitic languages (ignoring Mandarin and maybe Min as well for different but comparably significant reasons) which preserve the two registers of the four tones, what is a yang ru tone in one dialect will be a yang ru in the other. What's more, an entering tone will end in p,t,k in Cantonese, p or k in Korean and -ʔ in Shanghainese or Changzhou dialect.

                                                                Except when it doesn't. It's an oversimplification because language contact is a thing, and words get borrowed from neighbouring dialects of dissimilar languages, thus /ŋ/ is quickly becoming /ʋu/ or /wu/ along the shores of the Yangtze.

                                                                Two cases have come up in my recent work that show this, but in a somewhat baffling way.

                                                                1) 昨 zuó is jok3 in Cantonese, 작 jak in Korean, tạc in Vietnamese, and ought to be zɔʔ8 in Changzhou, but instead it's zo2, yang ping, corresponding to Mandarin's zuó, also yang ping.

                                                                2) 幕 mù is mok6 in Cantonese, 막 mak in Korean, mạc in Vietnamese, and I'd expect it to be mɔʔ8 in Changzhou but actually it's mɤʊ6, yang qu, which also corresponds to the tone of the syllable in Mandarin, yin and yang having merged into what is now Mandarin's fourth tone.

                                                                I don't have an answer, except to speculate that it is exactly what I mentioned before: These have been borrowed from across the River. The borrowing preserved the tone, and in the case of the qu sheng, assigned yin/yang based on voicing. I hope this is what happened, because it's downright fascinating if that's the case.

                                                                If anyone has some insight into this I'd love to hear it.

                                                                - - -
                                                                * more on shang distribution in a future post

                                                                  Phonetic Corpus Re-write tools - corpus

                                                                  Just a quick update to say that the phonetic corpus, as is, has a number of errors that need to be corrected, for reasons mentioned in the previous post. More than that, I'm trying to get a much more stable, accurate and comprehensive version put together so that it can be made available for public consumption.

                                                                  I'm also in the process of building a parallel Suzhou phonetic corpus. This is all quite time consuming, and it's being done in addition to my other grad work. I'll have it up as soon as I can, with progress reports in the mean time.

                                                                    Every Dialect Is A Creole discussion

                                                                    It’s enough to make you pull your hair out. You’re looking for the pronunciation of a single character which should not be a 破音词. It’s a simple one with a single meaning. It’s the character 多, this time.

                                                                    You pull out your handy dictionary and check the index, which tells you the entry you want it on page 248… and 290. That’s ok though; lots of entries are duplicated since the dictionary is organised by category, not by stroke or pronunciation.

                                                                    Flipping to page 248 you find /tu/. Sounds right. Checking page 290 to be sure, you find… /tɑ/. Hmm. The note says the latter is 代词, and that the reading has been held over from a much earlier pronunciation. You’ve just added a layer. Specifically, you can not count on being able to convert 多 to any transcription without knowing the context and usage. That means your parsing has to be that much more on-the-ball. Or maybe it’s worse than that, and your entire understanding of the situation is off.

                                                                    It’s easy when dealing with dialects to get frustrated. It’s especially easy if you have any expectation of things being systematic. To summarise a pretty clear expert on the topic, “every dialect in China is a creole”. It’s not that Spanish and Italian evolved from Latin but on different routes. It’s more like, that happened, but with lots of borrowing from French and Arabic, and from each other in not-so-predictable ways along the way. So 五 is /ŋ/ until /ʋʊ/ is borrowed from neighbouring Mandarin dialects and then /wu/ is borrowed a little bit later.

                                                                    Language contact has always been rampant and things like Hangzhou dialect with its substantial influence from Song immigrants is not so much an exception as it is a more obvious example of the rule.

                                                                    It’s not enough to apply sound change rules to Mandarin and expect to get Wu, or even to get an interesting dialect of Mandarin (连云港话 anyone?). Since pretty much all digital setups are based on Mandarin, it pretty much means you have to start from scratch to make a system that’s natively comfortable with Wu, knowing when character X is pronounced Y and when Z, and it’s not going to agree with Mandarin.

                                                                    It is frustrating. And it’s time consuming. But it’s the reality. Lots of the work has been done. The only thing that hasn’t is getting it all online in a way that it can be combined and utilised in the best way possible.

                                                                      HUGE Phonetic Corpus Update tools - corpus

                                                                      It took a few hours of solid work, but I've just upgraded the Shanghainese phonetic corpus. It previously supported about 5,300 characters. It now supports over 25,000. It's not complete, but it's much much better than it was. There have also been some corrections made, and more to come.

                                                                      Feel free to try it out. Keep in mind this is being actively worked on. Consider it a beta version that will likely need some more corrections and bug fixes.

                                                                        Preservation Of Entering Tones discussion

                                                                        I've made the somewhat controversial comment before that living in Korea, after learning Mandarin and becoming familiar with Wu, a lot of spoken Korean was much more accessible to me than had I not worked with Wu. The specific example I'd given at the time was actually Cantonese, and how my friend who grew up speaking Cantonese to friends and Mandarin to family had little trouble making sense of spoken Korean in the earliest stages of her first semester in Seoul as a language student.

                                                                        I made this argument based on cognates and the fact that, while producing Korean grammar is incredibly complex for the speaker, day to day conversations between casual acquaintances follow more or less the same pattern. The reason Wu proved useful has to do with the large number of Sinokorean words, the pronunciation of which being borrowed at a time when the entering tone (入聲) was still important. Now of course it's gone from Mandarin, though easily uncovered in Southern dialects.

                                                                        It's not flawless, but a lot of words that were once entering tones now have consonants in the syllable final position. 立 and 李 are both family names, and while they're both "Li" in Mandarin, in Korean the first is Yip and the second is Yi. In Mandarin 立 was reassigned but its origins as 入聲 remain in Korean. For this reason Sinokorean pronunciation has been useful in various reconstructions of Middle Chinese phonology.

                                                                        Shanghainese, despite being far more tonally stripped down than other Wu dialects (Changzhou still has all 8 tones), has managed to preserve all the entering tones, both yin and yang. So 立 and 李 are /liɪʔ/ and /li/.

                                                                        I've once again been hard at work organising the Phonemica database and implementing some features, one of which has to do with how we handle tones in fangyan. I had a handful of characters that were originally entering tones but now (in Mandarin) are not. I thought I'd check them against Korean and Shanghainese and just see how they held up.

                                                                        For reference, the four tones of Mandarin are 阴平, 阳平, 上声, 去声. The pinyin tome markers refer to those, in order.

                                                                        一 七 乐 勿 日 发 白 百 舌 色 节 约
                                                                        一 七 樂 勿 日 發 白 百 舌 色 節 約
                                                                        yī qī lè wù rì fā bái bǎi shé sè jié yuē
                                                                        일 칠 락 물 일 발 백 백 설 색 절 약
                                                                        iɪˀ ʨʰiɪˀ ɦiɑˀ vəˀ ɲiɪˀ fɑˀ bɑˀ pɑˀ zəˀ səˀ ʨiɪˀ iɑˀ

                                                                        Korean 白 百 色 約 and 樂 all have a /k/ ending, while the rest have what we'll call /l/. In Shanghainese, every single one ends in /ʔ/. I actually checked about 500 entering tone characters against my phonetic corpus, and almost all of them checked out.

                                                                          Shanghainese Pitch Contours discussion

                                                                          As requested, here are contours of different sentences with samples by a native speaker. This sentence and the corresponding audio are from Tatoeba.

                                                                          As is always the case, the generalisations dictating what is expected aren't always spot on, and there's a lot of room for variation based on mood or the speaker, regional factors, as well as just the possibility for individual idiolects. This is all one speaker and does not necessarily represent all Shanghainese utterances or speakers.

                                                                          Let's look at the example.

                                                                          gəˀ ʦəˀ ʦɔ ɕiã ʨi ŋu vəˀ huø ɕi / 普通话:我不喜欢这只照相机

                                                                          And even though I said you'd need to click through, for this one since I've split it into it's two parts, you can just listen to the parts here:

                                                                          I'm a little worried here that I am trying to fit the reality into the generalisations, but I have to trust Qian Nairong on the validity of the sandhi rules. There are a steps to dividing this up. First, into [搿只照相机] and [我勿欢喜], which is really just dividing the sentence along the O,SV pattern that we find in Mandarin (but often in Wu). However the contours we'd expect in that case are [][], which doesn't really come close to matching what we hear in the sample. Looking at just the first half then, we need to further divide it as [搿只[照相机]], giving us [11.23[33.55.21]] which is a lot more similar to the pitch contour of the recording.

                                                                          The second part, 我勿欢喜 also needs further division. 欢喜 by itself should be [55.31], consistent with the recording. And what we hear sounds like what you'd expect with [我勿][欢喜], [55.31][55.31].

                                                                          Assuming this sentence is typical and consistent with the contour rules, the phrasing we should expect is [搿只][照相机],[我勿][欢喜].

                                                                          Again, it's entirely possible that this isn't correct, and/or that this speaker's idiolect has some free variation that isn't accounted for in the contour generalisations. So take it all with a grain of salt.

                                                                          In a coming post look at specific examples from Qian Nairong, along with his explanation of each.

                                                                          edit: reworded some bits for clarity.

                                                                            Understanding Tone Sandhi In Shanghainese discussion

                                                                            Unlike Mandarin or Cantonese, spoken Shanghainese tonality operates as a pitch accent system similar to Korean or Japanese. However this does not mean that syllables in Shanghainese do not have tones. They do exist in the traditional sense, and we’ll address their importance in a moment.

                                                                            The thing we have to consider when addressing tones is whether we’re going to be looking at them in terms that are simple and easy to understand and thus immediately useful, or in terms that offer a much more comprehensive but less intuitive understanding of the rules that determine how they manifest in the language of native speakers. In this case we’ll do both, starting with a more simple way of thinking about tone in Shanghainese.

                                                                            There are basically three different contours that you’ll find in Shanghainese phrases. I say basically three because even though you will find some variation, it is essentially minimal and at least for now can be ignored. The contours work across phrases of 2 to 5 syllables and work out to be basically HLL, LHL and LHH with L and low tone and H as high. We can add a middle tone for longer phrases, thus creating HMML, LHML, LHMM. Five-syllable phrases follow the same pattern by duplicating a middle tone. A phrase/word like bicycle 脚踏车 would be an example of LHL. You may be asking how we know that it’s LHL and not HLL. And that’s the right question to ask.

                                                                            Tones as a speaker of Mandarin or Cantonese would think of them are significant in Shanghainese. When syllables are isolated, you may find them to be as relevant as any other Sinitic language; each character has a tone and it is always that tone when in isolation. 老 is lǎo across the board. But, as a speaker of Mandarin, you know that 老 isn’t always lǎo, specifically when paired with another 3rd tone, such as in the case of 老鼠. In this case tone sandhi rules come into play, making it change from lǎo shǔ to láo shǔ. In Shanghainese, it’s all a lot easier. Instead of thinking of syllable to syllable tone sandhi, instead think of it as phrasal tone sandhi. The tones show up when a syllable or character is isolated, but when it’s in the middle of a sentence, the tone doesn’t matter. That’s because in Shanghainese tones only really matter at the beginning of phrases. In phrase-initial position where they determine the contour of the rest of the phrase. So with our bicycle example, 脚踏车 would be one phrase, and since 脚 is what we’ll call tone #8, we can look at the rules for determining the phrasal contour and know that it’s LHL (or MHL if we want to get specific).

                                                                            But before we get to those rules, let’s look at the tones in isolation.The following are the five Shanghainese tones, as well as some examples of characters that have the corresponding contours. The following tables are taken from 《上海話大辭典, 辭海板》 by Qian Nairong 錢乃榮 et al, published in 2008.

                                                                            阴平155 ˥˥刀丁姑风江天
                                                                            阴去5334 ˧˧˦岛到顶订古故
                                                                            阳去6113 ˩˧˧桃导道墙象匠
                                                                            阴入755 ˥˥雀削滴踢足笔
                                                                            阳入812 ˩˨嚼笛局读食合

                                                                            The tones have been numbered according to the traditional system, despite 3 of these traditional tones having been lost in Shanghainese. That’s why in the previous example of 脚 I said it was tone #8, even though on the list it’s the fifth tone listed.

                                                                            Now that we know the basic isolated tones, we can look at the rules to determine phrasal contours. The following is a table of phrases containing between 2 and 5 syllables. The number in the first columns corresponds to the tone number of the first syllable in the phrase, which in turn corresponds to the previous table.


                                                                            Why only 2-5 syllables? Because phrases aren’t sentences. They’re more like conceptual units within a sentence. We could say something like this:
                                                                            “The other day I went to the store but they’re closed until tomorrow because of the national holiday.”
                                                                            However this would be quite cumbersome in any Sinitic language and, more importantly, the concepts of the sentence are easily broken down. So instead we could think of this sentance more along the lines of this:
                                                                            “The other day, I went to the store, but, because of the national holiday, they’re closed until tomorrow.”
                                                                            I’ve added more commas than we’d normally see in English in order to more clearly distinguish what might qualify as a phrase in our 2-5 syllable rule set.

                                                                            In keeping with the bicycle example, let’s assume the speaker is talking about a small bicycle. Now we have a 4-syllable phrase beginning with 小, a 阳去 word with a contour of 113. According to the contour rules, we’d expect 小脚踏车 to have a contour of 22+55+33+31 with the stress on the second syllable. WIthout having 小, we’d see 33.55.31.

                                                                            So far this is fairly straightforward. We’re ignoring the underlined numbers on tones 7 and 8 for now, but we’ll get to them in a little bit. Also It’s important to remember that in this system phrases are not equivalent to sentences. A pause between phrases would initiate a new pitch contour based on the syllable immediately following the phrase. Now that we’ve covered the basic contours, we’ll let’s look at how things can get a little more complicated in the next post.

                                                                              Big Changes To The Phonetic Corpus tools - corpus

                                                                              Aaaand we're back. I admit, I lost my password. Got it back now. Also some images are still gone from the move to the new server. I'll get those fixed up as soon as I can.

                                                                              The big reason for posting tonight: Huge changes are coming to the Shanghainese phonetic corpus. What kind of changes? Programming friendly changes for one. Tonal encoding changes for another. Oh and a larger data set. Now instead of a plain text file with nothing more than hanzi and poorly tone-marked IPA, I'm migrating the site to a proper SQL file format with much more data organised for easier sorting by web-based programs. But that's just the beginning.

                                                                              What's prompted the return to the blog? Mostly it's that I'm studying in a proper linguistics department so I can justify all the time spent on language related projects. I was in a philosophy program when the blog fell apart and it was hard to find the time to work on this. Now it's sort of a requirement to do it.

                                                                              Also, be on the look out for some small changes at Phonemica related to this blog being reactivated. I'm quietly plotting to introduce a Shanghainese localisation of the site without Syz catching on.

                                                                              Are you a native speaker? Care to help translate the Mandarin pages to Shanghainese? Or maybe you're a native Cantonese speaker and would like to help create Cantonese translations. Both would be appreciated. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you'd like to help.

                                                                                知乎 And Shanghainese

                                                                                I recently registered on 知乎 (zhihu.com), the Chinese clone of Quora. I've been meaning to improve my reading speed for a while, but I don't really have too much time to sit down and do much pleasure reading. Instead, I've been going for flashcards style reading, following more Mandarin speakers on Twitter, registering for 微博, and as of last week, for 知乎 too. I've got to say, the biggest surprise is just how much is being said about dialects there. There are at least 3 separate tags for Shanghainese, and the quality of questions asked is high enough to warrant a read but not so high as to be too esoteric even for me.

                                                                                Here's one of the top ranked questions for Shanghainese, and one which I've touched on before:

                                                                                Q: 上海话里面,“一刚”是什么意思,我怎么觉得像是“思密达”的意思啊?
                                                                                A: 有三個意思,一是「她說」。放在句末則是語氣助詞,表示訝異,類似「竟然」。另外還有「她傻」的意思。(正確寫法應該是「伊戇」?)

                                                                                Roughly translated:

                                                                                Q: What's the meaning of "yi gang" in Shanghainese? Is it like "imnida"?
                                                                                A: There are three meanings. One is "he/she said". The second is as a modal particle affixed to the end of a sentence to express unexpectedness. The third is "he/she is stupid" (which might accurately be written 伊戇 yīgàng?). Thus the famous sentence "yigang yigang yigang", 伊讲伊戆一刚.

                                                                                思密达, from Korean 입니다 imnida which is a common form of the verb "to be", deserves a post all of its own, and probably over on Sinoglot at that.

                                                                                Check out 知乎 if you've got the time. I anticipate spending a fair amount of time on there in the coming months.

                                                                                  Changzhou Hua Lessons On Tudou lessons

                                                                                  I came across a few lessons on Changzhou dialect. They're nice and slow and it's a nice way to hear clearly some of the different pronunciations from someone who clearly knows what they're doing.

                                                                                  lesson one
                                                                                  lesson three
                                                                                  lesson three

                                                                                  Looks like there are only three lessons. Part one goes over the basics like "hello" and "are you from Changzhou". Part two is for numbers, and part three goes into more complex sentences, such as in the image above.

                                                                                  Good stuff. I'd love to see more.

                                                                                    Pleco Update Supports Wu… Kinda

                                                                                    The latest update for Pleco (2.2.2), which as far as I know came out today, has support for non-pinyin pronunciations. Sweet!

                                                                                    I'd exported the the whole Shanghainese IPA as a dictionary a while back but it wasn't quite what I wanted. This seems like it might be the real fix. I'm going to try to mess with it this weekend.

                                                                                    Fingers crossed.

                                                                                      More On The Disappearing Shanghaihua guanxi - links

                                                                                      CNNGo has an article up on the disappearance of Shanghainese.

                                                                                      I may have mentioned a while back that just because there are a kabillion Wu speakers it doesn't mean the language won't be gone in a few generations. Looks like it's happening sooner than predicted.

                                                                                        GUWS On Framework Radio guanxi

                                                                                        Framework Radio covers Growing Up with Shanghai this week. You can listen on the site or download as an mp3.

                                                                                        Here's the direct link.

                                                                                          Not Speaking Shanghainese? preservation

                                                                                          Shanghaiist posted an article a couple days back called "That ain't Shanghainese you're speaking". It's short so I'll just reproduce it here:

                                                                                          For anyone who has mastered a few basic Chinese commands and been stumped when your local street vendor doesn’t know what you’re saying since he speaks ‘Shanghainese’, you may be able to call his bluff next time! It seems that there are very few ‘pure’ Shanghai dialect speakers; whatever ‘pure’ means. The Shanghai government has had to rethink a recent recruitment drive to recruit Shanghainese speakers as they failed to find even a few qualified candidates. Of the 13 recruitment sites, only 2 found suitable candidates despite it being reported that there are over 14 million speakers of the dialect. The government are now turning to the media for help in preserving and researching the dialect. If you're looking to brush up on your Shanghainese then visit Shanghai City’s very own ‘how to guide’ - complete with sound clips!

                                                                                          Click here to go to the original which has the proper hyperlinks.

                                                                                            Global Times On Terence Lloren guanxi

                                                                                            The Global Times (环球时报) has a nice write up on Terence Lloren, the man behind Growing Up With Shanghai. It provides the story behind the recorder.

                                                                                            A snippet:
                                                                                            In one recording, Lloren captures the hum of the city and the snippets of conversations from people walking by. Jackhammers ring in the distance. The sounds of bicycle gears pierce the layers of sound. Buses come screaming to a halt in a wave of horns. There is something strangely intimate about focusing on these sounds up close, as if one can really feel the pulse of Shanghai. Lloren's has used these recordings to create soundwalks of Shanghai that focus on authenticity, offering listeners a way to experience Shanghai that they wouldn't get by simply taking a tour.

                                                                                            Take a look.


                                                                                              Preserving Shanghainese

                                                                                              Hat tip to John over at Sinosplice.

                                                                                              Liang Yiwen of Shanghai Daily recently wrote an article called In search of pure Shanghai dialect which is available to read online. Here's a snippet:

                                                                                              ONCE Shanghai dialect was widely understood in the region and known for its rich idiomatic speech, its memorable slang. But now even local Huju Opera has trouble finding speakers of pure and coherent Shanghaihua. Liang Yiwen reports.

                                                                                              In a race against time to rescue fast-fading Shanghai dialect, the city is putting out the call for native speakers whose pure and idiomatic speech will be recorded and used for research, preservation and promotion activities.

                                                                                              Have a look.

                                                                                                星期沪 - Not Far lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                This week's Shanghai Friday phrase is once again from Tatoeba.

                                                                                                gəˀ tɑˀ tɔ ɛ mi zɿ lɔ ʥin gəˀ

                                                                                                In English it would be
                                                                                                It's not far from here to there.

                                                                                                Note the use of 老 here sometimes written 佬. This is found in a number of Wu dialects in place of 很. And of course 个, long used in Wu where in Mandarin one would find 的.

                                                                                                  星期沪 - Bathroom Euphamisms lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                  Everybody poops. When I first came to China they taught me how to say "厕所在哪儿" even though everyone says something more like "洗手间在哪儿". So wouldn't it be useful to have a more subtle way to announce to the world what you're about to do?

                                                                                                  This week for Shanghainese Friday it's just two words, and ones you already know, but maybe not in this context.

                                                                                                  唱歌 - ʦʰɑ̃ ku - to sing a song
                                                                                                  跳舞 - tʰiɔ vu - to dance

                                                                                                  Yep. Singing and dancing. Singing is number one and dancing is number 2. Give it a shot with the inlaws. Let me know how it goes.

                                                                                                    CNNGo On Qian Nairong

                                                                                                    CNNGo has an article on Qian Nairong. He's the go-to guy for Shanghainese. If you don't know who he is by now, you haven't been paying attention. It's called Word wizard: The man bringing Shanghainese back to the people. From the article:

                                                                                                    Professor Qian Nairong (钱乃荣) might appear to be like any other mild-mannered professor. But get him talking about his passion, Shanghainese, and it becomes obvious why he has become one of the city's newest social heroes. His projects to promote the use of Shanghainese have made him a local legend: a comprehensive Shanghai dialect dictionary and a, excuse us, the, Shanghainese input method -- think pinyin for Shanghai dialect. Not just for lingaphiles, these books are saving Shanghai's native tongue, getting more and more Shanghai residents using their local language.

                                                                                                    Thanks to Xindanwei's Liu Yan for bringing this to my attention. Good timing considering I not three days prior bought copies of all of his books on the subject I didn't already own.

                                                                                                      Thirteen O'clock discussion

                                                                                                      My friend Jason brought this up at the chit-chat at Xindanwei yesterday, which he in turn heard from someone else. It seems the insult 十三点, common in Mandarin, is originally from Shanghainese. In Shanghainese it's said zəˀ sɛ ti, pinyin "se sei di". Sounds a lot like English "society," which, as Jason brought up, is no accident. From some BSS somewhere:

                                                                                                      Society ,由這個詞演变而来。開埠之初的上海,傳統的上海女人是看不慣那些在交際界(society) 混的女人。洋泾浜英語把這些女人混迹的地方稱為“society”。十三點由此也就慢慢地變成了罵女人的專用詞。往後,上海人就漸漸地淡忘了十三點的本來意思,會把十三與點分開,簡化地罵:“十三伐啦?”幹脆省略去了“點”。在今天,十三作為一個專門人的名詞,已經遠遠離開了它的原來的本意。罵誰都可以用“十三點”。

                                                                                                      Long story short, in English, like in Mandarin, calling a woman a "society" girl was a way of calling them a prostitute. This carried over into the speech of the Shanghainese during the great foreign adventurer infestation of the 30s. 十三点 was just a convenient way of writing it in the Shanghai dialect. Eventually the original meaning was lost, though not the insulting nature. Now it's common in all Wu dialects, and can be found in Mandarin as well, though certainly less frequently.

                                                                                                      This explanation may just be folk etymology, and the actual origin of the phrase isn't clear. There's still a fair amount of debate on this.

                                                                                                        Reminder: Chit-chat At Xindanwei events - talks

                                                                                                        Just a quick reminder. I'll be holding at talk at Xindanwei in Shanghain this Friday. Here's the summary from their site:

                                                                                                        吴语对大多说上海人来说占据了他们每日与家人, 朋友交流的很大一部分. 方言的未来怎样? 是否有保存的价值? 就保护方言来说,现在做了什么? 来自Sinoglot的Kellen Parker希望你5月28日下午4点半到新单位来参与讨论. 说出你对这个9千万人都在使用的语言怎么看. 讨论以英语的形式展开, 不过也可以使用中文参与其中.

                                                                                                        The dialects of Wu are a big part of life for most native Shanghainese, used for day-to-day conversations with family and friends. But what does the future hold for the dialects? Is there value in preservation? What's being done now to protect the language? Sinoglot's Kellen Parker hopes you'll come join the discussion at Xindanwei on Friday the 28th at 4:30. Come give your opinions and reflections on the language of 90 million people. The talk will be in English but feel free to participate in Chinese.

                                                                                                        We'll be talking about a range of topics, all tied to the Shanghainese dialects of Wu, including standardisation, cultural identity, efforts at preservation and efforts at obliteration, to name a few. I'll be speaking mostly English but feel free to contribute in Mandarin and I'll do my best to not embarrass myself.

                                                                                                        Hope to see you there.

                                                                                                          The Invention Of Fiào 覅 discussion - history

                                                                                                          This is the text of an article from the 12th May 2010 edition of 新民晚报社区版, a free newspaper here in Shanghai. The article talks about some dialectal characters and ends with a quick history of the creation of 覅, the character corresponding to the Wu equivalent of “不要”. Translations are my own and approximate at best. If you read Mandarin I strongly suggest you stick to the 漢字 text.



                                                                                                           With the advance of the internet, language has become more colourful. We're seeing the outpouring of new words and new characters, many of which are meant as shortened forms¹. "Biao" 表 is one such playful example, intended to express "bu yao" 不要. In the past, Chinese character sounds were given in books using fanqie character pairs, where a first character gave the initial consonant of the syllable and a second gave the rest², thus providing the reading for the original character. If you use the two characters "bu yao" in this way (since "yao" is a -iao ending), the resulting sound is "biao".


                                                                                                           Of course, here "biao" is really a dialectal word to express 不要 (bu yao). The place where this is used is not far from here, but is just Hangzhou. Hanzhou natives never say "bu yao wan", "bu yao chi", but rather "biao wan" and "biao chi".


                                                                                                           The character 表 is here only half-jokingly repurposed. It's only a phonetic representation, not an idiographic one. But there is a much earlier character for 不要, 嫑, which is not an invention of mine and can be found in many character dictionaries. I have always felt these 不 characters were pretty niu, for example 不正 as 歪, 不用 as 甭 and 不好 as 孬.


                                                                                                           There is simply no 不 in Shanghainese. But then if someone were to wish to speak for a very long time, what should they say?


                                                                                                           Shanghainese does have the character 不, for example in "stainless steel" (不锈钢, not-rust-steel), but this word entered Shanghainese from Mandarin. Otherwise, Shanghainese has 不过 (but), but it's pronounced like "毕过". So in this way, it seems Shanghainese really doesn't really have the character 不. Instead, Shanghai locals express negation with 勿, the pronunciation of which is somewhere between Mandarin's 佛 (fó) and 浮 (fé), which if spelled with pinyin would be "fé".


                                                                                                           What's more, as a result of the Song capital being moved from Kaifeng to Hangzhou³, the Hangzhou dialect has a large number of northern sounds. 嫑 is an example of one. And since Shanghainese uses 勿 instead of 不, we can substitute 勿 for 不 when used, thus changing the 不 in 嫑 to 勿.


                                                                                                           Can we really do this? My answer is surely we can, and this character is 覅, 不 having been changed to 勿 and moving it from above to the side. How to read this character? According to classical reading or right-to-left, this character is 勿要. Try using the fanqie method. That's right, it's read "fiào", and as such it is printed in character dictionaries.


                                                                                                           This character is actually an invention of Han Bangqing. A Shanghai local, Han Bangqing wrote China's first periodical novel called A Remarkable Book of Shanghai. In it is a story called Flowers in Shanghai, in which Han Bangqing coined the character 覅.


                                                                                                           Flowers in Shanghai takes place in Shanghai and has many characters speaking the Suzhou⁴ dialect. This is also evidence of why Shanghainese has many sounds similar to Suzhou dialect, and in Suzhou you'll also hear "fiào". Flowers in Shanghai is written in the vernacular, and for this reason Han Bangqing "invented" 覅.


                                                                                                           不 is used in many combinations, and therefore we can use 勿 in the same way. 朆 is another such character, coming from 勿曾 and meaning "to not have". Using fanqie for 勿 and 曾, we read it as "fen". So for example if someone asks you if you've eaten yet, you can respond "hai fen chi lai", "I haven't yet eaten".

                                                                                                          Right, so I kind of resent the tone of the article, but am happy to see these sorts of things get press all the same. However I can't help but feel as though a child is performing a magic trick that we already know all to well, and we an audience held captive by the fact that it's their freaking birthday.

                                                                                                          It's worth noting that the original author was Han Bangqing and not Eileen Chang 张爱玲 (or Lust, Caution fame) as is often thought. Ms Chang translated the text into Mandarin, and it's from her Mandarin version that the English translation is taken from. She herself was Shanghainese, and you'll find the language used in other works of hers, including a bit of dialogue in the movie version of Lust, Caution (色, 戒).

                                                                                                          Thanks to Chen for bringing this to my attention.

                                                                                                          - - -
                                                                                                          1. See this recent Language Log post for another example.
                                                                                                          2. …tones included. If you're not familiar with the system, go check it out.
                                                                                                          3. I've linked the corresponding sentence in the Chinese text to an explanation of the line in quotes, which is a verse from a poem by Lin Sheng written during the Song Dynasty. Long story short, the author of this article is using it to explain that the capital of the Song moved from the North, brining with it northern sounds.
                                                                                                          4. For a long time, up until only recently, the Suzhou dialect was the prestige dialect of Wu. For a parallel in English, think of stars of the silver screen speaking Mid-Atlantic English in decades past.

                                                                                                            星期沪 - Address lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                            This week for Shanghai Fridays we're looking at how to say an address. Again, here's one from Tatoeba.

                                                                                                            ŋu lɑˀ lɑ zɑ̃ hɛ ɦoŋ ʥiɔ lu 850 loŋ 22 ɦɔ 1602 səˀ

                                                                                                            If you head over to the sentence page at Tatoeba you can hear a recording of this by a native speaker.

                                                                                                            Comparing this with the Mandarin, there's little difference. Here's the Mandarin equivalent:

                                                                                                            wǒ zài Shànghǎi hóngqiáolù bābǎi wǔshí nòng èrshíèr hào yīqiān liùbǎi èr shì.

                                                                                                            The only real difference here is "lɑˀ lɑ" replacing 在. In a number of Northern Wu dialects you'll find "lai" or "la" where Mandarin would have 在, and in others, like some Shanghainese dialects, you get multiple syllables. Otherwise go give it a few listens and see what you can do to replicate it. Keep in mind the recording is just a tad faster than you might like.

                                                                                                              Understanding Tones In Shangahinese

                                                                                                              Tones matter. Even in Wu. Rather, intonation matters. In this post I want to explain in simple terms some basic rules for using tones in Shanghainese.
                                                                                                              So with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about tones in the Shanghai dialects of Wu.
                                                                                                              The five tones according to 上海大词典 by 钱乃荣¹ are
                                                                                                              1 阴平 53 ˥˧ high falling
2 阴去 34 ˧˦ mid rising
3 阳去 23 ˨˧ low rising
4 阴入 55 ˥˥ high checked
5 阳入 12 ˩˨ low checked
                                                                                                              Or if you’re more visually inclined,

                                                                                                              The five characters above are examples of words that in Shanghainese take those tones. Note that these may also appear numbered as 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, based on the traditional 8 tone numbering system. If those number pairs and little ˩˨˧˦˥ bars make sense, skip down to “Voicing”. If not, read on.
                                                                                                              The numbers mark notes. Think of 5 as the highest note in a tone curve and 1 as the lowest. So Mandarin’s first tone is 55 or 44, that is, starting high and ending at the same level. Second could be written 24, third as 214 and fourth as 51.
                                                                                                              The checked tones, also called “entering tones” (Mandarin 入声), are distinct for two reasons. First, they’re traditionally half the length of syllable as the other tones. That’s what the black underline is marking in the chart above. Second, they end in a glottal stop. That is, you hold your breath for the shortest of moments at the end of the syllable².
                                                                                                              Voicing & Aspiration are the next important factor for tones. Every syllable can be classified as either voiced or voiceless. Think English “fat” vs “vat”. The v in “vat” is the voiced equivalent of voiceless f. In Mandarin, we don’t have many voiced initial sounds. For example 必 isn’t really the same as English “bee”.
                                                                                                              Pinyin’s b is actually a p without aspiration, or without the puff of air that American English speakers puff so well. In Wu, we have the p with puff (written [pʰ]), the p that’s the b in pinyin, i.e. puffless (written [p]) and then b more like you’d hear in English (written [b]). The first two, containing a p in the brackets, are voiceless. the [b] is voiced. Same goes for kʰ/k/g and tʰ/t/d.
                                                                                                              Those are the basics of the tones. Unfortunately, unlike Mandarin, it's not enough to know the individual tones and put them together. Sandhi plays a much more important role in Shanghainese.
                                                                                                              Sandhi, when dealing with tones, refers to changes in a word's tone based on what other words are around it. In other words, the combination of tones create new tones. You know this in Mandarin from things like 你好 which would be nǐhǎo but is actually said níhǎo. That’s tone sandhi.
                                                                                                              In Shanghainese, the most important word in the sentence, as far as tone is concerned, is the first word. In most cases in natural speech, the entire sentence after the first two words is almost always the same on paper. There are variation in intonation based on the speakers mood and other factors, but as far as having "proper tones," it's that first word that matters. This means that even though the vast majority of words you'd say don't have any relation to the word's actual tone, you do still need to know the individual words' tones for when they appear at the beginning of the sentence. The pattern for phrases is as follows.
                                                                                                              1. If the phrase starts with the first tone (53), the first word's tone is changed to 55, a high level tone like Mandarin's first tone. The rest of the words then take 33, a mid-level tone.
                                                                                                              2. Second tone words (34) and fourth tone words (55) at the beginning of phrases become a mid-level tone (33). The second word takes high-level and the rest of the words then take mid-level tones.
                                                                                                              3. Phrases with the low-rising tone (23) or fifth tone (12) in the initial position sound just like those starting with the second tone, but that the first word is a little lower in tone (22)

                                                                                                              - – -
¹ We’re ignoring Wikipedia for the sake of the actual data involved, since the article doesn’t do much to cite sources.
² Alternatively think of any word in English that starts with a vowel. You don’t fade into the word, but instead begin with that briefest of breath-holdings. That’s a glottal stop. Do that at the end.

                                                                                                                Yígāng Yígǎng Yîgāng

                                                                                                                My buddy Chen showed me this over lunch the other day. This is a common phrase in Shanghainese. It's a bit self-referential, like the pronunciation of 222*, where it's only well known in Shanghainese because of how it's said in Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                "yígāng yígǎng yîgāng"

                                                                                                                Which in Mandarin would be 他竟然说他傻, tā jìngrán shuō tā shǎ, meaning "He actually said that he was stupid."

                                                                                                                More than anything, I mean aside from the funny repetition, it's an example of the difference in word order between Mandarin in Wu. Of course, you can't talk about rules with word order in most cases when dealing with Sinitic language, but you can talk about customs. 他竟然说他傻 is the Mandarin order, but in Shanghainese it's actually 他说他傻竟然, with 竟然 at the end. The adverb comes at the end instead of before the verb as is the norm in Mandarin. In fact in most cases with 竟然 in Wu, and adverbs in general, it's at the end.

                                                                                                                And actually, in Shanghainese it may be more reasonably typed 伊講伊戅一刚. Here 一刚, operating as 竟然, is a modal particle showing disbelief, surprise and whatnot. There's no real character correspondence. It could be 一刚, 以刚 (though then the tones are wrong), 已刚 or a dozen others. Meanwhile 伊 is a character that in Middle Chinese was used as 他 is in Mandarin today. It's one of the many Middle Chinese words that's been retained in Wu and as such isn't really cognate with Mandarin.

                                                                                                                Would any of my Shanghainese readers be willing to donate a recording of this phrase for the blog? I can't offer anything as payment except the mild fame that comes from being featured on a blog about obscure Chinese languages.

                                                                                                                I'm also open to better interpretations of the final yîgāng, though keep in mind the yî is an entering tone.

                                                                                                                update: Many thanks to John of Sinosplice for the submission of an audio clip. Here it is:

                                                                                                                I'll say it two ways.
                                                                                                                第一个是:他说他傻。ɦi kɑ̃ ɦi kɑ̃ ɦi kɑ̃。
                                                                                                                The first is "he said he's stupid." yígāng yígǎng yîgāng.
                                                                                                                第二种,他竟然说他傻。ɦi ʨin ʐi kɑ̃ ɦi kɑ̃ ɦi kɑ̃。
                                                                                                                The second, "he actually said he's stupid." yí jingri gāng yígǎng yîgāng.
                                                                                                                A quick note. The pronunciation of 然 isn't what you might expect for Shanghainese. I've been told this speaker is somewhat Mandarinised in her speech, accounting for that difference. I'm only speculating, but that might be effecting the placement of 竟然 as well.

                                                                                                                * 222, 两百廿二 liáng bâ ñéi ñī, as opposed to Mandarin's 二百二十二 èr bǎi èr shí èr.

                                                                                                                  Help Fund The Next "Growing Up With Shanghai"

                                                                                                                  Thanks to a GTalk status, I came across this pretty brilliant website last week. It's called kickstarter.com and it provides a way to get quirky projects funded. There's one guy, recently successful in getting some funding, who's using it to research 1960s pop music from Malaysia. Awesome quirkiness.

                                                                                                                  Terence LLoren, creator of the book and accompanying audio of Growing Up with Shanghai, a collection of soundwalks recorded around Shanghai and in the Shanghainese dialect. If you haven't already, go check out the site. You can listen to the audio there.

                                                                                                                  It's an excellent project and I'm pleased to know he's working on a second book. But certainly not a cheap one to undertake. So back to kickstarter.

                                                                                                                  You find a project you like and then have the ability to donate money. The money is awarded if the goal has been met*. There are also built-in rewards. If you donate $1, you get a free ebook version of the first book. $10 gets you a DVD with the original uncompressed audio, and so on. It's like Foursquare badges but you can actually do things with them.

                                                                                                                  There's a project page for the second book. He's looking to get funding for (I imagine) things like publishing costs, editing costs and so on. I just made a pledge this morning. If you have some cash to spare and want to support what ultimately amounts to a very creative way to archive a language that many people feel is disappearing, please head over to the project page and consider a pledge. Even if you have no intention on pledging, go anyway and take a look. Maybe you know someone who would be interested in helping out.

                                                                                                                  - - -
                                                                                                                  * Here's their FAQ that gives more details.

                                                                                                                    Xindanwei Chitchat events - talks

                                                                                                                    I've just confirmed the date. On May 28th, two weeks from today, I will be holding a small talk at Xindanwei in Shanghai. The topic is tentatively

                                                                                                                    the Future of the Shanghai dialect

                                                                                                                    If you're in Shanghai on the 28th (at 16:30), please come out and take part in the discussion. We'll be talking about the Shanghainese dialect, in terms of
                                                                                                                    · its role in the lives of the locals
                                                                                                                    · its future as a tool for interaction
                                                                                                                    · the value of preservation and
                                                                                                                    · the value of standardisation
                                                                                                                    It will be an informal discussion and I hope to hear your thoughts as much as you'll hear mine.

                                                                                                                    Xindanwei is a co-operative office environment located in Changning district. They also host lectures and chit-chats, less formal talks, such as my own. I've attended other talks a few times and have always enjoyed them. If you haven't made it out there yet, I highly recommend it if even just to check out the space.

                                                                                                                    The address for Xindanwei is
                                                                                                                    4C,Bld 4 IIInShanghai Hub,No.727 Dingxi Road,Changning District,Shanghai, China

                                                                                                                    I will also be presenting a paper at an academic conference this summer on a related topic, so any discussion had on the 28th will help as I formalise that presentation.

                                                                                                                    I hope to see you there.

                                                                                                                      Corpus Tease

                                                                                                                      The experiment cost me 12USD, but it was 12 dollars I was likely to spend anyway. After buying the flashcards add-on for Pleco which in turn lets you load user-created dictionaries, I managed to import the existing 8000 corpus entries into Pleco. It took some time, somewhere between 6-10 minutes, but I now have the data set in fun-size. Here's an underwhelming screenshot.

                                                                                                                      No definitions, of course, though that and other data will likely be added in the future. There are a couple other weird glitches as well, for example 侬 showing as "nongŋ" instead of "noŋ" as it should. Still working that out. Anyway for now it's just the barebones phonetic data.

                                                                                                                      Right but when are you going to release this?
                                                                                                                      Still working out some kinks, some missing entries etc, as well as trying to get it in a format that is most useful to developers. However you can try it character-by-character at Tatoeba.

                                                                                                                      If I had to guess, I'd say by the time it gets to 10,000 entries it will be ready to go. In the mean time, if you're a developer of dictionary software and would like to mess around with it a bit, I'm making available an eighty-entry version to help get your feet wet. E.g.:

                                                                                                                      阿 ɑˀ⁵⁵
                                                                                                                      轧 ɑˀ¹²
                                                                                                                      抱 bɔ²³
                                                                                                                      盘 bø²³
                                                                                                                      白 bɑˀ¹²
                                                                                                                      棒 bã²³
                                                                                                                      笨 bən²³
                                                                                                                      背 bɛ²³
                                                                                                                      呗 bɑ²³
                                                                                                                      别 biɪˀ¹²

                                                                                                                      This in turn helps me identify other bugs, as has already happened a couple times from a couple developers.

                                                                                                                      So here's that.


                                                                                                                        In Search Of Shanghai-hua Creative Culture

                                                                                                                        In case you come to this blog via Google Reader and missed the little announcement box, I'm currently looking for examples of Shanghainese being used in creative projects. I'm open to a very wide range of possibilities. The only requirements are that it must be

                                                                                                                        - creative in nature
                                                                                                                        - involve a wu dialect in written or spoken form

                                                                                                                        That's it. It could be a sound walk, hip hop, a graphic work with 侬 on it, etc. Anything like that will do. Youth culture is a plus, but it doesn't have to be in the hands of the young.

                                                                                                                        Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. These will be used or referred to in an upcoming presentation on Wu/Shanghainese. More on that later.


                                                                                                                          Expo Megaphone Lady

                                                                                                                          Every night around 8:30, a woman slowly rides a bicycle around the apartment complex. On that bicycle is a basket, and in that basket is a megaphone with a pre-recorded message. And, in that message, are many many words, all in Shanghainese, transcribed below with the Putonghua equivalent.

                                                                                                                          [audio: announce.mp3]
                                                                                                                          ʨy min doŋ ʦɿ mən
                                                                                                                          jū mín tóng zhì men
                                                                                                                          Resident comrades,

                                                                                                                          sɿ poˀ ɦuɛ ʥi kɛ
                                                                                                                          shì bóhuì qī jiān
                                                                                                                          during the run of the Expo,

                                                                                                                          ɕi mɑ̃ dɑ kɑ
                                                                                                                          xī wàng dà jiā
                                                                                                                          we hope everyone

                                                                                                                          di kɔ ʨin tʰiɪˀ
                                                                                                                          can raise their level of awareness

                                                                                                                          kɑ ʥiɑ̃ bã ɦuɛ
                                                                                                                          jiā qiáng fáng fàn
                                                                                                                          and strengthen our defences,

                                                                                                                          ɦuɛ bin ø sɿ poˀ ʦu ʦʰəˀ koŋ ɕi
                                                                                                                          wèi píng ān shì bó zuò chū gòng xiàn
                                                                                                                          devoting ourselves to the security of the event.

                                                                                                                          The tone sandhi isn't exactly what you'd expect, but it's damn close. A good example is the phrase starting with 世博会 where you'd expect the 博 to be the high point, and it is. 同志们 has a slight rise on 志 which may be in preparation for the expected drop on 们.

                                                                                                                          At any rate, in this case, the phrases work in both languages without having to change any of the grammar, showing that at least in some cases, just knowing the proper sound changes for the syllables is enough to get by in Shanghai.

                                                                                                                          * There was some disagreement about whether this is 防卫 or 防范, which would be "bã vɛ" instead of "bã ɦuɛ," however I went with my gut on this one, despite what the nearest native Wu speaker suggested. As always I could be quite wrong.

                                                                                                                            星期沪 - Understanding lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                            Shanghai Fridays¹, a once weekly post featuring words and phrases from Shanghainese, is back. This time around we're going for sentences instead of simple phrases, and to go one step further, each week we'll look into the phrase itself including a breakdown of the words and some basic grammar. This may be much more useful than disconnected phrases or words, and a single sentence should provide more than four phrases in previous instalments would have.

                                                                                                                            For our first week back, we offer the following:

                                                                                                                            tʰin zɿ tʰin təˀ toŋ iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ, kɑ̃ kɑ̃ vəˀ lɛ gəˀ.

                                                                                                                            It means "I understand a little, but I can't speak it," referring to a spoken language. So, for example, if you were out and about in Shanghai and wanted to practice your Wu, this would be a good phrase to pull out when things got a little more involved than "侬好."³

                                                                                                                            Let's look at it closer. Some of this is what you'd expect from Mandarin.

                                                                                                                            听是   "listening is"

                                                                                                                            听得懂  "I understand what I hear", same as Mandarin.

                                                                                                                            一眼眼  Here's our first real difference. "iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ" is acting as 一点点 would in
                                                                                                                                 Mandarin or 一啲啲 in Cantonese. You might also hear 一星星 or
                                                                                                                                 一咪咪, as well as just 一点点 where 点 is more like "ti".

                                                                                                                            讲    Simply "speaking" or "to speak"

                                                                                                                            讲勿来个 勿来 (or 弗来 or 否来) means "not coming," meaning it's not coming out
                                                                                                                                 of your mouth. 个 here is 的. In Mandarin we might be able to exchange
                                                                                                                                 this with 讲不来的, "unable to say" or more formally "That which is
                                                                                                                                 unable to be said".

                                                                                                                            There's certainly a more eloquent explanation of the above, though for now this should do.

                                                                                                                            Tones. The sentence with proper tones for each individual word would be

                                                                                                                            tʰin⁵³ zɿ²³ tʰin⁵³ təˀ⁵⁵ toŋ³⁴ iɪˀ⁵⁵ ŋɛ²³ ŋɛ²³,kɑ̃³⁴ kɑ̃³⁴ vəˀ¹² lɛ²³ gəˀ¹².

                                                                                                                            However after sandhi rules, it would probably be something more like this:

                                                                                                                            tʰinH zɿM tʰinM təˀM toŋM iɪˀM ŋɛM ŋɛL,kɑ̃M kɑ̃H vəˀMM gəˀL

                                                                                                                            Here H corresponds to ⁵⁵, M to ³³ and ʟ to ²¹. Or, for a more visual representation, we could say⁴

                                                                                                                            tʰin zɿ tʰin təˀ toŋ iɪˀ ŋɛ ŋɛ,kɑ̃ kɑ̃ vəˀ lɛ gəˀ.

                                                                                                                            Click here for all previous editions.

                                                                                                                            Check back next week for another instalment of 星期沪 with a whole new sentence.

                                                                                                                            - - -
                                                                                                                            ¹ 星期沪 [ɕin ʥi ɦu] or actually it would probably be [li pɑ ɦu], were anyone to actually finish the phrase with "沪".
                                                                                                                            ² The sentence comes from Tatoeba.org using the Shanghainese phonetic corpus. Tatoeba has a continuously growing collection of sentences translated into Wu.
                                                                                                                            ³ Nong hɔ, "hello".
                                                                                                                            ⁴ If this sort of representation seems useful, let me know and I'll do it again next week.

                                                                                                                              Wu IPA Keyboard Layout Update tools - IME

                                                                                                                              Despite the name, this layout lets you quickly type the IPA glyphs most commonly used not just in Wu but in all major Sinitic languages and dialects. At the moment this is only available for computers running the OS X operating system from Apple.

                                                                                                                              You can read the original post from October 2009, which includes images of the layout.

                                                                                                                              Recent changes
                                                                                                                              30 April 2010

                                                                                                                              swapped ŋ and ɲ between shift and option keys. This was after months of constantly hitting the wrong one

                                                                                                                              moved ɱ from option to shift key to match ŋ

                                                                                                                              added ᴴ ᴹ and ᴸ for marking Shanghainese tone sandhi

                                                                                                                              added superscript glottal stop ˀ on shift+?, standard verstion ʔ moved to option+?

                                                                                                                              Installation (Mac OS X)

                                                                                                                              1. Extract the .zip file’s contents (Wu.icns and Wu.keylayout) to ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts.

                                                                                                                              2. Under the International (Leopard & earlier) or Language & Text (Snow Leopard) preference pane in System Preferences, go to Input Sources
                                                                                                                              3. Scroll down in the list all the way to the bottom. Check “Wu- IPA”.
                                                                                                                              4. Log out of OS X and then log back in.

                                                                                                                              The keyboard layout should then be available in the input method menu in the menu bar.

                                                                                                                                Death Of Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                With the talk I keep hearing in various circles about how Shanghainese is on the way out, I start thinking it may be true. But try telling that to the woman I met today. Couldn't have been older than 50. Shanghai native. Allegedly works around here.

                                                                                                                                She was chilling in the lobby of my building talking to this guy I know. It sounded like she was teaching him some Shanghai hua. I say sounded because I was in another conversation so I wasn't listening clearly but there was definitely some Wu going on. My conversation ended and after a lull in theirs I said to my friend "喏,侬讲上海闲话伐 / nɔ, noŋ kɑ̃ zɑ̃hɛ ɦɛɦo vɑˀ?" (Hey, you speak Shanghainese?)¹

                                                                                                                                It was really just to mess with him. Can of worms, because she immediately began speaking to me. What I didn't realise is that she wasn't trying to teach him Wu. She was just trying to communicate.

                                                                                                                                I spoke to her for a while, as long as I could, but she didn't once get two consecutive sentences out in Mandarin. For much of the conversation I still thought she was trying to teach us, so I was all for it.

                                                                                                                                A bit later I was down there again and asked the desk worker aiyi who the woman was. We talked for a bit, and it turns out "她不会说普通话"²

                                                                                                                                I must say, I never get tired of the experience of meeting a Chinese person in China who can't speak Mandarin. It never ceases to mess with those little lingering childhood ideas of what "China" is.

                                                                                                                                  Poem From 海上花列传

                                                                                                                                  The following is from chapter 44 of 海上花列传.

                                                                                                                                  平上入去天子一位 平去入上殷鑒不遠

                                                                                                                                  平入去上牲殺器皿 平上去入能者在職

                                                                                                                                  平去上入忠信重祿 平入上去言必有中

                                                                                                                                  上平去入使民戰栗 上去平入虎豹之鞟

                                                                                                                                  上入平去五十而慕 上平入去淡而不厭

                                                                                                                                  上去入平管仲得君 上入去平美目盼兮

                                                                                                                                  去平上入譬諸草木 去上平入放飯流歠

                                                                                                                                  去入平上大學之道 去平入上願無伐善

                                                                                                                                  去上入平好勇疾貧 去入上平進不隱賢
                                                                                                                                  入平上去若時雨降 入上平去素隱行怪

                                                                                                                                  入去平上百世之下 入平去上忽焉在後

                                                                                                                                  入上去平或敢侮予 入去上平若聖與仁

                                                                                                                                  A couple cool things are going on here. For one, the first four characters of each set of 8 are names of the four tones. Then the second four characters in each string of eight are the actual lines of the poem. And, those last four each have the tone named in the corresponding spot in the first for. So, for example, from the first line,


                                                                                                                                  Here 天 is 平声, 子 is 上声, 一 is 入声 and 位 is 去声. This then is cool for a couple reasons. First, as with duilian, this kind of matching is impressive in itself. Second, this gives us a record of what tone a number of characters/words had in the dialect at the time. That's the Suzhou dialect of the 19th century, for those keeping score at home. Here's a quick break down of each character and their tones as we'd expect from this pattern. I've left duplicates in, as you'll see.

                                                                                                                                  平 - 天殷牲能忠言民之而而君兮諸流之無貧賢時行之焉予仁
                                                                                                                                  上 - 子遠皿者重有使虎五淡管美草飯道善勇隱雨隱下後敢與
                                                                                                                                  入 - 一不殺職祿必栗鞟十不得目木歠學伐疾不若素百忽或若
                                                                                                                                  去 - 位鑒器在信中戰豹慕厭仲盼譬放大願好進降怪世在侮聖

                                                                                                                                  The easiest way to check these without going 字 by bloody 字 is with the 入声 characters, just because those will get a stop at the end of the syllable and so in almost any transcription system you'll see it marked. In Shangahinese (only because with the corpus it's easy to check) the only one that doesn't fit is 素. It's not entering in Shangahinese, Cantonese, Hokkien or any other pronunciation I have immediate access to. It's 阴去 in both modern Shanghainese and the modern Hangzhou dialect.

                                                                                                                                  So what gives? Why's that one character not right, when the rest are? The options as I see them are that either 1) in Suzhou dialect at the time that character had a 入声 reading (maybe in addition to the 去声 reading), 2) it's wrong in the text and should be something else, 3) it's wrong, but intentionally, in order to represent a dialectal character not supported by unicode, 4) the author of the poem wasn't very strict in following the pattern.

                                                                                                                                  If you've read this far and are now asking yourself why this matters, I'd say it matters because if that one is wrong, then even if the others seem right based on modern pronunciations, we can't be sure. If we can know what's up with any anomalies, then we can use this as a source of tonal information for the dialect at the time. A big part of me wants to see some Wu reconstruction. While I have no expectations of figuring out the tone contours at the time, knowing which of the four tones and two registers a given word falls on is, I believe, of great value to see how the dialects split out from one another.

                                                                                                                                    On Replacing Characters For Wu

                                                                                                                                    Julen said
                                                                                                                                    I was very surprised to see Chinesepod using these random characters to represent the sounds of Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                    It is obvious that 便宜 or 一百 is always 便宜 or 一百, whether you pronounce it in Cantonese, Shanghainese or Hunanese. In fact, the pronunciation of these characters as we know them today in mandarin is not necessarily the most correct ones from a historical point of view, in many cases the original pronunciations may have been closer to some present day dialects.

                                                                                                                                    Sure enough, Shanghainese is a new language that combines various Wu dialects, so there is little written material in Shanghainese proper. But there is abundant literature written in Wu, and it obviously used the characters in their proper sense. To ignore this is to ignore the importance of characters in the culture and language of all Chinese - including the Wu speakers.

                                                                                                                                    This is a valid response. Why should we write 一百 as anything but 一百? ChinesePod, and countless others, have used substitution characters (呀八 in the case of ChinesePod). I've been a guilty of it at well, I'm sure.

                                                                                                                                    I'm not sure what the actual answer to this is, but I have my guesses.

                                                                                                                                    First, it's a way to show the reader that you're writing in Wu. This may be how it came about in the first place, when people began writing in the vernacular or doing so for effect. For me it's a quick way to distinguish between sentences when there are examples of both, as is the case on this blog.

                                                                                                                                    Second, and probably more likely, it has to do with identity and the in-crowd mentality. Something that would be confusing to an outsider is still intelligible to a Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                    Those two reasons are perhaps reasons for native speakers.

                                                                                                                                    For the rest, it's to better represent the sound, though an alphabet would do this just as well. I have a number of books on various Wu dialects that have some character, immediately followed by “读×” where × is some other character which in Mandarin sounds like the word in question. Flipping to a random page in one now, I see the phrase


                                                                                                                                    For what it's worth, in Shanghainese these two characters are read gəˀ¹² and kəˀ⁵⁵ respectively. So one's 阴声 and one's 阳声. But how does that help with Mandarin? Only the tone is different, with both otherwise pronounced [kɤ]. So then again maybe it's only relevant to the native speakers.

                                                                                                                                    Some of this was discussed in the comments of a recent post which may be worth looking at.

                                                                                                                                    Personally, I think it's part identity and part habit. It would be a lot easier to just give in and say “我 is pronounced ngu in Wu" instead of saying "We use 吾 to show the ngu pronunciation". But then, no one's done that yet.


                                                                                                                                    Slightly unrelated, I have to admit I'm a little surprised by exactly which characters they chose to use. 伐 for negation (normally as 勿), 吴 for "I" (normally 我 or 吾), et cetera. About this I'm quite uncertain. 吾 is used for not only the sound but the meaning. Same with 勿 or 弗. And actually 伐 (or

                                                                                                                                      ChinesePod - Shanghainese Haggling guanxi - links

                                                                                                                                      ChinesePod has their first Shanghainese dialogue up. I'm listening now. Not bad.

                                                                                                                                      If you're a registered user, go check it out. If you're not, go sign up for your free week trial.

                                                                                                                                      Good stuff, guys.

                                                                                                                                        Corpora!    tools - corpus

                                                                                                                                        It's fun to say. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

                                                                                                                                        I've spent the last week, probably averaging about 6+ hours a day in between school and my (uncoincidentally) limited social life crunching text, getting paper cuts and carpal tunnel syndrome and ending up with blackened fingertips and blacker keys. And now, thousands of lines of text later, I'd like to officially announce what may be the first Shanghainese phonetic data set of this size fully in IPA.

                                                                                                                                        It's a collection of widely used characters (7000ish) with their pronunciation as would be heard in the Shanghai dialect of Wu, all done up in the International Phonetic Alphabet, complete with tones.

                                                                                                                                        The reason behind it was primarily that a number of Mandarin dictionaries offer Cantonese pronunciation as an option. I have yet to see one that really covers Wu in any systematic way. The best thing I've seen that does handle Wu isn't a dictionary. Now, because of this data, some are starting to and others will hopefully follow suit.

                                                                                                                                        Before I repeat much more of what can be found on the project page, why not head over and take a look. Further developments will be reflected there.

                                                                                                                                        Thanks to Allan Simon and Christoph Burgmer for their contributions and help.

                                                                                                                                          Wu Phonetics Corpus tools - corpus

                                                                                                                                          One of the hurdles in learning Shanghainese, or for that matter any dialect of Wu, is the lack of easily accessible data. There are services that provide phonetic transcription based on character input, but often the results given are some proprietary form of pinyin. For more phonetically accurate results, i.e. IPA, there are books that provide that information, though often for only a limited number of characters.
                                                                                                                                          In an effort to fix that, I’ve compiled a list of characters with their corresponding IPA pronunciation. It’s a tabbed text file, UTF-8 encoding. The original file is loosely based on a similar list of about 450 entries provided by Tatoeba.org.
                                                                                                                                          The data set covers the most commonly used characters for writing Wu, as well as a number of other characters to cover things like family names and Wu-specific 语气词. It started as a list of just over 450, quickly expanding to 1400 entries and recently to just over 5300 now over 7520. More entries are continually being added.
                                                                                                                                          Who uses this? For starters, this data set has been integrated into Tatoeba.com for both entries in Shanghainese to IPA tool as well is in their general Shanghainese sentences. Sentences entered on the site using characters will be converted as below.
                                                                                                                                          ɦi⁵³ ɦɑ̃⁵³ ʦɤ lɛ⁵³ gəˀ¹²
                                                                                                                                          It will also be included as part of the upcoming release of the Eclectus dictionary created by Christoph Burgmer and the related cjklib project..
                                                                                                                                          Expect to see the data appear elsewhere in the near future.
                                                                                                                                          If you’re interested in using the data for your project, send me an email at kellenparker在sinoglot.com explaining what the project is and how you plan to use the data.
                                                                                                                                          The only thing I ask is that you credit me in some way for the many many hours I’ve put into collecting the data. I’m releasing this under the Creative Commons CC-BY license.
                                                                                                                                          I’m looking in a few different directions as to what else to do to improve the data. I don’t want to get too much into it just yet, but keep an eye on this space for updates.
                                                                                                                                          Thanks to Allan Simon of Tatoeba.org for providing me with an initial 450+ word set and for allowing me to contribute to Tatoeba’s data set. Also thanks to Christoph Burgmer for helping work out some kinks and for being willing to include the data into Eclectus.

                                                                                                                                            Entering Tones In Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                            I recently made a realisation. I probably should have seen this earlier, or had it told to me, or read it in some book somewhere, but I didn't. Instead now well over a year since getting into Wu I noticed it while comparing a list of characters with some old papers published in academic journals. Basically what I had in front of me with the combined sources was a syllabary giving tones. And this is what I realised.

                                                                                                                                            All syllables falling under one of the two entering tones (阴入 and 阳入) can be easily categorised based on the initial. And since all entering tone syllables also end in a glottal stop, we can easily determine which words should get the entering tone based on sounds that are part of the syllable independent of what tone curve they're spoken with. We know if it's 阴 or 阳 because it turns out all syllables in 入 beginning with a voiceless consonant, regardless of aspiration, take the 阴入 (which is a high tone in Shanghai), and all starting with a voiced consonant take 阳入 (a short low rising tone curve). Those beginning with vowels or glottal stops all fall under the former.

                                                                                                                                            So then when we see old texts from missionary efforts and a word is given as bhok, where we know that the h here marks voicing and the k marks the final stop, we can confidently say that word falls under 阳入 and at least in modern times should have a short high tone. Something like [boˀ⁵⁵], which is actually how you say 泊.

                                                                                                                                            Again, it's probably something I should have realised before, and I doubt it's really any great revelation. But for me at least it makes a lot of things much easier.

                                                                                                                                            I keep forgetting how much of an actual system exists behind our superficial encounters with language. The system is probably what keeps me so fascinated. Being able to talk to foreigners is fun too, though.

                                                                                                                                              I Only Fear Wenzhou

                                                                                                                                              Last year I put up a post called "I only fear Gaochun". In it I gave a phrase meant to illustrate the unintelligibility of Gaochun Wu to Mandarin speakers.

                                                                                                                                              Don’t fear Heaven, don’t fear Earth. Only fear the nonsense spoken in Gaochun.

                                                                                                                                              Here is another more common version of the same phrase:

                                                                                                                                              Don’t fear Heaven, don’t fear Earth. Only fear a Wenzhouren speaking Wenzhou hua.

                                                                                                                                              Wenzhou being famous for being hard to understand. Certainly it has a lot of influence from other nearby languages (Northern Min for example). But it's not like it's as far off from what people are used to as something like Okinawan.

                                                                                                                                                Tools / Resources tools

                                                                                                                                                Welcome to the Annals of Wu tools section. A number of tools are in the works. The list is small

                                                                                                                                                  Caveat Emptor

                                                                                                                                                  Is this a joke? I thought so while browsing through Amazon.com this evening.

                                                                                                                                                  Actually let me stop myself for a moment and say that this post is only tangentially related to Wu. You've been warned.

                                                                                                                                                  Anyway, while on Amazon I typed in "Wu" or "Shanghainese" or something. A couple pages in I found "Wu Chinese: Chinese Language, Zhejiang, Shanghainese, Suzhou Dialect, Wenzhounese". Odd name aside, that's not the part I thought was a joke. The cover of the book includes a little red 'sticker' that says "High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles!". Really? Wikipedia = quality? News to me. Let's not even get into my hatred for arbitrarily capitalised WORDS and exclamation points where they don't belong!

                                                                                                                                                  So I dug a little deeper. This "publisher", Betascript Publishing, turns out to have raised quite a fuss among Wikipedia users and pretty much anyone else who's come across their "work". A little googling and I found a post on the blog Cherry Hinton Blues that gave me a better idea of what was going on.

                                                                                                                                                  Turns out Betascript Publishing, also known as Alphascript Publishing, also known as some other stuff, is taking Wikipedia articles, sometimes related to each other and sometimes not-quite-related, and printing them as expensive (47USD for the Wu one) books.

                                                                                                                                                  I went from happy to see a new book about Wu to baffled by the title to mildly disturbed upon seeing the Wikipedia sticker of quality. A book burning session feels like less of a violation of bibliophilia than this.

                                                                                                                                                  Do not buy this or any other book by this or any affiliated publishing company. Instead, go here.

                                                                                                                                                    शंघाई हुा में देवनागरी

                                                                                                                                                    Just when you thought the already esoteric nature of this blog couldn't get any less universal, I now present an idea I had a while back but never got written down. It's so ill-conceived and unlikely to be useful that I've mostly kept it to myself. However a recent conversation with Alan Lai on Twitter brought it back up, so now I'm finally putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to shiny backlit plastic.

                                                                                                                                                    Here it is:
                                                                                                                                                    Devanāgarī employed in writing Wu. Devanāgarī is the script used to write Sanskrit, Hindi and the subject of this post.

                                                                                                                                                    To take a sentence from Tatoeba as an example,
                                                                                                                                                    ɦi sa di fã lɛ ɦəˀ

                                                                                                                                                    Which in Devanāgarī could be

                                                                                                                                                    हि सा दि वं ले ह

                                                                                                                                                    Here the vowel issue isn't really an issue. Long ā gets used to write the vowel in "sa" where short a is used (though not written in Devanāgarī) to denote the /ə/.

                                                                                                                                                    Another example:

                                                                                                                                                    ŋu ɦiɤ ti ɕiɔ zɿ tʰi ɕiã ʨʰiɲ noŋ pã mã

                                                                                                                                                    ङू हुी ति शुी स थि शिं थ्शिञ नोङ पं मं

                                                                                                                                                    There are pros and cons, though mostly cons. One pro is that in Devanāgarī, minimal pairs are actually minimal quartets. There are separate letters for [p] [pʰ] [b] and [bʰ] (प, फ, ब and भ repectively). Same goes for g/k and t/d, all but the aspirated voiced form are used in Wu. In the second example above, ति and थि are [ti] and [tʰi]. Then 地 [di] would be दि, as seen in the first example. In pinyin these three would be "di" and "ti" but then there's no way to write [di] without resorting to weirdness. Vowels pose a problem in a couple areas, such as /ɔ/ which isn't covered in Devanāgarī, but that could easily be remedied.

                                                                                                                                                    The other obvious drawback is that Devanāgarī isn't used in China, where IPA and pinyin obviously are. So a modified pinyin is more intuitive, and IPA is just more known.

                                                                                                                                                    The other and in my mind more major drawback for me using it in my own notes is that I already know IPA, and often use IPA for Sanskrit in place of the standard Romanisation method. My notes from Sanskrit are a 50/50 mix where I grab from whichever system will make for the more legible version in my shameful handwriting. So ʈ loses out to ṭ but ʂ gets to stay in place of ṣ.

                                                                                                                                                    And so ends this thought experiment. Comments are welcome, but I'm not holding my breath.

                                                                                                                                                    edit: Note the same could be accomplished with the Gujarati script (ગુજરાતી લિપિ) and in fact could possibly be done better. In part this is because Gujarati includes /ɔ/ (written ઑ) as well as some variance to the vowels form Devanāgarī. Gujarati would also, in my opinion, be a bit quicker to write for being a bit more cursive and lacking the top line. Then again I've never really learned the Gujarati script and it's certainly less common than Devanāgarī so who knows; I could be way off base here.

                                                                                                                                                    - - -
                                                                                                                                                    1. "Where are you from?", from here.
                                                                                                                                                    2. "I have a few things I'd like your help with", from here.

                                                                                                                                                      Interview: Simon Allan Of Tatoeba guanxi - interviews

                                                                                                                                                      The following post is an interview with Allan Simon, part of the team behind Tatoeba. He was nice enough to answer some questions about the site and it's integration of Shanghainese. If you haven't taken a look at Tatoeba yet, I highly recommend you check it out. As mentioned below, there are over 60 sentences in Shanghainese and that number can only grow. There's also integration for audio, which includes Shanghainese. The following is from the Tatoeba blog:

                                                                                                                                                      The audio we have so far in Shanghainese. Yes, we do have such an exotic language. Now, you may be wondering why on Earth did we pick Shanghainese? Well, for a few reasons.
                                                                                                                                                      Allan (aka. sysko), one of the most active developer in the team, is very interested in Chinese, and more particularly in Shanghainese. He was provided 900 Shanghainese sentences from shanghaining.com.
                                                                                                                                                      Congcong (aka. fucongcong), one of the most important contributor in Tatoeba, speaks Shanghainese.
                                                                                                                                                      They were both able to meet regularly Nicolas (aka. zmoo), president of Shtooka, in order to record these sentences in Paris.

                                                                                                                                                      So, hooray. Here's the interview:

                                                                                                                                                      AoW I was wondering if I could ask you what the basis for including Shanghainese on the site was. Since you've come to Annals of Wu before, I was wondering if you had experience in Shanghai or with the language.

                                                                                                                                                      AS For Shanghainese, in fact the reason is my girlfriend comes from Shanghai and I'm a bit language-addicted, so I've started learn about it, and soon discovered the internet is really lacking ressource about shanghainese, (I live in Paris), struggle to get books about the language, and moreover I was a bit disappointed when my Gf chat on msn with other people from Shanghai and the text was just a an approximiativ phonetic transcription with mandarin sounds, and it upset me a bit.

                                                                                                                                                      So in the meantime I started coding/contributing for the Tatoeba project, I've started thinking it would be a great things to also support not so common languages. I'm a bit idealist guy, and I hope by adding Shanghainese (or other) it will maybe interest people, and gather people already interested by it, and with a good basis of Shanghainese and people learning Shanghainese, creating tool over this, and preserved the language.

                                                                                                                                                      AoW In your comment [on an earlier post], you said you only add [a language] when you have a request for 10 or more sentences in that language. I wonder, did you add the initial ten sentences [for Shanghainese]? How many Shanghainese phrases, roughly, would you say there are in the system? I assume you have a way of tracking that.

                                                                                                                                                      AS Yep they have been added and you can keep track of the number of sentences for each languages on the home page , you see directly the top 5, and by clicking on "show all" you will stats for each languages (there's 61 sentences in shanghainese)

                                                                                                                                                      AoW I also noticed on one of the entries for Shanghainese that there was some transcription occurring. 啥 was written with accompanying "sa" (though 为 was left untranscribed). How did you choose what would be transliterated, and where did you find the transliterations, or did someone type it in themseves [a la wiki]?

                                                                                                                                                      AS It's supposed to be IPA, and it's autogenerated, I hope to be able to complete this tool in the meantime people/I contribute in Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                      AoW And finally just for my own curiosity, if one were to try to add ten Albanian (or Cantonese or Min-Nan) sentences, how would one do that?

                                                                                                                                                      AS If you're ready to add sentences in Albanian, we will add it. Or at least you can add it and add "[albanian]" at the end waiting [for us to] integrate the language. Most of the time it works this way.

                                                                                                                                                      AoW I think that's all I have [to ask]. Thanks again for corresponding

                                                                                                                                                      AS I thank you too.


                                                                                                                                                        Tatoeba & Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                                        Tatoeba is a site where phrases are translated by the users into multiple languages. For example:

                                                                                                                                                        When will you come home? (English)

                                                                                                                                                        你什么时候回家? (Mandarin)

                                                                                                                                                        何時に帰ってくるの。 (Japanese)
                                                                                                                                                        なん じ に かえっ て くる の 。

                                                                                                                                                        いつ帰宅しますか。 (Japanese)
                                                                                                                                                        いつ きたく し ます か 。

                                                                                                                                                        Wann kommst du heim? (German)

                                                                                                                                                        They have a bunch of languages listed for translation, 31 in total, and for some reason Shanghainese is listed but Cantonese isn't. Actually I found out about Tatoeba back in January when a commenter here had it linked in his name for the comment. I have only been back recently, but have now registered and will be contributing as much as I can in familiar languages.

                                                                                                                                                        Any way head over and take a look. Be sure to contribute some translations for some languages you speak/read/write.

                                                                                                                                                        Especially if that happens to be Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                          ChinesePod Shanghainese Launch Date

                                                                                                                                                          The latest blog post at the ChinesePod blog gives the date of April 23rd for the first of ten episodes teaching beginning Shanghainese. From the post:

                                                                                                                                                          Our Shanghainese series officially launches with its first lesson on April 23, 2010. In total, there will be ten lessons (all covering newbie level Shanghainese content), and one extra show (an introduction to the dialect and the city, which will be published on Saturday, April 17).

                                                                                                                                                          Each lesson, as with our Mandarin Chinese lessons, features a dialog recorded by native speakers. These are dialogs you could easily hear on the street or in a restaurant while out to dinner with your friends in Shanghai. We’ve isolated some key words and phrases that will be featured in each lesson’s vocabulary tab.

                                                                                                                                                          Glad to see they'll be using IPA for transcription. I was a little worried we might see another variant of pinyin. IPA may not be most comfortable for the greatest number of people, but it's as close to a standard for writing Shanghainese as we have.

                                                                                                                                                          I'll be curious to hear the podcasts.


                                                                                                                                                            Wu On RhinoSpike

                                                                                                                                                            Many thanks to the guys at RhinoSpike. I just got an email in response to my feature request. Short and sweet, it reads as follows:

                                                                                                                                                            Thank you for your suggestion! We have added Wu as well as renamed Chinese to Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                            And from a "new features" announcement:

                                                                                                                                                            New features in RhinoSpike: Accents can now be specified in user profiles and will be displayed next to recordings! Also, audio requests with recordings can no longer be deleted. New languages added: Wu & Tamil. Chinese has been renamed to Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                            Gotta hand it to RhinoSpike and founder Peter Carroll for being so open to feedback and so quick to respond.

                                                                                                                                                            Thanks again, guys.

                                                                                                                                                              The Naming Of Things

                                                                                                                                                              John Pasden asked a pretty good question of me today on twitter. I had mentioned my excitement that RhinoSpike now supports Wu. That is, in the list of languages, there's now an entry labeled "Wu". Not "Shangainese". John said:
                                                                                                                                                              Is "Wu" on RhinoSpike useful, though? If I want a recording in Shanghainese, then I can't just say "Wu," right?

                                                                                                                                                              I say it's a good question because it's actually one I've been thinking about all day. Seeing it just now in my Twitter feed and needing more than 140 characters to explain my motivation for requesting "Wu" over "Shanghainese", I thought I'd answer here.

                                                                                                                                                              It is true that most people who are even aware of the existence of Wu will know it only as Shanghainese. Just as most who know of Yue will know it as Cantonese. The term Cantonese is widely accepted in English to refer to that southern language, even if referring to the Hong Kong varieties, removed from geographical "Canton". Wu, as a term, is not. So why do it?

                                                                                                                                                              First, precedent. There is a Wu wikipedia. There is not a Shanghainese wikipedia. Wu has an ISO 639-3 code ('wuu') used to refer to languages by things like Ethnologue but also by services such as CouchSurfing and the aforementioned Wikipedia, both services that are very conscious of language in the world.

                                                                                                                                                              Second, Shanghainese is not a language. I know, topolects and divisions and arbitrariness etc etc etc. But you'll be hard pressed to find someone who will make such a claim. Linguistically aware speakers of Shanghainese will tell you it's related to Chongming hua and Qihai hua and to a lesser but still notable degree to Suzhou hua, Hangzhou hua et cetera.

                                                                                                                                                              Third, one of my goals with this site, albeit a secondary goal (the first being to learn about Wu) is to make the language and dialects more visible. I don't expect to succeed to any great degree. But little things like getting CouchSurfing to have it as an option on user profiles is definitely within the scope of things I'd like to accomplish. They take little effort to do and help Wu be known as a language, if only by a small uninfluential group of internet users. Better then to spread knowledge of the language, which has a name, than just one prominent dialect of it, which is already well known in it's own right. See the point above.

                                                                                                                                                              Finally, as John implies if you put a request in on RhinoSpike for "Wu", you're not guaranteed to get Shanghainese. Statistically you're more likely to get a Shanghinese speaker than any one of the other dialects, but it's not a guarantee. My answer to that is that people learning English don't put in a request for "Received Pronunciation" or "Mid-Atlantic" or "Boston dialect". You just request English. Earlier I saw a single request answered in Irish and Floridian, and both were quite a bit different.

                                                                                                                                                              If you're learning Wu, of course you'll be focused on one dialect. My first full year of learning Wu was almost exclusively the Changzhou dialect. But you can't expect to function in a language if you're not able to deal with different dialects. I spend my daytime hours sitting in a classroom having discussions with people from Shandong, Shanghai, Sichuan and who knows where else. When I taught Englsih, my students had to deal with my mostly standardised American media accent as well as accents from Southwestern Australia, Tasmania and Appalachia.

                                                                                                                                                              When you submit a request in RhinoSpike, you're not asking "How do you say 'have you eaten dinner?' in Haitian Creole?". You're instead typing in the sentence "Eske ou manje dine?" and letting someone else record it as it's written. If you want to increase your chances of getting Shanghainese, type more 啥's instead of 嗲's. Otherwise it's a safe bet that if you type "吾勿晓得了", no matter what the dialect of the speaker who answers you, it's going to be of some use. If the same words are used in the same order, you can make a Shanghairen understand your Wu even if you're pronouncing it with a Changzhou accent.

                                                                                                                                                              Hopefully those answers are adequate. I really have been thinking about this all day, and that's what I've come up with.

                                                                                                                                                                RhinoSpike: Custom Listening

                                                                                                                                                                Let me take a moment to mention RhinoSpike, as everyone else seems to be doing the same.

                                                                                                                                                                If you haven't heard about it, it's a site intended for language learners who want to hear audio of specific sentences and phrases. You can submit sentences to the service, which then posts them on the website. Native speakers of the language in question can then record it and have it posted as a reply. Click here for an example submitted by Global Maverick's John B. for Cantonese.

                                                                                                                                                                I just signed up, and almost as quickly sent them an email. I know, it's shameless. But to me the thing that would make the service more than just kinda cool would be inclusion of less commonly studied languages. Albanian is up there, which is great since I have so little chance to hear it these days, but of course that's exactly why it's not so practical for me. Wu, however, is not.

                                                                                                                                                                Check out the site. It you think it looks interesting, then why not sign up? It's free. And if you sign up, why not shoot them some feedback and ask Wu to be included? The ISO code is "wuu", which would be worth including in the feedback even if you call the language "Shanghainese".

                                                                                                                                                                And if you do end up leaving feedback, maube leave a comment below. Mostly because I'm curious to see if anyone actually does.

                                                                                                                                                                  ChinesePod & Shanghai Hua

                                                                                                                                                                  I had heard rumours…

                                                                                                                                                                  Finally, we recognize that in many places in China Mandarin is not the only spoken language. In fact, nearly every part of China has its own local dialect. To address this, and to help foreigners get the most out of their daily interactions here, we plan to launch mini-series focusing on local dialects. We could not have covered these dialects in our newbie lessons, as they do not constitute high-frequency language for Chinese learners (a person in Beijing wouldn’t need to know how to ask for a bathroom in the Xian dialect, for example). Thus they will be (language-focused) extra content aimed at bringing more insight to Chinese life and culture. In honor of the city ChinesePod calls home, we will begin with Shanghainese. We hope to move on to beijinghua and more, but we’ll need your input to help decide which dialects deserve a close look!

                                                                                                                                                                  That's from the ChinesePod blog post on what to expect from them this year.

                                                                                                                                                                  A couple things I noticed based on the 30-some comments to the post: Cantonese is something a lot of people want to see. One persons says something along the lines of "Isn't it a different language?", but no one is saying that about Shanghainese. Sad, but not surprising. One commenter wants to see Sichuan hua based on the number of people from Sichuan to be found elsewhere. I couldn't agree more. I can say that because they already said Shanghainese was first.

                                                                                                                                                                  In case you're looking for other Shanghainese podcasts, check out MandMX.com for a podcast by M and MX who have been doing these for a while now. They tend to be short little bursts of phrases but it's a good way to hear some of the more common phrases of Shanghainese spoken in a controlled environment.

                                                                                                                                                                    In Search Of Mnemonics

                                                                                                                                                                    From the Wikipedia article on Cantonese phonology:

                                                                                                                                                                    The numbers "394052786" when pronounced in Cantonese, will give the nine tones in order (Romanisation (Yale) saam1, gau2, sei3, ling4, ng5, yi6, chat7, baat8, luk9), thus giving a good mnemonic for remembering the nine tones.

                                                                                                                                                                    And I'm thinking, "That's cool! Does Wu do that?"

                                                                                                                                                                    Of course, Shanghainese only has 5 tones. You could cover them all in order by saying "34126", but that's not nearly as neat as the Cantonese version, mostly just because there are so few to be covered. So I started looking in Wu dialects that had more tones. Specifically I looked at the Suzhou dialect, which has 7 of the 8 otherwise found in Wu. Actually I also got into Hangzhou and Lüsi dialects, but was swamped with information. More on that in another post.

                                                                                                                                                                    In Suzhou, the numbers are as follows.
                                                                                                                                                                    1 [iəʔ] (1st tone)
                                                                                                                                                                    2 [ni] (二, 6th tone), [liã] (两, 2nd tone)
                                                                                                                                                                    3 [sɛ] (1st)
                                                                                                                                                                    4 [sɿ] (3rd)
                                                                                                                                                                    5 [ŋ] (6th)
                                                                                                                                                                    6 [loʔ] (7th)
                                                                                                                                                                    7 [tsʰiəʔ] (4th)
                                                                                                                                                                    8 [boʔ] (4th)
                                                                                                                                                                    9 [dʑiu] (2nd)
                                                                                                                                                                    0 [lin] (5th)

                                                                                                                                                                    Were one to say "一两四七零五六" (1247056) in Suzhou dialect, this would cover the 7 tones in order. Some of these number have two pronunciations: one colloquial and one literary. I've gone with the colloquial in those cases. Also, 二/两 appears in both forms but more often than no 两 is used. Also, the tone on 两 is different depending on if you're counting or if you're saying two of something ("两个..."). I went with the counting version here.

                                                                                                                                                                    See the earlier post A Survey of Numbers in Wu for other examples of numbers in Wu.

                                                                                                                                                                      Genesis In Wu

                                                                                                                                                                      If you head over to the Wikipedia page for Ningbo dialect, you'll notice the image is the first page of Genesis, written in colloquial Ningbo dialect from a text compiled by missionaries a century ago.

                                                                                                                                                                      The whole text (4 pages) is available from archive.org. You can find it pretty easily through Google as well. Turns out someone has typed out the first ten verses, diacritics and all, on the Hakka (客家) version of the same wikipedia page. Characters are there as well but for Mandarin, so they don't match the Wu. Here are the first few verses.

                                                                                                                                                                      1:1. Kyi-tsu Jing-ming ts‘ông-zao t'in teng di.̤ duâi. 1:2. Di m-neh soh-go siang-mao, tu z hyü k'ong-ko: 'ong-shü min-teng heh-en: Jing-ming-go Ling yüing-dong læ shü-go min-teng. 1:3. Jing-ming wô, Kæ yiu liang-kwông; liang-kwông ziu yiu de.̤ng duŏh sŏ̤h iông gâu-gâu gì duâi-ĭ. 1:4 Jing-ming k'en keh liang-kwông z hao; Jing-ming ziu feng c'ih liang teng en læ.̤ sĕng gáe̤ cī ciéh nè̤ng gâe̤ng duâi-ĭ táung lâi gó̤, cêu sáung diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi.

                                                                                                                                                                      Also available on the Hakka Wikipedia is a handful of verses in Suzhou, Shanghai and Taizhou dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                        Comparative Topolects Circa 1903

                                                                                                                                                                        The following is a page from "A Syllabic DIctionary of the Chinese Language; Arranged According to the Wu-Fang Yuen Yin, with the Pronunciation of the Characters as Heard in Peking, Canton, Amoy, and Shanghai". Apologies for illegibility. That's just how it is in my copy.

                                                                                                                                                                        The book was published by a presbyterian mission in the very early 20th century. In addition to the dialects listed in the title, Ningbo, Swatow, Fuzhou and Standard Mandarin are included. In addition to the transliteration in the image above, it goes on to give the same text in each dialect with characters substituted to better represent the sounds in those dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                        Note the use of 个 for Shanghai and Ningbo in place of 之. In this case 个 is actually replacing 的, the non-literary equivalent of 之. The Peking column gives something much closer to modern Mandarin, while the far left column is the more scriptural "thou shall not" way of writing things.

                                                                                                                                                                        In this way the book provides a pretty good example of the use of characters to transcribe something phonetically, ignoring the actual meaning of the characters used.

                                                                                                                                                                        You may have noticed the little C or C on one of the corners of each character. Those are the tones. See this earlier post for an explanation. The short version is that each of those marks one of the 8 tones without giving any specific indication as to how that tone should be pronounced. I've seen the system used in newer books as well but thankfully most use numeric notation which is a bit easier to follow without having to do a lot of memorisation before.

                                                                                                                                                                        If I have some time this weekend I'll type out the Shanghai and Ningbo texts in full (they're not that long).

                                                                                                                                                                          Subway Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                                                          A quick shot from the subway this past fall. The red bag says "上海人" and "上海宁", the 宁 in the latter being the typical way to transcribe /ɲiɲ/, Shanghainese for 人, with characters.

                                                                                                                                                                          One of those minor instances of the language popping up in print around the city.

                                                                                                                                                                            Shanghainese In 1853

                                                                                                                                                                            I've been reading a lot of very old books lately. Thanks in part to efforts to digitise very old books, and in part to librarians in other countries who are more than happy to make photocopies to be dropped in the mail for a small fee. Normally reading very old books written in English on non-English languages means reading very old books published by missionaries. The latest in the series is no exception. The following comes from "A Grammar of Colloquial Chinese, as Exhibited in the Shanghai Dialect" by J. Edkins, B.A., University College London. Specifically, it's the second edition published ten years after the first, so this post probably should be called "Shanghainese in 1863", but I'm guessing not much changed in the text itself over those ten years.

                                                                                                                                                                            The following is from the preface:
                                                                                                                                                                            There are aids for the study of the southern dialects of China, but no one has yet written on the speech of the rich and populous province of Kiáng-nán. On Missionary and Commercial grounds, it is time that some attempt should be made to supply this want.

                                                                                                                                                                            Southern dialects, in this case, of course mean things like Min and Yue (a.k.a. Cantonese). Kiáng-nán is Jiāngnán 江南, which is effectively the Yangtze river delta. The book, as more or less stated above, is an effort to teach colloquial Chinese by teaching Shanghainese Wu. For this I must be thankful to the missionaries. Who else would have bothered in 1953?

                                                                                                                                                                            The real thing I want to get to in this post is how the book dealt with tones. The book spends a great many pages describing the tones of Shanghainese, giving lengthy explanations and examples, some of which I'll recreate here. The handling of tone is given much more ink than the actual pronunciation. This becomes clear when you realise how they're looking at tones in Shanghainese. Also from the preface:
                                                                                                                                                                            Upwards of twenty natural tones, from which each dialect chooses its own set, varying from four to eight, are here described.

                                                                                                                                                                            Emphasis added. In case you missed that, rather than saying there are 4 tones with two registers or 8 tones which vary from place to place like accents, they're presenting it as there being about two dozen different static tones which are then chosen by dialect speakers, anywhere from 4 to 8 per dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                            Further along in the text they do make the point of saying the following:
                                                                                                                                                                            The tones are four in number, each subdivided into kaú and tí, upper and lower, or as they are also denominated yin and yáng, feminine and mascule. These upper and lower series of tones are also distinguished, by different initial consonants, the one taking g, d, b, v, z, etc., and the other k, t, p, f, s etc.

                                                                                                                                                                            Ten tone descriptions are given, twice the number in modern Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                                              Growing Up With Shanghai

                                                                                                                                                                              Check out the soundwalks project, "Growing up with Shanghai".

                                                                                                                                                                              From the About page:
                                                                                                                                                                              “Growing Up With Shanghai” is a series of soundwalks with young Shanghainese who were born and raised during the rapid modernization of their city in the 1980s and 1990s. These recordings capture not only their most intimate memories of the locations where they grew up, but also the progress and growth Shanghai has undergone in the past 30 years. The current sounds of Shanghai can be heard behind the dialog and also serve as an audio document for future generations of Shanghainese. All dialogue is in Shanghainese or in their local dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                              There's also a book available with photos of some of the places talked about in the audio.

                                                                                                                                                                              Good stuff. Go check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                Phonetics Of Ancient Chinese

                                                                                                                                                                                I've been reading through Bernhard Karlgren's "The Reconstruction of Ancient Chinese". I'm operating entirely off of a digital version, but I can tell by the coloration of the pages that the original must smell fantastic.

                                                                                                                                                                                Karlgren is speaking on page 4 of how Wu (well, Go-on) was rejected by Henri Maspero as being of little historical importance for reconstruction of ancient chinese phonetics. Karlgren disagrees with Maspero, saying this:

                                                                                                                                                                                A striking example of the importance [of Wu for this purpose] is the word group placed under rime 江 in Ts'ie yün. Go-on (Wu) is the only one of all the dialects which treats its vocalism differently both from rime 唐 and time 陽, and thus it is just the Wu dialect that gives us the key to the old head vowel in Northern Chinese: 江 kâng.

                                                                                                                                                                                Not bad. Bolding is mine. Italics are in the original.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Happy New Year From Shanghai

                                                                                                                                                                                  Perhaps a little late but still useful for a few more days,


                                                                                                                                                                                  xin nyi hau


                                                                                                                                                                                  [ɕin ɲi hɔ]

                                                                                                                                                                                  Whichever you prefer.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Never Your First: More On Dialect Vs. Language

                                                                                                                                                                                    The anecdote in this post can be considered to be an extension of a previous post, "Fei Si Le: Languages, not Dialects". At this time there is ongoing discussion in the comments of that post. As such comments here are closed.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I've been reading a lot the past few days on the status of Cantonese, most recently Julie Groves' "Language or Dialect—or Topolect? A Comparison of the Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese" (available as a pdf from the Sino-Platonic Papers). I got to thinking on the idea of prestige within a dialect. I know there are people in Shanghai who consider one variation of the Shanghai parent-dialect to be more pure or more Shanghainese than others, but I've never really thought about other Wu dialects (though it could be argued Suzhou has historically held these distinctions, as it was formerly the prestige dialect for centuries).

                                                                                                                                                                                    So I asked a friend. Do you, in your local dialect of Wu, think there are people who speak a "better" form of it, and others who speak it worse? My intended meaning was lost, or rather deemed irrelevant. So I brought up Mandarin as an example. The answer: "With Mandarin it's completely different, because Mandarin is never your first language". Emphasis added. Of course in this case the rhetorical "you" could be said to stand strictly for Wu speakers.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm posting about this because it was a candid statement from a Wu speaker on the language-ness of Wu as separate from Mandarin. And for what it's worth the above statement was given in English. So confusion on the definition of 方言 doesn't really apply.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Fei Si Le: Languages

                                                                                                                                                                                      note: It was originally my intent to post this over at Sinoglot. However seeing as it ended up tying into Wu so directly, I've chosen to post it here without changing the content. As such the language may assume a certain level of ignorance of Wu that regular readers of this blog may have. Apologies for that.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I was asked last night by a friend why I so firmly consider Wu to be a Sinitic language and not merely a divergent group of dialects of Mandarin. I gave my usual answer, but I think today I've come up with a better one.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I've just returned home from my New Year's dinner. On the way home the driver, with whom only Mandarin was being spoken, said "在路口小拐对吧“, or "Turn right at the intersection, right?". Except as far as I know, most students of Mandarin wouldn't think to say 小拐 for "right turn"

                                                                                                                                                                                      In Shanghainese, instead of left or right, they say big or small for the type of turn. That makes some sense if you consider that a right turn is in fact a much smaller arc than a left turn. In Shanghainese they'd say 小转弯, roughly [ɕiɑʊ zə͡wɛə]. This always got laughs among friends when a left turn was needed, since 大转弯 pretty much sounds like "dudes, away!"

                                                                                                                                                                                      My point is this: Shanghainese is clearly a dialect of something. It's intelligible with what it spoken on Chongming Island or in Haimen, but it's different. That's not in question. But then the Mandarin spoken in Shanghai by the locals is also clearly a dialect of Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                      So either the Shanghaining (上海人) are switching from one dialect of Mandarin to another equally localised dialect of the same language, but one which they otherwise would never use at home or with close friends, or, and this is much more likely (and in my opinion much more true), both are dialects but of two different languages. You're quite likely to hear 小拐 coming from a Shanghai taxi driver, but you're equally unlikely to hear anyone from Shanghai say "这儿蘑菇倍儿好垃!" over dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I recently asked a friend of mine from Changhzou if there were any words like this that even in Mandarin a dialectal variant is used. They do not say small/big turn in Changzhou, despite also being speakers of a Northern Wu dialect. Without any thought the answer I got was "烦死了". In Changzhou Wu (as spoken by a female speaker, thus the ə at the end), it's [fei sɿ lɛiəʔ]. In Changzhou, when speaking Mandarin, they say 费死了 fèi sǐ le. I was told that might not be the proper "fei" character but it's the one they use.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe I'm preaching to the choir. Maybe the fact that I'm writing this in English and not in Mandarin means my readers are in agreement by default. But maybe not. While I do tend to meet the most resistance with native Chinese, conversations with imports like myself aren't always without a fight.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm thinking I may want to work on archiving some of these words and phrases. There are a lot more things Wu speakers use in their local Mandarin dialects. It would be interesting to see if there were any sort of system behind it all.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Moka Zhuyin Revisited moka mission

                                                                                                                                                                                        The following is my revised version of the Bopomofo used by the Moka Mission.


                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄅ [p]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄅ [b]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄆ [pʰ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄪ [v]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄪ [v ̥]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄈ [f]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄉ [t]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄉ [d]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄊ [tʰ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄗ [ts]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄗ [dz]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄘ [tsʰ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄍ [k]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄍ [g]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄎ [kʰ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄐ [tɕ]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄐ [dʑ]
                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄑ [tɕʰ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄙ [s]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄙ [z]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄒ [ɕ] hy in the Mission texts

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄌ [l] not sure here what the mark adds
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄌ [ʔl]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄇ [m]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄇ [ʔm]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄋ [n]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄋ [ʔn]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄬ [ɲ]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄬ [ʔɲ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄫ [ŋ]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄫ [ʔŋ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        ㄏ [h]
                                                                                                                                                                                        'ㄏ [ʔ]


                                                                                                                                                                                          Wu On CouchSurfing

                                                                                                                                                                                          Well that was easier than I thought. I was poking around my long-dormant CouchSurfing profile last week when I realised Wu isn't an option for languages on one's profile, though Cantonese is and of course Mandarin as well. So I sent them an email. They asked for the ISO code ("wuu" in this case), a link to the Wikipedia article on the missing language and maybe an explanation beyond that. So I sent it all in, and sure enough a few days later, Wu is now available.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Go, CouchSurfers! Declare your Wu status and find like-mindedtongued surfers.

                                                                                                                                                                                          This also opens up a new category here at the Annals: Wu Evangelism. Mad props to CouchSurfing.com for being open to this sort of thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Zìxué Shànghǎihuà books

                                                                                                                                                                                            Published by 上海大学出版社, written by Yuàn Hénghuī 院恒辉 and coming with yet another diminutive audio CD which can't be played on my slot-loading CD drive, "自学上海话" is a little red book of 184 pages long. I picked it up at the bookstore across the street from Cloud Nine mall. I figured my curiosity was worth 15元.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - close to standard use of IPA in the beginning pages1
                                                                                                                                                                                            - detailed info on the tones and basics of tone sandhi
                                                                                                                                                                                            - useful phrases
                                                                                                                                                                                            - tones, thank God.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - abandonment of IPA after the introduction in favour of yet another janky pinyin system.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The abandonment of IPA is such a grave offence here simply for with that which it has been replaced. Their pinyin needs some explanation. I can't really type it out here in Unicode with any hope that it will show up even close to correctly on other systems, so instead visualise a series of dots and carons below some of the syllables. Bilabial plosives are written as b or p, but then since Shanghainese has voiced (e.g. [b]) as well as voiceless un-aspirated (e.g. [p]) initials in addition to the voiceless aspirated initials (e.g. [pʰ]), distinction must be made. So [pʰ] is written p, [p] as b as in pinyin, and [b] as b but with a black dot below the letter/character.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Open dots (e.g. 。) are drawn below words/characters that end in a glottal stop [ʔ], though this is redundant since they're also written with a final -k, much like you see in Cantonese.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Finally a caron appears below two characters that are to be read as one with heavy elision. One of the first instances of this is 好 which is written here as 合噢, linked with a caron below. That 合噢 is their glyphic interpretation of [hɔ].2.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The audio content on the CD is still unknown as I've packed away my one external CD drive and can't quite remember where it's ended up. When I can find it, I'll post a clip.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Bear in mind it's Mandarin only, in case the title hadn't made that clear, so if you're not comfortable with characters you may want to skip it. Otherwise if you're trying to learn Shanghainese anyway and already have a handful of books, what's 15 kuai to you? At the very least it offers a few different sentence patterns than books you may already own.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. The book includes ɿ which I can let slide, but also includes E and A, both of which are unforgivable in 2009 when it was published.
                                                                                                                                                                                            2. The other common example of this in other books is [ŋu] 我 written as linked 嗯无

                                                                                                                                                                                              Zìxué Shànghǎi Huà
                                                                                                                                                                                              Yuàn Hénghuī


                                                                                                                                                                                              The Web In Wu guanxi - links

                                                                                                                                                                                              A lifestyle site for Shanghai, ShanghaiNing.com offers a good sampling of written Shanghainese. It's a long-running site, up since at least 2002. The target audience is fairly focused and you'll find no shortage of pics from the club and clips of topolect rap. But even if that's not your cup of Jaegermeister, it's still worth a look if you're into how the general public writes Wu in Shanghai.

                                                                                                                                                                                              The tagline for the site is 侬白相啥?, which in Mandarin would be 你玩耍什么?. I'm up for a more fluid English translation than "What are you playing?" or "How are you playing around?" if anyone has any suggestions. And in case you missed it in earlier posts, this "ning" is the Wu pronunciation of 人, [ɲiɲ].

                                                                                                                                                                                              For another bit of the web embracing Wu, look to the name of one of the still-standing microblogging platforms operating in China, 做啥.

                                                                                                                                                                                                One Year Down

                                                                                                                                                                                                Today marks one year since the official launch of Annals of Wu. The site was set up in large part to help myself learn as much of the language as I could without formal (or even very directed) study, and I gotta say I'm not disappointed with the results. The comments have one more than one occasion yielded much more interesting directions than I might have been inclined to follow on my own. So thanks to everyone who has left comments and given me something to think about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                For the coming year expect more sound files, more instructional posts and possibly some branching out into other platforms. More on that last one later. I'll also be adding a search function to the site which is much overdo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                In other news, some of you may have noticed the domain change. That's part of a larger migration and upcoming project which isn't quite ready yet. But when it is I think you'll like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Big stuff planned for the year. Stay tuned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Saying No In Wu

                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's come up a few times in the last couple months so it seemed as good a time as any to run a quick outline. We'll file this somewhere between "arbitrary rules that no one follows" and "totally irrelevant pieces of information".

                                                                                                                                                                                                  In written Wu, and this is strictly a writing issue, there are a number of possible characters used to negate verbs. In Mandarin it's pretty much 不 and 不 alone. 没 doesn't count here since that's really more an equivalent of 文言's wèi 未 ("to have not [done s.t.]"). Look at E.G. Pulleyblank's grammar on Classical Chinese or Li and Thompson's "Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar" (page 415) for more on either of those. Since this is neither a Mandarin blog nor a 文言 blog, we'll just move along.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The basic characters you're going to see are: 不, though it's probably the least common of the bunch, 勿 which tends to be the most common, 弗 which I use almost exclusively, and 佛 which is actually Buddha and something I've only ever encountered online in BBSs and blogs. I've also seen another character, 拂, which is the word of choice for the Wu version Wikipedia. I hate it. It's just as bad as 佛. The main difference is that it, just like 弗, is "fú" in Mandarin. I normally defer to the Wukipedia on these sorts of things, since the articles/stubs are written by native speakers, but in this case I think I have to reject it outright.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  佛 shouldn't be used. The sound is ok for some dialects, but it's also a pretty common character otherwise and has a fairly unambiguous meaning. The other three all really do mean "no" and so people really ought to stick to those.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  不 I also don't recommend. It's my opinion that one of the features of writing Wu ought to be an immediate recognition that we're not reading Mandarin. Therefore I think in any case where there's a commonly used alternative for certain words, they should be used. I tend to use 吾 for 我 for that reason alone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  勿 and 弗 could both work just as easily. The benefit of 勿 is it's more common and so everyone will immediately get the meaning without necessarily thinking it's Mandarin. 弗 on the other hand has the advantage of sound. In every Wu dialect in which I know the word for 不, they all start with something like [f].

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Between those two it ultimately comes down to taste. There is one more point on the side of 勿, which is its use in characters marking contractions such as 覅 fiào, a contraction for 勿要.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  For those interested, pronunciation is as follows for the Shanghai dialect: 弗,佛 and 勿 are all [və˩˨], entering tone. 不 is pronounced [pə˧˧] and 覅 is [viɔ˨˧].

                                                                                                                                                                                                  hɔ hɔ ɦo ʑiɪ, tʰi tʰi ɕiɑ̃ zɑ̃.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  edit: I forgot 伐 which is also fairly common online.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Sound Of Shanghai

                                                                                                                                                                                                    A few summers ago when I was new to Shanghai, friends and I joked that the smell of the city was really just the smell of freshly cooked crayfish, lined up on a large cooking sheet and sold on the street as a summer snack, mixed with the smell of whatever had accumulated in the nearby gutter that day. If there's a sound to this city that just as closely tied to my experiences here, it's this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                    [kχʛɣʞɬgʞʞʞʜxkʞǁkxɣʞʞʞʞʜkɣʞʞgχʞʜχ ̚]

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Every apartment in which I've lived for any period more than a couple nights has been plagued by this sound of neighbourly renovation. To this day I have no idea what the actual tool involved is. It was bad enough my second week since moving back to China two years ago that a friend and I got rooms at a hotel a block away for 2 nights just to get away. In case you were wondering about the recent radio silence, that's the reason. I don't have headphones good enough to drown that out for long enough to bother. But fear not. I'm setting up my iPhone to be a mobile studio for just that purpose. Expect a slew of supermarket clips in the coming weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      English For Cabbies

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've not been in a taxi for a long while. Today that ended with one of the more polite drivers I can remember having. His phone rang and he apologetically asked if he could answer it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anyway, we were talking about the Expo (big surprise there) and he mentioned this book the drivers were given in order to learn some English. He practiced a few phrases on me and I gave him a couple more to work on. The odd thing was this book, which unfortunately he didn't have with him, was written in Shanghainese. Really, I asked. Yep. All in Shanghainese in order to teach the drivers English. I didn't think to ask him how exactly it was written, since it seems if it were going to use characters, then the choice of Wu certainly wouldn't have been one for the sake of literacy. I mean, characters are characters. And I don't think he was putting me on. Time didn't permit me pushing the issue, so I had to get out with many an unanswered question. It's something to bring up the next time I get in a taxi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd love to get my hands on the booklet. More of a pamphlet really, as he described it. Has anyone heard of this?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sinosplice: Zhou Libo's Hui Cidian guanxi - links

                                                                                                                                                                                                        John at Sinosplice has posted once more on Shanghainese. Be sure to head over and check it out if you haven't already. It's a great post on some common issues facing the Wu learner. He brings up a lot of the problems with replacement characters as well as transcription of Wu/Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm out of town for a bit, thus the slowing of posts. Semi-regular posts will resume in a couple weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Haimen Rap 

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Personally I'd much prefer to post on cool indie kids in Haimen who wear converse and share my hatred of lensless glasses frames, but I suppose I must make due with this1.


                                                                                                                                                                                                          纽头 叟头2

                                                                                                                                                                                                          东家纽头 西家一只叟头
                                                                                                                                                                                                          隔壁大姐 问他要吃点啥
                                                                                                                                                                                                          东家纽头 西家一只叟头
                                                                                                                                                                                                          隔壁大姐 问他要吃点啥

                                                                                                                                                                                                          乌鸦告状 告给和尚
                                                                                                                                                                                                          和尚念经 念给观音
                                                                                                                                                                                                          观音卖布 卖给小伙
                                                                                                                                                                                                          小伙关门 关到一只苍蝇
                                                                                                                                                                                                          苍蝇放放屁 放了一地

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As mentioned in the previous post, Haimen hua is damn near identical to that of Qidong and other bits of Nantong but for some differences in accent. The dialect is often called Qihai hua, qi from Qidong and hai from Haimen. In fact this was originally given to me by a friend from Qidong as an example of her local dialect. At any rate, no Haimenite is going to pull walk through a chatting crowd of Nantonganians without being noticed for the outsider that they are, but then no effort is going to be needed to understand their explanations as to why they've wandered this far west either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          So there you go. It's still no 覅烦 though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is actually part two of the post on Qihai dialect. And yes, I realise the subject of this post sounds dirty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. If Ecke Wu sang in Wu, I'd write about that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. a stubborn person

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Minor Topolect – Qǐdōng / Hǎimén & Tōngdōng lessons - dialects

                                                                                                                                                                                                            This month's minor topolect post is the heartiest of such posts to date. Haimen (locally pronounced [haɪ məŋ]) and Qidong (locally [ʨʰi toŋ]) are two cities under the jurisdiction of Nantong. They have a combined population of about 2.6 million people all living north and northeast of Shanghai in southern Jiangsu province. From Qidong it's 22km to the ocean, moving inches farther away each year. It's actually over 70km from downtown Nantong despite its political affiliation, making it actually closer to Shanghai (65+km) than Nantong as the crow flies. Of course, dialects have neither wings nor gills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Qidong dialect is almost entirely identical to Haimen dialect and as such they are often jointly called Qihai dialect, 启海话. There is some subtle difference in accent but aside from that none of the people with whom I've spoken from either city can provide any concrete examples of any difference. And for what it's worth Qidong natives have little trouble with Shanghainese speech, so the recordings below may be of some value in the area of listening practice for those learning Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Despite being the majority dialect in the area, Qihai is not the only Wu dialect that falls within the borders of Qidong. The other and only slightly related dialect is appropriately called Lüsi dialect being that it's spoken in the town of Lüsi 吕四港镇.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The following is from Baidu's Baike page (which also includes initials in finals, but no IPA) on Tongdong hua:
                                                                                                                                                                                                            tr: Tongdong dialect is a dialect from Jiangsu Nantong and surrounding areas, commonly called "Jiangbei2 dialect" and belongs to the Changzhou group of Taihu Wu dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            And from the Wikipedia article on Qidong:
                                                                                                                                                                                                            People living in Lüsi town speak a different dialect -- known as Lüsi dialect (lǘsìhuà 吕四话) or Tongdong dialect (tōngdōnghuà 通东话) -- from most other residents, who generally speak Qidong Dialect (qǐdōnghuà 启东话). The two dialects are considerably different and thus they are not mutually intelligible. Because most economic, educational and governmental activities are held in the city capital Huilong, where Qidong Dialect is prevalent, many residents of Qisi have learned to understand and even speak the majority dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Both of the two dialects belong to the Northern Wu dialect. However, because of cultural differences among two places, there still exist non-intelligible usage mostly in vocabulary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The question in Qidong/Haimen becomes where Qihai hua gives way to Tongdong hua. What may be referred to by locals as Qidong hua is actually not only Qihai hua but also Tongdong hua. Lüsi is about 30km north of what in English would be called Qidong City1, and with the rather significant differences it should be considered a different topolect and usually is. I've spoken to a few people from the area and it appears that Tongdong is limited almost solely to 吕四港镇 as far as counties within the jurisdiction of Qidong City.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            While not the biggest issue, the name of the dialects is not without complication. In Qidong and in Haimen it will often be referred to as 启东话 and 海门话 respectively. Meanwhile outside their respective cities, 启海话 wins out at the preferred term.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tongdong hua may be called just that or sometimes also Tongzhou hua 通州话, Tongzhou being another city within Nantong where it is spoken. My friends from Qidong all refer to 通东话 as 吕四话 and are largely unfamiliar with the 通东 name in any local context.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I apologise in advance. You're about to hear me speak some lazy-assed Mandarin and make poor attempts at repeating what the native speaker says. I had intended to completely edit myself out and thus kept quiet but in the end have left much of it just to it's less… abrupt. Also she was giving me weird looks when I was responding with just head-nods so I started answering more audibly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The first recording starts with numbers one to ten. Keep in mind here the number 2 is 二 not 两 as I've used in other posts for the more common form of "two". Both of course are still used in the appropriate places.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:iɛʔ ɲi sæ̃ sẓ n lɔ ʨʰɛ ba ʨiø sæʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
                                                                                                                                                                                                              How do you say "hello"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:nə̆ ɦɑo
                                                                                                                                                                                                              And "goodbye"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ʦaɪ ʨiɛ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's not "zài hùi"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ʦaɪ veɪ
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:ʦaɪ veɪ
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ʦaɪ veɪ,再见。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [ʦaɪ veɪ] for goodbye works too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Thank you"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ɕaʊ jaʊ næʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I, you, he/she/it?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ŋ, n, ɦi
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Us, you, them?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ŋ di, n di, ɦi da

                                                                                                                                                                                                              How do you say "[I] don't have"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:n dʌʔ, n dʌʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              And "how much[/many]"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:du uɔ, du uɔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:然后一种书面说法是 do saʊ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              There's also a literary pronunciation, [do saʊ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:认识,ɲiɲ, ɲiɲ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              To know (somebody), [ɲiɲ], [ɲiɲ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:啊。然后… 吃饭是 ʨʰ veɛ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Right. Also… "to eat" is [ʨʰ veɛ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:fɛn ʨʰ veɛ va
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:fɛn ʨʰ veɛ va
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她: 啊。fɛn 是,就是没有
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah [fɛn] is, it's 没有.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ŋ kɿ ʦɿ ɕiɑʊ dʓiɛ 只你这个小鬼。ŋ kɿ ʦɿ ɕiɑʊ dʓiɛ
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [ŋ kɿ ʦɿ ɕiɑʊ dʓiɛ] is "you're a little demon". [ŋ kɿ ʦɿ ɕiɑʊ dʓiɛ].
                                                                                                                                                                                                              ʦo ʦən do biæ di. 这是,这是那,嘿,叫×骂小孩子一般要这样子点他的头,ʦo ʦən do biæ di!
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [ʦo ʦən do biæ di], this is, like, when you curse a small child you poke their head at the same time. [ʦo ʦən do biæ di]!
                                                                                                                                                                                                              上网叫 sã mã. sã mã.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              To be online is [sã mã] (or [saŋ maŋ]). [sã mã].
                                                                                                                                                                                                              然后睡觉就 kuən gɑʊ。茶壶,bɑ ʋu. 锅子, guʔ, guʔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              "To sleep" is [kuən gɑʊ]. Teakettle is [bɑ βu]. Pot is [guʔ], [guʔ].
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Let me think a second…
                                                                                                                                                                                                              So, when someone asks "Have you eaten," what do you say?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:fɛn ʨʰ veɛ va
                                                                                                                                                                                                              And then you answer with what?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Uh… If you've eaten then you say "yeah".
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Just "yeah"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:啊 ʨʰɪ gə dæʔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, [ʨʰɪ gə dæʔ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                              然后没有吃得话就说 fə ɲiɲ gə lʌʔ, fə ɲiɲ ʨʰɪ gə lʎʔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then if you haven't eaten, say [ə ɲiɲ gə lʌʔ] or [fə ɲiɲ ʨʰɪ gə lʎʔ].
                                                                                                                                                                                                              fə ɲiɲ,这是没有的意思。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [fə ɲiɲ], this is "to not have", is what it means.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              然后我们那边说哪里,叫 lɑ ɺi, lɑ ɺi
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then where I'm from to say "where?" is [lɑ ɺi], [lɑ ɺi]3.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              So do you say "Lanjing" (instead of Nanjing)?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I say "Nanjing". My Mandarin is pretty good [asshole].
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Er ah no I mean do you say "Lanjing" in Qihai dialect?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:ɲɛ̃ ʨiŋ,我们不是蓝京是 ɲɛ̃ ʨiŋ。ɲɛ̃。
                                                                                                                                                                                                            --[ɲɛ̃ ʨiŋ]. We don't say "Lanjing". It's [ɲɛ̃ ʨiŋ].
                                                                                                                                                                                                            --东南西北叫 doŋ ɲɛ̃ ɕi bɔʔ. nə jɛ ɲɛ̃,我们那边是,不是 na -an nan 是 nə jɛ ɲɛ̃. doŋ ɲɛ̃ ɕi bɔʔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            --East South West North, [doŋ ɲɛ̃ ɕi bɔʔ]. [nə] and [jɛ], [ɲɛ̃]. We say it, we don't say "na an, nan," it's [nə] [jɛ], [ɲɛ̃]. [doŋ ɲɛ̃ ɕi bɔʔ]

                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:然后像吕四话 (通东话) 跟常州话有点近的。常州话说做什么,干妈,“就嗲”。对吧。然后吕四话是…就嗲 [dziu dia]。然后…这是“做什么”。“就嗲”,干妈。然后还有什么…
                                                                                                                                                                                                              And Lüsi hua is really close to Changzhou hua. In Changzhou to say "What are you doing?" it's 就嗲, right? Lüsi hua is 就嗲. Uh… that's "What are you doing?". 就嗲, "What are you doing?". Let's see, what else...
                                                                                                                                                                                                              How do you say that in Qidong?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:启东话?[ha tia]。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Qidong dialect? [ha tia].
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:[ha tia] 是做什么?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [ha tia] is "what are you doing?"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:[ha tiː]4 这是那个, [ha ti]。[zua la] 这是干妈啦也是那个干妈的意思。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah that's [ha tia]. So is [zua la]. It's the same meaning.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:[zua la]
                                                                                                                                                                                                            她:[zua la]。然后不要这是 [ɔ jo]。吕四港镇。这(近海市)是我家 (pointing on map)。[ɔ jo],不要。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [zua la]. "[I] don't want" is [ɔ jo]. In Lüsi county. This (Jinhai city) is where I'm from. [ɔ jo]. Bu yao.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:[ɔ jo] 是不要?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              [ɔ jo] is "bu yao"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Right. What else…
                                                                                                                                                                                                            我:这是你的 (近海市),这是你爸的(吕四)。
                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is your city, this is your father's?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              What about your mother?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              My mother is also from Jinhai. My father moved there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              So how do you say Jinhai in Qihai hua?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              …That's the same.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's really close to Shanghainese, yeah?


                                                                                                                                                                                                            Any rhythmic clicking in the background is my dog walking across the floor. She may also at some point say "defecate" and "urinate" that I've missed in the transcription but I'm not sure if that's still in there. The dog is reason. You can figure out for yourself how that came up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            As you've heard above, Qidong locals will be the first to echo the idea that Qihai hua is nearly identical to Chongming5 hua, and thus damn close to Shanghainese. While the former is true, both Qihai hua and Chongming hua have some pretty major differences from urban Shanghainese and so at least in terms of public acceptance, a native of Qidong would be pressed to find effortless understanding of their speech in Shanghai's Jing'an.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Like Shaoxing dialect but unlike most other Northern Wu dialects, Qihai has the full 8 tones. They are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                             阴平 54  阴上 435 阴去 445 阴入 55
                                                                                                                                                                                                             阳平 24  阳上 241 阳去 213 阳入 23

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Note the 阳上 tone is like an inverted Mandarin third tone, cresting instead of dipping. While not exactly anomalous, it's not so common either. You can hear it in the first recording when she says the number five.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            For Tongdong the tones are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                             阴平 44  阴上 51  阴去 34  阴入 34
                                                                                                                                                                                                             阳平 13  阳上 31  阳去 21  阳入 23

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Given the difficulty a Mandarin learner may have with being understood with a poor grasp of the four tones, you can see how this difference alone could contribute to a lack of mutual intelligibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Other goodies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            There's a quiz over at Baidu Tieba, though all in characters and probably would only really be doable if you were already from Qidong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Fobshanghai.com has a post up with a rather lengthy glossary list, again characters only.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Of course there's always the official site for the Qidong government.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            So there it is. Feel free to suggest any changes in the transcription. If there are any, I'll just ask her to say the word/s again clearly and repeatedly to figure out what it really should be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. The terms used to translate Chinese 市 and 县 are "city" and "county" respectively. There's a Wikipedia article on it. The gist is that counties are often within cities, not the other way around.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Literally, "North of the Yangtze", though Jiangbei 江北 is often used in a derogatory manner in the delta, the implication being that those from south of the River are more civilised.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. It could be a lateral tap as I've written or maybe an alveolar tap though I'm less convinced of that one. Next time I see her I'll find out which it should be, assuming I can figure out how to clearly say "lateral tap" in Mandarin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            4. I'm not entirely sure, but I think this -a ending is restricted to girls and of about this age (early 20s). See the Wikipedia article on gendered speech in Japanese for more on this sort of thing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            5. Actually, at least in terms of political divisions, in some cases Qihai hua is Chongming hua. 启隆乡 is on the island but administered by 启东市 while 海门市's 海永乡 is just to the Northwest on the island. Click here for a map. My guess is that a small island that was part of Jiangsu got eaten up by shifting sands sometime after 1950.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Minor Topolect - Shàoxīng lessons - dialects

                                                                                                                                                                                                              This month for the Monthly Minor Topolect we're looking at Shaoxing dialect from Northern Zhenjiang. The city is on the site of the 越国 capital of the Spring and Autumn Period. The population is just over 4 million and it's geographically pretty close to Hangzhou.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Shaoxing dialect, unlike most of the Northern Wu dialects, has the full 8 tones, four in each register. They are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                               阴平 41   阴上 335  阴去 33  阴入 4
                                                                                                                                                                                                               阳平 231  阳上 113  阳去 11  阳入 2 

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Unlike contours for a number of dialects, we can clearly see 阴 and 阳 as upper and lower registers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Personal pronouns
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Note the differences between "I" and "you" are absurdly small if you're not so great with /ŋ/ at the beginning of words.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Example sentences
                                                                                                                                                                                                              And some examples:

                                                                                                                                                                                                               你是不是杭州人?← 绍兴话
                                                                                                                                                                                                               noʔ˨ ze˩˩˧ veʔ˨ ze˩˩˧ ɦɒŋ˨˧˩ tsɤ˦˩ ɲiŋ˨˧˩?
                                                                                                                                                                                                               你是不是杭州人?← 普通话

                                                                                                                                                                                                               ʨiŋ˦˩ tsɒ˦˩ ʨiʔ˦ ʨiɤ˦˩ noʔ˨ ieʔ˦ gəʔ˨ ɲiŋ˨˧˩ le˨˧˩ da˩˩ a˩˩

                                                                                                                                                                                                               noʔ˨ væʔ˨ hɒ˧˧˥ ʨʰi˧˧ le˧˧

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Most of this information is coming from a book published by Zhejiang University Press (浙江大学出版社) which goes in to a huge amount of detail at about 294000 characters. I gotta say I like that books are calculated by number of characters, not pages, in the Chinese equivalent of the Library of Congress details in the first page or so. If you're big into 绍兴话 and want the book, it's called 《吴越文化视野中的绍兴方言研究》 and is listed at 36.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                More On Transcription

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The following is from the YR Chao 赵元任 interview I mentioned a while back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                At that time Hu Shih [胡适] spelled his name Suh Hu, instead of Hu Shih. "Shih" is the standard Wade-Giles spelling in the Chinese order. Suh Hu is the foreign order, with the last name last. The reason for that "h" is that it had an entering tone, and he was a student at Shanghai, where they had the entering tone, so "suh" really stands for the syllable [s[schwa]]; the "h" stands for the glottal stop [?]. But everyone called him Suh Hu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just in case anyone was still thinking it was odd to use h for something other than aspiration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A Comparison Of Transcriptions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We've been talking about transcription a few posts back and the rather unorthodox method used in some sources. Logically "bh" seems like it ought to correspond to [bʰ], not [b], but as we've seen, that's not really the case in some texts. So I've thrown together a quick comparison of four different methods of transcription for Wu, as well as including pinyin for Modern Standard Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I didn't include endings in this, though really that's where the biggest differences are. For example depending on the source cases y could be [y], [ẓ] (aka [ɿ]) or [i], not to mention the extreme variation for something as simple as [ã]. But that would be incredibly time consuming and this is really just to get a general idea of the variety.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Top row is International Phonetic Alphabet, Shanghainese Pinyin*, Standard Mandarin Pinyin. Second row is Long-short transcription and the Wu Association transcription.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [m] m m[n] n n[ɲ] n  [ŋ] ng ng
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  m mn ngn nyng ng
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [p] b b[t] d d[k] g g[ʔ] k `
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  p pt tk k* `
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [pʰ] p p[tʰ] t t[kʰ] k k
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ph phth thkh kh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [b] bh  [d] dh  [g] gh  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  b bd dg g
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [ts] z z[ʨ] j j
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  tz tsc j
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [tsʰ] c c[ʨʰ] q q
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ts tshch tsh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [dz]    [dʑ] jh  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  dz  dj j
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [f] f f[s] s s[ɕ] x x[h] h h
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  f fs sx shh h
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [v] v  [z] sh  [ʑ] xh  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  v vz zj z
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [l] l l[ɦ] hh h
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  l lr gh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now you see why I'm such a big supporter of using IPA. Standard IPA. Even though I really do like [ɿ] for [ẓ], having an internationally accepted standard is a pretty big convenience. The only reason I even use things like [ɿ] and [ȵ] are because they're so widely understood in terms of Chinese topolects, even if a little obsolete.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's like the Esperanto of transcription, except that it's actually useful to learn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  * as used by 上海辞书出版社 in their pinyin Shanghainese dictionary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's The Little Things

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Obama may be the first U.S. president to publicly speak Wu. Alright fine, it was just 侬好, but we'll take what we can get.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It brings a tear to my eye.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Why Tones Might Not Matter In Wu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Or at least why they may be much less important than in Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've argued that tone is important in Wu, even if focusing just on a dialect with a drastically limited tone set such as the Shanghai dialect. While most Wu dialects have 7 or 8 tones (including those immediately outside of Shanghai), Shanghainese has been reduced to about five. Maybe less since two of those 5, the 阴入 and 阳入, are mostly just reduced form of the 平声 and what's called the 舒声 which is really just an amalgamation of all the non-ru 入 in the lower register (阳). Many people, locals included, will tell you that after the first word of a sentence the rest of the words don't matter. I wouldn't go this far but I could see taking the first and last into account and then dropping everything else to mid-level tones and still getting by just fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Previously, I've written that I think the reason most people neglect tones or feel they can be neglected in Shanghainese is that they just never get far enough into the language to really see how much they matter. You can have an atrocious "厕所在哪儿" in Mandarin and get by just fine1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But I think I may have been wrong in taking that position. I still think there's something to it, at least in the early stages of learning the language. I do think you can get by for a good while with crap tones in Shanghainese as long as your pronunciation is decent (mine's not, for the same reason I could never say "não" right when studying 巴西话 years back). The following is from the Wikipedia article on tonogenesis, emphasis added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      André-Georges Haudricourt established that Vietnamese tone originated in earlier consonantal contrasts, and suggested similar mechanisms for Chinese. It is by now well-established that Old Chinese did not have phonemically contrastive tone. …

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Very often, tone arises as an effect of the loss or merger of consonants. … In a non-tonal language, voiced consonants commonly cause following vowels to be pronounced at a lower pitch than other consonants do. This is usually a minor phonetic detail of voicing. However, if consonant voicing is subsequently lost, that incidental pitch difference may be left over to carry the distinction that the voicing had carried, and thus becomes meaningful (phonemic).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So Mandarin without voiced consonants has tones and they matter a great deal. Wu, or specifically Shanghai Wu, has voiced consonants in addition to the aspirated and un-aspirated consonants and tones matter a lot less. If I remember correctly, there are only 412 different syllables in Mandarin. Wu not only has initials not found in Mandarin, but finals as well at least in the form of [ʔ]. Granted, in the case of [ʔ] it always takes 入声, but then maybe that's the point. As long as that stop is evident in speech, you wouldn't really need to hit the tone right. Again from the Wikipedia article:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We can see this historically in Panjabi: the Panjabi murmured (voiced aspirate) consonants have disappeared, and left tone in their wake. If the murmured consonant was at the beginning of a word, it left behind a low tone; if at the end, a high tone. If there was no such consonant, the pitch was unaffected; however, the unaffected words are limited in pitch so as not to interfere with the low and high tones, and so has become a tone of its own: mid tone. The historical connection is so regular that Panjabi is still written as if it had murmured consonants, and tone is not marked: The written consonants tell the reader which tone to use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the Moka texts3 we have the same deal. The tones were not written in those books (unfortunately) but the words which would be pronounced with the entering tone are marked in their spelling. One of the characters in the story 《ㄐㄧ ㄉㄢ ㄍㄠ ㄌナ ㄌㄧ ㄑㄧ ㄗオ》 is named ‘Li-tok (ㄌㄧ-ㄉㅏ), the letter k in "-ok" (here ㅏ) marks the stop [ʔ] meaning we can tell that syllable was either 阴入 or 阳入.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      With tones tied to consonant voicing in this way it would be one more point for the "tones are irrelevant in Wu" people. Or at least, the "mostly irrelevant in Wu" people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I know because I did just that when I first got to China. At fast food joints I said "一号套餐" with 号 as 好 for the first six months and never once had it matter. Now in a grad program the distinction is rather important and with much of the context stripped by the miserly use of words that is 文言文, tone matters a whole lot more.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Worth noting for Wu, in Middle Chinese 入声 was taken by syllables ending in [p], [t] and [k], now a glottal stop [ʔ] in most modern Wu dialects. You can see this in the transcription in Wang Ping's book on Suzhou dialect, the Moka Mission texts of the 20s and the Shanghaihua Da Cidian, pinyin edition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. The bopomofo used in the Moka texts was a modified form of the bopomofo used today. For the additional letters, see this old post. I'm using ㅏ here and ト there but they're actually the same letter. The typeface used in the original text makes it unclear what the form really ought to be, and I have yet to find other texts using the symbol that are not from the Moka Mission.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        星期沪 - Outsiders lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Face it. If you're from another country (外国人) and you move from almost anywhere else in China to Shanghai, you're going to notice a change in how people treat you. Far fewer people saying 哈罗* like it's an urgent question and far more treating you like a human being. And conversely, if you're from another part of China (外地人) and you make the same move, sucks to your assmar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So here you go, your filthy filthy outsiders with your Canadian salaries or Erhuayin. Either way, this week out theme is you⁑.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        外地人 ŋɑ22 di55 ɲin21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            nga di nyin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        外国人 ŋɑ22 koʔ55 ɲin21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            nga kok nyin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        乡下人 ɕiã55 ɦo33 ɲin21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            xia hou nyin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        外头人 ŋɑ2255 ɲin21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            nga de nyin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        本地人 pən33 ti55 ɲin21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ben di nyin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        * Hēllǒ!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ⁑ and me too, obviously.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ⁂ Re 地 as [ti] or [di], it's hard to know if this is an error in transcription consistency or if there's some sort of voicing sandhi going on. Either way I've left it as the difference between an un-aspirated /t/ and /d/ are minimal and not really worth crying over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Shanghainese Profanity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What better topic to follow Disney movies with than profanity? Don't read further if you're offended by such things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Growing up in my family this would have been called plumbing talk, but I think it's really better suited to taxi rides, since that's where you're going to encounter this the most. So picture it. You're in a taxi on your way to that new Dongbei joint when some schmuck cuts over into your lane and before you know it your driver is giving him an earful. Well don't just sit there. After all, you've been practicing for just such an occasion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Swearing in Shanghainese isn't much different than swearing in any other language. It's basically F your mom and all that, and pretty much follows along Mandarin swearing. And where better to start than with the ubiquitous 肏, or as it appears in Shanghainese, 册/冊. The most common of all spoken curses in Shanghai has got to be 册那. In this case 那 is actually 亻那 as one character (㑚) but isn't supported by Unicode, but has limited font support. You'll also see it as 哪, for the same font-based reason. 册 meanwhile is just 肏 with a different character to show the difference in sound.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           册那 tsʰɑ nɑ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If 册 isn't doing it for you, you can also substitute a number of other words, including 赤 or 尺, both of which are also [tsʰɑ], ru sheng.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But what of their mother? Surely she's not innocent in this whole ordeal before you. It's worth noting that you're not going to see 妈/媽 involved as much as in Mandarin. Instead most cases use 娘/孃. Note that 个 can be pronounced [əʔ] or [gəʔ].

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           册那娘个老屄 tsʰɑ nɑ ɲiã əʔ lɔ pi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Admittedly, this is jumping right into things. Maybe you want to build up to it instead. Like Mandarin, Shanghainese uses gǔn 滚, which though literally is "roll", is used more like "bugger off". And of course, when cursing in China, you can never forget the eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           滚侬妈个蛋 kuən noŋ mɑ əʔ dɛ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's right. You tell them their mom's eggs can just rooolll away. Maybe 蛋 doesn't quite get it across the way you'd like. Why not try 卵 [lø]?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finally, for the less bold, there's always 靠, working just fine on it's own.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now that the damage is done, a quick disclaimer: I've heard stories of foreigners who've decided to give an argument everything they've got. With a quick utterance of 草泥马 things became violent. Don't expect these things to be received well. We take no responsibility for you getting your ass beat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Got something to add? If you have other Wu insults or curses, leave them in the comments.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                            To answer the people who think the topics here get too technical/academic/stuffy:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Aww yeah. The Lion King in Shanghainese. Not the whole film, of course, but you get the idea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I gotta say I'm a little sad that Scar sounds nothing like Jeremy Irons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Update: Just found Aladdin, or at least 16 minutes of Aladdin. They even do one of the songs. Have a look.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nonstandard Pronunciation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Someone on Youku has uploaded a series of videos on how to speak Shanghaihua. They videos are old news, having been up for at least a couple years, or if not these videos specifically than videos just like them. I was floating around the site yesterday and decided to watch a couple. I couldn't help but notice some of the comments, things like

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "有点象 宁波话"



                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What's the deal here? That's a rhetorical question as I've lived here long enough to know exactly what they perceive the deal to be. I just don't buy that it's real.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Magnus of mandmx.com mentioned this in an interview we did here a while back. To quote:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There is a Yuepu kind of dialect too. Heard that many times as we ate dinner and stuff. I remember at one point I tried to use some Yuepuhua I learned at a dinner in Shanghai with other Shanghainese. I always got a laugh in Yuepu so I tried it with these friends… not a sound… crickets…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Back to Youku. The videos are called 学说上海话. It stands to reason that anyone having grown up speaking 吴语 somewhere within the municipality could rightly be called a speaker of Shanghainese. What's the difference if they're from Baoshan or Jiabei or Minhang? Well, maybe not Minhang. The part that gets me is when people say things like "This isn't standard pronunciation" in the comments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Since when has Shanghainese been standardised?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As someone trying to learn Shanghainese, are you better off learning a 'nonstandard' "sounds like Ningbohua" pronunciation, or walking around saying it with a thick Texas drawl? Damned if you do etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                星期沪 - Colours lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This week's topic is colour, for which I direct you to the previous post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 红 ɦoŋ - red
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 黄 uã - yellow
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 白 baʔ - white
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 黑 həʔ - black
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 绿 lɔʔ - green
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 青 ʨʰin - uh, qing?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 蓝 lɛ - blue


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Red Cards And Yellow Cards

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  …and not a footballer in sight.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is one of three recordings I got in the 10 minutes I had to wait to add money to my transit card as I was on my way to Jing'an this morning. The shrill voice is that of one trapped behind glass while the other belongs to a woman buying a plethora of transit cards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  First the vocabulary:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   红  ɦoŋ / hong
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   黄  uã / whang
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   一百 iɪʔ pɑʔ / yik bak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   两百 liã pɑʔ / liang bak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Tones are being ignored because of sandhi. I wouldn't be able to give you standard numbers, and I'm not going to figure out what they should be after the sandhi is applied, because well, that would take forever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You'll hear her quietly say "一起七" around 0:22, 七 sounding a bit like 切. Basically, she came with 700RMB and wanted to get a bunch of red (actually rather dark pink) cards and one yellow card, the yellow card having only 100RMB on it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In case you're dying to know, here are some more colours in case you yourself would like colour-coded transit cards..
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   白 baʔ / bhak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   黑 həʔ / hak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   绿 lɔʔ / lok
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   青 ʨʰin / qin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   蓝 lɛ / le

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  edit: Janky pseudo-pinyin just added. remember the bh marks a voiced b as in English (not to be confused with Mandarin's unvoiced b) and a k at the end marks a glottal stop, i.e. like holding your breath a slight bit at the end of the syllable. And "whang" isn't at all what you'd think it'd be. more like "wa" with a nasal [a], no real "ng" or "h" to speak of.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cursing In Minhang

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My cab driver loudly cursed the driver in front of him. I talked to him about it a little. The conversation went on to a discussion about the differences between 闵行话 and downtown 话, which apparently are pretty noticeable to the native Shanghainese. He said that when he's downtown as soon as he opens his mouth they know he's from Minhang. I couldn't get specifics from him, so I tried to do a little digging when I got home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There's a book, called 上海西南方言词典 which I'm adding to my list of ones to buy but of which I can't find any scanned pages online. From what the driver said, the difference is mostly accent. I wasn't able to articulate any questions on variation in tone or anything of such substance, and it was a short ride anyway so I doubt there would have been much time to figure anything out. That's why there are books, I suppose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Importance Of Directions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I still think of Chinese cities as being like Nanjing, in which it seems no street keeps the same name for more than a few blocks. I was once asked to meet someone at the KFC on Guangzhou Lu. "Which KFC?" I asked, not realising Guangzhou Lu was really only long enough to support one. A few blocks west and it's 清凉门大街 and a few east it becomes 珠江路, somehow making a 90° turn along the way. So it still surprises me to find streets that keep their names, despite this being the norm in most cities. The other day I walked from the Bund to Jing'An Temple without once leaving Nanjing Lu. As far as I know, it might just keep going until it turns into 珠江路 in Nanjing itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The following is one side of a phone conversation, the long pauses mercifully edited out. The speaker you hear is my 司机 from a few days ago, talking to someone else with whom I was late to meet. It turns out they gave me the wrong street name, substituting a 南 for a 北, leaving both the driver and I scratching our heads. The address doesn't exist on Qinzhou Nan Lu. Qinzhou Nan stops at 1000 and change, and mine was well above 1000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A couple notes on the recording. I've beeped out the actual address past "一千" for obvious reasons. I will mention that the first two times he says the address, he does so in Mandarin. The third and final time it's in Wu. Most of the recording is in Shanghainese but it does break into Mandarin for a few seconds here and there. The audio is in two parts, 0:50 and 0:40 in length.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The first half:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The second half:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      These were recorded on my phone and then edited in Audacity. I've been having problems lately with Audacity giving me garbled files when exporting as mp3. I did a quick spot check on these so they should be fine but if somehow I missed something let me know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        星期沪 - Some Basics lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The following are three phrases that you'll hear on a regular basis. They go right up there with 侬好. Today we're skipping the IPA and going with simple Shanghainese pinyin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 ɦyø5 vəʔ3 ʨi1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Long time no see.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nong23 dao34 shang2he4 ji3ho4 shen2guang5lak1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        How long have you been in Shanghai?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fiao3 kak3qi4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mak4 gue5xi3ge1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Conversations In Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A while back I mentioned the 上海话大词典 published by 上海辞书出版社, Shanghai Dictionary Publishing. What I didn't mention was that they actually publish the same dictionary in two forms. The one mentioned earlier was the "cihai edition" 辞海版. The other is called the "pinyin input edition" 拼音输人版 which uses a sort of adapted pinyin in place of IPA. The entries are the same with only the Romanisation changed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The other feature of the pinyin edition is the inclusion of an audio CD and dialogues at the back of the book. The following is the first dialogue. The transcription is the pinyin used in the book as well.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Zang5xi3sang1, nong23 zao34!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Shy23 xiao3lin5a1, nong23 hao34!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Shang2yhu5fhak3ji1, ngu23 lao23 xiang3ni5nong3hhak1!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ngu23 hha23 shang2 shang4 xiang34 le23 mang2 mang5 nong1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ngu23 jin5zao1 bhang2dao5nong1 jiao5gue1 ke5xin1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Nong23 ghak1qiang3 sen5ti1 hao3fha4?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Seng5ti1 me5hao1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Nong23 zoe3jhin4 mang2fha4?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hhe2hao4, fhak1da3 mang23. Nong2nak4?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ghak1qiang2li3 ngu23 lao23 mang2hhak4!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The book advertises 900 sentences. I believe it. Page after page of dialogues fill the back of the book.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Keep "shang2 yhu5 fhak3 ji1" [zã˨ ɦyø˥ vəʔ˧ ʨi˩] handy. It's the equivalent of 好久不见 and almost as useful as "have you eaten?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The majority of letters are the same as in pinyin for Mandarin. The extra h, as in "shang yhu fhak ji" marks voice. So p is [pʰ] and b is [p] as in Mandarin but then bh is [b]. Same for dh, gh, sh which is [z] (not to be confused with pinyin z), and fh which is [v].

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Others are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          jh = [dʑ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          xh = [ʑ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          hh = [ɦ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          yh = [ɦy] e.g. 雨, yhu, [ɦy˨˧]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ng = [ŋ]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finals are the same as Mandarin pinyin with some exceptions. They are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -k = [ʔ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ang = [ɑ̃]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -e = [ɛ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ao = [ɔ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ou = [ɤ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -oe = [ø]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            星期沪 - The Weather lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This week we're covering some phrases and vocabulary for discussing the weather. It's useful common small talk that you could practice on your neighbours or colleagues on a regular basis without really driving them insane with your regular questioning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ʨiɲ ʦɔ tʰi ʨʰi na nəŋ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What is today's weather like?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ʨiŋ ʦɔ ʨi du
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What's the temperature today?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            今朝 - today [ʨiŋ ʦɔ], pinyin: jing co
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            天气 - weather [tʰi˥˥ ʨʰi˨˩]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            冷  - cold [lã˨˩]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            热  - hot [ɲiɪʔ˨˩]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            闷  - stuffy [məŋ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            云  - coud [ɦyn˨˧]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            雨  - rain [ɦy˨˧]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            雷  - lightning [lɛ˨˧]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            雾  - fog [ɦu˨˧]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So to say "Today is hot and stuffy", it's

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ʨiŋ ʦɔ ɦiɤ məŋ ɦiɤ ɲiɪʔ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Until next week.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Moka Mission Revisited moka mission

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I couldn't resist going back to the Moka Garden Embroidery Mission documents. There's just too much there to be limited to a couple posts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In addition to the book of short stories, they also recorded a staple of missionary linguistics, the Lord's Prayer. The following is from Inductive Lessons in Soochow Phonetics.













































































































                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Some of the zhuyin glyphs used to represent sounds in Suzhou dialect are not standard zhuyin. If I've read correctly, they were created in their final form by the missionaries themselves, based of course on other glyphs or characters. Since these aren't standard and thus not covered by Unicode, I've had to do some borrowing. The following characters are used in the Moka Mission texts, here borrowed from Mandarin hanzi and Japanese katakana. Romanization is from the Moka publications.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               卄 - oong ノ - eh ウ - ien 干 - oen [øn] 丄 - aung ト - auh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ム - z 广 - ny [ɲ] 乙 - ah 兀 - ng [ŋ] 万 - v ナ - o 久 - eh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As far as the hanzi in the prayer goes, you may have noticed it's also not standard. The text is in traditional characters, as would be expected for 1920. However there are a fair number of occurrences of 个. Here it's been re-appropriated standing in for 得 and 的, both being pronounced "ge" in most Wu dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The text of the prayer transliterated using the Moka Mission's system is as follows:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              tsu bau vun
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ngoo nyi k ya lah thien laung k nyoen nyin koong kyung ya k my iz z sung k nyoen ya k kweh too le nyoen ya k tsu y zung koong lah ti laung ziang lah tsien laung ih yang nyieh nyieh yoong k van lyang kyeu ya kyung tsau beh lah nyi. mien theh ngoo nyi soo chien k tsa zyang nyi mien theh bieh nyin chien nyi k tsa ih y veh yau ling nyi zeu s fah yau kyeu nyi kheh hyoong auh ing we kweh too kyoen bing yoong yau zang z ya k tseh tau yoong. a men.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Those familiar with early Romanisation of Chinese will be able to muck through it fairly effectively. To get an idea of more modern language since the Lord's Prayer is hardly the typical conversation, the following is from the book of short stories published by the mission. It's the first sentence of the first story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               laopai kyi-dan-kau z taung tien-sin chuh k meh-z.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               modern ci-de-kau zy daon thie-tsin chih keh me-zeh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               pinyin jīdàngāo shì táng tiānjīn chī de měishí
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               hanzi 鸡蛋糕是糖天津吃得美食".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The second is from the Wu Association online mini dictionary which uses another non-standard system of transcription but one which matches the Moka system well enough. The vowel in "taung" ought to match the one in the "daon" on the modern Suzhou dialect version, both corresponding to 糖.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Interview With YR Chao

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There's a great interview with YR Chao up on the USC library site. It's part of their China Scholars Series and is called Chinese linguist, phonologist, composer and author, Yuen Ren Chao. All in all it's about 240 pages or more, which includes the index, all hyperlinked together, which is nice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here's a quick sample:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Later, when you were making decisions about which course of academics to follow--and of course you talked about these things with fellow-students--I wonder to what degree questions of national obligation entered into your decision making.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think very little. We thought that with so many of us, probably our different interests would cover most of the needs. [Laughter] As for myself, I was just self-centered; I just followed the interests I had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What about your interest in language?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That started very early because of the early language experience I had. My people came from what we call the South, which means the Kiangsu, Chekiang region--the Wu dialect region. My grandfather spoke Mandarin very poorly, and so did my father. I think my mother was the only one who spoke a fairly good Mandarin. At home, we children always spoke Mandarin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Then, as soon as we started to learn to read and write, we were taught the Changchow pronunciation in the Wu dialect, so that at one time I could only speak in the northern dialect and read in the southern. Moving about, even within what's now called Hopeh province, we were exposed to various kinds of accents. When we went back to Changchow later, we were exposed to even more varieties of dialect. That's how I got interested in all these different matters of pronunciation and matters of vocabulary among different dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm slightly biased, what with his excellent work on the Changzhou dialect and Chinese linguistics in general. That said, if you're interested in the history of language reform in China or Chinese linguistics in general, I recommend the read. There's a bit on Gwoyeu Romatzyh, Chao's attempt at a Romanisation system and more on his own dialect studies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So take a look if you've got the time. The things you find when killing time on library sites.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Minor Topolect - Húzhōu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Inspired by the recent conversations regarding Qián Xuántóng 钱玄同, this month the minor topolect is that of his hometown, Húzhōu 湖州, or as they (allegedly) say in the dialect, Wuzei. More than that, I spent so much time sorting through blurred photocopies of Húzhōu dialect pronunciations for the 让 post that I felt for the damage my eyes have incurred I ought to put it all to good use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Depending on who you ask, Húzhōu dialect has 7 or 8 tones. I'm going with 8 as it's significantly more badass. In the 7-tone scheme, 阴去 and 阳去 are combined. The following tone table is from the Journal of Huzhou Teacher's College with the examples coming from another source using a 7-tone system, hence the misplaced 去声 characters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  55江 天 飞 开23来 同 骂 洞
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  52懂 纸 有 买31是 道 静 策
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2413对 去 庙 画
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  5各 黑 脱 出2绿 石 肉 读

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not going to go too much into the phonetics here below are a few quick examples.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  门 [mən] 毛 [mɔ] 风 [foŋ] 上 [zɔ~] 力 [liɛʔ] 酒 [ʨiy]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Few words end in /ŋ/, specifically those with an -ong or -iong ending. In most cases the /ŋ/ ending turns into a nasalisation of the preceding vowel and 入声 syllables tend to end with /ʔ/.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Next month's minor topolect will go into a bit more detail including sentences and sandhi*

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  * إن شاء الله

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    星期沪 - More Idioms lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shanghainese Saturday is now Shanghai Friday. It was something I'd thought about before and has been suggested by a couple people, mostly for the sake of the rhyme with 星期五. Actually it works better for me that way as well since more often than not my Saturdays aren't spent at the computer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The idioms seemed to go over well last week so we're doing it again. These are all more or less restricted to Wu with the exception of the first one which is equally common in Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阴阳怪气 / 陰陽怪氣
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    in55 ɦiã33 kuɑ33 ʨʰi21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    to be cryptic, enigmatic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    吃格子饭 / 吃格子飯
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ʨʰiɪʔ4433 tsɿ5521
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    to be imprisoned

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    红颜绿色 / 紅顏綠色
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ɦoŋ22 ŋɛ55 loʔ33 səʔ21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    multi-coloured, the same as Mandarin 五颜六色 / 五顏六色.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    酒醉糊涂 / 酒醉糊塗
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ʨiɤ33 tsø55 ɦu33 du21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    drink to the point of belligerence

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The last one has an example to go with it, also Shanghainese. Roll over the underlined characters for explanations on individual characters or pairs that differ from Mandarin usage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ɦizã tsãʨiɤ tsø ɦu dumoɲɪɲ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As usual you can also get these through Twitter by following @ AnnalsofWu. Until next week.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Northern Frontier

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As time goes on I find myself less and less interested in places like Nántōng 南通 and Dānyáng 丹阳, both Jiāngsū 江苏. Initially the discordant mélange of Wu and Mandarin appealed to me, but it's happening less and less these days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A friend of mine is a self-described Nántōng 南通 native, nevermind that his village (just outside Jìngjiāng Shì 靖江市) is technically part of Tàizhōu 泰州 and at least until the mid-1990s was administered by Yángzhōu 扬州. We were talking a few weeks back about the dialects in the Nántōng area and how there are parts that speak Wu, parts that speak Mandarin and parts that speak some mystery language1, apparently close to neither of the first two. He, the friend, was adamant that he speaks a Wu dialect. Fine, I said, let me record a few things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The following is him counting from one to ten. I'm posting this because of the availability of things to which it can be compared.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The number 6 is quite similar, and a couple others are close. But 二 and 五 are both dead giveaways. The only dialect of Wu I've ever encountered that pronounces 五 as anything close to wǔ is that of Gaochun, which by only the youngest generation it's pronounced [ʋɯ]. The older people and everyone else I know who speaks Wu says something very much if not exactly like [ŋ̩]. 二, meanwhile, ends up being [ɲi] in almost every case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The pronunciation for 八 is interesting, but not strikingly Wuey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think it's safe to say that anything north of the Yangzi and much west of Hǎimén 海门 is automatically disqualified from further investigation in to its Wuness, regardless of what the locals may claim.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I've still never heard or seen any evidence of this language. Anything that's ever come to me on it has been purely anecdotal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Suzhou Dialect In 1920 moka mission - suzhou

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The following is from the preface to Inductive Lessons in Suzhou Dialect, published in 1920 by the Moka Garden Embroidery Mission.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In February, 1919, a Committee was appointed for the purpose of adapting the National Phonetic script to the Shanghai and Soochow dialects. The alphabet upon which these lessons are based is the one agreed upon by this Committee.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The lessons were first prepared in chart form and used in teaching the women of the Embroidery Mission to read and write.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The fact that from the very first lesson the pupils re ale to read ordinary sentences WHICH THEY CAN UNDERSTAND creates an interest which makes them anxious to complete the series. The strongest appeal which is the study of phonetics makes to the women is that it will enable them to write letters. For this reason we have included two letters in the Primer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Experience has shown that a more ready response is obtained when the words are taucht first and afterwards divided into the phonetic elements. The word exercises beginning on page 13 are to be used for additional practice in combining the various sounds.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When this Primer is thoroughly mastered the pupil will be prepared to read anything published in the Shanghai of Soochow dialects.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          January 1, 1920  FRANCES BURKHEAD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There's an additional note, dated October 1, 1920, stating that some changes have been made for the publication but that the content has otherwise been used to successfully teach hundreds to read. My assumption then is along the lines of "how hard can it be?". As such I've begun transcribing and ultimately translating a section of one of the books.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To the point. The following is a transcription from zhuyin of the cover and first story from Simple Stories told in Soochow Phonetics. Footnotes are my understanding of some of the phrases. Hyphens exist in the original and have been left in place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        注音字母故事 tsu-ing z-moo koo-z ㄗㄩㄧㄣㄙㄇㄨㄍㄨㄙ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        蘇州口音   soo-tseu kheu-ing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kyi-dan-kau lo li chi tse

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kyi-dan-kau z taung tien-sin chuh k meh-z. k-k kau-k mi-dau jieh hau chuh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        'veh lung noen-hui zien hwoen-hyi chuh-k. zaung-he ling-s-mo-tok ihcha-mung ting hwoen-hyi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        chuh k. k-k dan-kau z 'li-tok auh -li soo-tsoo k. tse yeu khaung lau mak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        pah-ts kok yang meh-z peh kyi chuh k. soo-i 'li-tok yang-ts too-hwo kyi. 'li-tok
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        'me li-pa tsho 'veh too yeu san-s tsoen yoong kyi-dan-kau taung zo-tien. li-pok
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ok-li yeu liang-k siau-goen.nen k kyau pau-loo nyui k kyau me-me.'me-nyieh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        'li-tok liang-k nyung chi dok su iau teu ih li too loo tok.ing-we loo zeh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kang yoen. le-chi 'veh bien-tuang. soo-i 'li-tok tau 'aung li chi k zung-kwaung pa-ts
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        van lau chi k.ih nyieh pau-loo faung-'auh. tseu tau tsau-'o mung 'li-k nyang ak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yeu chuh-k meh-z. in-we 'li jieh-ji doo-li ngoo. li-k nyang zang-zang thing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kyien zeh kang mung. zieu te 'li seh. lah tsau-'o zu-li bung-ts-li yeu ling-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khooe kyi-tan2-kau. ne khoo-i chi no le chuh. ih khooe meh peh me-me chuh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        pau-loo zieu chi chuh-ts ih khooe. dan-z 'wan iau chuh me-me k ih khooe. zieu tse
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        chi mung 'li-k nyang seh 'li tse iau chuh kooe-k ih khooe. tung me-me tsoen le khoo-i
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        chuh bie-k me-z. khoo-i nyi 'veh khoo-i kya. 'li-k nyang thing-kyien ts zieu te 'li
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khoen ts ieh-hyieh. pau-loo kok zak zan-gwe-khooe kau zung-jeu chi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        faung lah tsau-'o. 'veh too ieh-hyieh me-me zoong 'auh-daung li tsoen-le tse. 'li-k
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        nyang kyau 'li tau tsau-'o chi no kyi-dan-kau chuh. me-me zieu seh 'm-me soo tsoo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        k kyi-dan-kau z jiah-hau chuh k. soo-i 'li lieh-kheh tau tsau-'o shi no-le
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        chuh. dan z no 'veh zak. 'li tse chi mung 'm-'me seh kyi-dan-kau nah-hang 'veh lah
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        woen-zu li. we-tah-seh lah woen-zu k 'o-kyung. me-me seh. tsuh yeu ieh-tsak khoong
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bung-ts. bing 'veh-yeu kau lah he. ling-z-mo jieh hyi-ji 'li lieh-kheh tseu
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tau tsau-'o chi ieh khoen. koo zoen 'veh yeu. sing-li jieh 'veh kha-weh lau seh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        pieh-ding z oau-loo chuh theh k. 'eu-le z-ka siang lau seh tshieh-pok se k

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        siau koen tse hwoen-hyi chuh k. 've-lung chuh k me-s pau-loo zoong siau zeu-zak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kyau-yok. siang 've-tau 'li 'we tsoo ze-kang k z ti. soo-i zieu no-ts-tian
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bie-k me-z lah me-me chuh. di-hi-hie z li-pa-lok. ih ka mung lah chuh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tsoong-van k zung-kwaung 'me-hung yeu tuh chuh liang khooe kyi-dan-gau. k-k zung-kwaung
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ling-s-mo te ling-sien-sang seh. 'veh iau peh pau-loo chuh ing-'we 'li zok-nyie
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i-kyung too chuh ih-khooe. pau-loo seh ngoo mung-ts 'm-'me i-heu zieu chi faung
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lah bung-ts li-k. 'veh sung chuh. 'li-k nyang seh ngoo i-kyung tah me-me ih dau
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tau tsau-'o li chi zing-koo. tsuh yeu ih-tsak khoong bung-ts. nyang seh-k zung-kwaung
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yeu 'veh kha-weh k iang seh. ping-khi yeu ieu-zieu k yang-seh. ling-sien-sang
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khoen-kyien zeh-kang kang-seh jieh-ji-hyi-ji. siang pau-loo iau tah nyang bien-lung.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zieu se pau-loo seh. ne 'veh iau too-seh. k-k z-thi, i-'eu khoo-i tse zo.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zoen-zoen zo-kheh z ne duh theh ne me-me k zeh-veh mehm ne tsung-tsung z ih
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        k 'veh-hau k siau-koen. ling-s-mo seh, yien-se 'veh pieh tse di chi k-k s-thi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yien-se khoo-i kaung bieh k z-thi.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        li-pa-ih 'o poen hieh, ling-ka-li tse tsoo kyi-da-kau. oau-loo zoong 'auh-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        taung-li tsoen le. 'li-k nyang seh, 'auh-taung s ne doo-li ngoo. ngoo i-kyung yui-be
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ih khooe kyi-dan-kau peh ne taung tien-sin. ne khoo-i tau chuh-van-kan li chi no.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        pau-loo seh, k-k ih-doo-khooe-kau ak z peh ngoo ih-k-hung chuh k. sing-li jih-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ji kha-'leh. hweh-zoen siang zak li-pa-ng k z-thi. zieu seh 'm-'me peh ngoo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zeh-kang ih-doo khooe-kau, pih ding i-we ngoo lah li-pa-ng duh-ngoo me-me
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        k chuh-seh. ji-zeh 'veh-z ngoo shuh k. 'li-k nyang se, ngoo soo tsoo k kau z
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        peh ng-tok chuh k. peh-koo ngoo ting 'veh hwoen-hyi ng-tok ziang siau-hung thoen chuh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bieh-hung k meh-z. ing-we nyung lah nyien-ky-chung k zung-kwaung, 'veh nung tuh-sung
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ze-auh tau tsang doo k zung kwaung, pieh ding 'an lah ze-hieh li. ziang ia-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        phien-iien lau hyang-iieh tah-ts tsieu ih yang k. zak-zoen lah nyien-chung k zung-kwaung nung-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        keu sung-koo ih-tshieh ze-auh, k-meh tau tsang doo k zung kwaung, zieu nung-keu tuh-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        sung ih-tsieh iung-ieu lau mi-weh. zoong tsh zung-koong zeu-we laung k ieh-k woen-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zien-nyung. k-k ih-ia pau-loo sing-li jieh 'veh bing-oen. khwung lah zaung-laung
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        meh, khwung 'veh-zak zieu chi-le tau-kau zang-ti seh, ngoo lah tsu-hieh-'o-li,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        dok-koo ieh kyui kyung-kyui suh, van-i, nyung yeu wan-nan jeu zang-ti, zang-ti
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tieh kyeu 'li. ngoo yien-ze k wan-nan zieu z kyi-tan2-kau k z thi. ze iui
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bieh-nyung soen siau z thi, dan, z ze iui nyi seau-koen sung-laung z jieh nan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zeu k. yien-ze ih-ka-mung zien i-we ngoo chuh theh k-khwe kyi-tan-kau. tsuh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yeu zang-tu hyau-tuh k. tshing ne kyeu ngoo theh-li k-k khwung nan. tau-kau woen-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tieh, tse chi khwung. zung-jeu khwung 'veh-zak. tse chi-le tau kau lau seh, zak-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        zoen ngoo k nyang 'veh kau-soo ngoo no me-me soo chuh-k kau-k tsho meh, jeu zang-ti
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        paung-zoo ngoo nung-keu sung-koo ih tshieh ze-auh. ping-tshien nung-keu tsau ia-soo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        soo-seh-k lau 'ang. zieu z seh, ne nyoen-y nyung nah-hang de-ne, ne 'ah ing-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ke nah-hang de-nyung. ngoo i-kyung tsoo tsho lau van-ze, jeu zang-ti paung-zoo ngoo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i-'eu 'veh tse sang z koo-z k sing. ping-tshien kyeu ngoo tshuh k-k boo wan-nan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tau-kau woen-ts zieu khwung zak tse. di-nyi-nyieh tsau laung, thing-kyien yoen-li ieu
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        doo-k sung-ing. lieh-kheh zoong leu laung 'o le. khoen-kyien 'li-k ya tse-zaung-chi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tang pak-sien-sang k ih-tsak huh-keu. keu kyau-tuh 'man-hyang. pak sien-sang mung lau seh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ngoo k key tsoo-ts sa k tsho-z kya. ling-sien-sang siay lay seh, k-tsak keu zoong
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tshaung-li thiau tau tsau-'o 'an ts ih-khooe kyi-dan-kay chi. thieh-tsung peh ngoo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khoen-kyien. soo-i ngoo tang 'li. pak-sien sang suh, k-tsal zeh-keu. zaung li-pa-ng 'o-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khoo k i-'eu ngoo-k s-mo 'ah khoen-kyien 'li 'an-ts ih-khwe ting, zoong ne ok-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        li-tsheh-le. ngoo thieh-tsung le kau soo ng-tok. pau-loo thing-kyien-ts, jieh ji kha-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        weh. ing-we tsoong-nyung nyi-weh 'li k z-thi, i-kyung ka-khe. zieu seh, ngoo-k
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        hau-keu. zieu tse peh 'li chuh ih-khwe oing. ya iau tsoo-taung 'li i-kyung le
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        'veh ji. pau-loo seh, ngoo jieh kha-weh. ing-we ng-tok 'veh-i-we ngoo z ih
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        k seh-hwaung-k-nyung. 'an hyay-tuh k-khwe-kau 'veh z ngoo chuh k. tau-ts li-pa-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        san chuh fan-k z-'eu. pau loo hyau-khe lan-ke, khoen kyien yeu ih doo khwe woen-zien
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        k kyi-ban-kau. tsung-tsung kha weh lau zieu no-tsheh le ih-tchieh liang-khwe. ih-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        khwe peh 'li-k me-me chuh. tse yey ih-khwe tshing mung khoen sui-k nyung ak hy tuh
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        sa-nyung chuh k.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 注音字母故事,蘇州口音
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. possible typo in the original. should be "dan".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. often 'ng' is written to mark /n/ or even just what would be a nasalization of a vowel in modern 苏州话, though in the case of the latter it's likely an -n or -ng ending on the same word in Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Time permitting, I'll subject this to a couple hours with a good Suzhouhua dictionary and see if I can't make sense of it all. The biggest problem at the moment is not knowing exactly what sounds are being attempted to transcribe with the Romanization system, as it seems to be neither Legge nor Wade-Giles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm working on the translation or at the very least a transcription to something more representative of the appropriate sounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyone wanting to take a stab at this, feel free to get in touch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Biāozhǔn Sūzhōu Yīn Shǒucè books

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Or "Handbook of Standard Suzhou Pronunciation" written by Wàng Píng 汪平. I found this in the half shelf that calls itself the Dialect Studies section of my local library. The books they have are great; they just don't have very many of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The book gives some brief information on the dialect but then jumps right in. IPA is used only on a single page, a key to the authors own transliteration system. Words ending in -an, for example, correspond to IPA [ã] while -ang corresponds to [ɑ̃]. The book is organised in this manner. For each syllable (san, sang etc) a list of characters is given that take that pronunciation. An index at the end is organised according to pinyin. It also includes the literary pronunciation in a few cases, which is nice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Allegedly the book also comes with an audio CD that covers the majority of the content, though not the copy I was reading.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As mentioned above, like plenty of other books, they use their own transcription system, which in this case is extra ridiculous since their own is more complex than IPA and they start the book with a chart showing the IPA for their system. So, first you look up the character you want in the index, then follow the page number, get the Romanization and then jump back to the front few pages to figure out how it's actually pronounced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           阴平  44 ¯ 阳平  223 ´
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           上声  51 `
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           阴去  523 ˇ 阳去  231 ˆ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           阴入  43 -k/-t 阳入  23 -g/-d

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          入声 is marked with finals, though in each case they correspond to the glottal stop /ʔ/.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The following is the transcription system which will come in to play in a minute for the example paragraph given in the introduction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ii - ẓ/ɿi - ian - ã
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          a - ɑia - iɑen - ən
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          o - oio - ioang - ɑ̃
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          e - ɛie - ɪong - oŋ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ao - æiao - iæat/ad - aʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          oe - øioe - oøak/ag - ɑʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ou - øʏiou - ʏek/eg - əʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          y - ẓʷ/ʮ ok/og - oʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ian - iãin - in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          iang - iɑ̃iong - ioŋuek/ueg - uəʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          iat - iaʔuan - uã
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          iak/iag - iɑʔuen - uənün - yn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ik/ig - iəʔuang - uɑ̃üad - yaʔ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          iok/iog - ioʔuat/uad - uaʔüek/üeg - yəʔ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've left out the initials. They're pretty self-explanatory. The following is from the preface.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          nê hào a, piě ngu at shǐi? nê sek zoě qi liánse'gek ngeg weg, segdǎozii gūxik jiānjian lé! at shǐi liánse'gek ngeg jia, zekpò yôu liánse nié ze. ngû jiao niángyi dao séfhangli koězii ne jìdha, sekshǐi fēn lě, ngû é sǐnfekgu, gatbik gokhǎobhu ad lé koě ne, dāo sekdhao fek lékek ze. nêzak zỳ atshǐi fāngpi, seklagdo éo at yòu yikjù zǔdao. bek ngū dāo jīhao ladli nê zē fek lé meg, saksǐn datnê sângyikshang, sy sy koe meg zè!*

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In addition to the myriad substitution characters, the author gets bonus points for including 覅 in his book for 不要.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The ISBN is 978-7-533-1847-5, published September 2007. It's around 14 and I'm ordering my own copy this afternoon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          * 晼 actually ought to have the 口 radical, not 日. The first "sy" should be 阴去 but again, unicode doesn't support a caron over a lowercase y.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Title: 标准苏州音手册
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Author: 汪平 Wàng Píng


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Soochow Zhuyin Fuhao moka mission

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hat-tip to @kmlawson who inadvertently directed me to the National Library of Australia's digital collections. I did a quick search for "Soochow" and got two hits:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Inductive Lessons in Soochow Phonetics (also 注音字母入門 or ㄗㄧㄣㄙ̀ㄇㄨㄙ̀ノㄇㄣ) by Frances Burkhead, published in Suzhou in 1920, and Simple Stories told in Soochow Phonetics (also 注音字母故事 or ㄗㄧㄣㄙ̀ㄇㄨㄍㄨㄙ̀) translated by Miss Wo Iung-Tuh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Those of you able to make heads or tails of zhuyin fuhao might notice a few inconsistencies. The books, entirely 蘇州話, are written in a modified form of the zhuyin pinyin. For example ㄙ̀ and ノ, the second of which here I'm borrowing from katakana and marks Wade-Gilesesque "eh". The example given for ノ is 盦 but it's small and the jpeg compression is wreaking havoc on the legibility so I may be wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The rest of the chart is as follows. I started making it all in text, but it was taking too long. When I finish it I'll replace the image.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The footnote on the bottom states that Suzhou dialect doesn't use those particular sounds. The table is otherwise labeled as sounds from "蘇滬", Suzhou and Shanghai. The original image can be seen by clicking through the link in the first paragraph.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I knew zhuyin was used to write languages beyond Mandarin, having modified letters to cover Hakka and Southern Min. I had not ever heard of it being used for Wu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the books, and based on the typeface and whatnot, probably the other as well, was published by the Moka Garden Embroidery Mission in Suzhou. The Embroidery Mission was originally called the Industrial School of Soochow and was opened sometime after 1901 by a missionary named Virginia Atkinson, a Methodist from Alabama. According to the book Taking Christianity to China*, one of the triumphs of the mission was alleviating the unemployment in Suzhou. Workers were paid $7.50 a month and worked from 8:30 to 17:00. Beyond affecting unemployment, it created "evangelistic opportunities for Methodist missionaries". It stands to reason that included combating illiteracy**.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you click through to the library site and can read zhuyin, be sure to check out the rubi for the books' titles, the only thing otherwise in 漢字.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks to @Tortue for his willingness to help decode.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            * page 166 from the Google Books edition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ** The same group of missionaries were also active in Changzhou and Shanghai, and as we know, no one works dialects and under-appreciated languages like the missionaries.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            edit: I've removed the sample image. It wasn't loading right and was causing a number of alignment problems on the main page.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tones & Colour

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've been suffering insomnia for the last three days, a combination of mosquitoes having acquired stealth technology and somatoform cockroaches. I heard if they climb into your ear canal they can't back out. The real ones, that is. Not the mindroaches.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is a quick mockup of my latest insomnia-induced idea. In the image on the left, the first number in each two digit sequence denotes the beginning of the tone; The second denotes the end tone, just as has been used throughout the multitude of sources marking tone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The idea behind this is that one (me, I guess) would be able to map out the changes of tone curves from one town to the next throughout the Delta. They're colours instead of numbers so that they can be arranged on an actual map to give a better sense of the changes at a glance, thus the second image. Let's say this represents 阴平.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A similar map would be available for each tone. It would of course be less grid-based and more organic based on the information available for each dialect. Right now I've got tone curves for about 70 dialects. It's possible to go from one town to the next and see how things change based on the number in any two town's curves, but it would take freaking forever and wouldn't provide much information on the general trends.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So that's my idea. I'm posting this here to get responses and to hash out some of the possible difficulties. One such difficulty is dipping tone curves. With three numbers, you'd need another layer of information to show the value. Colour would work well with a shift in hue but that's asking a lot of the viewer's ability to distinguish subtle changes in hue to mark a third tone. In other words, it wouldn't work. Saturation variations could work too but it runs into the same problem as with hues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That is unless you required less accuracy in the middle value, so that ˦˩˧ and ˦˨˧ would display the same. That is, dipping tones may get a bit of red to them and tones that 'bulge' get some grey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I hope that was clear. Thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                星期沪 - Idioms lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The following are phrases/idioms you'll find in both Mandarin and Wu. The superscript numbers indicate tone curves, while the superscript h marks aspiration, the puff of air that distinguishes between Mandarin 读/讀 and 图/圖.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ʨʰiɪʔ2222 mi5521
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ̩to be unemployed

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ʨʰi44 sɿ553321
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                go to the restroom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                tʰi5533 ɲiɪʔ33 ʨiɤ21
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                a very long time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The restroom one is obviously not coming to us from Middle Chinese. First one to work out the explanation gets a gold red star.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You can also receive these through Twitter every Saturday by following @AnnalsofWu.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Qián Xuántóng And Ràng (让)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  First, if you haven't already, read "The origins of ràng’s svelte simplification" over at John B.'s Global Maverick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  To re-quote from Jerry Norman's book Chinese (Amazon, Google Books):
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The simplified form of ràng ‘to allow’ illustrates several interesting points. First of all, it’s a newly created xíngshēng character consisting of the ’speech’ radical on the left and a phonetic element on the right. The radical itself is a simplified component based on its cursive form, and is used in its simplified form whenever it occurs as the left-hand component in a character. The phonetic, pronounced shàng, is at first sight rather puzzling, since the alternation of words beginning with sh and r in a single phonetic series is unusual. The explanation for this rather odd usage probably lies in the character’s dialectical origin; in certain Wú dialects the literary readings of ràng and shàng are the same. (In the Sūzhōu dialect, for example, both are pronounced zaŋ6.) Although this particular simplified character is probably of regional origin, its extreme simplicity no doubt led to its being adopted in other regions of China, and finally to its acceptance as an officially sanctioned simplified character.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (transcription blatantly stolen from John's site)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As I mentioned in the comments over at GM, the last sentence interests me quite a bit. I know in 1956 and again in 1964 lists were released by Beijing giving the simplified form of a number of characters. Then a final collection (called 简化字总表) was released in 1986. What I don't know is when 让 was introduced. My suspicion is that it was already in wide use in the Delta long before the '86 collection, possibly before even the '64.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There were of course efforts toward simplification before that. One of the earliest and maybe most relevant to the inclusion of 让 was that of linguist Qián Xuántóng 钱玄同 who published a list of around 2,400 simplified characters in 1935. The same year, the Nanjing government published their own list, though of only about 324 characters. A year before this, 中国图书馆服务社出版杜 published their own list of just over 350.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It may be of some relevance that Qián was from Huzhou, a town in northern Zhejiang where Wu is spoken.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Killing time I thought I'd run through a couple dialects comparing 让 and 上 using the Wu Association online dictionary search, lacking any better resources while I couch-surf Jiangsu. Of course, they were unlikely to match since it's neither of literary readings nor even 老派. But, at least according to their dictionary, the Hangzhou 杭州 readings do match, both being zan҂, tone and IPA unknown. Not that I really doubted Norman's claim. See footnote 1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  update 2:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  According to an article from the Journal of Huzhou Teacher's College published 8/99, Huzhou dialect reads 上 as [zɔ̃] or [zaŋ] and 让 as [-ã] or [-aŋ]#. I believe the second of each pair is 老派, but I'm admittedly not at all sure. Unfortunately the chart at which I'm looking doesn't give the initial for 让, and in fact the only intitial r- word it gives that would be either a [z] or [n]/[ɲ] is 肉 which it gives as [ɲ-], probably [ɲuəʔ]. The sample's too small to know one way or another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If it turns out that the second in the pair is either 老派 or the literary reading, and if 让 does in fact take the initial [z], it would support the likelihood of Qián's influence on 让 from 讓. Of course, if neither of those are true, it wouldn't really count as a strike against the idea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  update 3: 12/Oct
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Last update, seriously. I found a rather cool book at the library today. It's from 2007, which is æons more recent than anything else I have on 苏州话. It gives the following:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  上-sã (literary reading)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The difference between sã and sɑ̃ is minimal, so even if we ignore the literary reading, they're still damn close.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  † Who could possibly not like someone who writes papers on things like "The Origin of the Proto-Min Softened Stops"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ‡ Of no relevance here but still interesting, Qián also once suggested that Mandarin be replaced by Esperanto.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ҂ If you do go wandering through their dictionary search, it may be of some use to know their transcription "ny" corresponds to ɲ/ȵ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  # I've run out of daggers. According to another source, 湖州新派 gives 让 the tone curve ˧˥, taking 阴去声.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Wu IPA Keyboard Layout tools - IME

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've been messing around with the built-in OS X character palette whenever I've needed IPA for the transcription here, which ends up being pretty freaking often. It was getting somewhat cumbersome to drag and drop every single character, tone number, diacritic etc. So much so that I put together a text file full of most of the characters plus a few that are used frequently in transcribing Chinese language.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Then when that became cumbersome, I looked for other options. I found an input palette but that required me to jump from keyboard to trackpad and back, which is also a pain, so that was a no-go. In the end I gave up and wrote my own keyboard layout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The image here should be explanation enough. The first set is without modifiers. Second is under the option key, third the shift key. The fourth one is both shift and option together. So shift+option+i will print ɿ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It may be worth noting that this keyboard layout can not be used to type normally. It's meant to be toggled along with other input methods for quickly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm working out a few other keys but am mostly finished with this. If you're interested in trying it out, let me know and I can send you a link or an email with the files.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Currently this only works on Macs running OS X. I'm working on a .kmap version as well, compatible with BeOS/Haiku and OS 9, and maybe a Windows version as well, though all more for the experience than any perceived need.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      星期沪 - Small Talk lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The internet is down at my apartment again and so Shanghainese Saturday is late once more. This week's theme is small talk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       nong jiao sa ge ming si?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "What is your name?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       MSM: 你叫什么名字?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       nong si sa di fang nin?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "Where are you from?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       MSM: 你是什么地方人?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       nong zi le a li?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "Where do you live?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       MSM: 你住在那里?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      With these few phrases, the grammar almost perfectly mirrors that of the Standard Mandarin. 啥, pronounced "sa", uniformly takes the place of 什么 in the Shanghai dialect of Wu*.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      * Though this is not the case in all Northern Wu dialects as has been discussed here before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mélange Revisited discussion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I spent the better part of my day in Shanghai's book district, also known as Fuzhou Road. I tend to stay out of the giant 7-storey book city, or whatever it's called, but for one reason or another I went in and was not disappointed. They actually had a handful of books on Manchu and a Mandarin to ancient Greek dictionary, not that I have a need for ancient Greek.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One book that caught my eye, nudged in between the 外国小说 on the top floor, was Say it Right: A Quick Guide to Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghainese. What better way than to test the Winchester Theory™ than a side-by-side comparison of the three languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Unfortunately it didn't seem worth the 100 so I don't have an excerpt. Needless to say, it didn't offer much in support of the idea that Wu is a mixture of MSM and Yue and little more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyway take a look if you happen to be in the bookstore. It's at least interesting to see the comparison on the level of specific phrases.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Mélange discussion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Slightly different from previous ideas on the origin of Wu, the following comes from Simon Winchester's 1996 book The River at the Center of the World.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "…her people … [speak] the ugliest of languages, a discordant mélange of Mandarin and Cantonese spoken by no one outside the Yangtze delta…"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've always enjoyed Simon Winchester's books. I've read many of his works, starting with The Professor and the Madman, through Krakatoa, The Map that Changed the World and most recently The Man Who Loved China. Now I'm in the middle of the book quoted here and for the most part I'm still quite enjoying it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But Wu as a mélange, a creole? I guess I can see it. There are a great number of aspects to Wu that are cognate with Cantonese (Yue 粵語) and a great number cognate with Mandarin. But it seems that makes it no less a mixture than Castillian is a mixture of Catalan and Portuguese or Catalan a mixture of Castillian Spanish and Parisian French. One would not be too far off to describe Catalan as such, but I think it severely misses the point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ugly or not and I tend to think not, I believe Wu is significantly more than some pidgin or creole made up scraps of Mandarin and Cantonese, especially considering Shanghainese far outdoes Mandarin Proper in longevity given the comparatively recent creation of Mandarin, the presence of dialects of Northern Chinese aside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But, maybe I'm making something out of nothing, so other than this post, I'll let it go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Completely off the topic of Wu classification, I was a little disappointed to see a number of errors in the maps in the book. I expected the cartography to be spot on given the resources at the author's disposal. I'll chalk it up to an editing error.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Language V. Dialect discussion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The following is from page 144 of 中国的语言1. It's one of the few sections written in English, titled "Chinese", and attempts to give a brief introduction to the language/s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The Chinese dialect situation is complex. Generally, they are divided into seven major regional dialects: Northern, Wu, Xiang (Hunan), Gan (Jiangxi), Kejia (Hakka), Yue (Guangdong), Min (Fujian). Their grammar and basic vocabulary are more or less the same, but the phonological systems are different. These differences manifest different patterns of consistent changes and regular correspondences. If people from two different dialects can decode the corresponding relationship of phonological systems of each other's dialect, they can communicate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Italics added. It amounts to the matrix theory mentioned a long while back both on the site and in comments: If one only could apply a phonetic filter, would the differences between the topoloects/dialects/languages be negated? It's been discussed at length before, and I firmly believe the answer is a resounding "no". It baffles me that anyone who's studied languages in China would believe this could be true, so I remind myself I'm reading it in a book that touches neither Wu nor Yue. The section was written by Xíng Gōngwǎn 邢公畹 and it's not clear if it has been published outside of this text.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's a difficult task to champion the cause of "China has a bunch of languages" in favour of "…dialects". I'm not at all sure why that's the case. For all the talk of the diversity of China, it's difficult to say why one wouldn't choose to brag about the number of languages that have developed here, rather than continue to push the idea that everyone is speaking the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The following examples taken from the same book, page 464. These are from the dialect/language spoken by the Zouzuo, Chinese name Róurùo 柔若, residing in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In Mandarin, that would be 你家里有几个人 and 我比你大五岁.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. published 2005, 2007 by 商务印书出牌, ISBN 7-100-04363-8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              星期沪 - Communication lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This week's Shanghainese Saturday Sunday Monday… day covers a few tools of communication. Speaking of which, the phone company hasn't managed to get me online at my new place yet, thus the delays.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               mobile phone


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And an earlier entry that never made it past Twitter, a phrase for when communication breaks down:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               noŋ gaŋ sa?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               What did you say?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As usual you can receive these phrases as well as updates of the site via Twitter by following @AnnalsofWu.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                On ɿ Vs. ẓ And Other Transcription Thoughts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As I said in a recent post,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                [t]he system being used [in most older Chinese language texts] is not standard IPA but rather includes a number of obsolete symbols. “ᴇ” should be rendered as “ɛ” in the current standard and “ᴀ” as “ɑ” (as opposed to a). These variations seem to be pretty common in Chinese linguistic works, along with a few others. The most common one and the only one I think really should have really been left alone is “ɿ” which is now instead “ẓ”, making [自] rendered as “zẓ” whereas in older texts you’ll find “zɿ”, something I find much more intuitive and visually clear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There are a number of now-obsolete letters used predominantly by Sinologists to transcribe various Chinese languages. There's a rather lengthy Wikipedia article on the topic. These include the aforementioned ɿ as well as ʅ, ʮ, ʯ, ᴀ, ȡ, ȶ, ȵ and ȴ. I've surely been guilty of using ȵ here on more than one occasion. But I try not to, if for no other reason than clarity. IPA is a standard and I like to stick to them closely if at all. But then there's ɿ again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In my latest purge of un-needed things from my apartment I found a Chinese textbook I bought a couple years ago. It's the New Practical Chinese Reader (新实用汉语课本) published by 北京语言大学 in 2002 and then again in 2006. Mine's the '06 model. It's a series of books, I think three total though I only picked up the first two. 58RMB if you're interested, but I'm not sure if that's the first book alone or both together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anyway jump to page 51 where it talks about the finals -er and -i, that latter of which it marks as [ɿ]. Blast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was already tempted to ditch ẓ altogether in favour of ɿ. I realise it really is a non-issue, considering the very few readers here and then of those the very few who give a crap about IPA. So I'm switching, joining the countless texts published in the last few years using ɿ over ẓ. I'll use outdated and discontinued IPA for this one sound, still making an effort to label it accordingly in a footnote or elsewhere if relevant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So apologies to the purists. I never really liked ẓ much to begin with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Like Wu But Not Wu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is probably the first and last time I throw a full out Mandarin recording up here. It's more for the accent anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I spent the last year in Changzhou, a part of Jiangsu that In many cases hasn't been fully penetrated by Mandarin. Despite it being 2009, there are a number of encounters one would have in that city and I'm sure many cities like it where Mandarin is of little use. This is especially true of conversations with the elderly, but much to my surprise, not just with the elderly. I've had more than one conversation where Wu was translated to Mandarin for me while my responses in Mandarin were left as is, i.e. the conversation was only half-translated. It's forced my own speech into the softened realm of h-dropping, e.g. saying things like "Sanghai", and probably ruined me forever regarding getting the hang of the Beijing dialect. But there are still plenty of times when the local accent still throws me off, as in the first recording below.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is from a conversation that took place on the way to a university area in Shanghai. The clips have been edited, mostly to remove myself, so don't expect the flow to be what it really would be. For anyone living in Shanghai, it will be immediately familiar. This is more for those outside of Jiangnan.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   nǐ zài xúexiào lǐ jiàoshū de?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Are you a teacher at that school?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   教书的… 这… 老书的?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   jiàoshū de… zhè… lǎoshī de?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   A teacher, er, do you teach?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was baffled for a moment by the "jiao su de". The exaggerated tones on lǎoshī were clearly an attempt to help me. I don't know if this points to an awareness on his part of how he sounds or if he just thought I had embarrassingly poor Chinese. Both could be true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For comparison, 老师 in Shanghainese is [lɔ22sẓ44] and 教师 is [ʨiɔ33sẓ44]. For the first one, think something 我 with an L in place of the W followed by 四 but all with different tones. Again this is Mandarin and he's obviously not doing that. I think Jason nailed it. I was thinking it was 教师 but 教书 makes all the difference in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The longer clip below is of less relevance to the Shanghai accent, but I might as well include it. I had said something about how students here are required to study English from an early age but in America we don't really have it the same way.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   xiànzài tíchàng.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Now the government requires it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   wǒ de èrzi, zěnme xiǎo, bāsùi, xúe yīngyǔ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   My son is, how old, 8 years old and he's studying English.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   tāmén xúe yīngyǔ dùiba.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   So they study English, right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   he xiànzài yīngyǔ chéng tōngyòng yǔ le ya,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   And now English has already become a common language.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   méi bànfǎ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   So be it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For the record I'm not a total jerk and was in fact responding to him and taking part in the conversation. I just don't need to subject you to my crappy Mandarin so it's been removed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Apologies for the quality, as usual. It would have been awkward to attach my external microphone mid-conversation, again as usual. There were a few words that I couldn't make sense of when I came back to the recording. Suggestions are welcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  † Alternatively transcribed as [lɔ22sɿ44] and [ʨiɔ33sɿ44] though it's non-standard IPA
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ‡ Possibly should be 'advocates', but in truth it's much more a requirement

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Minor Topolect - Pínghú

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A friend of mine had to go to Pinghu (平湖) recently. I remembered reading the name somewhere, knowing it was in Zhejiang but little else. Turns out the way I know it is from some different sound tables I've collected among other various Wu dialects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So in an effort to spread the love, since Wu isn't just Shanghai (or as it may have seemed since January, just Changzhou), I present the first and possibly last in a series called the Monthly Minor Wu Topolect, or the Monthly MWT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pinghuhua, like most Wu dialects, runs a the seven-tone sectrum. They are as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阴平 53 (e.g. 山,音,天,方)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阳平 31 (陈,平,同,云)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阴上 55 (古,好,井)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阴去 44 (送,信)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阳去 13 (事,动,口)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阴入 -5 (吉,国,客)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    阳入 -2 (木,肉,读)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    At least from the readily available written records, these differ from a number of the neighbouring dialects. And according to at least one such source, the dialect of Jiaxing, the prefecture-level city which now governs Pinghu, swaps 阴平 and 阴上 as compared to the Pinghu dialect. Phonetically, it is very similar to the neighbouring dialcets, the main differences being tonal, though as usual not all sources agree on the tones, so it's difficult to say one way or another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    From Modern Standard Mandarin, there are some mostly consistent sound shifts. For example, -ang endings (黄, 肮) turn to nasalised -ã, so 黄 should be [ɦuã]. Pinyin's "sh" is reduced to "s", as is the case in most Wu topolects, and most if not all syllables taking 阴入 or 阳入 end in a glottal stop (ʔ).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Unfortunately my friend was too busy to track down any locally published sources on the Pinghu dialect, and I was in Suzhou at the time thus unable to tag along, recorder in hand. Looks like that will have to wait for the Annals' Zhejiang Tour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      星期沪-Teas lessons - 星期沪

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, It's Saturday. And this week's theme is tea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      绿茶 - loʔ11 zo23, green tea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      红茶 - ɦoŋ22 zo44, black tea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      茶叶 - zo22 ɦiɪʔ, tea leaf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      奶茶 - nɑ22 zo44, milk tea or bubble tea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The letter ɦ is darker and, well, raspier, than the standard English h sound. O is like it's name in English. ʔ marks a stopping of the air like you're holding your breath for just an instant. The standard lowercase i is like "ee" and the ɪ is like the vowel in the word "if" or "sit". Finally the ɑ is like when you have to say "aaah" at the doctor's office. It's further back in you mouth than the a in "bar".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As usual you can find these as well as tweets by following @AnnalsofWu on Twitter, assuming you can get over the GFW.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Zhongshan Park

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My typical day has recently involved a lot of time between busses and subways, with a taxi thrown in on either end. When I am walking, it's usual at high speed in order to get somewhere before one office or another closes or goes on arbitrary lunch breaks. I decided to take my own and spend it in the park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Near a map (which acted as my cover for standing there so long) but far from the cicadas a man and a woman were discussing something involving a great deal of pronouns. The two most common ones were

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        我 ŋu23 and

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        阿拉 ɑʔ33lɑʔ44.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        我 is easy enough and corresponds to the Mandarin equivalent. 阿拉 can also mean 我 but otherwise means "we" or "us". I'm not sure exactly when that's the case. I've heard different explanations for it but none that have seemed to lock it down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There's also another option for 我们 which is 伲 ɲi23, also occurring as 我伲 ŋu23ɲi23, though I believe both of these are rather old and not widely used today.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This first recording is from that conversation, though through my phone's internal microphone things didn't come out so clear. I really need to start carrying around my external earbud microphone. You'll hear the man saying "na, na ge, aiyou…" followed by her saying over him "niu214" which he then repeats. Not sure what's going on there but it's not pronoun-based.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The second recording is one that was started far too late. It's not at all Wu related but instead something I like about China. People sing. The same day an older man leisurely passed me on a bicycle, passionately singing something unfamiliar to me but quite beautiful. This is two women, walking with a man who you'll hear jump in causing them to stop. They had been singing for a few minutes before but too far out to be heard well.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An I.M.E. Made For Jiangnan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          John over at Sinosplice recently published a screenshot of the Google Pinyin IME showing the options for the fuzzy pinyin feature. It allows Mandarin speakers with questionable understanding of Pinyin to get close enough and still end up with the right result.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As a Mac user I'm stuck in a word without the Google IME, though fortunately QIM works as a nice substitute and also supports fuzzy pinyin. I bring this all up because I couldn't help noticing that 8 of the 12 options are right in line with the way Wu speakers speak Mandarin, and 2 more fit right in for neighbouring Nanjing, though it's certainly not the only area for which these apply.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the past I've not enabled the fuzz, instead going through a couple steps of trial and error to get the right word when I wasn't sure on the presence of a g or an h. Seeing it now I may end up having to put this to work. The only reason not to, of course, is it will further push my Mandarin into the inescapable realm of the Wu accent. I already can't say 对 right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Return Of Shanghainese Saturday

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Well I'm once again settled in, having just returned to Shanghai after a two year absence. I've beefed up my library of Wu-related texts and am in the process of finding a Shanghainese tutor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So in the spirit of learning, Shanghainese Saturday (星期沪) returns. It's a previously-regular weekly tweeting of Shanghainese words and phrases through @AnnalsofWu, now regular again. You can follow @AnnalsofWu on Twitter to see the tweets and learn the phrases. See here and here for previous posts on the topic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There were some comments on it in the past being too reliant on IPA. It will still be done in IPA since I think that's really the most practical way to do it, but I'll also include each entry on a page here on the site that will give alternative transcriptions. That will also serve as an archive of previous postings. For a quick rundown of the relevant IPA letters click here or the "Pinyin, IPA or Characters?" link at the bottom of the page.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Suggestions for possible words are welcome.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's been a long long day. I have precious little time to get everything in order for my next visa before the current one expires. I was under the false impression that my health check would occur in Pudong at 2:00 this afternoon. I only realised it was in fact to happen in Changning, way way west of Pudong. This realisation occurred around 1pm as I arrived at the wrong place. Needless to say, I've spent much greater time on public transportation than off it today. Only at the end did I cave and use a taxi for anything other than time estimates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Before the panic set in, before I even made it to Pudong, I was at 龍之夢. There's a book store operated by Xinhua but not called Xinhua across Changning Road from the actual mall, within spitting distance of two different Starbuck's. In the past they've had some decent but not great books on Shanghainese, but with what I thought was time to kill, I headed back. Their selection on Shanghainese materials has doubled to a grand total of 4 books, two of which are dictionaries. There were about the same with one major exception. One had IPA transcription next to the characters with tones for each one, and the other had some non-standard and difficult to figure out transliteration system, free of tones. So I bought the first one. At only 38RMB, I think it was well worth it. Here's the link for the one I skipped.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'll get more on the dictionary later. I'd like to touch on the futility of learning Shanghainese for a moment. I had a decently long cab ride back from my health check during which the usual conversation topics were touched on (hey you speak chinese well (I don't), shanghai is too big (he said), are black people in america decent people, etc.). We got to the topic of language as is the case with most conversations I have these days, and the book was still in my bag so I thought I'd give it a quick try. I showed it to him; he read while driving. He was rather amused and pointed at one entry, pronouncing it clearly in Shanghainese. Except it didn't match what was written hardly at all. He said 夹 as jia though the book gave kA, the tones being a mismatch as well. The other words in the phrase were close enough, but that one difference is enough to bring things into question at least for me. Not wanting to lose the thread of the conversation, I shrugged it off. Only later did I learn he was from Chongming Dao, which while technically is Shanghai, doesn't really speak Shanghainese. They speak Chongminghua, which is different enough to be considered a distinctly different dialect by most sources, places closer to the Wu dialects in the Nantong area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Maybe calling this a point of futility is a bit strong. But it does hurt the motivation a bit when self-described Shanghairen aren't quite hitting the Shanghaihua target I'd set up (stupidly) in my mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Very topical to hit on the black thing, I thought. Maybe he's a reality t.v. fan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Shànghǎihuà Dà Cídiǎn books

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As mentioned in the last post, I bought a Shanghainese dictionary. It's pretty much awesome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The entries seem to be evenly split between having simply the IPA transcription in the case of words or phrases that are the same as in MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin), and those entries which include explanations. Below are examples of each kind as they appear in the book itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                早饭 tsɔ33vᴇ44

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                … meaning "breakfast" and …

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                夹生饭 kᴀ3355vᴇ21 (名)煮成的半生半熟的饭。

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                … which is a rice dish of which half the components are cooked and half are raw. In Mandarin it can also mean a half-finished job that is difficult to complete because it wasn't done right in the first place. My assumption is that 夹生饭 (MSM: jiā shēng fàn) is a fairly Shanghainese food that hasn't gained wide popularity outside the delta. But I digress. My Chongming Dao driver certainly knew it well enough, thought I can't recall having encountered the dish. This is also the 夹 entry I mentioned in the last post for which the driver gave a distinctly different pronunciation. But again, I digress.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Another nice feature of the dictionary is the category-based organisation. WIthin each category the order breaks down pretty immediately, for example the "教" section starting with "文化" followed by "新闻" and soon progressing into "笔画" and "书".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Speaking of 笔画, the index at the end is done in the typical Chinese dictionary searching by radical, but then for each radical it's broken down not by number of additional strokes as is usually the case, but by the strokes themselves as though you were typing them using the wubi input on your phone. It's not something I've seen before and will take a little while to get used to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Perhaps the best thing of all is that tones are dealt with in a manner that's both comprehensive and practical. When the sandhi changes the tone, it's reflected in the entry, for example in the two entries above where 饭 is first rendered as vᴇ44 and then as vᴇ21. There's a sandhi chart at the end of the book which explains the rules, but the work is mostly done for you in the way each entry is given.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There's also a good collection of 成语 at the end. Not a master of chengyu myself, I can't say if any of them are Shanghai-specific or if they're just renderings of common phrases. Either way it's appreciated. The only drawback, if it is a drawback, is that you have to understand enough Mandarin to read the definitions. I don't personally have much of a problem using a dictionary in order to read a dictionary, especially since it probably helps solidify some of the Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the end I wouldn't recommend the book for someone looking to learn Wu without learning Mandarin, if there is anyone with such an impractical esoteric approach to life. Though if there is, email me. We should hang out. Otherwise, I'd say this should be a required text for anyone learning Shanghainese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A quick note on the transcriptions above: The system being used is not standard IPA but rather includes a number of obsolete symbols. "ᴇ" should be rendered as "e̞" in the current standard, though ᴇ is pretty widely accepted for Sinitic, and "ᴀ" is an open central vowel. Not really a complaint since everyone uses ᴇ and ᴀ anyway. The most common one and the only one I think really should have really been left alone is "ɿ" which is now instead "ẓ", making 子 rendered as "zẓ" whereas in older texts you'll find "zɿ". Again, a non-issue since everyone still uses Kalgren's ɿ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Shànghǎihuà Dà Cídiǎn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Qián Nǎiróng


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On Mandarin/Wu Intelligability 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The following was previously posted on my personal blog on the 13th of January, 10 days before the launch of this site. I will be re-posting another from that site in the following two weeks. The original post was titled "Wu & Mandarin". I have updated formatting for this blog and removed a paragraph of superfluous examples.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - - -

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In a previous post on xiaoerjing, syz over at Beijing Sounds left a comment on the distinction of Wu as a language vs a dialect of Mandarin Chinese. He said essentially that his "doubt expresses itself in the form of: 'if one were just to complete the sound mapping would Wu and Mandarin then become mutually intelligible?'" It's a question i've asked myself a number of times since first hearing about Wu. After writing a few paragraphs in the comments of that post I decided it'd be better off as its own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm in the very very early stages of compiling just such a sound mapping. I don't expect it to be too complete, for a number of reasons. Instead I see it more as a basic guide/crash course in the local dialect. The biggest reason for it's inevitable incompleteness (can a lack of something be inevitable?) is that there is not really a 1 to 1 correlation between words in Wu and their mandarin counterparts. 劳 láo in changzhou is lào, however 落 which in Mandarin is also láo becomes lɔʔ. Two words that are the same pronunciation in Mandarin differ beyond just the tone in the Changzhou dialect of Wu. This means you would not be able to just say "lao is always lɔʔ, meaning that even with an understanding of most of the common mappings, a lot of things would still be left out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As for mutual intelligibility, I'm not sure it'd be there even if you could map the sound change from one to another. There are a number of lexical changes to deal with as well. the first i'd ever learned was 左拐 zuǒguǎi, turn left, being something like duzwei in shanghainese. Zwei is cognate with guǎi and can be conceived through said mapping. Meanwhile du would be cognate with 大 dà. Big turn is left, small turn is right. Another instance would be thirsty, 渴 kě or 口渴 in Mandarin, becomes 口干 kougan in Changzhou.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another example: If the weather suddenly becomes cold, a Mandarin speaker may say
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  冷空气来 lěng kōng qì lái, i.e. 'cold weather approaches'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  However in Changzhou you would hear
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  起冷星 qe lang xin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In this case qe is the soft q quality of mandarin followed by the z̩ sound written as i in 四.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I studied Latin in high school and Italian in college, in addition to growing up in a part of America with a fair number of Spanish speakers. So even though I've never studied spanish, I can read a Spanish language newspaper and get more than just the general idea. But any serious attempt on my part to make an understandable sentence in Spanish would be met with derisive laughter. No one would argue that Italian and Spanish are the same language.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On a final note, I just poached the Wuxi hua Wikipedia page into one for Changzhou hua that was previously lacking. There's a page for it on the Chinese Wikipedia that gives a dozen more examples of Changzhou hua, however almost all of them require the previously mentioned sound mappings to really resemble what's said. My favourite has got to be what they wrote as 或呐哒 which sounds a bit like wei ne da, "very filthy".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It seems worth mentioning that I've heard 老外 lǎowài as louwēi but i've also been told that it's a Northern Jiangsu* thing and not actually Wu influenced at all. Not sure if this is true but I do hear it all the freaking time here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A Survey Of Numbers In Wu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are a few things I find myself asking when I meet people from previously unheard of parts of China; How do you say 你好谢谢 and 再见? Then I ask for numbers one to ten. I'm sure I've annoyed my share of people with these seemingly useless questions, but for me they've always given me a good idea of the sound of a dialect. Furher, numbers always seemed important to me as some of the most common and useful words to learn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The following is a list of numbers from one to ten in the dialects running from Shànghǎi to Nánjīng with the last four columns covering Hángzhōu, Qúzhōu/Jiāngshān, Línhǎi and Chánglè dialects all from Zhèjiāng province. Holes in the table do not represent an absence of that number but rather an absence of data in my possession. Note I'm missing a bit of Suzhou dialect. If anyone is willing to send a clear recording of those numbers by a native speaker, I would be grateful and your name would appear in pixely lights on the site.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     江苏省 →浙江省 → 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      上海 苏州 无锡 武进 高淳 杭州 衢州 临海 长乐 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Shànghǎi Sūzhōu Wúxī Wǔjìn Gāochún Hángzhōu Qúzhōu LínhǎiChánglè
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1ieʔ5ieʔ43ieʔ5ieʔ5ieʔ35i iɘʔ ieʔ5ʔiʔ5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2liã13liɛʔ14liaŋ213liaŋ21335liaŋ53liã liã35ʔliaŋ22
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4sz̩35sz̩523sz̩52sz̩334sz̩34sz̩24sz̩ sz̩4sz̩44
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    5ɦŋ̩23ŋ̩231ŋ̩14ŋ̩224ŋ̩5/ʋɯ5†u53ŋ̩ ŋ̩53ŋ̩22
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    6lɔʔ12lɔʔ23lɔʔ14lɔʔ2435ly ləʔ12loʔ23loʔ5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    9ʨiɤ34_ʨiɑo324ʨiɤɯ51ʨy53ʨyo435ʨiɯ tsiəu53ʨiøy53
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    10zəʔ122314sɛʔ24sa35zz̩ ʒəʔ12ʑieʔ23zəʔ2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A couple notes: Due to its greater frequency over 二, 两 has been given for most dialects. While 二 is still used frequently, e.g. the "twenty two" in "two hundred and twenty two", it will be replaced in most. So, for example, an apartment numbered 2210 will be read as "两两一零".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In some cases I have only partial data and no speakers handy of whom I can ask the favour. The number 7 in Hangzhou, for example, I know to be a high tone and terminating with a glottal stop. However the specific text from which I've taken that information did not provide information on the vowel and guessing didn't seem appropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Wǔjìn set was taken from one of many villages in the Wǔjìn area. It's a slightly more rural sound than you may get closer to downtown Wujin or Changzhou. The most notable difference between the list for Wujin and urban Changzhou dialect is 三 becomes seiʔ5.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This took quite some time to compile using a number of sources. Most are from recordings I've made and transcribed myself. Some are my own transcriptions from outside recordings. Most of the Zhejiang data were compiled from a number of academic papers on Wu, mostly available through the Wu Association page. If you're curious about specifics let me know and I'll get the details.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Some of the tone numbers for recorded samples have been taken from various of sources including work by the ubiquitous YR Chao and Glossika's excellent collection of tone tables. Trusting their research over my own ears I've done my best to match the sounds I heard to the tone values given. I reserve the right to have completely missed the mark on the tones and transcription.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is especially true with the Gaochun tones. Due to the age of my speaker there is a notable discrepancy with what is available elsewhere, mostly because what's elsewhere is at least a generation older. If you look hard enough you may find the table to the right, scanned from some text of dialect tone tables. I imagine it's where the Glossika tones came from and unfortunately there's only the one set. There are some notable and consistent differences between my speaker and the tables, so perhaps we can call the Glossika numbers 高淳老派 and these 高淳新派.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of less academic value but greater practical value, I offer the following table. A large part of my motivation for compiling this data was to get a better sense of the ἰδέα҂. What follows is my best guess at a collection of what should be universally understood numbers. Superscript corresponds to Mandarin tones, not tone values as in the previous table.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    For what it's worth I've had some success with this in Changzhou and Wujin as well as with one Shanghai transplant and one from Danyang.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    † I've given two different pronunciations for 五 in Gaochun dialect. The first (ŋ̩5) is used by the older generations while the second (ʋɯ5) is used by younger speakers. The influence of the neighbouring Mandarin is all too apparent.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ‡ What's more confusing is the number 222 (read [liã35 pɐʔ5 ɲiɪ113 n2] in Linhai dialect) which like most Wu dialects makes good use of 廿 for 20. The northern equivalent (rendered in Pinyin style spelling) would be roughly "liang be nei ni".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ҂ As in Plato.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Writing & Tones

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A while back I wrote about a book I had recently purchased that relied solely on a system of transcribing tones that admittedly I hadn't really encountered before then. To save you the trouble of looking back at the old post, the system is as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      yin pingyin shangyin quyin ru
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      yang pingyang shangyang quyang ru

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      They're far from intuitive but I think I've developed a new-found respect for them. I just might have to flip-flop on my previous declaration of non-use. I bring them up now because I just saw them again, this time in《杭州方言音系》by 王启龙 at Tsinghua University. I've been on this bookish research kick for the last couple of days reading, or rather attempting to read, anything i could get my hands on. In this particular text we're given this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ꜀k'o  科窠稞 ( 科)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      k'o꜅  颗课
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ꜂ŋo  我
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ŋo꜅  饿

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Earlier in the text those three tones, yin ping yang qu and yin shang are given as 435, 24 and 53 respectively. So, it could be rewritten as this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      kho435  科窠稞 ( 科)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      kho24  颗课
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ŋo53  我
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ŋo24  饿

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Which would be very helpful if you only needed a few words at a time. It's much less useful when you're writing out thousands of characters at once. Beyond that, it struck me as exceptionally useful when looking at more than one dialect at a time. It seems likely that as words shift to take on other tones you'd be able to follow it though to see where and when certain changes would have taken place. This may be more of a server-side feature than something useful to people just trying to learn a few phrases.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The only real problem I still have with the system is the one mentioned by John in the comments to the earlier post. It's not at all intuitive. However the other systems such as numerical values or graphical (214 vs ˨˩˦) don't address the traditional tone system, which I think is definitely worth holding on to in some form or another. So, in the end, it looks like I'll be keeping both methods handy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For what it's worth, I'll stick to the numbers for the site unless it's of some specific value to refer to 阴入 by anything other than the name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Suzhou Dialect guanxi - links

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        While looking for something almost unrelated I came across a few pages relating to the Suzhou dialect that were of some interest. I've listed them below in order of nerdiness, greatest to least.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First and of least practical importance, The Lexicon of the Suzhou Dialect in the Ninteenth Century Novel "Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai (Part II) on persee.fr, which is exactly what it sounds like. An excerpt:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Second, a translation from Suzhou Pingtan, a regional form of story telling. In addition to the translation, IPA or something like it has been included. This comes from the personal site of a Ying Huang. He has also includes a very short dictionary. An excerpt from the Pingtan:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Male (singing):
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        英雄 / 不觉 / 费 / 疑 / 猜
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        iN joN / b« c« / fi / iZ / tsE
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        hero / not stop / figure out / question / guess
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ‘he just could not stop thinking about what had happened’

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Finally, the song 简单爱 being sung in Suzhou dialect with accompanying Mandarin characters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If the video above doesn't load, click here to go to Youku.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Shanghainese Saturday On Twitter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's Saturday. A month ago it was recommended, probably without even the slightest hint of seriousness, that it become Shanghainese Saturday (since dubbed 星期沪). It started with an unprecedented level of news on Shanghainese, all in one day. Now each Saturday you can learn a couple useful phrases in Shanghainese jut by being on Twitter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Today's phrases:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          English: Happy to meet you.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pronunciation: lao kai xin bang dao nong

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          English: What is your reason for coming to Shanghai?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pronunciation: nong dao sang hai lai zu sa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The older ones seem to have been lost in the ether, however I do still have the first which comes from an earlier post on this blog.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          English: Have you eaten?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pronunciation: nong ve chi gu la va
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          IPA:noŋ1313 tɕ’iɪʔ5 ku34 lɑʔ2 vəʔ2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The tweets were originally under the hashtag #shsat but since that's an acronym otherwise in use on Twitter, future tweets with be under #shsaturday. You can receive these tweets by following @annalsofwu. I promise not to tweet about my latest mundane life details if you do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The New Japanese Myth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lately I've found myself in a number of conversations about being able to speak different languages. And an interesting yet unsurprising thing has been coming up a lot. When asked people will say they speak Mandarin (普通話漢語中國話), whatever other languages they may have studied (English, Japanese etc.) and, actually, that's it. It's no secret that I fall into the "Wu is a Language" camp, so inevitably I'll ask them if they speak the local dialect. The locals inevitably say they do, and I then just as inevitably say something about how they speak Wu. I know it's futile and possibly bad, but I can't help myself. I can't leave well enough alone on the subject. Then comes the 'interesting' part I mentioned at the beginning of this post. My conversation partners will stop for a moment, think, and say ”Oh. Wu Fangyan," as though that eliminates Wu as anything but a mere dialect of Chinese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile a battle is being fought in East Asia. It's mostly quiet but at times the noise is deafening. Founded on some sense of nationalism and clouded history, the fight is often over origins. This isn't anything new to those of use who've taken China as our adopted home. The most common form is the belief that all of Japanese culture is ripped off from China. In a recent conversation the front line shifted into new territory. The Japanese language, I was recently told, is actually just a dialect of Wu. While I can't say I've heard the 方言 crowd explicitly say Wu is the source of the Japanese language, It does show a significant degree of misunderstanding about topolects in China and languages in general.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This specific claim would be less troubling to me except for two things. First, the person who said it is from Shanghai and speaks native Shanghainese. Our conversation was interrupted twice by phone calls and one of them was in Shanghainese. The second thing is a bit worse. In addition to being from Shanghai, he also speaks fluent Japanese. That was the language of the second interruption. He spent time in Japan. He spent a decade studying. He works. As a Japanese teacher. He should be more than just a little aware of the significant differences between the languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            While this is the first time I've heard this specific claim, it's not entirely without precedent. I've heard countless people tell me that they thought Wu sounds quite a bit like Japanese. I've heard it from both Wu and non-Wu speakers. Search forums on which people are talking about Wu and you're sure to read the same. Without being anything like an expert on the subject, I could guess that aside from the rhythm, the voiced initials and various readings of Kanji may have some part in it. The Go-on pronunciation is allegedly based on the pronunciation of the Wu Kingdom ages ago, much of which still sounds a lot like Wu as spoken today. Fortunately this idea of Japanese being a direct offshoot of Wu is not widely accepted, though given the way some conversations go, I wouldn't be surprised to see it catch on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This all points to the well-beaten horse carcass of an issue regarding what is a language/dialect1 and more importantly in my little world, what is Chinese? I think it's safe to say that Japanese is possibly Altaic, possibly Austronesian, but is not accepted by anyone of note as belonging to the same family as the Sinitic languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I accept that I may be misguided in my efforts to convince the region that what they have is a language worth embracing and not simply Mandarin run amok, and I accept the fact that that is an uphill battle that may never see an end. But I had certainly not prepared myself for the argument of Japanese as a Wu dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. see "What Is a Chinese 'Dialect/Topolect'? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Learning Dialects Through Inaction‡

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              When I first came to China and learned of Shanghainese and just how different from "Chinese" it really was, I knew it was something I wanted to explore further. Then I learned of Gaochun, and then moved to Changzhou. And while it's not the most common Wu dialect, I can't help but feeling a bit biased toward the idea of Changzhouhua as a perfect place to jump in. It has all of the things that would be a mess to learn from soft sounds that fall right in the middle of what one may have previously thought of as distinct sounds to nearly the full range of 8 classical tones. Shanghainese seems more distilled, at least to my ears, with more modern urban influence and some indication of simplifying things. Knowing I'd end up in Shanghai after a fair amount of time here in southern Jiangsu, I've made a sincere effort to soak up as much as I can before that jump. Unfortunately the ideal form of that effort hasn't always been clear to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It started out with phrase-book Shanghainese when I was originally starting out in the city. It stayed that way for some time until I got deeper into things, at least in terms of geography. From there things picked up likely sue to little more than the amount of time spent hearing it spoken. The initial phrases set the tone and gave just the slightest idea of pacing and pronunciation while cognates and context took care of the rest. With each step in the progress of Mandarin, Wu follows in the appropriate scale. At this point the ideal situation would be to enrol in an actual class upon my arrival in Shanghai this fall. If I have this option, I fully intend to take it. At any rate, ten months later I find I can understand enough to get the gist of most conversations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've not read much from expats who have come to China and attempted to learn the local topolect in addition to Mandarin, with the exception of those dealing with non-Sinitic languages such as studying Uighur or Manchu. I'd be quite thrilled to hear how others have attempted this and what successes and failures have been met. As it's of far less value than speaking passable Mandarin I've not really pushed as hard with Wu. I'm trying to change that. I'm still far less concerned with speaking as I am understanding what is said around me, but I'm sure I could be taking further steps to improve my listening. Therefore I'm now setting aside time each Saturday to focus solely on listening to and sorting out Wu. The weekend proves a better time to do it as the local parks and shopping centers are absolutely full of people buzzing away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think my point in all of this is that for almost the last year I've taken the position of observant passivity which while not totally ineffective hasn't really got me as far as I now wish I were. Were I a child with a whole decade to work it out and little else in the way of demands on language that may be good enough. It's about time I start taking my own advice and really push things a little harder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ‡ 吳為

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Taxicab Breakfast Inquiries

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                With my apologies to Beijing Sounds for posting on the same setting only shortly after it appeared there*, the following was recorded in a taxi sometime around 7 in the morning last week as I was on my way to the bus station. The windows of the taxi were open and half the conversation was through the radio so things get a bit messy at the end. I've taken out as much of the wind as I can without making the words any less clear than they already are. I'd also forgotten to grab my external microphone so I had to record it through the phone's built-in mic which leaves much to be desired.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Finally, I have to say I'm mostly guessing on a lot of this. I felt more confident about what was happening when it was happening. Now, a few days later, it all seems much foggier. "A" is my driver and "B" is another driver in another car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A: ___侬弗侬弗吃饭对吧。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (unclear syllables) You, you haven't eaten, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                B: 嗲?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A: 阿現在__侬弗吃饭对吧。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Uh you haven't already eaten, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                B: 喔。吃饭啦。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh. I ate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A: 因为吃吃[米?]对吧。我__弗吃__。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (unclear, followed by something about how A hasn't eaten yet)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's as far as I'm going to transcribe without a native speaker to help. Right around 00:15:45 you'll hear 吾弗相信, 我不相信. At around 00:21:30 it moves solely to other cars for a while. I really wish I had been in the woman's taxi just to hear her speak in person. The guy at 25 is classic too. Three cheers for personality. 00:39:00 sees the return of my driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The second voice answers lazily with , pronounced roughly as "dia" would be in pinyin. It's the most Changzhou way of saying 什么 I've heard while in Shanghai you're likely to get "zuo/jiu sa" for 什么. Meawhile 做 tends to take the sound (and sometimes the 汉字) of more often than not, at least in my neck of the woods. I'm not sure how far east 嗲 goes before being replaced with something else, but it's alive and well at least this far west.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Suggestions or corrections or wild and largely unsubstantiated guesses on what else is being said are always welcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                * I left the date from when I started this post but only got around to publishing it on June 9.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Ordering At Huihui

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The following is a recording I made this evening while waiting for my dinner at 回回锅贴. It is my first real attempt at recording conversations around me using my recently modified phone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It was recorded with my phone after some serious changes requiring the purchase of a soldering iron. It's a young woman on the phone just before ordering. I wasn't at all sure what she was saying except that her friend is in Hutang, one of the southern districts of the city, and she'll be heading that way herself soon. I've tried to clean up the recording to reduce most of the background noise and other conversations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm looking for a better microphone than the one I've got now, which incidentally came from an iSight that I no longer needed. Unfortunately options are limited if I wish to remain inconspicuous. As is I can get reasonably decent recordings in fairly quiet places. I've also recently learned that there is no such thing as a fairly quiet place in Changzhou.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Examples Of Wu Transcription - 《咏鹅》

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In a comment on the previously mentioned LanguageLog post, commenter Li Yu drops a link for the Wu Association (吴语协会). It's a great resource and one I linked to for Chinese language pages on Wu. What I didn't see before now was their downloadable Shanghainese dictionary. It's available as a PDF, scanned from a text published by Jiaotong University in Shanghai. You can find it by clicking the link above and going to the download center (下载中心) or just get it directly here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Another gem mentioned by Li Yu is the rather good attempt to come up with a uniform Romanization that would work for all Wu dialects. Each dialect page ends with the poem 咏鹅, "Goose Goose Goose", by Luo Binwang (骆宾王). Figuring that since I have a native speaker handy, I decided to make a couple quick recordings of the poem. Here's the Mandarin version:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       É é é,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Qū Xiàng xiàng tiān gē.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Bái Máofú lǜ shuǐ,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Hóng zhǎng bō qīng bō.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here is the Changzhou dialect version with transliteration provided by the Wu Association page:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Ngou ngou ngou,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Chioh-ghan shian thie kou,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Boh-mau vei loh-su,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Ghon-tsan peh tshin-pou.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I should mention that the speaker had some problems with how a couple things were transcribed, for example 歌 which has been written "kou" but she believes ought to be "gou". For the record, she's not from downtown but rather a suburb of a suburb (Wujin) and has a tiny but noticeable difference in her pronunciation. That said, I think she may be right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Saturday Shanghainese Spectacular

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today seems to be Shanghainese Saturday, at least from my end of things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      At LanguageLog, Victor Mair has a post up (A Potpourri of Materials on Shanghainese) which, among other things, has a great quote from a mother who is raising her daughter to understand and hopefully speak Shanghainese. I particularly like this part:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "I think the hardest part now for promoting Shanghainese is to let people understand that promoting a dialect is different from saying it (together with its culture and people) is superior than other dialects (and people and local cultures). Shanghainese and Shanghai people had such a bad reputation in the past (for which we only have ourselves to blame) that it is very difficult for people to distinguish these two separate issues."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's also an interesting note on topolectal high school examination questions appearing here in China and a link to this site to inflate my ego just slightly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Through a recent post on ChinaSmack I came across M and MX, a site with bilingual Chinese/English comics and, surprise surprise, Shanghainese podcasts. Click here for all the recordings. Check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Then, prolific twitterer David Feng posted a link to a slightly odd cartoon in Shanghainese called 黑猫警长, Sergeant Black Cat. While not my typical form of evening entertainment, it's good to see Wu in such form.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Finally, eChinaCities.com has a short article on Shanghainese called Nóng Hô! that includes a few common phrases and some great photos.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks to Victor Mair and LanguageLog for the mention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        McDonald's Requires Dialect Proficiency

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I heard about an interesting hiring practice today. Apparently it's somewhat well known by the locals. Most fast-food places, specifically McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, will not hire people who are not from the immediate area. The motivation seems to be largely based on mutual understanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Today I was talking to somone, we'll call her Rachel, who's mother is from Changzhou but married someone from Wuxi, the next city/county over. As such Rachel was born and raised in Wuxi, but now studies and lives in Changzhou. She is equally fluent in both dialects and isn't detectable as an outsider when talking to people here in Changzhou. But, as the story goes, her national i.d. is marked with Wuxi, and so unless she wants to go through a long process (which if I understood correctly, involves blood draws and DNA testing), she will always be local only to Wuxi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        While in college, she applied to work at one of the many fast-food places downtown. She was told the Wuxi deal wasn't really a deal at all since she could converse fluently like a native of Changzhou. Two days of flipping burgers later, she was let go. Another manager found out about the Scarlet 夕.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But, pretty much anyone who would go to McDonald's speaks Mandarin, I though, and they certainly don't do this sort of thing in the more typical restaurants. Unless a quite elderly grandmother decides to treat her grandson to a nice cold 新地, it seems like this would never really be a problem. And, as any foreigner in China knows, picture menus abound.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm pretty tempted to ask about this next time I'm at Starbucks to see if the same applies. I know they're required to have some basic level of English in order to work there, which makes a bit of sense given the kinds of people I usually see ordering a [insert Starbucks joke drink here].

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I then wonder where the line is drawn. I'd assume Wujin is close enough, but I'm not sure about Jintan and Liyang unless it's based solely on the card.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Language As Novelty Act

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe it's just my own proximity to the subject, and maybe I just never paid it any attention in the West or Middle East, but there seems to be an exceptionally high occurrence of non-locals trying to speak local topolects. Granted, not many are trying to pass as 丹阳人, but it has happened. My proof has since been taken off Youku, but trust me, it was there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There's what I assume to be a quite popular show aired in Taiwan called 康熙來了 which to me anyway is the Platonic form of a Mandopop talk show. The hosts are Xú Xīdì 徐熙娣, better known as 小S, and Cài Kāngyǒng 蔡康永. Cài is from a rather old and rich family in Shanghai, my sources tell me. On this particular Friday afternoon, my background noise is some other variety type show hosted by the pair. And, as happens from time to time, the topic of topolects came up. 小S asked him how to say a number of things in Shanghainese. He did, and she attempted with some success to repeat the phrases.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As I mentioned, this seems to happen quite often. There are forum posts upon forum posts of how to say things in local dialects. Each of these that I've seen has a number of replies showing some interest. While no one is really going to make a major effort to learn one fully, which includes people I know who've moved here 10 years ago and still can't understand much more than the basics, people do have some awareness of and at least passing interest in them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The thing is, I can't see this happening in the states. While we have people like Hugh Laurie (House) and Anna Torv (Fringe) who've made their television careers by faking another single dialect, I don't see Stephen Colbert's Christmas special dedicating ten minutes on how to speak like you're from Philadelphia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It makes me wonder what this does, if anything, for preservation. It seems obvious to me that this wouldn't in any way dilute a dialect. But could it help? Do any universities in Shanghai teach Wu as a second language in the same way you can study Uyghur in Ürümqi? If so, seriously let me know. I'll make sure to enrol for the fall term.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Right To Speak Shanghainese

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Once again an interesting post over at LanguageLog relating to Wu. A poster is circulating among Shanghairen outlining some guidelines of when it's appropriate to speak in Shanghainese. Based on the idea of local pride, it's a bit of a change of scene from the efforts to get everyone speaking Putonghua that I've seen from time to time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The poster and a translation are available over at the LanguageLog post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If anyone in Shanghai sees these around, steal one for me and you'll be rewarded handsomely. Or at least send me a photo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Wuxi Hosts Wu Culture Festival

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hat tip to @soakland who tipped me off to the Wu Culture Festival that begins today in Wuxi. While not specifically language based, I'm sure most of the participants will in fact be speaking in the Wuxi dialect of Wu. Plus there's the whole thing of shared heritage between the language and the various states called Wu. Here are a couple photos of the performers getting ready. And here is an article from WuxiNews called《吴文化节开幕式合成彩排》that talks a bit more about the rehearsal. And another from Xinhua that my browser assures me contains malware. GhostNet anyone? Unfortunately I won't be able to make it to Wuxi today, though on another day I'd happily catch a bus out that way. I'd like to hope that 吴文化节 is something we'll see again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              update: After some quick searching now that it's officially opened, I've learned that this is the fourth such Wu culture festival. Looks like I might be making a trip to Wuxi next year then. If you still plan on going, it lasts until the 16th. The expat site WuxiLife has the schedule in English. Cost of admission is 50RMB. Otherwise there are Chinese descriptions here and here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Writing & Tones

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Well I never made it to America. My dog got sick and so I've spent the last three weeks making vet trips and injecting interferon. Had I gone I would have picked up my digital dictaphone so that I could do some quick guerilla recordings as I travel around. A Danyang trip is in the works as the first trip into the surrounding villages. I chose Danyang first because they're famous for glasses and I could stand to get a couple more pair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So while I haven't yet been out recording beyond the confines of Changzhou proper, I have made a few more bookstore trips. Xinhua is doing right by me lately. This time I managed to find a copy of 《常州闲话》by Fan Yanpei (范炎培). There are two big plusses here. First, chapters are arranged by single characters or character pairs e.g. one on 老 and one on 爿, going into pronunciation and use of each. Some are more along the lines of 成语, consisting of four or six characters. The second big reason I grabbed this particular book is in the end it has a few pages of characters with not only the proper IPA transcription for Changzhou dialect but also tones. And not just tones in the sense of first, second etc., but marked as "Yang Ping" or "Yin Ru", following the system of tones used in classical Chinese and most Wu dialects. I finally have some sort of record of what tones different words ought to be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                At first the tone markers confused me. I wasn't really sure what I was looking at. Yin Ping is written as U rotated 90° clockwise while Yang Qu is written IU rotated 90° counter-/anti-clockwise. There are glyphs set up in Unicode to cover the eight tone markers, but I'd be surprised if a great many fonts included support. Here's a quick list of the glyph with their corresponding tone. The list is in Helvetica or Lucida Sans Unicode with the glyph on the left followed by the name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yin ping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yang ping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yin shang
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yang shang
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yin qu
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yang qu
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yin ru
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                yang ru

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the book it gives something like this:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                埲 [꜁boŋ]: 灰尘扬起。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                忒 [t'ɤʔ꜆]: 太。脱音。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                毻 [t'ɤɯ꜄]: 毛,皮等脱落,如毻毛。音通话〝透〞音。

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yang Ping, as in 埲, is a low rising tone. Yin Ru, as in 忒, is a short high tone. Yin Qu, 毻, is a dipping tone similar to the third tone in Mandarin but starting higher and ending lower. You can see how the other of 7 of the 8 used in Changzhou dialect would work out in terms of the tone contour over at the Changzhou dialect wikipedia entry. I transcribed the table on the wiki entry from a book by YR Chao, in case you're hesitant to trust things wiki without knowing the source.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Over lunch with John from Sinosplice/ChinesePod a few days ago he mentioned my apparent love of phonetics and transcription. I'd not thought about it much before then but thinking about it now I'd say the interest is in being able to accurately write something beyond meaning. One of the things that's bothered me most as I try to sort out Wu dialects is an inconsistency from one area to the very near next. This is never more obvious than when trying to write things down. I don't have a dictaphone so I must write things down. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. In truth I'm just a big nerd.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The book cost 30RMB and is published by Zhuhai Publishing Company, 珠海出版社. It's readily available at the Changzhou Xinhuas but probably not anywhere else. I'm really hoping to find similar books in the other cities in the area as I begin to travel around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Expect more recordings soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Characters & Shanghai Dialect

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I spent my Friday in Shanghai, something I'd like to do more often. Despite the bad weather I had a decent time and of course made time to hit up a bookstore. Since my trip wasn't really for pleasure I didn't have as much time I as I would have liked, and so I only really made it to one. It would have been two but Dragon Books in Cloud Nine was closed for renovation. Anyway, I asked around for books on 方言. Turns out that even in Shanghai you can really only get books on dialects for the dialect spoken in the city in which you're shopping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  They had three things to offer. The first was 《解说上海话》which despite being pretty wasn't really what i was looking for, though I may end up picking up next week when I'm back in town. The second was strictly audio, which while nice is also not what I was looking for. I already have one book that includes audio called Shanghai Dialect for Foreigners and was more interested in a character approach. The one I ended up picking up for the low price of 7RMB is called 《上海话 / 临时急需一句话》 and is part of a series covering a number of languages. Click here to see what it looks like. It's really more of a phrasebook for Mandarin speakers than anything, but the thing it included which I like is a pseudo-pinyin as well as two sets of characters for each line. Well, three if you include the Mandarin. What you see is something like this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's Mandarin on the first line, Wu (Shanghainese) on the second line, pronunciation on the third and then on the last line, the characters that would be used to more accurately show the pronunciation to a Mandarin speaker. I particularly like this book because it shows a fair set of substitution characers that would take the place of the Wu/Shanghainese characters. This is done to an extreme in some cases, for example 我 which should be read [ŋu] is transcribed in the substitute phonetic characters as 嗯无, 嗯 covering /ŋ/ and 无 as /u/. That's 17 strokes for those playing at home. 18 if you include the liaison linking them together. Two strokes in IPA, again if if you're counting. Here's another example:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ng ͡ wuxiangxiaodenongduigegewendigekuifa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The first few pages cover numbers and pronouns as well as some more common things, but then it jumps right into phrases. It was certainly worth the 7 kuai. The main drawback is that if you're not already familiar with the sounds you should be making, it's really not a whole lot better than online sources covering characters alone. That said, I think the inclusion of more than one set of characters more than makes up for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Victor Mair On Mutual Intelligibility

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As you've probably guessed, there's a post up on LanguageLog by Victor Mair about the mutual intelligibility of languages in China. If you don't otherwise follow LanguageLog, which you should, click on his name in the previous sentence to get a list of recent posts including a transcript of a video of 张伯宏 rapping in Beijing dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Go. Click.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Wuxi Dialect Lessons

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I keep meaning to get to Wuxi (and Gaochun and Danyang among others) to get some recordings and search the local libraries. Next week is Shanghai but maybe the week after that I'll finally get there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the meantime, @wuxiandis has filmed four brief lessons available on YouTube that cover some of the basics. It includes some pronouns, basic counting and a few useful phrases. They are spoken by a handful of different people so you can get a better idea of what's really there. Anyway you can see all the clips at this blog which has them all in one place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In mostly unrelated news regarding my own documentation, I'll be heading overseas in about a month and while there will retrieve my tiny digital dictaphone. At present it's hard to get good snippets of conversations while carrying around my 15" MacBook Pro opened up to Audacity. That doesn't mean I'm not trying, because I am, but expect to hear many more samples coming in the beginning of April when I return to my *cough* beloved Jiangnan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Writing With Characters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So far all of the books I've been able to find specifically covering 常州方言 have been without any real phonetic transliterations, IPA or otherwise. Instead characters are used and loosely at that. 《常州方言》which I bought last week has about 4 occurrences of Latin letters in the whole book, usually of little value. In other places it tells you that "我读罗音" which I've not once heard from all the people of whom I've asked to speak for me, leading me to believe the authors may not have been cut from the same cloth as my available speakers. See the 丹阳 comment below to see what I mean. At any rate, below are a few more common variations, some from the above mentioned book and some from other sources.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        我 can be written 吾 or in the case of Shanghainese can be 阿拉[1]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        你 or 您 in Shanghai is written and said as 侬 (though apparently in 新昌 it can be , nǎi)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        不 is written 弗[2]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        太 is written 忒[3]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        What's more, 呢 is written 唻 and 吗 is written [4] or just 伐. There's a whole chapter in 《常州方言》on modal particles though many of the characters used are not otherwise covered by Unicode.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        格 is used for what would be 的 in Mandarin. Thus 有的 is 有格 and 好的 becomes 好格. In some cases 嘚 takes the place of 的 as an adjectival marker. It's been suggested to me that 嘚 is likely a 丹阳 thing, really just meaning it's not 市中心 Changzhou dialect. Having not been to 丹阳 I can't really say one way or another. update: A possible answer to that has come up. 家开, pronounced by the ever-helpful 婷婷 as gu kai where the i is almost not there, is a phrases meaning 回家. However, as she also tells me, it's really only spoken in the southern parts of Changzhou. So perhaps it's not about 丹阳 afterall.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are plenty of times when a character that may no longer be widely used in Mandarin is used for the Wu equivalent, e.g. 姊 for 姐,囥 for 藏 etc., or even multiples replaced by one as with 什么 becoming 嗲 (so 做什么 is 就嗲).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There's also something going on with tones being represented by different characters. Iit gives 二 being 两, which happens pretty consistently in Changzhou. However it goes on to say that in some cases 二 should be said as 腻 nì, not nī, ní or nǐ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I must admit this whole character-only thing is far more taxing than I had predicted. This whole project is moving from the realm of practical proficiency to scholarly pursuit one day at a time. I'm making a trip to Wuxi soon at which time I'll be hitting up the local bookstores in search of a proper text on that dialect. In the meantime I'm still searching the city for a copy of any of 赵元任's works or anything that may have a transliteration system I can map on to IPA. In the mean time I've reached the point where I need to head back to Xinhua where I bought the one I have to re-evaluate the books they otherwise have to see if I can pick anything of greater value out of those, though I'm not holding my breath for anything that comes out of Xinhua.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - - -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. which is also a transliteration for "Allah" in Mandarin. See the Glossary of Chinese Islamic Terms which I compiled a couple months back.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. or, occassionally online, 佛. this however is less accurate in both sound and meaning.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. pronounced as [te] or in Changzhou as [d̥eɪ̯]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        4. unable to find a proper character, i've resorted to using HTML to make my own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          On The Future Of Wu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A student at the University of Victoria Dylan, who is currently studying at 华东师范大学 has a decent blog set up to chronicle his time in China. I just found it recently and am still working through the archives. One post in particular introduces the conflict between Mandarin and 方言. If I'm reading it right, it's his topic for research being done while on a study abroad. Anyway check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the comments though, he suggests the potential longevity of Wu based on the number of speakers. I think I have to disagree with this. To quote my own comment on his blog:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm pretty certain it won't take long for Wu to be blended out. You can see it happening already from one generation to the next. There's a lot of pressure, especially in the non-Shanghai Wu regions, to not sound like you're a Wu speaker. Jobs are given or denied to people based on how well they speak standard Mandarin. I know a number of families in the area where the grandparents can't speak any Mandarin, then their children speak both but with heavily accented Mandarin, and then their children can understand Wu but can speak only Mandarin. I can only imagine the l33t Wu skills of the 4th generation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That pretty much sums up my position. It seems that in a culture where accents matter and people are regularly teased at the workplace for sounding too much like they're from the place in which they grew up and where clients truly judge the representatives spoken Mandarin, I can't really see Wu lasting more than a couple more generations. Mandarin is already having a much greater influence on it than 20 years ago, and even English at that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As to preservation, I'm not sure there's really anything that can be done. It's certainly not in the same boat as Manchu, nor do I think it ever will be. That would mean it would disappear abruptly as a dynasty fell. I think the situation is much more along the lines of it simply fading out and being replaced by a Mandarin that is heavily influenced by Wu slackness with a smattering of phrases left over from when it was still Wu. Doesn't mean one can't try. From what I read the other day, Gaochun dialect has been deemed a protected heritage language by the state. Not sure if it's true, but I wouldn't be surprised. And so I continue on my quest to learn some practical Wu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "常州人怎么说晚会啊?" I asked the other day.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chángzhōu Fāngyán books

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Just got back from the local Xinhua and picked up a copy of Chángzhōu Fāngyán (常州方言, "Changzhou Dialect") by Zhōu Xiǎo Fēng (周晓锋), Xú Yì Fēng (徐益锋) and Fàn Yán Péi (范炎培). At 48RMB it was well within my budget for individual book purchases, though according to one site, I paid too much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's mostly vocabulary, though there were other books at Xinhua that were truly only vocabulary. More nerdy than practical, it doesn't include any IPA or transcription to speak of. Instead everything is done with characters. Which means first you must know the obscure characters with which Wu is sometimes written and then you must know the pronunciation of that character in the dialect. I had mentioned this problem on the transcription page.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But I knew that and still bought it. The reason being that it comes with a CD with numerous samples of phrases spoken in 常州话 and then 普通话. Below is a transcription of the first three parts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu b̥z̩ deɪ̯], 叠被子。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu b̥z̩ deɪ̯], dié bèizi.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu b̥z̩ deɪ̯], fold the blanket.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu z̥ou lɑɪ̯], 把物体 折弯过来。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu z̥ou lɑɪ̯], bǎ wùtǐ zhé wān guòlai.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu z̥ou lɑɪ̯], fold the blanket towards you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu ɡ̊u qɤ], 把物体 折过去。
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu ɡ̊u qɤ], bǎ wùtǐ zhé guòqù.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [iɑu ɡ̊u qɤ], fold it away from you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There was another book that also got my interest and as I think about it now, I may need to make another bookstore run on my lunch break tomorrow. Though mostly characters, it had a few pages with a handful of obscure characters with the corresponding 常州话 pronunciation in a modified IPA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Anyway, here's an article (Chinese) about 《常州方言》 and one of its authors, Fàn Yán Péi. I'll get some more clips up in the next few days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Chángzhōu Fāngyán


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I Only Fear Gaochun

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Early on in my time in China I learned about Gaochun 高淳. Having only arrived in Nanjing a month before, I'd not heard of it. Gaochun is a small city/village in the south of what I'd call Nanjing County. The thing that struck me from her presentation is when she started talking about 高淳老街, the old walking street that would compare to 夫子庙 in Nanjing, but much smaller and with less water and history of prostitution. It wasn't the street itself but the cost of admission. I don't recall how much it was exactly but I do recall that the cost for locals was nothing. I dumbly asked how they'd know and she answered, slightly dumstruck, "Well, if they can speak 高淳话."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I tried to clarify. "You're telling me," I said, "that people from Nanjing can't understand a language spoken only in a part of Nanjing?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And so my curiosity regarding 高淳方言 was born. Then, unable to stifle my curiosity, I made her say the three things I make everyone say: 你好, 谢谢, and 再见.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You can imagine how pleased I was the day I learned it was a dialect of Wu, my beloved Wu from the short time in Shanghai. I'm on a 土豆网 kick, as you may have noticed, so here's another link to a video. This time of a very old woman speaking the dialect. This one's short at only 31 seconds, and she's terribly hard to follow even if only to match the sounds to what I'd expect. Perhaps a field trip to Gaochun is in order this summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I bring this all up in order to offer the above link of the woman speaking and to relay a joke I read on a Chinese site. It is as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              tiān bùpà, dì bùpà, jiù pà gāochún rén shuō guǐhuà.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't fear Heaven, I don't fear Earth. I only fear the nonsense spoken in Gaochun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Changzhou Hip-hop usage - music

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I sat down to write something about a play that was done in the Changzhou dialect (about which you can see a report here and here and read about here), but something better came up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's a rap video done by Changzhou natives and sung in equal parts 常州话 and misplaced English profanity, e.g. "everybody muthafucka say goddamnit" and an awkwardly placed "god damn you, asshole". Anyway here's a link to the video on Youku. The name of the group escaped me is Aqua-2 Crew and the song is 别烦 bié fán, "Don't Bother" or, as it's pronounced here, /fiɑu v̥ein/. While they used 别, bié, for the video's title, it's also often written 覅 which is closer to the sound, fiào. There are lyrics available in Wu or if you prefer, in Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Most of the video was filmed around 南大街, the big shopping center downtown. That would be any escalator shots or modern backgrounds you see. Also interesting, to me at least, is the comments section. It's another example of characters being used to write Wu. 常贼拧 is done for 常州人, which is pretty close as long as the ch in 常 of Mandarin gets changed to /s/. Then of course there's one English comment insulting them with typos.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While I'm not the biggest fan of gratuitous profanity and glittery midi hooks, I'd still be interested in seeing something else they did. Like the play about which I've managed to not say another word, it's a popular medium being used to show non-standard language and culture. So hooray for that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                update: I was hearing something about eating in the chorus. A friend just clarified it for me. In Wu: 覅烦 覅烦 覅来帮我烦 / 我还朆吃饭你叫我哪亨办 and in Mandarin: 别烦 别烦 别来和我烦 / 我还没有吃饭 你叫我怎么办。 It's so true. Anyone else reminded of Flight of the Conchords' "because I rap about reality like me and my grandma having a cup of tea..."?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here's an audio clip:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                update of greater substance:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've managed to dig up a bit more on them. The driving force behind this is DJ Lou Engine, who has an awesome English name given that his Chinese name is 路彦峥 Lù Yàn Zhēng. The other 3 people that make up Aqua-2 are David (郝嘉杰 aka 熊熊), Fat.P (朱一鸣 aka 胖子) and Yuki (缪娟 aka 大猫). You can read more information on the people including their favourite foods (Yuki likes fruit and Chinese food) here or here. The first thing they did together was in 2004, however before that DJ Engine was doing some other stuff with MHHF, Magic HipHop Force. I'm not sure to what extent they did anything in 常州方言 other than this one song, and it seems to be the only one I can find online. Tomorrow I'll check the local CD stores and see if I can't pick up their album.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Learners' Accents

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Last night I hung out with a few friends to see one off who will be going to Singapore to study. On the way home, the conversation with the driver was all in Wu. I was managing to keep up and at a couple points made an attempt to join in. My friend, tactful as always, told me my Wu was shit. Ten minutes later, having forgotten my elevator card, I spent about 8 minutes waiting with another local couple. They thought my Wu was surprisingly decent (a lie), but accented heavily. The difference, aside from them being much kinder than my own friends, was that it was quiet and i had an extra second or two to think about my pronunciation before I answered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Which brings me to Albania. Albanian isn't terribly hard to pronounce. The ü in Mandarin exists, as does the Chinese Ch and the heavy /l/ as in Arabic (though it only appears in one word in the entire language, الله). But there just aren't that many foreigners, at least not in 2001, who spoke Albanian. Not accustomed to hearing it spoken with an accent, any attempt by foreigners to speak it was met with peals of laughter. That's pretty much the case with Wu. With the exception of Shanghai, foreigners don't speak it. No reasonable attempt is ever made. And that's fair. There are a number of problems to be faced. Slack voiced consonants, the full spectrum of vowels, sometimes with nasalisation, and seven tones are just the major ones. I've managed to get my listening a bit better. It's not at all where it should be but I can at least identify the topic and speaker's opinions/mood from most overheard conversations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And then I respond in 普通话 because if I respond in 常州方言 they either won't be expecting it and I'll have to say it twice or they won't know what I'm saying, displaying an apparent inability seen in so many people lately to stretch their brain to fit a peculiar accent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  English allows all sorts of accents and dialects, likely thanks to the colonisation by the British Empire. We constantly hear many accents from native speakers or speakers for whom it's a long time secondary language. There are instances when I can't understand one word from friends who don't clearly distinguish "work" (/wɝk/) from "walk" (/wɔːk/). Short of that, there's little problem understanding their English. We may judge a new speaker on their pronunciation, but I'm not sure that's the best way. 啊婷, the speaker from the first samples of the Changzhou dialect I gave, has excellent spoken English but a pretty present accent. It only takes about 2 minutes of talking to her to realise the accent is just an accent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I tried to make this point while teaching at a university last year. One of my examples was from the Speech Accent Archive, a long running collection of accents put up by George Mason University. One example I had used was this speaker from Ahmedabad who grew up speaking Gujarati. I used to have roomates from Gujarat so it's an accent I rather like. Anyway most native English speakers would have no trouble understanding this speaker if the context was known.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was having this conversation with a friend last week and he had a good point. He said it's likely easier for foreigners learning Mandarin to understand bits of Wu than it is for native Mandarin speakers who also did not grow up with Wu. The reason being that the Mandarin speakers have a much larger set of possible words in their lexicon that might match up. A wrong tone doesn't keep the foreigner from understanding the phrase since they're mostly going by context. It does stop most native Chinese speakers in their tracks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So why is it much easier to be understood speaking bad Mandarin? A very large number of foreigners make attempts to speak it. I hear it on the late night radio shows played by taxi drivers. A foreigner with intentionally bad Chinese is pretending to be a tourist in Beijing for the Olympics. Of course, in truth his Mandarin is fine since two minutes later he's conversing fluently, though still with an absurdly bad accent. And none of the listeners have any trouble understanding them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Exposure. Boo Hiss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Problem With Transcription

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There was an epiphany in my household was had by my translator, who tends to be pretty steady with her own transcription abilities, suddenly realised she has an accent like the 乡下人 that deep down she knows she is. It came while watching 生活369 which is all 市中心 accents. That means that [ʔɲi] may be more right if I'm surveying the city center, though he still buzzes. Still not sure on the glottal stop (ʔ) but it seems quite reasonably accurate. As usual time will tell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This all got me thinking about pinyin. It's allegedly based on the Beijing pronunciation, and even though I've yet to hear a Beijinger sound like that, I get the point. When you're in a place like China trying to speak Chinese, you figure out pretty quickly that there're thousands of different ways of saying things when people are speaking Mandarin. "shí sì kuài" becomes " sì kuài" and you just need to pay extra attention to the tones or, more often since tones are less stressed as well, you just guess based on the item you want to buy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Changzhou Dialect On Tv usage - tv

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      While flipping channels tonight I came across a show on Changzhou TV called “生活369″. Fortunately my translator was present to tell me what’s going on because the subtitles are not really all that helpful. Plenty of characters are being used that don’t correspond to anything commonly used in Mandarin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One piece of news being discussed was trash cans being used to hide cameras by one of the local police departments. Plenty of people had been caught and ticketed as a result, raising the question of the legality of using these cameras. The local government says it is not legal and they’re working to find out which police department personnel were responsible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I recorded a bit where he’s talking about pork being filled with water to increase the weight. Still having sound issues, and still working on getting them solved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      At any rate, there’s a quick post on a Chinese BBS talking about the station here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now they’re showing a drama in Shanghai dialect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nong Ve Qieq Ku Leq Va meta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This isn't actually a post from 2009. I'm writing this in mid-2014. The 2009 date is the date of the first post on the blog that became this blog. I'm retaining some of the older posts, though not all. This is simply a way to remember when I first got started on the blog that eventually became what you're reading today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Needless to day, 5 years ago I didn't know what I know now, and much of what I originally wrote was speculation (but I was at least honest about admitting as much) and doesn't really apply. I've removed posts on things about which I now know more about, since there's not a lot of value in keeping misinformation up just for the sake of nostalgia.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A semi-academic linguistics blog about Sinotibetan, previously focused primarily on Wú, a Sinitic language spoken in the Yangtze Delta region. Topics now include historical linguistics, documentation, language rights, sociolinguistics and learning materials, as well as acting as the dev blog for Phonemica from time to time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm a linguist based in Asia, working on documentation and historical development of Sinotibetan. In addition to academic research, I'm heavily involved in Phonemica, an organisation that promotes crowd-sourced preservation of local languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm currently in the field, so getting in touch isn't easy. However you can try to email me at the following address and I'll respond as soon as I'm able:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          © 2009-2017