[lg policy] Mandarin and Cantonese can both be mother tongues for Hong Kong people

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat May 12 11:10:12 EDT 2018


 Mandarin and Cantonese can both be mother tongues for Hong Kong people
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 1:03pm

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I refer to the recent dispute over whether our mother tongue in Hong Kong
is Cantonese or Mandarin (“Carrie Lam refuses to be drawn into debate on
‘mother tongue’
<http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2144578/should-mandarin-replace-cantonese-hong-kong-says-no>”,
May 4).
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The issue arises from a 2013 article by Song Xinqiao, a professional
consultant at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Mandarin education
research centre. He wrote that calling Cantonese a mother tongue does not
fit with the strict definition of the term, which refers to a language but
not a dialect, or the local version of a language.

The Chinese version of Hong Kong's official language policy of “two written
forms of words and three spoken forms” has often been misunderstood to mean
three written forms of words – English, Mandarin and Cantonese. The aim is
to produce secondary school graduates proficient in writing Chinese and
English and able to communicate confidently in Cantonese, English and
Mandarin.
*Debate over Cantonese and the handover highlight Hongkongers’ feeling of
political helplessness
<http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2144681/debate-over-cantonese-and-handover-highlight-hongkongers>*

In fact, Mandarin and Cantonese are but two dialects of the same written
form of words. Mandarin has been chosen to be the UN standard written and
spoken form of words for Chinese, with Hanyu pinyin, from the beginning.
Thus Chinese is a form of written words that can be taught through both the
mother tongues of Cantonese and Mandarin.

*Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen *

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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