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庇能福建話協會

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Why Preserve Hokkien

and

Protect Language Diversity?

Every language gives us

a different perspective on the world.

last week

this week

next week

The timeline in English is horizontal.

Téng-lé-pài

(upper week)

Tsit-lé-pài

(this week)

Ēe-lé-pài

(lower week)

The timeline in Hokkien is vertical.

Over the last two decades, cognitive psychologists and linguists have conducted scientific research on 26 different languages covering a variety of cultural types and language families across the globe.

The results show that different languages have different cognitive effects on humans. Put simply, languages influence how we think and perceive the world.

If you were to draw a table as a cartoon character, would you imagine it as

a man or a woman?

A French person, for example, would be more likely to imagine a table as a lady, as the word 'table' is a feminine noun in the French language.

The sofa is called the 'chubby chair' (phòng-í) 

in some Hokkien dialects.

An English speaker is more sensitive to gender than a Chinese speaker.

Tsi̍t tsiah kau-í

Tsi̍t tsiah pà

Tsi̍t tsiah hîm

Tsi̍t tsiah káu

Tsi̍t tsiah lo̍k

In Hokkien, these five objects

share the same classifier'tsiah'

as they share a common feature.

Language diversity allows

Cross-fertilisation of thought. 

 

Language diversity, like a gene pool, is essential for our species to thrive. The more languages we have in the world, the more perspective we have on the world. When a language disappears, a view of the world disappears along with it.

Language tells history.

 

The links between languages tell us something about the movement of early civilisations. Through the words and idioms they use, languages provide us with clues about the earlier state of mind of its speakers, and about the kind of cultural contact they had.

 

Based on linguistic evidence, southern Chinese people are believed to be the descendants from the intermarriages between the Han, and other linguistic groups such as the Tai-Kadai, collectively known in ancient Chinese accounts as the Yue people.

 

Traces of this ancient past remain in many southern Chinese languages. Comparisons made between the grammar and vocabulary of southern Chinese languages with that of their southern neighbours demonstrates a shared heritage between the southern Chinese people and Southeast Asia.

Notice the position of the noun and the modifier.

Hen

Guest

Notice the position of the object and the indirect object.

Notice the position of the verb and adverb.

Every language is a world unto itself. All languages have different names for animals, plants, items, idioms and different ways to describe things. Encoded within their vocabulary and grammar are the experiences of its speakers.

They are repositories of knowledge.

 

This knowledge is lost when a community shifts to another language.

Ethnobotanists and ethnobiologists recognise the importance of indigenous names, folk taxonomies and oral traditions to the success of initiatives related to the preservations of endangered species.

 

Some languages include important detail about the relationships between different species, which are important to scientific development.

 

This knowledge is embedded in the names, oral traditions and taxonomies.

References:

[1] Crystal, D. 2004. The twenty-first-century challenge: Documentation and revitalization. In The Language Revolution. Cambridge: Polity Press.

[2] Signe Byrge Sørensen, Rune Bager and Thomas Stenderup (Producer), Janus Billeskov and Signe Byrge Sørensen (Director). 2005. In Languages We Live - Voices of the World [Motion Picture]. Denmark: Final Cut Productions.

[3] Crystal, D. 2010. Language in the world. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[4] Everett, C. 2013. Linguistic Relativity Evidence Across Languages and Cognitive Domains. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

[5] Crystal, D. 2000. Why should we care? Because we need diversity. In Language Death. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.