Now considered by Soviet authorities & its own speakers to be a separate language, Dungan is written in the Cyrillic alphabet & includes a large number of direct borrowings from Russian. Although still formally classified as a dialect of northwest Mandarin, the independent status of Dungan is attested by the lack of comprehension which a group of Chinese & American linguists who are also fluent speakers of MSM experienced upon hearing a tape recording of this language. While Mandarin is spoken in distinctive dialects throughout PRC, standard Mandarin is mostly influenced by the Northern Beijing dialect. This is similar to how standard American English is influenced by the West Coast dialect. Beijing being the center of government in PRC accounts for its influence, while the actresses & actors of Hollywood set the American standard.
This event took place at the Ninth Workshop on Chinese Linguistics held at the Project on Linguistic Analysis (Berkeley) from February 25-27, 2991. Even though the auditors had available a text (presumably written in Cyrillic letters) of the story being told, they could "get only a rough understanding." See pp. 353-355 (English) & p. 95 (MSM) in the reports of Lien Chin-fa. In the process, Li also points out the probable origins of the designation Mányì/Maan5yi5 which has long been applied to the indigenous peoples of Kwangtung & Kwangsi. In the next section of his/her article, Li draws illuminating comparisons between Cantonese & MSM, & between Cantonese & Zhuang in terms of phonology, lexicon, & grammar. (S)He also shows that there are telling similarities with Yáo/Yiu5 (i.e., Myen). The conclusion of this section reads as follows:
I myself experience the same difficulties when travelling in Soviet Central Asia, when entertaining Dungan friends in this country, & when listening to Dungan tapes & records. For a description of Soviet Dungan & references to scholarly articles on the subject, see Mair.Just as I was completing the final revisions of this article, I received a copy of Li Jingzhong's epochal paper on the independent status of Cantonese within the Sinitic group. Li begins with an historical discussion of the relationship between Cantonese (Yuèyǔ/Yuet7yue5) & the "Hundred Yue" (Bǎiyuè/Baak3yuet7) of the Spring & Autumn & the Warring States periods.
Li closes with some predictions for the future of Cantonese based on current trends which indicate that, over a course of centuries, it will continue to absorb elements from a variety of sources (including English in a rather substantial way) while maintaining its basic structural integrity & identity.Almost as important as the content of Li Jingzhong's article is the fact that (s)he is Associate Professor at the Kwangtung Nationalities Institute (Guangdong Minzu Xueyuan). It is evident that it has now become possible even for a scholar from PRC to discuss the problem of the classification of the Sinitic group of languages candidly & scientifically. Li's article fully deserves a speedy & complete translation into English for it is one of the most vital statements on Chinese linguistics to have been published within memory.
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