吳實錄

Annals of Wu

漢藏緬語々言研究ㄟ博客
a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog
2014-07-11

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

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★★★★★

Title:Shanghai Dialect: An Introduction To Speaking The Contemporary Language
Author:Lance Eccles
Publisher: Dunwoody Press
ISBN:1-881265-11-0

shanghai

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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:

yhilan.ko@gmail.com
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