Dialect, vernacular, patois?

The other I found quite an interesting article about Shanghainese which suggest that’s it has become a bit more popular recently, and is being used for some announcements in public transport and on planes, and that children are allowed to speak it at one school, at least during breaks.

The article says that about 10 million people in Shanghai speak Shanghainese, and then another 10 million don’t. Some of the non-Shanghainese speakers “consider the vernacular pride movement either unnecessary or unwelcome.”, and one woman who has spent most of her life in Shanghai seems to proud that she doesn’t speak Shanghainese.

Shanghainese is variously referred to as a lingua, a dialect, a vernacular and a patois at different points in the article, though not a language.

Though there are slight plenty of Shanghainese speakers, there are apparently relatively few young speakers, which is not a good sign for its future.

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This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Language revival.

One Response to Dialect, vernacular, patois?

  1. Chris Waugh says:

    What an utterly bizarre article, especially the second paragraph:

    “High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ae9f6244-5703-11e1-be5e-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1pLLkWQGI

    Mao Zedong thought mother tongues were a luxury that communism could ill-afford, so he tried to impose a common language: everyone had to wear Mao suits and speak Mao’s Mandarin. Teachers were forced to teach in it, and children were forced to speak it, even on the playground. Dialects such as Shanghainese – a language all but unintelligible to Mandarin speakers – was taken off the radio, television and out of the schools.”

    So the Republic of China’s Guóyǔ (the other version of Modern Standard Mandarin) and the Guānhuà of the imperial era have suddenly vanished from the pages of history? They never happened?

    And how does Shanghainese suddenly acquire an age? Where did that ’700 years’ come from?

    And what’s up with ‘lingua’, ‘patois’ and ‘vernacular’? Wouldn’t it be more common to refer to Shanghainese as a dialect of the Wu language of the Jiāngnán region (south bank of the lower reaches of the Yangtse, Suzhou – Shanghai – Hangzhou area)? Otherwise, the word ‘topolect’ has been coined as a translation of the Chinese term ‘方言’.

    Waldmeir does hint at the social reasons for the precarious state of Shanghainese (and many other local dialects and languages), but I doubt it has much to do with English. An awful lot of my students only speak Pǔtonghuà with their parents because their linguistically naive (doing my best to keep it polite, here) parents believe that speaking the local language or dialect at home will somehow impede their kids’ ability to learn good, standard Pǔtonghuà.