Dictionary of dying slang records changing landscape of Beijing (3)

22:57, December 30, 2010      

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But due to the influx of immigrants as well as the promotion of Standard Mandarin in China's education, Dong said, the demographic basis of the Beijing dialect is quickly shrinking.

Usually the more education a Beijing native receives, the less dialect he or she speaks, said Dong.

Linguists and sociologists say dialects across China, and even around the globe, are under similar succession crises.

"Many local dialects are slowly dying as the fast economic growth results in the unification of communication forms," said Xiang Daohua, who teaches linguistics at China Foreign Affairs University.

Liu Tieliang, professor of Chinese folklores at Beijing Normal University, also sees this as a natural trend.

"Patois are endemic for a relatively closed region, but as local people interact more with the outside world, local dialects will submit to a common language," said Liu.

But to Liu Yun, who was born and lived in Beijing for 20 years before moving to the southern Chinese city of Xiamen, the retroflex-rich Beijing dialect was never lost, even though she now speaks accent-free Mandarin most of the time.

"Old accents came back to me whenever I chat with someone from Beijing, and we would feel so close (with that common tone)," said Liu. "The familiar tone also reminded me of the hutongs, the poplars, and my life in the old Beijing."
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