More Japanese books on 上海話 August 4 2013

Title: 上海語常用同音字典 (Shanhaigo Jōyō Dōon Jiten)
ISBN: 9784332800125
Author: 宮田 一郎 (Miyata Ichirō)
Amazon link:

Maybe less exciting than 基礎からの上海語, but still useful: Miyata Ichirō’s dictionary of Shanghainese homophones. It’s still a bit expensive at 3200 yen, but then maybe Japan just isn’t down with cheap books the way the PRC is. I could see this costing 30RMB at Xinhua. But no.

As the title suggests, 上海語常用同音字典 is essentially a list of syllables with each followed by a list of the individual characters which share that pronunciation. Tones are included in the Chao numerals, and aside from the ubiquitous ᴇ, everything’s given in IPA.

There are a couple nice features that make this worth having. In addition to the index-by-stroke, there is also an index arranged by hanyu pinyin for the Mandarin pronunciation of the characters. So you’re not sure how 但 should be pronounced and you’re too lazy to go by stroke, you look up “dan” and get page 65, [tᴇ]. What’s more, in most cases if a character has different pronunciations in different environments, that’s provided as well (e.g. 大家 vs 大夫).

Tone sandhi is discussed in the first few pages as well, which is nice.

It’s a great quick reference that provides another set of representations alternative to the Qian Nairong dictionaries.

If I have a break from working on Phonemica this month, I’ll get into why that’s a good thing to have.

Wu on Phonemica August 4 2013

We’re making some good progress at presenting Wu dialects over at Phonemica. Below is a live map showing just the Wu recordings. At this time there are around 40 Wu recordings, and most of those are Taihu varieties. Still, good to see some around Wenzhou, Shangrao and Nanjing.

You can preview any of these directly on the map. To hear the full stories, be sure to head over to the main project site.

基礎からの上海語 August 3 2013

I picked up a couple good books in Osaka last month. This is a quick introduction to one of the two.

Title: 基礎からの上海語 (kiso karano shanhaigo)
ISBN: 9784475018265
Author: 呉悦 (Go Etsu)

This is a fantastic book. This is easily my favourite of all the different books which set out to teach you Shanghainese. It has a few great things going for it, which I’ll explain below. First though, it’s worth mentioning that this book cost a solid 6000円 (~370RMB, ~NT$1820, US$60). It’s not cheap. Still, I was happy to pay it. Here’s why:

1. IPA. The book skips over all the annoying romanisation systems that other similar books use, saving you from having to learn one more way to read Shanghainese. The International Phonetic Alphabet (though with A and E in place of the more standard glyphs) is all you’ll see. Of course, you need to be comfortable with IPA in the first place, but honestly learning IPA once is unquestionably better than re-learning multiple unique systems. Having to learn a new romanisation system pretty much kills my desire to use any such book.

2. Well formatted spaced dialoges where syllables line up between characters and pronunciation. I’m a big span of how white space is used in this text. A lot of similar books are over-designed. Here you don’t feel like any space is wasted and it makes the price tag all the more acceptable since the book is dense with good information.

3. Appropriate vocabulary in an appropriate order. The dialogues follow ones you’d actually hear on the streets of Shanghai. No complaints there.

4. Tones done in a non-stupid manner. Lots of these kinds of books either skip tone entirely or give you too much information, either showing the underlying tone for every syllable or, even worse, showing the underlying and post-sandhi tones for each syllable. That’s great for a dictionary. Terrible for this kind of self-study textbook.

The (not quite) bad:

1. It’s in Japanese. But actually, even if you don’t read Japanese, that’s not much of an issue if you have any background in Chinese languages because you can still easily tell what’s going on on each page.

2. Lots of information. This is also not really bad. This is the kind of book that I feel can be useful beyond the time it’d take to go through the lessons. There’s lots of information on the underlying goings-on of the language and it doesn’t shy away from linguistics. Really this means it’s a steeper learning curve than a book like “Shanghai Dialect for Foreigners” that you might find in the subway bookshop. But in the end I think that’s a good thing.

Well worth the 6000 yen.

Update coming for Shanghainese phonetic corpus June 15 2013

In a couple weeks I’ll have a huge update done to the phonetic corpus. Previously I put together a rough tool of a few thousand characters being based on the Guanyun tables, but obviously this takes a big his in accuracy.

The latest update will cover over 8400 characters, plus a pretty large set of mono- and multi-syllabic words, over 30,000 in all.

In addition to the IPA data, the new set also includes uniform romanisation and tentative definitions pulled from a number of open source dictionaries and open forums covering this sort of thing.

Also as part of this update I’ll be updating the version of the data used on Tatoeba and similar sites.

If you’d like to take the romanisation for a test run, you can do so at this page:

Note that it currently only supports traditional characters.

Very busy week coming up, but after June 20 I’ll have a lot more free time, and I’ll be trying to update here regularly.

PVG to use some Shanghainese June 14 2013

I just saw this. A post on China Daily from 5/27. For some flights, Shanghai Pudong airport will be using Shanghainese for departure announcements. Pretty rad.

Help support Phonemica May 4 2013

As you probably know, I’ve been busy lately with another project called Phonemica or 乡音苑. To quote the description from the project page:

Phonemica is a project to record spoken stories in every one of the thousands of varieties of Chinese in order to preserve both stories and language for future generations. We are a team of volunteers working within China and abroad.

Our mission: Bringing the richness of oral Chinese to a wider audience, through the words of natural storytellers, from every corner of the world where Chinese is spoken.

Now Phonemica is raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign that runs through June 9. Contributions will cover some new hardware, hosting, and other costs for the coming year. We need your help to keep it going and to continue being able to provide recordings of spoken Wu. How do we need help?

1. Financially, if you can swing it. We’d love if you could donate to the project fundraiser.
2. Helping us spread the word. If you know anyone who might be interested in the project, please let them know.

You can read more about the whole thing on the Phonemica blog or else on the fundraiser page.

Shanghainese corpus back up May 4 2013

The Shanghainese IPA tool is back up, but with a caveat: The data is not guaranteed to be accurate. The current data set is taken from various resources, and then applied to and extrapolated from the 广韵 rime tables. As such some characters may not return accurate readings. The data will be updated, but likely not until this summer.

Gaochun dialect recordings March 25 2013

I’m super thrilled to announce that we now have recordings of Gaochun Wu at Phonemica. Gaochun dialect was my very first experience with Wu, and it’s basically what got me started down the very specific path I’ve been travelling for the past 5 years.

Gaochun 高淳 is a dialect in the Xuanzhou 宣州 dialect group. Xuanzhou is most significantly the dialect family of Wu spoken in Anhui 安徽 province, with Gaochun (on the outskirts of Nanjing 南京) being one of the few dialects in the group that are spoken in Jiangsu 江苏. If any Wu dialect could be classified as threatened, Gaochun and related Xuanzhou dialects would be it.

This group of dialects is a pretty good example of Mandarinisation (官话化), with clear changes from one generation to the next. With a much smaller speaker base than Suzhou or even Ningbo, there’s less potential resistance to these sorts of changes.

Head over to Phonemica and have a listen. It may be one of the few place on the web you can find such recordings of the dialect.

Many thanks to Claire in helping me get the recordings, and for introducing me to the dialect back in 2007.

Full Wu description page February 1 2013

The full version of my introduction to Wu is now up over at Phonemica. It’s the section I’d posted here before, plus a lot more. The writeup provides a quick introduction to phonology, syntax, tones and tone sandhi, and some vocabulary, all with examples.

Head over and take a look. And be sure to let us know if you’d be interested in helping with the overall project. There’s a lot to do and we’re always looking for help.

慕家花園黹繡學校 January 11 2013

Just a quick note to say that I’ve been working on a couple small side projects, one of which involves re-approaching the Moka Garden Embroidery Mission publications, as well as trying to track down some of the sister-school publications from the era and area.

I’ve also managed to dig up a number of passport applications, consular registration papers, US census reports and alumni newsletters from which I’ve been able to populate a pretty clear timeline of the lives of those involved in the mission, in particular that of Frances Burkhead who for many years was the superintendent of the Moka Garden mission. I was pleased to learn she lived to the age of 85, and ended her life in the same town where it began. More on all that later.

CNY is fast upon us, and I’m hoping that in addition to a little bit of domestic travel I’ll be able to get a lot done with Phonemica as well as working on a number of such side projects as Moka Garden.

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