Sunday, October 3, 2010

They once spoke Taishanese

Last year, an article in the New York Times discussed the rise of Mandarin in New York’s Chinatown. I was very impressed that the author, Kirk Semple, did his research and went out of his way to mention the previous prominence of Taishanese:
For much of the last century, most Chinese living in the United States and Canada traced their ancestry to a region in the Pearl River Delta that included the district of Taishan. They spoke the Taishanese dialect, which is derived from and somewhat similar to Cantonese. […] Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects.
In contrast, there was no reference to Taishanese in a similar article published in the Los Angeles Times back in 2006. I remember this only because a friend active in the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California had encouraged me to complain about this omission to the LAT. I wish I had.

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