Major Chinese dialect to be saved in database
Updated: 2011-11-05 13:58
HANGZHOU - The eastern coastal province of Zhejiang plans to build a vocal database to preserve Wu Chinese, a millennium-old dialect that was once used to chant China's ancient poems.
Researchers will invite competent speakers to collect words and phrases commonly used in the dialect and read them for recording, said Shen Weiguang, head official of the project at Zhejiang Archives Bureau, which initiated the program.
The collection and recording will benefit the study of the pronunciation as well as the grammar of the dialect, better preserving the ancient tone, Shen said.
Known for its tender, music-like rhythm, Wu Chinese is spoken by some 80 million people in China's south and east.
But Shen said the vocabulary of Wu Chinese is severely outdated as its speakers talk more in Putonghua, Madarin Chinese, nowadays.
"If the trend continues, Wu Chinese might well be the first major Chinese dialect to disappear," Shen said.
Expected to be completed in three years, the database is the latest move by China to record its diverse regional tones.
China boasts great linguistic diversity, with more than 80 languages spoken by 56 ethnic groups and has an unaccounted number of local dialects.
Starting in 2008, the country has been working on a nationwide vocal database for its languages and dialects. Collections and recordings have been conducted in Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces.