Monday, October 11, 2010

What’s in a name?

There are well over a dozen different names that people use to refer to the dialect that I refer to here either as Taishanese or the Four Counties dialect. Alternative names pop up in previous posts (like here or here). In my notes alone, I found some forty-two English variants. They are listed below alphabetically.

Four Counties · Hoi Saan · Hoi San · Hoisaan · Hoisan · Hoisanese · Hoy Saan · Hoy San · Hoy Shan · Hoysun · Llin-nen · Schlei Yip · See Yap · See Yip · See Yup · Seeyup · Sei Yap · Sei Yup · Seiyap · Seiyup · Siyi · Sze Yap · Sze Yup · Szeyap · Szeyup · T’ai-Shan · Tai Shan · Tai-shan · Taishan · Taishanese · Thlee Yip · Thli Yip · Toi Saan · Toi San · Toi Shan · Toisaan · Toisan · Toisanese · Toishan · Toishanese · Toy Shan · Xinning

There are certainly more names out there. If this blog happened to be in Chinese, the list of terms above would be trimmed down to just three place names: 四邑, 台山, 新寧. In English, there is quite a bit more disagreement over what the “right” name should be.

I couldn’t tackle this subject in a single post. It’s one of those kind of issues. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss why people may seem to refer to the same dialect using different place names (i.e. Siyi 四邑 vs Taishan 台山). The word of the day will be: synecdoche. Wednesday, I’ll talk about variations in pronunciation, transcription and the not-quite-immutable standards we often rely on. Thursday gets to the points of real controversy: who uses which form—and why should you use one form over another?

Some time ago I tried to tackle this question on Wikipedia (a page I have mixed feelings about). The section I drafted has remained largely unchanged, and it’s worth a gander if you want to get a sense of what I’ll be writing about over the next few days.

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