On the Value and Protection Strategy of Chinese Dialects

 China has a vast territory and great differences in dialects. In order to maintain social stability and promote economic development, China has promoted Mandarin throughout the country since the 1960s and has made great achievements. However, the ecological environment of dialects is affected by various objective factors, and many dialects are declining.

  1. The current situation of the use of Chinese in PRC

  Due to the long-term historical development and the influence of geographical conditions and other factors, Chinese has formed different regional variants. We usually divide Chinese dialects into seven dialect regions: Northern dialect, Wu dialect, Xiang dialect, Gan dialect, Hakka dialect, Cantonese dialect and Min dialect. The differences between dialect regions and even within dialect regions are relatively large. In order to facilitate people to better communicate, maintain social stability, and promote economic development, China has issued a series of documents to promote Mandarin throughout the country since its founding. After more than 60 years of unremitting efforts, the penetration rate of Putonghua in China has reached more than 70%, and the proportion of standardized Chinese characters used by the literate population exceeds 95%. The national language communication barriers have been basically eliminated. Putonghua has become a common communication tool among all ethnic groups and regions in China, which is conducive to unity and mutual learning among people, and is in the common interest of all people in the country.


  While the popularization of Mandarin has made great achievements, many dialects are declining. There are many reasons for this: From a social perspective, the popularization and promotion of Mandarin has reduced the living space of dialects to a certain extent. The society’s requirements for Mandarin have become higher and higher, making dialects less and less frequent. From a personal perspective, Putonghua has become a necessary choice in the process of communicating with people who speak different dialects; some people are not confident enough in their dialects, and feel that speaking in dialects is uncultured, so they voluntarily give up dialects; there are also children of new generations Since both parents come from different regions, Mandarin has become the main language in the family, and they have lost the opportunity to learn and use dialects. In families in some large and medium-sized cities, the older generation speaks dialects, the second generation speaks dialects at home, and speaks Mandarin outside, while the third generation does not speak well or even speaks dialects. This situation is particularly true in the southern dialect area. obvious.

  2. Re-understanding the value of dialects

  (1) Dialects have a rich cultural heritage

  First of all, dialect is an important carrier of regional culture, reflecting the local characteristics of culture. Different local dialects and customs are different. Each dialect area has its own production channels, labor tools, business methods, as well as living, food, clothing, communication and other lifestyles that are compatible with this, as well as the unique concepts and customs of each place In other words, different dialects form different regional cultures. American anthropologist L.A. White stated in “The Science of Culture”: “All culture depends on signs. It is the ability to use signs that make language possible, and it is the use of signs that make cultural continuation possible. Without symbols, there is no culture…” “The symbolic sign created by man is the magic key to unlock all cultural secrets…. Without language, we would not have politics, Economy, religion, there will be no etiquette or ethical regulations, no laws, no science, theology, or literature… Without clear language, we cannot improve our tools.” (1) It can be said that language and culture being a pair of twin brothers, they should understand the dialect and the culture carried by the dialect in the same way. Take local opera as an example. There are many types and forms of Chinese opera, all with strong local characteristics. In the broadest sense, the origin of any kind of opera is limited to a certain region, and it is made by adopting local dialects and transforming local folk songs and dances. Any kind of drama was a local drama in its embryonic stage, of which only a few became popular throughout the country, and most of them still existed in the form of local drama. The most significant feature that distinguishes these local operas is the dialect rather than the accent. It is no exaggeration to say that the vitality of the local opera lies in the use of dialects. Such as Qinqiang (Guanzhong dialect) in Shaanxi, Henan opera in Henan (Henan dialect), Errenzhuan in Northeast China (Northeast dialect), Huangmei Opera in Anhui (Anqing dialect), Tanci (Suzhou dialect) in Suzhou, Nanyin in Quanzhou (Minnan dialect), etc. If you don’t use the local local accent to sing, you will lose its own charm and characteristics.

  Secondly, dialects are also living fossils of traditional culture, inheriting valuable cultural heritage. Most of the existing dialects in the world have gradually formed since ancient society. Take the dialects of Chinese as an example, the shortest history is seven or eight hundred years. In the long process of historical development, history and regional culture have been deposited in dialects in a clear or dark manner, and dialects have become living fossils of traditional culture. Take the appellation of relatives as an example. Although the kinship of Han people is roughly the same, the appellation of relatives varies from place to place, especially the difference between the south and the north. For example, the name “daughter-in-law” is called “daughter-in-law” in the north and “bridal-in-law” in the south. “New wife” originally means “daughter-in-law” in ancient Chinese. Later, the North was renamed “Daughter-in-law”, but the ancient Chinese word “Xin Fu” remained in the southern dialect. As the name suggests, “bridal woman” means “(the family) new arrival woman”. This name reflects the marriage system of the Han Chinese that wives settled in their husband’s house for a long time. Another example is the Linxiang area of ​​Yueyang, Hunan, where there are only male titles, but lack of female titles. Father is “dad”, mother is also “dad”, grandfather is called “daddy”, grandmother is also called “daddy”. The way to separate males and females is to enlarge and thin (i.e small), the father is the “big father”, the mother is the “small father”, and so on. Brothers and sisters are all called “brothers”, younger siblings are called “brothers”, and uncles and aunts are called “Xiye”. This kind of appellation is actually the original portrayal of the ancient appellation. Until the Han Dynasty, younger sisters were still called “brothers”. Earlier, older sisters were called “brothers”, grandparents were called “ancestors”, and both parents were “pros.” The gender-specific appellation did not become a system until after the Han Dynasty. 

  Finally, the dialect embodies the rich diversity of culture. The formation and evolution of each dialect contains complex and diverse social, historical, geographical and other factors. It is the cultural “face” of a place and a nation, and different regions have different language and cultural landscapes. For example, when people are active in different geographical environments, they first have names about different landforms and topography. In the northwest dialect, there are ditch, Liangzi, Yu, plateau.The river network area of ​​the Yangtze River Delta has Jing, Bin, weir, crossing, and sluice. In order to adapt to different natural conditions, people create different cultural landscapes. A dialect carries the culture of a place, including values, religious beliefs, customs, aesthetic tastes, and unique art forms. Even in the same dialect area, due to internal differences, its culture will show different characteristics. For example, Li Rulong further divided the Fujian dialect culture into Jiangcheng culture (Fujian Oriental dialect area), marine culture (South Fujian, Putian dialect area), Qingshan culture (North Fujian dialect area), Yiken culture (West Fujian Hakka dialect area) . 

  (2) Dialects record language changes

  We often say that dialects are the living fossils of language, because dialects record the development and changes of language. Among the seven major dialects of modern Chinese, the northern dialect can be roughly regarded as the result of the development of ancient Chinese in the vast northern region for thousands of years, while the remaining six dialects are due to the continuous southward migration of northern residents in history. Gradually formed. Before the Qin and Han dynasties, the vast Jiangnan area was mainly the residence of the ancient Yue people. The ancient Yue language they used was very different from the predecessor of ancient Chinese, and they could not talk. In the two thousand years after the Qin and Han dynasties, the Han people in the north went south on a large scale several times, bringing northern ancient Chinese from different periods and regions, scattered to different regions in the south, and they developed and evolved at different speeds according to their respective development directions. As a result, six different dialects in the south were gradually formed. According to research by related scholars, the earliest forms of the six major dialects are Wu dialect and Lao Xiang dialect, which are at an earlier historical level. For example, they all retain fully voiced initials. In the Chinese dialects, the ancient fully voiced initials system has been retained to this day. As far as the large dialects are concerned, only Wu dialects and Xiang dialects have the same trend of evolution, that is, the turbidity of certain places decreases and its atrophy in the phonetic part. In addition, these two dialects both retain the entering tones, and both have two types: one is with rhyme ending, and the other is independent tones without any rhyme ending. Compared with the major dialects in the country, the Fujian dialect is the most inherited language component of the previous generation. The two characteristics of ancient consonants (“ancient non-clear labial sound” and “ancient non-lingual sound”) demonstrated by Qian Daxin of the Qing Dynasty are relatively intactly retained in the Fujian dialect, but are rarely seen in other dialects. In terms of vocabulary, no matter it is the ancient common language, such as tripod (iron pot), cuo (house), chopsticks (chopsticks), millet (rice), must (crack), solution (tongxiao), Ming (night), Beak (mouth), or early Wuchu dialects, such as Nong (human), salmon (fish and vegetable), Yanwan (sleeve), Ruo (leaf), Hu (pig), etc. are very rare in other dialects . These phenomena have caused many phonologists to exclaim that the Fujian dialect is “super-wide rhyme”, and those who study Chinese history must look for “living fossils” in the Fujian dialect. 

  (3) Dialect is the bond of emotion

  The Chinese have had deep feelings for their hometown since ancient times. The poem of the poet He Zhizhang in the Tang dynasty: “Young and old leave home and the boss is back, but the local accent is not changed, and the temples are declining.” Feelings. The local accent has a natural function of emotional identification and identity identification for the wandering people. The saying “a villager sees a villager, two eyes are full of tears” is the most appropriate expression. For example, the Hakka dialects in our country are widely distributed and scattered, but the Hakka dialects are still self-contained, and they are quite consistent. The ancestors of Hakka have strong clan concepts and inherent cultural traditions. There are many factors in the preservation and continuation of Hakka dialects among the strong dialects. The most fundamental point is that Hakka dialects can meet the needs of Hakka identity. Dialect identity and ethnic identity are more important than regional identity. Identity is the internal cohesion that unites Hakkas from generation to generation. For another example, Hokkien is not only spoken in southern Fujian and Chaoshan areas in Guangdong. The vast majority of residents in Taiwan in my country speak Hokkien. Many Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States also speak Hokkien; Cantonese is not only Guangdong and Guangxi, but also The lingua franca of Hong Kong and Macau, and some Chinese communities in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia also speak Cantonese. These dialects are an important force for us to strengthen the identity of overseas Chinese, enhance the cohesion of the Chinese nation, and enhance the country’s soft power. Some people say that dialects are the hometown of cultural souls, so dialects are also called “hometown dialects”. Only when you retain your own dialect, you can retain your roots. 

  Therefore, Chinese dialects are not only a regional communication tool, but also an important carrier of culture, as well as a component of culture. The diversity of dialects is the prerequisite for the diversity of Chinese culture. At the same time, it is also a precious resource. Once dialects die out, the way of thinking, oral culture, folk customs and traditions based on it will disappear, and they will never be restored. The rich and colorful dialects are an important foundation for continuing the blood of the Chinese native culture, entrusting the feelings of the family and the country, and maintaining the harmony and stability of the society. Dialects are the precipitation of history and the mark of culture. Without the accent, there will be nowhere to put homesickness. Therefore Chinese people work together to keep the accent of homesickness and remember the homesickness.

  3. Strategies for dialect protection

  Dialects have their unique existence value, but they are also faced with the reality that “the inheritance chain of Chinese dialects is becoming weaker and even broken in some areas”. Dialect protection should be paid more attention to. Chinese believe that the protection of dialects should be strengthened from four aspects: policy support, scholars’ drive, media propaganda, and public participation. pport, the promotion of scholars, the promotion of media, and the participation of the people are important guarantees for the protection of dialect resources. The foundation of dialect protection and inheritance is the folks. The public’s conscious mother tongue awareness is the lasting and flourishing dialect culture, the most solid civilizational foundation.

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