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Guangzhou to establish language museum to protect local dialects
Update: 2017-09-12     Source: en.people.cn
Guangdong authorities on Tuesday announced a plan to build a language museum, which will collect linguistic materials of several dialects spoken in China's southeastern provinces, in an effort to tackle the country's rapidly shrinking linguistic diversity.

The museum, which is jointly established by Guangdong authorities and a local language protection center, will feature dialects spoken in China's Lingnan Area, which covers Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan provinces. Known for its linguistic diversity, the region is famous for several dialects that maintain some phonetic and phonological characteristics of ancient classic Chinese, and it has been hailed by linguists as a treasure chest of linguistic history.

"Visitors to the museum can learn about the historical origin and development of different dialects, and hear ancient pronunciations synthesized by advanced phonetic reconstruction technologies. We [encourage] visitors to leave messages on our dialect map to promote their own dialect. They can also study different dialects in our museum, taking multiple linguistic tests," Chen Xing, director of the Lingnan Dialect and Culture Protection Center, told the Guangdong Radio & Television Station.

Being a multilingual country, China's citizens speak over 100 languages, with 29 having their own writing systems. Despite the diversified linguistic landscape, the country's language planning of promulgating Mandarin Chinese has led to the downturn of many dialects.

"Though China has already done a lot in protecting dialects, minority language or dialect planning remains faintly visible. Most people have given up their non-mandarin indigenous dialects for social or economic benefits, losing their cultural identity. The museum has offered the public a linguistic alternative, allowing them to remember their local dialects while using mandarin as a lingua franca," said Emily Sun, a linguistic PhD candidate from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"We want to provide a home for the region's colorful dialects. By promoting the linguistic value of the languages, we hope to raise awareness of protecting and inheriting dialects," added Chen.

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