Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
KCTan

Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by KCTan » Tue Sep 10, 2002 10:05 am

An Ex-Prime Minister of Singapore once said that unlike Hokkien, Cantonese is a living language. Does it mean that Hokkien is a non-living language and for that basic reason, Mandarin was chosen as an official language over Hokkien in Singapore?
Sim Lee

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by Sim Lee » Tue Sep 10, 2002 11:10 am

>> Does it mean that Hokkien is a non-living language and for that basic
>> reason, Mandarin was chosen as an official language over Hokkien in
>> Singapore?

No,

In fact it was precisely the other way around.

He (Lee Kuan Yew) can thank himself for the fact that Hokkien is no longer a living language in Singapore. It used to be a Hokkien-speaking city up to the 80's, but with his "speak Mandarin" campaign, he managed to successfully wipe it out.

I recognise that speaking Mandarin gives Chinese Singaporeans access to a wider world, and gives the Mandarin speaking world access to Singaporeans, which is a good thing, but I still lament the loss of Hokkien in Singapore.

Penang, the city I grew up in, is still largely a Hokkien-speaking city, but it is an unusual variant of Hokkien, not spoken anywhere else in peninsular Malaysia nor in Singapore.

Examples of this dialect can be seen on:

http://www.geocities.com/penangfile/

a monthly e-zine, under the column written by Raymond Kwok.

Sim Lee
Please remove the <removethis> and <antispam> parts of my email address if replying to me directly.
ppk

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by ppk » Wed Sep 11, 2002 3:44 am

living as in the sense that it takes in new phrases and terms? if that is so, most dialects are not living in singapore. but in china, they are. ne terms were added into the dialects all the while. those teochews, cantonese and hokkiens i met have the latest catch phrases.
Sim Lee

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by Sim Lee » Wed Sep 11, 2002 10:42 am

You're right. As far as I can tell, all the dialects are dead in Singapore.

Sim Lee.
pcpy

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by pcpy » Wed Sep 11, 2002 1:06 pm

How about Hokkien or Minnan dialect in Taiwan? It is widely used daily by the public including President Chen though surprisingly it is yet to be given official status unlike Cantonese in Hong Kong. It seems that most Taiwanese Hokkiens are not bothered about pressing for the official recognition of Hokkien in Taiwan being brainwashed to despise its own mother-tongue after years of indoctrination in Mandarin education imposed by the KMT regime and in some way perpetuated by the existing ruling DPP.
ppk

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by ppk » Fri Sep 13, 2002 3:58 am

ppl only think of their best interests. this would mean the indoctrination of hokkien on the taiwanese aborigins, wads the difference? still violence on the minority groups.
pcpy

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by pcpy » Sat Sep 14, 2002 1:38 pm

You're right. People are basically self-centred. If you can bring prosperity and help people become wealthy, you are popular. Typical example is the choice of Lee Kuan Yew as the most popular figure in Singapore according to a recent survey conducted by a newspaper probably because he brought prosperity to Singapore eventhough he was instrumental in imposing the Speak Mandarin campaign which has resulted in the gradual demise of Chinese dialects in Singapore, the greatest loser of which is Hokkien which was once most widely spoken there.
ppk

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by ppk » Mon Sep 16, 2002 5:31 am

lee imposed mandarin in singapore to make the dialects obselete. in his theory this is to cut off ties of local chinese from mainland china, and make them recognise themselves as singaporeans, not overseas chinese nationals. so the implications of taiwanese following the same method is rather obvious. on the issue of preserving mother tongue in taiwan, please keep in mind that besides being the language of a person's race/birthplace most of the time, 'mother tongue' can oso mean the language(s) a person first learned in his childhood days. they might not coincide. while the mother tongue of a beijing-er in china is mandarin, the mother tongue of a chinese in indonesia could be bahasa indonesia, might not be mandarin or his dialects, and the mother tongue of an american chinese could be english, not mandarin or his dialects. so for ppl to preserve their mother tongue doesnt necessarily equals to preserving the language of their race/birthplace.
James Campbell

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by James Campbell » Tue Sep 17, 2002 7:23 pm

The difference between Singaporeans and Taiwanese is that Singaporeans viewed themselves speaking Minnan as overseas Chinese and a language that originated from China. Taiwanese on the other hand do not consider themselves overseas Chinese and speak Minnan as their own, not as if it came from China, although everybody knows that. For example, in Taiwan you'll never hear the word Hokkien as that refers to what is spoken in China, not Taiwan, even though it's the same language. They call it their own, that is, Taiwanese. I don't think Singaporeans call the Hokkien they speak Singaporean, do they? If they did call it that and think of it as their own language of Singapore before the importing of Mandarin imposition, then that would be the same situation as Taiwan. But I don't think that's true.

It's like Brazil. They speak the language of Brazil: Portuguese. They know the language came from Portugal long ago, but they consider themselves speaking a language of their own country, that is, Brazilian (Portuguese).
pcpy

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by pcpy » Wed Sep 18, 2002 12:39 pm

I think most Singaporeans of Chinese descent especially the older generation find it rather odd to converse in Mandarin which is really an imported language from China unlike their own dialect or rather language which is an important part of their culture which diffentiates them from Mandarin-speaking Chinese. They just do not have any choice but to toe the policy of speaking more Mandarin imposed upon them by the Government especially the younger generation who will ultimately forget their own dialects and consider Mandarin as their own mother-tongue, which is what K.Y. Lee wanted. On Hokkien language being called Taiwanese in Taiwan rather than the word Hokkien, I think it is just a normal practice for the vast majority of Taiwanese whose forefathers originated from Hokkien Province to relate their language to the name of Taiwan to reflect their own identity. In any case, I understand that Taiwanese refers to Minnan or Hokkien in a narrow sense. Politically it is taken to cover all the local languages in Taiwan.
James Campbell

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by James Campbell » Wed Sep 18, 2002 4:06 pm

Taiwanese doesn't stand for any other language in Taiwan except Minnan. You can't refer to the aborigines languages or Hakka as Taiwanese. In fact most of them speak Taiwanese anyway, and have rusty abilities in Mandarin, at least the ones I've met. Most Hakkas also have very good Taiwanese ability, but they tend to be very focused on being language proficient since they are a minority and try to be mainstream as possible.

I've been attending the Semicon tradeshow this week. I ran into a few Malaysians today, and they found it easier to discuss in Hokkien rather than in Mandarin.
ppk

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by ppk » Thu Sep 19, 2002 4:08 am

james, i think singaporeans dun call hokkien language as the singaporean tongue cos they are only about half of the chinese population. there are still other dialect groups, so its not very appropriate. for taiwan, until the nationalists went over in 1949, almost all among their population were ppl from fujian/hokkien, and the newcomers made up only1/5 of the total population. since mandarin is not popular then, calling hokkien as 'taiyu' or taiwan local tongue wont face much opposition. but as some of u might know, singapore has national service, ie, males go for army training for 2 yrs or so when they reached 18, regardless of race or background. the common tongue in the army is hokkien, not any other dialects.

pcpy, mandarin is the present official tongue in china, a descendant of hokkien and other dialects, and they are closely related. so its not a foreign language. hokkien uses the same writing as mandarin.
KDLim

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by KDLim » Fri Sep 20, 2002 12:33 am

I understand at one time, the national day address was by the PM of Singapore in English, Malay, Mandarin and Hokkien. But Hokkien was discontinued when the Speak Mandarin Campaign was launched. If I am not mistaken, it was reported in the press that even Hokkien used in Army was discontinued.
PPK

Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by PPK » Fri Sep 20, 2002 2:24 am

i think it would take quite sometime for hokkien to be discontinued in the army thou they claimed so. there are ppl from all walks of life and not everyone speaks english. the common tongue would probably be hokkien. easier for general communication, command and control. for official orders and drills thats another story. but with the 'improvement' in education, more and more will be speaking english.
Mark
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Re: Is Hokkien A Living Language?

Post by Mark » Fri Sep 20, 2002 6:28 am

Hi all,

Many seem to be under the illusion that most people in Singapore do/did speak Hokkien, however this is not the case.

There is the very very large Malay minority as well as the sizable Tamil minority and the minor Bengali minority (with other Indic languages trailing at the end), and the one language that really unites Singapore is English... err... I mean Singlish.

Singlish is a very colourful language, but thanks to the Speak Good English campaign, that's about to be wiped out as well. S'porean gahmen is sure good at erasing languages... why don't they try a Speak Good Klingon campaign next and erase Mandarin, English, Malay, Tamil, etc completely from the nation in favour of Klingon? Sounds like something they'd like, after all Klingon is a very influential language in intergalactical commerce and politics! *rolleyes*
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