Mandarin Mayhem

04.10.2020 - By Barbarians at the Gate

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In this episode, we look at Putonghua, the spoken language most people refer to as Mandarin. David wrote a book in 2016 on the evolution of Putonghua in China and we discuss his research and the recent controversy over the app Douyin penalizing users who post videos in other Chinese languages, especially Cantonese. What's the point of Putonghua? What is a dialect and what is a language in China? And what's the difference between Mandarin in the Qing Dynasty, Guoyu in the Republican Period, and Putonghua in the PRC? We also get an assist from Zhang Yajun, host of the Wo Men Podcast on Radii China, who talks with David about the differences between the spoken language of Northern China, especially around Beijing, and "Standard" Putonghua.
It's not just for Chinese speakers or students as we also tackle some tricky questions of competing national and regional identities in Chinese history.
Gina Anne Tam, Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
David Moser, A Billion Voices: China's Search for a Common Language (Penguin, 2016)

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