Monday, February 27, 2006


I'm officially unofficially studying Shanghainese now with a couple language partners at school; our first meeting is tomorrow afternoon. The book I'm using is a gift from another teacher who is studying Shanghainese as well. I noticed three interesting things about the it:

  1. It follows pinyin instead of IPA for "romanizing" Shanghainese, but for the four vowels that Mandarin Chinese doesn't have it uses Chinese characters. They are: 哎 ("ai" in pinyin, and the Spanish/Japanese "e" in Shanghainese), 安 ("an" in pinyin, a Japanese-like, forward-thrusted "u" in Shanghainese), 凹 ("ao" in pinyin, like the Spanish "o" but with a little bit of the Mandarin "u" at the front, in Shanghainese), and 欧 ("ou" in pinyin, a Korean-sounding "eou" in Shanghainese).
  2. For illustrating the sounds that are different from Mandarin, it uses English words as examples! (the "v" in "very", the "g" in "good") One example is eerily suggestive of a connection between English and Shanghainese: 台 is given as the "de" in "desk"! Oh my gosh!
  3. More seriously, there is a Shanghai-Taiwan connection in that it always bugged me that Taiwanese people say "feng" (风) like "fong", as in the same vowel sound as 龙, and 风 is pronounced "fong" in Shanghainese; it turns out that Shanghainese allows the ending "ong" after "f", where Mandarin doesn't. Also, according to the book Shanghainese has no tongue-curled consonants (pinyin's zh, ch, and sh), just like the Taiwanese version of Mandarin.

The good thing is that the book comes with a CD, so lots of listening and repeating to get the accent down. And the immersion thing is a snap by virtue of living in Shanghai.


At Feb 28, 2006, 1:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

That book is definitely one of the better Shanghaihua books. I like to use it and SH Jiaotong University's Xue shuo Shanghaihua, which sadly doesn't have a listening component but does have a lot of IPA information. (IIRC there are two versions, one black [from 1994] and one white/green [from 2001]. IMO the black one is better -- I've two copies because I'm constantly misplacing it and currently can't find the other one. The white one is OK, but it only has English and SHH in the dialogues/readings, whereas the black has Mandarin as well. Both have Mandarin and English for explanations, IIRC.)

The worst/best book that I've come across so far is Tingting Shuoshuo Shanghaihua, which is just terribly funny and terribly useless, with little kids sing-chanting and too-fast dialogues that give one no time to digest any sort of information.


At Mar 3, 2006, 2:51:00 PM, Blogger A said:

If you are interested in learning more about Shanghainese check out zanhei dot com. Very cool site.

At Mar 3, 2006, 7:46:00 PM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

alainna, so far the book is shaping up pretty well. Its definitely a winner on the pronunciation side, describing each sound and giving examples. Since I don't have a more-than-once-weekly teacher, the CD is proving invaluable for pronunciation help.

austin, funny that you mention zanhei dot com. When I first wrote the post, I put a link to zanhe dot com at the bottom. But after visiting the site for realz, I removed the link because I found the site to be devoid of practical information for the learner. The linguistic vocabulary gets thick quickly, rendering it pretty useless for a linguistics newb like me. I do need to go back and read up on the tones, a section that seemed understandable if I gave it a good hour or so, and the podcasts/recordings were tempting. But add the fact that a bunch of the practical stuff (vocab lists, dictionary, hanzi pronuncation) is still "under construction" and that the BBS is non-functional, overall I think it's pretty much right on target for what you get if a buncha busy but nerdy University of Chicago (linguistics) undergrads/grad students were to put up a website on their *own* language.

Plus the fact that there are a million-and-one romanization systems for Shanghainese, makes me think that I'd better just stick to one or risk becoming very confused.


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