Intercultural Communication

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Taiwanese VS. Mandarin Chinese

Posted by winniepan on November 28, 2006

My article is about Language of Taiwan, and it is focus on the difference from Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese or so-called Standard Mandarin of Republic of China. It separates the topic into three parts, pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. In pronunciation part, it indicates that the main difference between Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese is the tone. The second part uses some examples to explain how people speak differently with the different grammar. Last, the article indicates the cause of people using different vocabulary are different from loaning words from different countries, technological words, idioms, and words specific to living in Taiwan.

Examining the history of this article, I found out that there are not many big changes in the content and the biggest change is that people add more examples to help readers to understand the text.

After reading this article, I have some pro and con about the text. First, the article mentions after Kuomintang took over the government from Japan, they started to make Mandarin Chinese as the official language of Taiwan and forbad people using different language than Mandarin Chinese. This action produces people’s aversion and they think Kuamintang sees them as secondary citizen. But without this action, people in Taiwan would speak different languages and that would probably cause many misunderstanding. Moreover, how should we educate our children, separate them into different languages schools? I think it is not right that people in Taiwan often examine an issue only on one side (often bad side) instead of to examining in different view. Second, I think it is interesting to look at an article that uses analyzing way to introduce the difference between Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese. As native speakers, we probably wouldn’t find out the reason why it causes different between these two languages. Through this article, I actually learn something which I never pay attention before. For example, people using 有沒有 differently to express the same sentence. Taiwanese would say 你有汽車沒有? (Do you have a car or not?) while Mandarin Chinese would say 你有沒有汽車? (Do you have or not have a car?) However, I think the example is explained a general idea about different styles of speaking but when people speak, they’ve already mixed up the two speaking style. In other words, I think people using language they prefer and not really matter about which style they use. Also, they speak different styles would probably because they speak to different person. People use Taiwanese style would probably talking to grandparents who speak Taiwanese. Nevertheless, by those examples in the article, I think the non-Chinese and non-Taiwanese speakers would at least learn briefly about the two languages as I do. (Nov. 23 2006)

Posted in language, Taiwan, Wikipedia project | Comments Off on Taiwanese VS. Mandarin Chinese

More on kinship terms

Posted by thuicc on November 25, 2006

In Thursday’s class, we discussed the different functions of language covered in our textbook. One part of the discussion that was particularly interesting to me was when we compared Chinese and English kinship terms and saw how the use of kinship terms in Chinese affects how English kinship terms are interpreted.

We found, for instance, that if I said, “My uncle is a farmer”, you felt a need to specify in their minds whether that uncle was on my father’s side or mother’s side, and whether the uncle was older or younger than my parent. (Some students automatically thought in terms of a father’s brother, but Weiting said she was closer to her mother’s side of the family, so thought in terms of a mother’s brother.) You also seemed a bit surprised when I suggested that if I said the same sentence to a native speaker of English, that person might (but probably wouldn’t) ask if I meant my father’s or my mother’s brother, and most likely wouldn’t wonder about whether or not the uncle was older or younger than my parent.

The powerful role of kinship terms is also discussed in “The Cultural Connotations and Communicative Functions of Chinese Kinship Terms” (American Communication Journal 3.3 [2000]). Shaorong Huang and Wenshan Jia argue that there are three main communicative functions served by kinship terms in Chinese:

  1. They serve a “linking function,” in that they serve as a way of connecting individuals to their social groups. Huang and Jia point out–as we did in class–that kinship terms are not just used among family members, but are also used to address non-family members.
  2. They serve a “mentation function”–meaning that they are involved in stimulating “the development of higher mental processes.”
  3. For instance, when a child addresses her maternal grandfather by the kinship term of [外祖父] “wai zu fu,” she may at least understand, or try to understand, the following: 1) she has a family relation with the old man, but the old man does not live in her family; 2) as a senior member, the old man has certain power over her, and she must respect and obey him; and 3) comparing with her paternal grandfather, this man is less powerful and less strict with her behavior. The single kinship term works as a stimulus in the child’s mind to help the child go through a complicated cognitive process.

  4. They serve a “regulatory function” because use of kinship terms “helps individuals regulate their personal behavior in speech communication.”

I’m not sure I agree with everything they say in this article (for instance, they imply a uniqueness for the Chinese family system that I’m not sure about–our textbook suggests that Indian kinship terms are also quite complicated). But the points I cited above extend what we were discussing on Thursday about how kinship terms fit into both the naming and the interactional functions of language.

Posted in cultural classifications, cultural patterns, language | 3 Comments »