Suzhou Dialect: Threat of Extinction
The dialects that are in the linguistic minority such as the Suzhou dialect tend to be out of use as it occurs in East China’s Jiangsu Province, where it is replaced by the dominant language. Hu Shuning remembers that the promotion of Putonghua was spread across education and media that led to the reduced use of the Suzhou dialect. The interviewee notes that “a dialect’s unique words show the lifestyle and traditions of the people who speak it” (Yiqian).
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After the establishment of Putonghua as the official language, many people began to consider this language to be the only correct one. In spite of the mentioned difficulties, many young people understand the role of their dialects and try to preserve them.
For example, Hu Shuning introduces a special account on the prominent WeChat social network that teaches her dialect. This account offers lessons on a daily basis, allowing people to learn it whenever and wherever they want, thus developing their native traditions and lifestyle. It should be emphasized that not only Chinese but also foreigners understand the great capacity of dialects. For instance, Kellen Parker and Steve Hanson, the American contributors, designed Phonemica, the website devoted to Chinese dialects and focused on various spoken stories.
Role of the Dialect
When it comes to Chinese, many people think that this is a monolithic and indivisible language spoken by every Chinese citizen. The problem of the reduction and extinction of the local dialects is one of the most sensitive and unresolved issues in China. In fact, Chinese is a collection of a large number of dialects, differing in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. There are seven main groups of the Chinese language: Putonghua, Yue, Cantonese, Minh, Hakka, Gan, and Xiang.
In addition to dialects, there are vernaculars within each of them, differing in stress or pronunciation of sounds. For example, well-known Putonghua in different cities of China sounds differently. The division of the Chinese language into dialect groups is due in most cases to geographical or historical factors. Each of the dialects of the Chinese language has all the criteria to have the status of a separate language, but a single written language for the whole of China ensures the integrity of this language.
Thus, the review of the given news article shows that Chinese, especially young people are aware of the current threatening situation with regards to dialects. Most importantly, they are ready to act and call others to action.
A rather important and culturally specific information can disappear forever with the extinction of the dialect. For example, knowledge of the unique medicines or receipts used by the local groups can be lost in case their dialect loses its place to some other formation, and this valuable information will be overwhelmed by knowledge from other cultures or merely forgotten. It is through the dialects the literary language is enriched and preserved to reveal the future generations a nation’s cultural values.
With the help of the dialect, a separate ethnos or nation preserves and transmits its culture and traditions. More to the point, dialects embody the national revival, preservation, and development. The dialect reveals the way of life of people, their values and landmarks, history and destiny. Every person who has mastered the dialect of his or her native culture has a certain way of thinking and vision. Therefore, the diversity of dialects can be regarded as the foundation of the contemporary multinational society.
Yiqian, Zhan. “Locals, Foreigners try to Keep Chinese Dialects Alive Despite Putonghua Dominance.” Global Times. 2017. Web.