Sunday, February 22, 2015

when a language is submerged

my mother-in-law gave me an example of what happens when a language loses its own existence and becomes an adjunct of another, more powerful language. she says lots of young people use a non-taiwanese word for the word 'telephone pole.' it should be 'electric -- talk -- pillar.' (i can't remember how the words sound). but lots of people say 'electric-line-post.' in fact, they are simply using the chinese word, and shifting the pronunciation to taiwanese pronunciation.

a fatal weakness in taiwanese is its lack of an independent and widely used writing system.

even older people's speech is peppered with words that sound to me like chinese, with readjusted pronunciation. i have no doubt that older generations used different words, or maybe did not have a word for the particular thing being named. so this process of sinification has probably been going on for some time.

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