Linguistic Autobiography Assignment The purpose of the Linguistic Autobiography is to connect your experience with language to the concepts, examples, and vocabulary presented in the course. In this paper, you will use the technical terminology of the course to explain your language background and to showcase what you have learned about linguistics throughout the term. To meet these goals adequately, you will need to draw information from a wide variety of chapters assigned on the syllabus, in addition to chapters 11 and 12, which will be read independently for the project. The Linguistic Autobiography should be 5-7 pages in length (double-spaced) and typed. It should discuss most of the following topics, giving plenty of linguistics-oriented examples along the way: 1. The languages that are part of your recent family history, or that you were exposed to growing up 2. The languages that you have acquired (or are learning) and how you acquired them: e.g. at home, from mother only, from father only, at school as a second/foreign language, etc. 3. The dialects that are part of your recent family history, or that you were exposed to growing up (see Ch. 10.1.1 and 10.3) 4. The dialects that you have acquired and how/where you acquired them 5. How the dialects used by you or your family differ linguistically from other dialects of the same language 6. The relation between your dialect and others with respect to the notion of prestige, and if applicable, how this power dynamic has affected your experience with language (see Ch. 10.1.4 and 11.3.3) 7. Any social factors that have shaped your use of a particular language or dialect (see Ch. 10.4) 8. Which registers of a particular language you know and use, including the social contexts in which you switch registers (see Ch. 10.1.2 and 10.1.3) 9. How the registers you use differ linguistically from one another 10. Which jargons, if any, you know and use, including the social contexts in which you use them (see Ch. 10.1.3) 11. What makes the jargons you use linguistically unique 12. How the dialects, registers, or jargons you use contribute to marking your identity (see Ch. 10.5) 13. How language contact has affected your language or dialect, if applicable: e.g. those who grew up with a nonEnglish language within the United States (see Ch. 12) When discussing these topics (especially , , and ), be sure to give phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic, or lexical-semantic examples using the vocabulary, notation, and symbols from the textbook. For example, you could provide (a) phonetic transcriptions of words that you refer to, (b) phonological, morphological, or syntactic rules that characterize a dialect, register, or jargon that you refer to, or (c) lexical-semantic word choices that characterize the dialect, register, or jargon (look at the kinds of discussions that appear in 10.2, but also refer to Chs. 1-6 and class notes). Keep in mind that I will not be grading you on the content of your personal experience, but rather on how accurately and thoroughly you relate that experience to the material covered in class.
According to my recent family history, the languages that I was exposed to while growing up was Mandarin Chinese language. Mandarin Chinese language has a wide variety of languages that are spoken throughout the Southwestern and Northern Province China. Of the seven or ten groups in the Chinese dialect, Mandarin is the most extensive language of all. Mandarin is also referred to as the northern dialect because of its origin. North of China is where mandarin originated from, and the dialects of mandarin are from the north. However, in simple terms mandarin is referred to as simple Chinese or standard Chinese which is grounded on spoken mandarin dialect in the city of Beijing.
There are some languages which I have acquired and I am learning as a second language. One of the languages I acquired from my father is Yeu also known as Cantonese. Yeu is dominant in parts of the Mainlands china where Guangdong province is found. Cantonese or Yeu is primarily found and spoken in areas around Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau. Also, from my mother, I acquired Hakka dialect which is a language that is as spread as the people themselves. The Hakka language is generally found in a variety of places around China. These places that the Hakka language is found are Hong Kong, Guangdong, Taiwan, Jiangxi, Guizhou, and other areas. However, from school the most dormant language that is used is Mandarin. Since the year 1913, the official language that was used in all schools across China was mandarin. As the official language, Mandarin is learned across the country whereby most Chinese people will speak the language. The standard mandarine language is initially based in the Beijing dialect. The speaking of the Mandarin language is concentrated in areas around Tianjin and Shenyang cities in China
The dialects I was exposed to that are part of my recent family history and where I was growing up was Yeu or Cantonese, Hakka, and Mandarin. However, while growing up the common tongue language that was known to my recent family while I was growing up was Mandarin. Also known as Putonghua, the whole of China uses mandarin as their official language in school, and the main cities in China like Beijing, Shenyang, and Tianjin. A high degree of Mandarin is most fluent in the province of Hong Kong where there is a significant influence of Chinese Mainlands. Also, the population of Cantonese speaking persons dominates the Hong Kong provinces leading to most young people speaking Cantonese or Yeu instead of Mandarin.
The dialects that I acquired from the major cities and provinces of China were Gan and Hakka. In most western regions of China, Gan dialect is the most spoken language. This dialect is mainly spoken in Jiangxi province where is went for further studies in the nearby areas of Hunan. Additionally, another region where Gan is dominant is Fujian, Anhui and Hubei provinces.
My family employs the mandarin dialect, which differs linguistically from other dialects such as the Yue, Min, and Wu. For instance, whereas Mandarin (國語 or 普通話) employs four tones Cantonese (粵語 or 廣東話) possesses at least six tones. In some situations, Cantonese can possess up to nine tones. It is also significant to note that various tones possess various meanings even when such tones are employed for same words. For instance, Mandarin tones happen to be directional in that it adopts an even pattern of down then up. On the other, Cantonese requires the learner to identify whether the pitch is high, low, or in the middle despite the language going up and down like Mandarin.
In sociolinguistics, the concept of prestige offers an explanation for the aspect of variation in form, especially among speakers of languages or languages (Dawson & Phelan, 2016). When examined in relation to other dialects in China, it can be noted that Mandarin bears certain associations with other Chinese dialects especially Cantonese. Mandarin is considered the undisputed language among other languages spoken in Mainland China. It is also vital to note that the central government patronizes the use of Mandarin. For instance, “說普通話，做文明” which implies being a civilized person by speaking Mandarin, happens to be a common slogan employed in indoctrinating individuals into the dominance of Mandarin over other dialects. In many instances when in Midland China, I always see individuals belittling other people, who utter broken Mandarin with them. For instance, the term “鳥語,” which implies bird Language, is employed as a derogatory terminology exclusively for the Cantonese dialect, and it implies that the Cantonese dialect is so incomprehensible in a manner that resembles bird sounds. Thus, the dominance of Mandarin over other Chinese dialects has greatly influenced my experience with the language. I often feel revered by others when I converse in this language, especially when I meet some of my friends or even strangers, whose dialect in Cantonese. In general, the Mandarin general enhances my social linguistic power or dominance when it comes to communication with other people in Midland China.
Social factors influence a person’s employment of a language (Dawson & Phelan, 2016). For instance, my use Mandarin dialect has been influenced significantly by ethnic variation. Mandarin is the officially spoken language in China, as it represents our culture and heritage. This dialect is spoken by all other dialects, and many individuals speaking other dialects often employs Mandarin as their second language.
When it comes to the aspect of register, Mandarin borrows certain official words from other languages including English. For example, “是，先生 (shì, xiānsheng),” which implies “yes sir” is used for both Mandarin and Cantonese. The word “夫人,” which implies “madam,” is also used in both languages and in official contexts.
It is significant to note that linguistically, the Mandarin and Cantonese dialects happen to be more similar, especially when it comes to written language. This similarity arises from the fact that Mandarin is employed as the standard dialect in China and other dialects borrow from it. As such, Mandarin speakers comprehend what individuals from other dialects say. For example, Mandarin and Cantonese speakers can communicate fluently via formal writing. Therefore, there exist no linguistic differences in the use of the terms sir and madam in the two dialects, as they are both used in official or formal contexts in Mainland China.
As previously mentioned, a jargon is a technical language that differs in lexical items. In Mandarin, there are a number of jargons that are specific and applicable to different fields of life, and when used in their appropriate contexts, they are clear, expressive, and economical (Dawson & Phelan, 2016). There are so many jargons that are used in the Chinese language, especially with the emergence of the internet and use of slang. The following are some of the jargons that are currently in use among the millennials in China, and which I also use in my daily interaction with my friends.
- 土 (TǓ)
Literally, “土” means dirt, or soil, however, when it is applied as an adjective, it implies “unfashionable, or outdated. In America, the meaning translates to “basic”.
- 亲 (QĪN)
This is a short form of the term of endearment, dear, or dearest. Literally, “亲爱的 (qīn ài de),” which is Chinese form of “bae” as commonly used in the US, is translated as “dear” and is mostly used in internet greetings to create an atmosphere of warmth and affection.
- 也是醉了(YĚSHÌ ZUÌLE)
This term is used to express disappointment or frustration with something or someone that is appearing very unreasonable. In literal terms, it means “also drunk”. Meaning, if something completely does not make sense, then one could say: If this shirt costs $2000, then I must also be drunk”.
- 不感冒(BÙ GǍN MÀO)
“感冒” in Chinese means “the common cold,” though a closer term, “不感冒” is commonly used in the internet to mean “not interested”, or I don’t care. This is a very common jargon that applies most in the internet, but in other contexts, can be completely misinterpreted.
- 神 (SHÉN)
神 is popularly used in China as a compliment to someone on their good, godly skills, such as successful endeavors, talents, sports, among others. However, in literal sense, it means “god”.
Mandarin is indeed a very interesting language, comprising of a rich linguistic background and characteristics. It is imperative to note that in the Chinese syllables, though, are subject to very strict limitations, where they may have anywhere from a single vowel to five phonemes. Usually, syllables end in vowels, or -r, -ng, and -n. While American or other jargons sometimes have completely baffling meanings in real contexts, the Chinese jargons discussed herein have very close meanings to their slang use, and that makes them fairly easy to understand. One thing that also stands out is that in Chinese, there is no grammar rules, due to lack of inflection. For instance, when writing in past tense in a Chinese language, such suffixes as –le are uses, instead of the popular -de as in English. Lastly, one other notable difference in my jargons is that some Mandarin words are substantially empty in grammatical particles, while most English terms are meaningful in nature. That is why even until today, some of the Chinese words cannot effectively fit in the classes of words such as verbs, adjectives, nouns, among others, except that they can be used in a specific context.
The use of language is a sure way to confirm the diversity of mankind, and distinctly sets us apart as humans from other living things, thereby unifying us as humans. This, in itself, creates out identity (Dawson & Phelan, 2016). However, humans also are vastly diversified in their own nature, across distinct lanes such as age, gender, race, culture, period, among others. The use of language is able to create this identity and distinction very clearly, depending on application. The jargons, dialects, and registers that I use set me apart from various classes/groups of people.
As I use my dialects, registers and jargons, people around me have never failed to ask me if I come from China. It is so obvious, to an extent that sometimes it is irritating, but it is a fact I cannot deny, but only learn to be proud of. Mostly, the use of such linguistic forms is unintentional, since regions of origin usually largely control the lexical items that one uses. Additionally, the jargons that I use identify me more as a millennial, one born and bred during the internet age, since I speak so differently even from my parents.
As described by Dawson and Phelan (2016), language contact situations involve two or more languages or dialects coming into contact with each other such that the speaker(s) are substantially affected by each of them. There are common outcomes as a result of such interaction, such as borrowing, language convergence, language death, or bilingual mixed languages and creoles.
In my case, since I have been fairly exposed to English, I display a substantial degree of the above-mentioned effects of language contact. For instance, when speaking English, I overuse the perfective aspect marker in Mandarin when marking past tense. In another example, I have varying degrees of incorporation of features from my Mandarin dominant lexifiers, such that I cannot fluently speak in English without being subject to such influence of superstrate language. Also very noticeable in my language and speech are English loanwords that have seeped their way into my mandarin, due to the influence of living in Canada. Some of them include Amen, which in Chinese is 阿们, beer (啤酒), among others. Indeed, even my dialect and jargons have also been victims of this marriage, as I speak more like an American and not Chinese. Conclusively, language contact has far-reaching effect on a speaker, and as noted above, may even lead to a language death.
Dawson, H. & Phelan M. (Eds), (2016). Language Files (12th edition): Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Department of Linguistics at Ohio State University. ISBN: 978-0-8142-5270-3.