Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular

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Hong Kong University Press, Oct 1, 2004 - Foreign Language Study - 332 pages
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Cantonese is the only dialect of Chinese which has developed a widely known and used written form. It has played a role in publishing in the Guangdong region since the late Ming dynasty when various types of verses using Cantonese were published as mu yu shu (‘wooden fish books’). In the early twentieth century these dialect texts were joined by Cantonese opera scripts, published as popular reading material. However, it was only after the end of the Second World War that written Cantonese came to be widely used in popular newspapers and magazines, advertising, and in the private communications. Cantonese as Written Language examines this development in the broader context of diglossia, and also of the patterns by which spoken vernaculars have developed written forms in other societies. Based on primary source research, including interviews with publishers and writers who played an important role in the growth of written Cantonese, the author argues that this move of Cantonese into the realm of written language is closely associated with Hong Kong's distinct local culture and identity. The growth of the written vernacular also reflects the territory's evolving cultural distinctiveness from mainland China, first as a British colony, and now as a Special Administrative Region of China.

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From Spoken Vernacular to Written Language
Spoken and Written Cantonese
Written Cantonese in Premodern Guangdong
The Hong Kong Dialect Literature Movement
Written Cantonese in Modern Hong Kong
Why Has Use of Written Cantonese Increased?
The Future of Written Cantonese
Interviews and Public Lectures

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