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The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever.
George Orwell: ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ Appendix THE PRINCIPLES OF NEWSPEAK

a dialect is a language without an army, and
a language is a dialect with an army

Language in China

China is a unified country with many ethnic groups. Besides the mainstream Han nationality, there are about 55 minorities spread over the country, with an aggregate population of about 108 million, which accounts for 9% of the total. Although the Chinese ethnic groups represent a relatively low proportion, they have played critical role in the socio-political economy lives of Chinese. And the reasons for this are three sides: first, they occupy 62% of total land areas of China. Second, over 90% of the border regions of China are occupied by these ethnic groups. Finally, by far the greatest portion, sometimes even the whole, many natural resources like forestry resources, mining resources, medical resources, etc. are all located in these minorities’ regions.

There are seven major Chinese dialects and many subdialects. Mandarin is the official language of the People’s Republic of China, with over 900 million Mandarin first-language speakers (2/3 of people in China). It is the dialect spoken in the capital, Beijing. It is taught in all schools and is used for television and broad cast. Mandarin (or Putonghua), the predominant dialect, is spoken by over 70% of the population. It is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. About two-thirds of the Han ethnic group are native speakers of Mandarin; the rest, concentrated in southwest and southeast China, speak one of the six other major Chinese dialects. Non-Chinese languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur and other Turkic languages (in Xinjiang), and Korean (in the northeast).

Cantonese is spoken by more than 60 million people in China - on par with Italian in terms of native speaker numbers. Cantonese is mainly used in Guangdong [previously known as Canton], Guangxi province, Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is widely spoken in overseas Chinese communities, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the UK. Although Mandarin and Cantonese share a similar writing system (Cantonese speakers use the traditional version of Chinese characters while Mandarin speakers from Mainland China use a simplified version), hundreds of Cantonese colloquial characters are either completely unrecognizable or with unpredictable different meanings.

There are also differences regarding phonetic and phonological aspects between the two languages - someone who only speaks Mandarin will not generally be able to understand Cantonese, and vice versa. Word order is different in Mandarin and Cantonese, e.g. the adverbial modifier is placed after the verb, there is double object word order, contrary to the use of different function words, and the adjective is put in advance There are social and cultural differences between Cantonese and Mandarin groups, and also intrinsic linguistic differences between the two languages.

Following China’s new plan to further promote Mandarin as the country’s lingua franca in April 2017, the public in Cantonese-speaking regions have expressed concern over the future of their local language, fearing that the popularization of Mandarin may jeopardize their identity and culture. In southern China, the Guangdong National Language Regulations were enacted to restrict the use of Cantonese in the media. In Hong Kong, a 2008 curriculum document stated that using Putonghua to teach Chinese in schools is the long-term goal. For abstract concepts like political science or philosophy, young students they may only know how to think in Mandarin, and not be able to express themselves in Cantonese.

Before 1978 (1949-1978), the China’s central government allowed, even encouraged minorities’ ethnic groups to develop their own language in public schools. According to relevant reports, the central government even helped nine national minorities create their own written languages. From 1979 to 1997, accompanied with the implementation of the nation’s policy of opening to the outside and reform, in fact, minorities’ languages were not be encouraged to use in most public schools — they have been replaced by a “new” foreign language — English language. The minorities’ languages were not allowed to be used as main language of instruction in most public schools in ethnic groups’ areas or regions except those special regions like Tibet and Xinjiang Weiwuer Autonomous Region. In fact, even in these special regions, China’s central government has made many trials in implementing their language plan---unifying the language across the nation.

Advocates of dual language immersion (DLI) programs in the United States cited the benefits of language minority children accessing classroom content and developing ‘cognitive academic proficiency’, wherein learning the home/heritage language at school also assists in developing academic language. DLI programs also bring together English-dominant students and students who speak English as a partner language1, an intentional move that ‘gives a middle-class orientation to what might have been low-income schools’.

The third stage is from 1998 to the present. During this period, the national minorities’ language education policy obviously changed due to the political needs. In 1999 and later years, Tibetan independent movement broke out continuously. And in 2009, similar movement (the government called “riots”.) also broke out in Xinjiang Weiwuer Autonomous Region. These incidents influenced the nation’s stability directly and seriously. Facing these crucial challenges, the central government of China had to adjust their minorities’ language education policy.

On the other hand, in other regions (provinces) where minorities’ ethnic groups occupied less proportion in the total population, the central government speed up their steps in popularizing Chinese Han language. In these regions like Yunnan Province, Guizhou Province, And Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, etc. minorities’ languages are not allowed as main language of instruction in all schools (includes both public and private schools). The Chinese Han language (Putonghua) is required as sole legal language that must be taught in all public and private schools.

Tibetan is one of the four oldest and greatest in volume and most original literatures of Asia, along with Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese literatures, used by about 5 or so million people. In May 2002, the Chinese Government endorsed new regulations about the Tibetan language. That was the first instance of regulations for a "minority language" with very positive, proactive kinds of policies about Tibetan languages. The problem is on the ground, the actual execution of them is often minimal.

In 2010 to 2012, the proposed phasing-out of Tibetan-medium instruction in Tibetan areas of Qinghai province sparked school protests that the authorities crushed, but caused the new policy to be put on hold. In May 2019, however, Golok Prefecture in Qinghai announced that Chinese would be made the medium of instruction at all levels, starting from the September semester.

China’s “bilingual education” policy accelerated the demise of Tibetan-medium instruction in primary schools in Tibetan areas. Compulsory “bilingual” kindergartens that immerse Tibetan children in Chinese language and state propaganda from age 3, in the name of “strengthening the unity of nationalities.” All middle school education is in Chinese, There is a real possibility of extinction or very serious decline of the Tibetan language and the Tibetan culture within two - or at the most three - generations. Languages are not neutral. They convey very specific social and cultural behaviors and ways of thinking. So, the extinction of the Tibetan language will have tremendous consequences for the Tibetan culture. Without the Tibetan language, it is clear that Tibet won't be Tibet any more.

The "education for national unity" policy may be traced back to a September 2019 speech by ruling Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, who told a conference on national unity: "The Chinese nation is one family, united to build the Chinese Dream". On 24 October 2019 the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council issued the "Opinions on Carrying out the Work of National Unity and Progress in an All-round, Deep and Lasting Way and Establishing the Consciousness of the Chinese National Community", and issued a circular calling on all localities and departments to earnestly implement the Opinions in the light of actual conditions.

The Opinions requires deepen the propaganda and education of national unity and progress. It emphasizes the need to strengthen the education of the Chinese nation community and guide the masses of all national groups to constantly strengthen their identification with the great motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Restricting native languages is a common tool of CCP social control. The more than 1 million Uyghur and other ethnic minorities interned in Xinjiang must renounce their ethnic identities and learn Mandarin. Meanwhile, their children are sent to orphanages to learn Mandarin and shout party slogans.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is replacing the Mongolian language in classrooms in Inner Mongolia with Mandarin Chinese, continuing the party’s use of language to oppress minority culture. The CCP on 01 September 2020 ordered that elementary and secondary schools in the northern China region bordering Mongolia begin teaching language, politics and history in Mandarin instead of the region’s native Mongolian, according to press reports. The move has sparked protests and CCP authorities have arrested or forced hundreds of ethnic Mongolians to resign from public office.

China is home to roughly 2.3 million Koreans, according to government figures from 2009, the largest population outside of the Korean Peninsula, of whom just under two million are Chinese nationals of Korean ethnicity. In September 2020 Korean schools in China started replacing Korean-language teaching materials with Chinese-language equivalents since the start of the semester. Since the start of the new semester, schools that previously offered Korean-medium teaching started using Mandarin Chinese instead, phasing out any Korean-language teaching materials.

To enforce censorship and promote the Chinese Communist Party’s views, the government employs tens of thousands of individuals at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications and online content. That monitoring includes reviewing personal letters, telephone calls, social media postings and online news and advertising. What can’t be viewed or talked about in China? Here are just a few examples of words and phrases that are currently or have been censored by Beijing.

  • Winnie the Pooh — Chinese internet users use images of Winnie the Pooh to represent President Xi Jinping.
  • Baozi — Steamed bun. One of Xi Jinping’s nicknames online.
  • Dalai Lama — The Tibetan leader in exile. A symbol of Tibetan independence.
  • Tibet Independence — Talking about independence for Tibet is forbidden.
  • Soviet Jokes — Mocking the Soviet Union is considered making fun of communism.
  • Go, Hong Kong — Support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
  • 709 — A group of human rights activists and lawyers arrested on July 9 (7/9), 2015.
  • Liu Xiaobo — Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist imprisoned by China.
  • Great Firewall of China — Discussing Chinese censorship is itself censored.
  • Dictatorship — Suggesting or saying that China is a dictatorship is forbidden.
  • Tiananmen — Any references to the 1989 pro-democracy protests that ended in bloodshed.
  • June 4 — The date of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
  • Zhao Ziyang — Former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who supported the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
  • Tank man — The famous image of an unidentified Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Communists' effort to remold the nation includes a drive for drastic changes in a language ill suited to science and technology, to education of the masses, to the communications of a directed economy, to their international purposes. Much of the heritage that was dear to old China, obnoxious to the new, will also be buried with the old language. The language reform program of the Communists is a threepronged drive. The first spearhead, aimed at the simplification of Chinese characters, made the most progress early on. Some 2,000 characters were accepted in the simplified form and used in textbooks and newspapers. A second aspect of the language reform is the promotion of the Peking dialect as putunghua, the "common tongue" or national language.

The third drive, the most revolutionary, is that for latinhua, latinization, and is officially known as Hanyu Pinyin Fangan, Program for the Chinese Language in Phonetics. Pinyin, "phonetics," has come to denote the particular system of representing spoken Chinese in Latin letters. The Yale romanization system was the one most widely studied in the United States. But many biographical and geographical names in newspapers, magazines, books, and maps are still spelled out in the Wade-Giles romanization system.

As a language completely different from the European languages and writing systems, transliteration is not an easy task. Transliteration (romanisation) of Chinese has changed a lot in the last couple of hundred years, especially in the 20th century. The Wade-Giles romanisation system for Mandarin Chinese was first developed by Thomas Wade in the mid-19th century, it was completed by Herbert A. Giles and then published in Giles’s Chinese–English Dictionary in 1892. The Wade-Giles system was based on the Beijing-dialect. The Yale romanisation system was developed in 1943 by the Yale sinologist George Kennedy, mainly as a course to teach Chinese to American soldiers. It is based on Mandarin Chinese but transcribes the Chinese sounds to emulate how English speakers would form them.

On January 1, 1979, the Chinese Government officially adopted the pinyin system for spelling Chinese names and places in Roman letters. A system of Romanization invented by the Chinese, pinyin has long been widely used in China on street and commercial signs as well as in elementary Chinese textbooks as an aid in learning Chinese characters. Variations of pinyin also are used as the written forms of several minority languages. Pinyin has now replaced other conventional spellings in China's English-language publications. The U.S. Government also has adopted the pinyin system for all names and places in China. For example, the capital of China is now spelled "Beijing" rather than "Peking."

Chinese is a language with a large number of words with the same pronunciation but different meanings; what distinguishes these ‘homophones’ is their ‘tonal’ quality – the raising and lowering of pitch on certain syllables. Mandarin has four tones – high, rising, falling-rising and falling, plus a fifth “neutral” tone.

Chinese is not a phonetic language and the characters do not bear any resemblance to actual pronunciation. Chinese is often referred to as a language of pictographs. There are about 56,000 characters, but the vast majority of these are archaic. It is commonly felt that a well-educated, contemporary Chinese might know and use between 6,000 and 8,000 characters. To read a Chinese newspaper readers need to know 2,000 to 3,000, but 1,200 to 1,500 would be enough to get the gist. Each Chinese character represents a spoken syllable, so many people declare that Chinese is a monosyllabic language. Actually, it’s more a case of having a monosyllabic writing system. While the building block of the Chinese language is indeed the monosyllabic Chinese character, Chinese words are usually a combination of two or more characters.

Chinese grammar is much simpler than that of European languages. There are no articles (a/an/the), no tenses, and no plurals. The basic point to bear in mind is that, like English, Chinese word order is subject-verb-object. In other words, a basic English sentence like “I (subject) love (verb) you (object)” is constructed in exactly the same way in Chinese.

From 1949-1964, Russian was almost the only foreign language in China, and which should be taught in all schools; from 1964-1978, with the worse relation between China and Russia, and also accompanied with the defrozen relations between China and the USA, English began to become the main foreign language in China. As China continues to modernise and open to the world, demand for English language skills has intensified and enthusiasm for learning English is also at an all time high. Governments are encouraging their citizens to learn English, parents are persuading, even forcing, their children to speak it and college students are doing English at the expense of their majors. The line between English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts has become blurred and it is no longer easy to distinguish between the two. This is certainly the case with China, usually classified as either an EFL or expanding circle country where English is used primarily as a means for international communication, yet exhibits a high degree of the use of English within the country. English is used fairly extensively in the domains of science and technology, the media, tourism and international connections and business.

Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:12 Zulu