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									A Study of Chao Zhou Children Songs

         Lee Cheuk Ying, Esther
         Degree of Master of Arts

                      Abstract of dissertation entitled

               A Study of Chao Zhou Children Songs

                                     Submitted by

                              Lee Cheuk Ying, Esther

                           for the degree of Master of Arts

                           at The University of Hong Kong

                                     in June 2006

         This paper is a study of Chao Zhou children songs. Its aims are to find out the
situation of Chao Zhou children songs in Hong Kong today; to analyze the linguistic
value of the songs collected and contributed by the consultants; and last but not least,
to examine the cultural and social aspects of the songs. During the course of research
    for this paper, it has been possible to confirm that Chao Zhou children songs are
  dying out in this cosmopolitan city. Hong Kong is a fast growing commercial and
    financial center in which English, Cantonese and Putonghua are prevailing. The
    media of different sorts further strengthen the prevailing languages. Under these
   circumstances, Chao Zhou children songs are no longer popular even in the Chao
  Zhou speaking community. This paper is based on some Chao Zhou children songs
    contributed by consultants who are all native Chao Zhou speakers. The children
 songs collected are inserted into the related sections where appropriate for linguistic
 analysis throughout this paper. Along with that, there are also discussions on social,
 cultural and political issues related to the songs to reflect the background situations
  or contexts and the beliefs of the songs’ writers when those songs were composed.

I would like to thank Dr. Stephen Matthews for his detailed comments, suggestions,

and constant support. I also wish to thank my beloved mother and all the consultants

for their contribution. Without them, it would not be easy for me to accomplish the


I hereby declare that this dissertation represents my own work and that it has not

been previously submitted to this or to any other institution in application for

admission to a degree, diploma, or other qualifications.

                       Lee Cheuk Ying, Esther
             Date: 14 June, 2006

Title page……………………………………………………………                                             i
Abstract……………………………………………………………..                                             ii
Acknowledgements…………………………………………………                                           iii
Declaration………………………………………………………….                                            iv
Table of Contents …………………………………………………..                                       v

Section 1
     Where is Chao Zhou?………………………………………………….. P.1
Section 2
      What is Chao Zhou language? ………………………………………… P.1
Section 3
     What are Chao Zhou children’s songs?…………………………………. P.2
Section 4
     Why do people sing Chao Zhou children’s songs?……………………… P.3
Section 5
     Who sings Chao Zhou children’s songs?…………………………………. P.6
Section 6
    Where can Chao Zhou children’s songs be found?……………………….. P.10
Section 7
    When do people sing Chao Zhou children’s songs?………………………. P.12
Section 8
    How do people sing Chao Zhou children’s songs?……………………… P.15
Section 9
     Do Chao Zhou sing Chao Zhou children’s songs in Hong Kong now?… P.16
Section 10
    Why study Chao Zhou children’s songs?………………………………… P.16
Section 11
    What special linguistic features can be found from the songs collected?… P.25
Section 12
     Conclusion on Reduplication in Chao Zhou children’s songs…………… P.37
Section 13
     Conclusions……………………………………………………………… P.38

              A Study of Chao Zhou Children’s Songs
Section 1: Where is “Chao Zhou”?

      The ancestral home of the Chao Zhou people lies in eastern Guangdong

province of Mainland China. Chao Zhou people can be distinguished from their

neighbors such as Cantonese, Hakka, and Hokkien – not only by their cultural

practices, but also by their unique language. Today, Chao Zhou people are also

known as Diasuan Nang (Chaoshan Ren), a term referring to Diojiu (Chao Zhou) and

Suantao (Shantou).

Section 2: What is Chao Zhou language?

       It is estimated there are around 30 million Chao Zhou speakers all over the

world. Most of them live in China, Southeast Asia, North America and Europe. The

Chao Zhou language belongs to the Minnan group of Chinese languages, which itself

is part of the Sino-Tibetan Family. Chao Zhou is closely related to Hokkien, which is

also part of Minnan. Unlike Putonghua and Cantonese, which are more distantly

related and not mutually intelligible, Chao Zhou and Hokkien are mutually

intelligible. Chao Zhou language is unique: for instance, it has a lexicon and

grammar that differs a great deal from Putonghua and some other Chinese languages.

For example, we use 美 or 漂 亮 to describe beautiful or good looking in

Putonghua and Cantonese. In Chao Zhou language, the expression is 雅 (ngia2).

Again, in Putonghua and Cantonese, 美女             refers to beautiful girl or woman. In

Chao Zhou, it is 雅姿娘. 姿 (ze1) is equivalent to posture. 娘 (nio5) is generally

refered to female. 娘 (nio5) can also means mother in some areas of Chao Zhou

(my mother used to call her mother 娘 and they are from 揭陽 (Jieyang). Another

                                   Page 1 of 39
example is “to play” which in Putonghua and Cantonese is : 玩耍 or simply 玩 in

Chao Zhou it is 踶跎 ( tik to). According to Mr. Wong Zheng Jin (黃正經先生), a

famous Chao Zhou scholar in Singapore, these terms were actually used in the Tang

Dynasty (618-907 AD) (釋音潮洲兒歌擷萃 1995). The last example is doll. Both in

Putonghua and Cantonese it is 洋娃娃. In Chao Zhou it is 安仔 (ang1 gia2 ). From

the literal meaning 安 is safe or fine; 仔 could be child or referring to something

small, a so-called diminutive suffix.

Section 3: What are Chao Zhou children’s songs?

  The colloquial name for Chao Zhou children’s songs is “Go Gian 歌仔”. They are

actually Chao Zhou folk songs. They were composed in colloquial Chao Zhou

language and have enjoyed popularity among Chao Zhou people for generations.

Over the years the songs have developed into a written form in literature (Dio Suan

                                    Page 2 of 39
Kua Chiah, 2001). The children’s songs are sung or chanted by Chao Zhou families.

It is usually adults teaching children the songs before children can sing on their own.

Common themes in these songs involved childhood, proper conduct, living through

hardship and the contrasts between good and evil.

Section 4: Why do people sing Chao Zhou children songs?

      Chao Zhou children’s songs are songs about life experience, personal values

and beliefs. A lot of them encapsulate the wisdom of their ancestors such as parent’s’

grandparents’. Some of the Chao Zhou children songs were composed for

educational or teaching purposes. However, sometimes songs could be written just

for fun.

      An example for teaching purpose was provided by one of the consultants. (The

consultants of this study are relatives and friends. They are all native Chao Zhou

speakers.) Song number 5 of the video recording is called 夜 昏 暗夗早走  (go

to bed late but wake up early)

      長         莢        豆, ( long green beans)

     deng5      kiab8   dao7

     莢          尖        尖, (the beans have sharp ends)

     kiab8     jiam1    jiam1

     做     人      新      婦      嘴     學     甜 (To be a daughter-in-law one should learn

“sweet talk”)

     zo3 nang5 xing1 bu5 cui3 hag8 diam5

     夜       昏          暗       夗     早        走          ,(go to bed late but wake up early)

     me5     hung1      am3     yi1   jiao1    zao2       ki2

     頭     毛     梳      光       無     人       嫌 (keep your hair tidy so nobody would look

down on you)
                                          Page 3 of 39
     tao5 mo5 siu1 guang1 bho5 nang5 hiam5

The cultural and social background of the song - 長莢豆( long green beans)

      It is believed that this song, 長 莢 豆 ( long green beans), was actually

composed by parents, probably by a mother, for her daughter before she got married.

In the old days, ordinary women had to go through very harsh times when they were

married and lived with their husband’s family. They had to obey their mothers-in-law

even though sometimes their mothers-in-law mal-treated them in unjustified ways.

On the night before the parents’ daughter got married the mother, especially,

reminded her daughter for the very last time of what she should or should not do

when she lived with her husband’s family, how to get along with her husband’s

family (especially his mother), and so on. In order to prevent her daughter from

suffering, she shared her experiences with her daughter, hoping that she would please

her husband’s family. Being a new member of her husband’s family, she must get up

early and do all the work assigned by her mother-in-law. She would not dare to go to

bed early until the rest of the family members had gone to bed already.

Metaphorical expression:

      長        莢       豆, ( long green beans)

      deng5    kiab8   dao7

       莢        尖        尖, (the beans have sharp ends)

       kiab8   jiam1    jiam1

     長莢豆 and 莢尖尖 are metaphoric expressions. 長莢豆 refers to the daughter.

長莢豆 is green in color. It is equivalent to English when we are trying to describe

someone who is doing something for the very first time. We would use the adjective

‘green’ to modify such a person. The situation is that she is a new comer to her

husband’s family. 莢尖尖 refers to her character: a young woman who has just got

married. Perhaps she has not seen very much of the world. When we say that
                                   Page 4 of 39
someone is sophisticated, we would use the adjective “smooth” to modify the person.

Before being “smooth”, one is assumed to have many “sharp edges” which need to

be smoothened. Sharp edges refer to an unsophisticated personality.

       However, Chao Zhou children’s songs do not always have to be serious. As a

matter of fact, they can be just for fun. For example, song number 6 provided by one

of the consultants is called

腳大行路穩 (big feet walk safely)

腳       大         行      路         穩                      (big feet walk safely)

ka1    dua7       gia5   lou7      ung2

面          大        可          抹          粉         (a big face is good for putting powder on)

ming7      dua7    ho2       bhuah4    hung

尻      艙       大         大      坐      金      堂     (a big bottom is supposed to sit in the

golden palace)

ka    ch’erng dua7 dua7        zo6     gim1    dung5

Social background/value

       Although 腳大行路穩 does not send any ‘serious messages’, it is reasonably

to believe that it is a song sung by a parent to her daughter hoping that she will have

a good ‘fortune’. For instance, 腳大行路穩 means that one would not fall while

walking. However, it is actually a metaphor. Walking here implies “the walk of life”.

Won’t fall imply “stable and lucky life”. Another example, 面大可抹粉 (a big face

is good for putting powder on). In the old days, only rich people wore powder

because not many people could afford it. You could only find 金堂 either in the

officials’ or wealthy people’s house. From 尻艙大大坐金堂 (a big bottom is

supposed to sit in the golden palace), one could imagine a mother’s wish for her

daughter to marry a rich man so that they would not have to worry about life
                                           Page 5 of 39
anymore…There are quite a lot of children songs like this one reflecting the

expectations or values of parents, such as a song called 唪呀唪 in section 7 with

similar idea.

Phonological feature – Rhyme

       Although the above song is more for fun than having any serious purposes, its

phonological value should not be neglected. For instance, words, which are bold at

the end of each line, are rhymes.

腳          大          行     路             穩 (ung2)         5

面           大         可     抹             粉 (hung2)        5

尻      艙        大      大   坐      金       堂 (dung5)        7

       In addition, the songs follow metrical patterns such as the 5-5-7 pattern in the

above example.

Section 5: Who sings Chao Zhou children songs?

       Parents and baby sitters who take care of children are usually the persons

singing the songs. They sing the songs and their children follow their lead and

imitate. Eventually children are able to sing the songs themselves. Sometimes, it is

adults who sing songs to their family to express their opinion or feeling about


a) Example of song sung by parents. (Song number 9 of the video recording, sung

    by one of the consultants. The name of the song is: 早死日本仔 (go to hell soon

    bloody Japanese)

我      打        鑼                   (I strike the gong)

wo2    da2      lo5

我       打       鼓                   (I strike the drum)
                                      Page 6 of 39
wo2 da2 gou2

打 鑼 打 鼓 聽 我 唱 首 歌 (listen to me sing while I’m striking the gong and


da2 lo5 da2 gou2 tia wo2 qiang3 siu2 guo2

別      首      歌    兒      我    不      曉      唱 (I can’t sing any other songs)

biag8      siu2    guo2     yi1    wo2    bug4      hiao2   qiang3

只 曉 唱 首 蒙 呀 蒙 花 鼓 (I can only sing this “mong ya mong” flowers


zhi1    hiao2      qiang3      siu2   mong5       ya   mong5   hue1    gou

蒙          呀        蒙      花          鼓        (“mong ya mong” flowers drum)

mong5         ya   mong5      hue1     gou

蒙          呀        蒙      花          鼓        (“mong ya mong” flowers drum)

mong5         ya   mong5      hue1     gou

早       死          日      本           仔        (go to hell bloody Japanese)

za2     si2    dzig8    bung2      gia2

害      我      倆     老     淒 慘         死 (trapped us two old fellows into such a miserable


hai7 ua2 liang2 lao6 qi1 cam2 xi2

The political background of the song 早死日本仔 (go to hell soon bloody


        According to the consultant of this song, it was a real situation that the song

was very popular during the time when the Japanese invaded China. It was a very sad

history of a kind that no one would like to see again, especially the Chinese people.

However, what could the ordinary people do about it? In order to express his hatred,

the song writer cursed the Japanese in a very bitter way. Since there were hundreds
                                             Page 7 of 39
and thousands of people having the same miserable experience, the song was once

very popular.

b) Song sung by children. For example, 不少姑娘變阿嫂 (lots of girls become


八               月          半       (it’s mid August)

boih4     ghueh8        bua3

日          子            好           (it’s a good time)

dzig8      ze2           ho2

不        少          姑       娘      變       阿       嫂     (lots of girls becoming sisters-in-law

<getting married>)

bug4     xiao       gou1    nio5    biang3     a   so2

嘴        哩          哭               (crying outside)

cui3      li        kog4

心        哩           笑              (while laughing inside)

xim1       li       qio3

尻 艙 猛 猛 塞 入 大 花 轎                          (when the sedan comes, put herself into it right


ka     ch’erng      me2     me2     sag4     dzib8 dai6 hue1 gio7

 Social and cultural background of 不少姑娘變阿嫂 (lots of girls become


        In the old days, it was very rare to find men and women getting married

because they met each other and fell in love. Their parents arranged most of their

marriages. Judging from this song, the girl is either getting married with someone she

loves or she is happy about leaving her parents. First, in the old days, since marriages

were arranged, most girls would “worry” and feel bad about leaving their parents
                                             Page 8 of 39
because they did not know whom they are getting married with. One more thing

about the cultural practice for girls to leave their parents and get married is that they

are supposed to cry, even though they know they are going to marry an ideal husband.

They have to cry especially when the sedan waits outside her house. 尻艙猛猛塞入

大花轎 (when the sedan comes, put herself into it right away) shows that she is

actually happy to be married. However, owing to the tradition, she must pretend to 嘴

哩哭 (crying outside), 心哩笑 (while“laughing” inside). From this song, we can

tell that a lot of constraints limited their lives. It was not supposed to be right to let

your real feelings show. Although those constraints were absurd, women at that time

had to be quiet. It was because very few women were able to be educated. Very few

women were able to earn a living on their own. Therefore they could only put the

blame on their own fate.

c) Song sung by adults to children. For instance a song sung by one of the

    consultants. Song 2 of the video recording is: 細鵝咬大鵝 (small goose bites big


    細        鵝       咬       大       鵝                    (small goose bites big goose)   (5)

soi3     gho5          ga6   dua7        gho5

阿        弟        有          妻       阿    兄        無   (younger brother has wife but elder brother

hasn’t)                                                                                    (7)

a        di6       u6        qi1     a     hia1 bho5

阿       弟        生       仔       叫    阿        伯           (younger brother now becomes “senior

uncle”)                                                                                    (7)

a       di       se1     gia2      gio3    a    beh4

阿       伯        少      禮        無    奈        何           (elder brother feels shame but can’t do

anything)                                                                                   (7)

a       beh4 jio2            li bho5 nai6 ho5
                                                   Page 9 of 39
收      拾    包   鼓      過   暹    羅          (packs all his stuff and moves to Thailand)

xiu4   xib8     bao1   gou2    gue3    zem lo5                              (7)

d) Social and economic background of 細鵝咬大鵝 (small goose bites big goose)

           細鵝咬大鵝 (small goose bites big goose) is supposed to be abnormal and

it is a metaphor. The song writer thinks that it is as similar as the situation that the

younger brother married before the elder brother. It was a very old Chinese tradition

that elder brother should marry before younger ones. It looks as if the elder brother

does not have a very sound financial background so that he won’t be able to get

married. As a result, his younger brother has children before him so that he is

ashamed and leaves home for Thailand. In the old days, when people could not make

a living in Chao Shan, they would leave to Southeast Asia like Thailand, Singapore

and Hong Kong.

e) Phonological feature - rhyme

       鵝 (gho5), 無(bho5), 何(ho5) and 羅(lo5) are rhymes. Rhyme is more

musical in songs and it is easier for learners to remember. From rhyme and meter we

can conclude that the piece has been composed deliberately.

Section 6: Where can Chao Zhou children’s songs be found?

       Chao Zhou children’s songs were once very popular not only in families of

Chao Zhou in eastern Guangdong province but also in Chao Zhou families all over

the world. Chao Zhou children songs were so popular among Chao Zhou people that

wherever there was Chao Zhou people such as in Hong Kong, you would find them.

       In addition, there were three major waves of Chao Zhou migrations. The last

migration happened in the years 1945 to1949 when hundred and thousands of Chao

Zhou people came to Hong Kong from Chaoshan or Shantou. They settled and had

their families. Although the local language in Hong Kong was dominated by
                                      Page 10 of 39
Cantonese like today, Chao Zhou parents like ours almost all communicated through

Chao Zhou at home. Children of Chao Zhou families raised between late 1950s to

early 1960s in Hong Kong should still have heard or learnt Chao Zhou songs from

their grandparents or parents like we did.

      During the same period, lots of Chao Zhou people immigrated to countries in

South East Asia such as Thailand and Singapore. According to Mr. Wong Zheng Jing

(釋音潮洲兒歌擷萃 1995), a renowned Chao Zhou scholar of Singapore in the

1960s, adults from Chao Zhou immigrated to Singapore sang and taught their

children Chao Zhou children’s songs in order to introduce Chao Zhou culture to their

children or grandchildren.

A popular song in Singapore during the 1960s:

天          頂   二          條        雲           ( two clouds in the sky)

Tin deng no diao hung

天     下        二          隻        船           (two boats in the water)

Tin    e       no         jia t   jung

一     隻        載          阿        兄           (one boat for the elder brother)

Jek    jiat jai            a      hian

一     隻        載            阿      弟           (another boat for the younger brother)

Jek jia         jai        a      di

阿     兄        跋          落       水            (the elder brother falls into the water)

A     hian     buat        lot    jui

阿     弟        走          去       追        (the younger brother tries to save him)

A     di       jao         keu dui

追          嘸                               (but not successful)

Dui        m         ki

找          阿          姑                    (ask aunt’s help)
                                         Page 11 of 39
Jao       a           gou

阿     姑       me      把      鹽 me       把    米           (aunt grabs some salt and some rice )

A gou         me      be     iam       me   be     bhi

gak       落           溪                               (she throws the salt and rice into the water)

Gak       lot         koi

阿      兄        bet       jao                       (the elder brother then comes out of the water

right away)

A hian          bet         jao   ki

      It is not always necessary to have “special meanings” in songs. They can be just

the composer’s imagination or fun. Like the one above. The story of the song is

about two brothers who go riding boats. When the elder brother fell into the water,

the younger brother tried his best to save him while it is actually a trick that his elder

brother played on him. However, his trick cannot fool their aunt that he has to come

out of the water again.

       Once the migration waves, globalization and mass multimedia came together

Chao Zhou children’s songs became in danger of extinction. Nevertheless, one can

still find people singing such songs in Chao Shan areas of Guangdong Province of

Mainland China.

Section 7: When do people sing Chao Zhou children’s songs?

       People sing Chao Zhou children’s songs anytime they like but normally during

family gatherings, special days or when putting children to bed. Usually, it is parents

who recite songs to the children when looking after the children. The songs were

sung to lull a baby to sleep, to stop it from crying or to keep it quiet while their adults

were working or doing housework. Sometimes, they sang the songs while playing

with their children. For instance,
                                                 Page 12 of 39
Song 3 of the video recording by one of the consultants called 唪呀唪 (Swing

and Swing)

唪      呀         唪                             (swing and swing)

ong      a       ong

唪      金           公                                (swing the “high official”)

ong    kim1        gong1

金            公         仔                            (the small little “high official”)

kim1     gong1           gia2

做        老          爹                               (Be a respectable official)

zo3      lao6        dia1

阿      文         阿     武        來    抬        靴     (literate and “martial art master” shoulder your


a bhung5 a bhu2 lai5 tai5 hue

抬        浮          浮                                   (shoulder your boots way up high)

tai5     bhu        bhu

養            豬      大           過       牛               (feed pigs which are bigger than cows)

iang2 de1 dua7 gue3 ghu5

牛        生         馬            仔                             (cows give birth to horses)

ghu5     se1       bhe2      gia2

馬            仔      生           珍       珠                     ( horses give birth to pearls)

bhe2     gia2      se1      diang1      zu1

珍            珠         粒        粒       圓                     ( all pearls are round and round)

diang1       zu1     liab8      liab8    i5

讀        書         富         過       科         期             (be better at study than those who are at

the top)

tag8 ze1 bu3 gue3 kue1 ki5
                                                  Page 13 of 39
       Though the content of the song above might sound absurd, it is actually a good

wish from a parent to her child. The expectation of the parent to her child is high as

indicated by the lines 阿文阿武來抬靴                         (literate and “martial art master” shoulder

your boots) and 讀書富過科期 (be better at study than those who are at the top).

However, 牛生馬仔 (cows give birth to horses) and 馬仔生珍珠 ( horses give

birth to pearls) imply that a chance for her child’s education is impossible.

Nevertheless, she still wishes for the best to her child. The love from parents to

children is fully unfolded.

       Back in the old days in Chao Shan, people usually farmed. When the sun went

down, farmers came home and sat around together. Sometimes, they chatted;

sometimes, they sang when children were around. I still remember that my mother

liked to sing while she was ironing. During 1960s, light industry was very popular in

Hong Kong. A lot of family housewives took some work home for earning some little

money. My mother did that too. And it was her favorite time to sing while she was

working on arts and crafts work, some plastic flowers. Such as:

Song number 6a of the video recording. The song is called “挨呀挨”:

挨      籠        挨:                                    (beat and beat)

oi     lang         oi

挨     米      來       飼                                 (beat the rice to feed the chicken)

oi    bhi     lai    chi      goi

飼               叫 谷               家                    (feed the cock for the morning call)

chi    goi     gio       go       ge

飼      狗        來          掌           晚               (feed the dog to be a safety guard at night)

chi gao2 lai5 jio2 me2

飼     阿       弟      阿         妹           來   告       人              (feed a boy and a girl for

people to scold)
                                               Page 14 of 39
chi   a   di    a    mue7     lai5   go3    nang5    me7

      Just like many other songs, an obvious phonological feature of this song is its

rhyme at the end of each line. For example, 挨 (oi) and   (goi) are rhymes.

Another group is 家 (ge), 晚 (me2) and   (me7).

An example of unjustified belief – superstition:

      The last word of the last line,  ([me7] scold) seems ridiculous: who would

“feed” a boy and a girl for people to scold? As a matter of fact, it was all about

superstition. It was believed that there were some evil spirits above somewhere

which wanted to have “children” but could not, so they were very jealous to see

others having children. In order not to upset those evil spirits, it was believed that

parents should from time to time say something negative about their children such as

‘you’re little monster’, or ‘you’re stupid’ and so on. Or they could call their children

by names such as “doggie”, “piggy”… Then the evil spirits would not be jealous of

the parents and their children would be safe.

      However, when looking at song number 3, it sounds as if it is contradictory.

According to one of the consultants, she believes that two songs should come from

different origins or different places. Or simply that some people believed what

so-called evil spirits and some did not.

Section 8: How do people sing Chao Zhou children’s songs?

      Chao Zhou children’s songs do not need to be sung with musical instruments.

As a matter of fact most of the Chao Zhou children songs are rhymes (such as some

quoted in this paper). However, they are still regarded as songs.

      People sing Chao Zhou children’s songs in order to express their feelings or

appeal to listeners’ emotions and minds. Sometimes it is for sharing or simply just for

fun. In the old days, not every adult was able to have chance for education. However,
                                     Page 15 of 39
some were able to read reasonably well since they had learnt songs or operas from

the literate. Through the process of learning to sing the songs or operas, they gained

extra knowledge and experiences of life. In addition, they learnt to read. At home,

they shared by singing those songs to their children so that their children also learnt

the songs and sang along together.

Section 9: Do Chao Zhou sing Chao Zhou children songs in Hong Kong now?

      Chao Zhou people in Hong Kong rarely sing Chao Zhou children songs at the

present time. It is very difficult to find parents who know the songs. Some

middle-age people claim that they still have some recollection of the songs because

their parents or grandparents had actually sung some of the songs to them when they

were small. However, they do not remember any of them after so many years. They

agree that it is due to some negative factors that the songs are in danger of extinction.

For instance the migration waves, the linguistic situation of where they have been

living. Take Hong Kong as an example, they agree that the linguistic situation in

Hong Kong has been a negative factor not only for the Chao Zhou children songs but

also for the language itself. Almost all the younger generation of Chao Zhou people

in Hong Kong do not even speak the language although their parents are native Chao

Zhou speakers. It is very rare to find young people who can speak some Chao Zhou

at home in Hong Kong.

Section 10: Why study Chao Zhou children’s songs?

      Wherever Chao Zhou people settle, the local languages are typically given

precedence in a child’s education and even in everyday adult speech. This practice is

valuable for new immigrants to a foreign country, but can have a detrimental effect

on the continued use of Chao Zhou language. Many of the younger generation of
                                     Page 16 of 39
Chao Zhou youth living outside of Chao Shan such as Hong Kong are having a hard

time retaining their Chao Zhou speaking skills. Although Chao Zhou people almost

explicitly speak their language at home, the educational materials, entertainment, and

other resources are scarcely available in Chao Zhou. Therefore, the only exposure to

the young generation of the language is limited to the family. Gradually, they become

uninterested in using it. Under this situation, it is necessary to remedy the problem,

such as by fostering the development of music, movies, books, and other media in

the Chao Zhou language.

        Chao Zhou children’s songs are a valuable resource worth preserving.

They provide an opportunity for us to learn not only Chao Zhou language but also its

related languages such as other Min languages. Chao Zhou children’s songs have

been passed down from one generation to another. The lexis of some of the songs has

actually been used since ancient time. For instance, 伊 [yi] = 他 (s/he or him,her),

亦 [eg8] = 也 (also), 行 [gia5] = 走 (walk), 走 [zou] = 跑 (run), 聞 知

[bhung6 zai1] = 聽到 (have heard), 雅 [ngia2] = 美麗 (beautiful), 食 [jiah8]=

吃 (eat), 目汁 [mag8 zab4] = 眼淚 (tear from eyes) etc. The ones in front are

“ancient words”. However, those words are used in spoken Chao Zhou too. For

instance, a song called 共君坐 頭 (Sitting on the head of the bed with my


共          君          坐            頭       (sitting on the head of the bed with my


gang7     gung1   zo6     ceng5   tao5

共         君       細       說   目    汁 流 (listen to my story in detail and my tears

roll down)

gang7 gung1 soi3      sueh4 mag8 zab4 liu5
                                    Page 17 of 39
Another song is called 雅娘 (the beautiful girl)

雅           娘       想       食        烏      豆      乾 (the beautiful girl wants to eat black

bean curd)

niga2    nio5       xio6    jiah8   ou1    dao7    gua1

雅       娘       想       食     薑      薯 湯 (the beautiful girl wants to eat sweet potato

soup with ginger)

niga2 nio5 xio6         jiah8 giang1 ze5 teng

        Chao Zhou children’s songs provide a very good way for children to learn the

language. Some songs reflect how people used to lead a simple life. For instance,

men were cultivators working in the fields while women weaved at home and raised

their children. Some songs reflected parents’ wish for their children to be “Da

Kwa” – high official. To be high official was the way to be rich and not have to work

in the fields from dawn till dark.

        Since Chao Zhou children’s songs have such a long history, it is found that

some of the wordings and pronunciations are no longer in use. The same song sung

by friends from the Church versus the version sung by my mother and sister is

obviously different, but that was just a matter of length: the content, the message of

the song is more or less the same. Another factor for songs with different versions is

that some songs were sung mechanically without real comprehension. There had not

been a common practice for people, especially for women to have the opportunity to

be educated. Regarding the expressions and wordings, which are no longer used by

people usually, attributed to the shift of social practices, foreign language effect and

innovation of new things. Consequently, there are expressions, which are

unintelligible not only for young Chao Zhou speakers but also to the seniors such as

some of the consultants themselves.
                                          Page 18 of 39
      Today, almost all children born or raised in Chao Zhou families no longer

know Chao Zhou children songs. The old-fashioned nature and out-date background

of the songs do not suit the times and pace of life in Hong Kong. It is not difficult for

people who still know some Chao Zhou children’s songs in Hong Kong to realize

that the style of life that created those songs has become alien to the new generation.

      Another factor is that with changes in living conditions and the trend of the

nuclear family unit, children in Hong Kong have lost constant contact with their

grandparents or other senior Chao Zhou relatives so that they have not been able to

learn the songs.

      Chao Zhou children’s songs are in danger of extinction in Hong Kong. The

situation is that there is not much work that has been done to preserve or promote the

songs. In the light of this, hopefully, this paper can serve to arouse people’s interest

in Chao Zhou children songs and perhaps some readers might be able to do

something to promote and preserve those valuable songs. It is possible to do so:

although Hong Kong is a highly cosmopolitan city, underneath, it is also a deeply

rooted Chinese city with hundreds and thousands of Chao Zhou people living here.

      Different places have been visited including the ‘Hong Kong Chiu Chow

Chamber of Commerce Ltd’ and the ‘Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow

Community Organizations’. Mr. Barry Lam, the Chief Secretary of the Federation of

Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organizations thinks that it is uncommon for

Chao Zhou children songs to be sung by Chao Zhou children in Hong Kong. One of

Mr. Lam’s duties is to be in charge of the Federation’s library, which contains

different kinds of Chao Zhou literature. Some of the reference books for this

dissertation have been borrowed from their library.

      So far, the consultants whom I have been successfully interviewed were mostly
                                    Page 19 of 39
senior Chao Zhou speakers (they are my relatives and friends, among whom a few

are in their late seventies, some are in their early eighties). When asked about their

knowledge of Chao Zhou children songs, only a few of them were able to recite a

couple of songs. However, nearly all of them claimed that their parents had sung

songs to them when they were small. Unfortunately, most of them were not able to

recite or recall them until I showed them a book called 釋音潮洲兒歌擷萃, which is

a collection of Chao Zhou children songs compiled in Singapore by a Chao Zhou

scholar 黃正經先生. Then most of them were able to recall the songs. Once they

could sing the songs again, they all got very excited. The consultants then were even

able to tell stories about the songs. They said that the songs reminded them a lot of

their childhood in Chao Zhou. Most of them had learned these songs from their older

relatives, who in turn had learned them from a previous generation.

      Chao Zhou children’s songs have been a matter of curiosity for me because I

saw and heard my mother sing Chao Zhou children’s songs to her grandchildren

when they were small. My sister and I can sing a couple of them, not because we still

remember the songs from our childhood, but because we actually re-learnt them

while our mother sang those songs to her grandchildren.

      My mother said that she could sing a lot more when she was a child in Chao

Shan. Her mother had taught her many songs while she herself was a child. She

remembers that children did sing Chao Zhou songs together when they got together

or played in the field. She added that she had also sung a lot to us, my brothers and

sister, when we were small. However, she had forgotten most of them already by the

time her grandchildren were born.

Here is a song that my mother liked to sing to her grandchildren called “並 並

                                    Page 20 of 39
     並    並      腳,       並 並       腳,      (Clap-clap-leg, Clap-clap-leg)

     Peng-peng tsa,      Peng-peng tsa,

     老     鼠 仔,           來 相 咬,            (rat-DIM come RECIP-bite)

     niauts’u-   kia       lai   sio-ka,

     咬破甕,              老 爹 無在 終            無   賺,

     ka p’ab ang,      lau tia mo to tsung mo t’ang

   ( the food container is broken, can’t make a living when father’s not home. )

   買 兩 斤            蕃薯       仔,奶奶哽, 奶奶哽。

   Moy no keng huangtsu-kia ni-ni kang, ni-ni kang.

   (Buy 2 catties of sweet potato, yam-DIM yum yum gulp.)

The story of the song: 並 並 腳

It is very reasonable to believe that the above song was sung by a mother to her baby

while putting him or her to bed. It is because the song is about a family where the

father, who is supposed to be the one responsible for making a living, left home for

whatever reason. Anyhow, the situation is that since the father has not been home, the

mother could not make a living so that they have to buy very simple or cheap food to

eat such as sweet potatoes. The baby must be very hungry to eat the sweet potatoes

so fast. Since the baby is so hungry it is enjoying the sweet potatoes as if it was

                                      Page 21 of 39
breast fed(奶奶哽).         Although the mother should have been worried, she did not

forget her duty. She not only fed her baby, but also sang and played with him/her.

Linguistic and grammatical features of the song - 並 並 腳

The language:

1. Word class shift

There are two lexemes in the song which have undergone a process called ‘word

class shift' such as 並 (means together or also) and 奶 (means milk). According to

the Longman Chinese Dictionary (1993), 並 is usually used as an adjective such

as 並肩而行 (walk side by side together) and 並排坐 (sit side by side together).

並 is also put at the beginning of phrases to express denial or refusal. For instance,

並不太冷(is not too cold), 並不讚成(do not agree to…) and so on. 奶 is usually

used as a noun. It means milk or the two parts of a woman’s body that produce milk.

      In the song, 並 and 奶 are treated as action verbs and adverb respectively.

For example, ‘並 並 腳’ is the mother holding the baby feet ( 腳 ) and clap. Since

the action of clapping is striking one’s hands (here it is the feet instead) together,

they are action verbs. 哽 of 奶奶哽 is an action verb. It means ‘gulp’: that is to

swallow food or drink quickly or greedily (Oxford English Dictionary, 1990)

Therefore, ‘奶奶’ functions as a modifier, an adverb, modifying 哽. To a baby,

nothing is better than being breast fed by his or her mother. However, the baby has

been so hungry that the sweet potatoes are as good as the mother’s milk.

Grammatical characteristics: AA-Verb pattern

      The AA-Verb pattern in this song is 奶奶哽. AA-verb pattern or reduplication

is a common linguistic feature in Chao Zhou language. An analysis of reduplication

will be in section 11.
                                    Page 22 of 39
      Although the above song is pretty short, its linguistic and prosodic features are

rather rich. First, its phonological characteristics include: onomatopoeia and rhyme.

It also comprises a metaphor. It also has a grammatical feature of reduplication: the

AA- verb pattern.

Phonological aspects:

1. Onomatopoeia

Many linguists have suggested that the beginnings of human speech were based on

the concept of natural sounds. It is believed that the primitive words could have been

imitations of the natural sounds which early human beings heard around them. For

instance, when something flew by making a cuckoo sound, that natural sound was

then adopted to refer to the object. It is suggested that the name ‘dog’ has been also

referred to ‘bow-wow’. It is because dogs sound like that – bowwow. In English, we

have words like splash, bang, buzz, hiss, cawcaw and many more, which seem to

echo naturally occurring sounds. We call all these ‘onomatopoeic’ words or


      Onomatopoeic words are a feature of colloquial expressions. They are usually

found in informal context. They are often found in slang too. For most occasions,

Chao Zhou children’s songs were sung in informal situations such as at home and

gatherings. In the above children song, the onomatopoeic words are 並 並

(peng-peng) and 奶奶 (ni-ni).

2. Rhyme:

      Rhyme is a prosodic property above the segmental level, which pertains to

syllabification. Other examples of prosody are stress and length. (Odden, 2005). The

rhyming is at the end of the lines of the song. For instance,
                                    Page 23 of 39
     並 並 腳,           並 並 腳,

     Peng-peng tsa,      Peng-peng tsa,

     Clap-clap-leg,   Clap-clap-leg,

     老 鼠 仔,           來 相 咬,

     niauts’u-kia      lai sio-ka,

     rat-DIM          come RECIP-bite,

     咬破甕,             老 爹 無在 終            無   賺,

     ka p’ab ang, lau tia mo to tsung mo t’ang

     the food container is broken, can’t make a living when father’s not home.

   買 兩 斤            蕃薯      仔,奶奶哽, 奶奶哽。

   Moy no keng huangtsu-kia ni-ni kang, ni-ni kang.

   Buy 2 catties of sweet potato, yam-DIM yum yum gulp.

      Those syllables, which are bolded, are rhymed. Those, which are underlined,

are also rhymed. Through rhyming, the song achieves a sense of flow, and it

therefore sounds musical.

      Moreover, except the line which goes: 老 爹 無在 終              無       賺,all through

the song, each phrase is formed with three words of three syllables. Consequently, it

is lively and playful with a very suitable rhythm for children’s songs.

3. Semantic Content


      A song such as this depends for its meaning on a metaphorical expression.

That is the song is like a metaphor. For example,

The result of:

     老 鼠 仔,           來 相 咬,

     niauts’u-kia      lai sio-ka,
                                     Page 24 of 39
     rat-DIM         come RECIP-bite,

would end up:

   咬破甕,            老 爹 無在 終           無     賺,

     ka p’ab ang, lau tia mo to tsung mo t’ang

     the food container is broken, can’t make a living when father’s not home.

      It seems to the listeners that the mother is advising her children (the’rats’) to

love each other instead of fighting, especially in time of trouble – their father is away

from home and cannot make a living.

Section 11: What special linguistic features can be found from the songs


      One of the special linguistic features that can be found in the songs collected is

called “reduplication”. Reduplication is a very common linguistic feature in Chao

Zhou language and it is also a common linguistic feature in Chao Zhou songs and

children’s songs. Reduplication happens in many other languages although it may not

share the same function as in the Chao Zhou language.

      In Chinese language, the writing system does not have a very clear boundary

between morphology and syntax when we concern about reduplication. In English,

                                    Page 25 of 39
morphology usually refers to the formation of words, the vocabulary of the language.

For example, a base word happy becomes unhappy if a prefix “un” is added at the

beginning of the word “happy”. Care becomes careless when a suffix is added at the

end of the root – care. Syntax is about sentence or clause structure. For instance, a

sentence written, “the dog frightened the child”. When we analysis the structure of

this sentence, we would say it is made up of two noun phrases and a verb. “The dog”

and “the child” are the noun phrases while “frightened” is the verb. We would then

further analyze that the subject of the sentence is “the dog” and the object is “the


      Reduplication in Chao Zhou language can be a syntactic process because it

changes the structure of the original sentence after it is reduplicated. For example,

the original sentence of 今天愛落雨 [gim1 tiang1 ai3 loh8 hou6] (it’s going to rain

today) becomes 今天愛落雨愛落雨 [gim1 tiang1 ai3 loh8 hou6 ai3 loh8 hou6] (it

seems that it’s going to rain today). The subject is 今天 and the predicate is 愛落

雨 in the original sentence. After reduplication, it seems that the predicate is

“reduplicated”. Moreover, the meaning of the sentence is no longer the same before

and after reduplication (as analyzed below). One more example, 伊唔好呾 [yi m6

hua5 da3] (s/he is not supposed to mention something). The subject is 伊 and the

predicate is 唔好呾. Once reduplicated, it becomes (伊唔好呾 唔好呾) [yi m6 hua5

da3 m6 hua5 da3] (it seems like s/he is not supposed to mention something). Again,

the predicate of this sentence 唔 好 呾 has been repeated after reduplication.

Moreover, the meaning has then also been changed. So, in this perspective, it is

related to syntax.

      However, reduplication in Chao Zhou language at most of the time is a way to

reduplicate phrases. They could be verb phrases (e.g. 愛落雨愛落雨 <it seems like

it’s going to rain>), adjectival phrases (e.g. 無毛無毛 的牛 < a cow with little
                                  Page 26 of 39
hair>), adverbial phrases (e.g. 伊 唔 好 呾唔 好 呾 <it seems that s/he is not

supposed to mention about>) and so on. Sometimes, on the other hand, it could be

part of a morphological process. For example, 濕濕碎 [sap-sap-seoi] (not important,

not very much of) is a word, an adjective. So, it is the structure of word. But, a

phrase like 無乜好 (bo mih ho) could be repeated as 無乜好無乜好 (bo mih ho

bo mih ho). It then is a repeated phrase with an attenuating sense.

      The following passages are about the general structures and functions of

reduplication in Chao Zhou language especially in Chao Zhou children songs. We

know that reduplication is one of the ways to create special effect or to modify the

original meaning by reduplication in Chao Zhou language. But, how does it actually

work in Chao Zhou language and Chao Zhou children songs? What are the functions

of reduplication performing in the language and in the songs?

       In some languages such as Ilocano, a language of the Philippines,

reduplication is a process of plurarization by repetiting the first part of the singular

form of the noun (Yule, 1996). In English language, reduplication is usually the

repetition of words or syllables in a sentence. Most of the reduplicative of single

words are highly informal such as ‘bye-bye’, ‘din-din’ and so on. Many derive from

the nursery, e.g.: din-din (dinner). In Chinese language, such as Cantonese, single

word reduplication is especially common in a baby talk. For instance, 點虫虫

(touch bug bug) and   轉 (turn round and round). The reduplication of word in

the original suggests baby talk (Kwok & Chan, 1990). However, in Cantonese

language, it is common to find phrases like 紅 紅 地 (rather red), 慢 慢 地

(gradually), 漸漸地 (gradually), 傻傻地 (rather silly) and so on in adult talk.

      From my research data, I find that reduplication in Chao Zhou language and

songs is a very common linguistic feature and it is usually in phrasal form. For

instance, verb phrase reduplication ( 動 詞 短 語 重   式 ). On the other hand,
                                    Page 27 of 39
reduplication in Chao Zhou children songs is usually in single word form although it

could be also in phrasal form. The most common reduplicated words are verb and

adjective. We will first look at the structures involved in reduplication in the

following paragraphs and then discuss its functions in the language, and especially

in children’s songs.

      It is said that the rationale behind the single word form repetition of children

song lies in the theory of baby talk. Parents and other caretakers usually use special

speech styles when they are talking with children, and this is usually refered to as

‘baby talk’. The idea that baby talk with its particular characteristics might actually

be helpful to language acquisition, and the empirical study of care takers’ interactions

with children, date back to the 1960s. This theory has remained very influential

although it has been criticized from the Universal Grammar theorists. As a matter

of fact, Noam Chomsky described as absurd the notion that aspects of first language

acquisition could be related to the input (Mitchell & Myles, 2004). However, to me

and to many other mothers, baby talk is a very natural tendency, which is almost

unavoidable. For most mothers do believe that ‘baby talk’ is a way which allows

young children to learn languages.

      Although this paper is aimed at the study of Chao Zhou children’s songs, it is

reasonable to study the language as well or beforehand because songs usually get

their inspiration from daily language of discourse and conversation and this would

help to comprehend the later analysis. Therefore we are going to look at

reduplication of Chao Zhou language now.

      According to a book called 方言論稿 written by Shi Qi Sheng (1996), some

of the verb phrases in Chao Zhou language are able to be reduplicated. This

constitutes so-called verb phrase reduplication. Shi recognizes some functions of

reduplication. One of them is to modify certain condition or situation and its level of
                                     Page 28 of 39
affirmation or negation is weaker than the non-reduplicated form or the base form.

According to his study, the format of the reduplication is:

(1) Reduplicate the whole phrase, the original phrase, completely, such as:

   (a) Original : 無乜好。[bho5           mih4    ho2 ]   (it’s not so good)

  Reduplicated: 無乜好無乜好。[bho5 mih4 ho2                   bho5 mih4 ho2](it seems to be

not so good)

   (b) Original: 愛落雨 [ai 4         loh8   hou6 ]        (it’s going to rain)

   Reduplicated: 愛落雨愛落雨[ai4 loh8 hou6 ai4 loh8 hou6] (it looks like it’s

going to rain)

   The degree of the modification of both (a) and (b) has been diminished after

   having undergone reduplication. In (a), from 無乜好 ‘not so good’ (sure) to 無乜

   好無乜好 ‘seems to be not so good’ (not so sure); in (b), from 愛落雨 ‘it’s going

   to rain’ ( certain) to 愛落雨愛落雨 ‘it looks like it’s going to rain’ (uncertain).

(2) Reduplication to express negation or lower degree of modification.

   (a) To express negation by the combination of a modifier and a verb:

(i) 唔甘唔甘 [m6 kam1 m6 kam1] (it seems that it’s not very much willing to give

or share)

            唔 is equivalent to ‘not’; 甘 is similar to ‘willing to give or share’. Since

       it is reduplicated, the semantic content of the phrase is therefore decreased.

  (ii) 無乜合無乜合 [bho5 mih4 hah8 bho5 mih4 hah8] (it looks like that

                                     Page 29 of 39
         something doesn’t          fit very much)

  (iii) To express lower degree of modification:

   (i) 草略愛草略愛 [cao2 liag8 ai cao2 liag8 ai]             (It seems that s/he quite likes


   草略 is equivalent to quite; 愛 means love or like. If it is only ‘愛’ then it means

   love or like. After adding 草略 in front of it, the degree of fondness is lowered.

   (ii)愛呾愛呾 [ai3 da3 ai3 da3] (looks like s/he is going to say…). 愛 here

   means want to, 呾 is say.

 ( 3 ) No matter how long the verb phrase reduplication is, the tone pattern of the

phrase remains the same as the original one.

(a) 今天 愛落雨 [gim1 tiang1 ai3 loh8 hou6] (it’s going to rain today).

     今天 愛落雨 愛落雨                  [gim1 tiang1 ai3 loh8 hou6   ai3 loh8 hou6] (it seems

that it’s going to rain today)

(b) 許個頭頂 無毛 [yi gai5 tao5 deng2 bho5 mo5]               (he’s bald)

    許個頭頂 無毛無毛                [yi gai5 tao5 deng2 bho5 mo5 bho5 mo5]        (he’s quite


The underlined ones are pitches. After reduplication, it remains unchanged.

(3) However, reduplication in Chao Zhou language is limited to negative sentence. In

   other words,

                                     Page 30 of 39
       (a) It is not a common way to repeat positive phrases such as 食會落 [jiah8 oi6

lo] and 食得落 [jiah8 dig4 lo]. Both mean ‘someone is able to eat or has a sound

appetite’. Instead, negative sentences are possible for reduplication such as 食無乜

落 無乜落 [jiah8 bho5 mih lok bho5 mih lok] (having a rather bad appetite).

Another expression is 食唔得落 唔得落 [jiah8 m6 dig4 lo m6 dig4 lo]. It also

means do not have a good appetite. 食 is eat; 唔得 cannot; 落 is down or

downward. Here refers to the way food is going down to the stomach after chewing.

Food ‘does not go downward’ means do not want to eat very much.

         So far we have looked at some of the more common structures of reduplication

in Chao Zhou language. It is necessary to shift to the functions of this special

linguistic feature. Reduplication is a way to achieve a special linguistic purpose. In

other words, it comprises some elements such as semantic and syntactic functions.

         Reduplication alters the semantic content of the original or non-reduplicative

sentence or phrase. Once the sentence or the phrase has undergone the process of

reduplication, it fulfils peculiar functions semantically and syntactically.

( A) Semantic Function

(i) Reduplication is to modify the situation or condition of the sentence or phrasal

      meaning. Whether the original sentence, the non-reduplicative sentence, is

      descriptive or argumentative, reduplication is still a modifier. For instance:

(a)      愛做風台 [ai3 zag4 hong6 tai5] (it’s going to have typhoon) simply tells an

         incident which is going to happen soon. However, 愛做風台 愛做風台 [ai3

         zag4 hong6 tai5 ai3 zag4 hong6 tai5] is to describe the weather situation which

                                       Page 31 of 39
         is having a sign of typhoon.

(b)      The meaning of 伊唔好呾 [yi m6 ho2 da3] is s/he is not supposed to mention.

         However, once it is reduplicated as 伊唔好呾 唔好呾 [yi m6 ho2 da3                   m6

         ho2 da3], it is actually describing that “it seems to be that s/he is not supposed

         to mention”.

(c)      The pig is dying soon from illness is ‘隻豬 病到 愛死’ [jiah4 de1 be1 gao3

         ai1 xi2] while ‘ 隻豬 病到 愛死 愛死’ [jiah4 de1 be1 gao3 ai1 xi2 ai1 xi2]

         is the pig is so sick that it is half living and half dead.

(d)      As mentioned above, reduplication in Chao Zhou language performs a

         descriptive function of state. Semantic function of state usually comprises a

         level of degree. It is very special in Chao Zhou language that the level of

         degree of semantic function of the reduplicative sentence or phrase is actually

         less than the non-reduplicative one. Further examples are:

(i) If you describe someone without any experience on certain thing, in Chao Zhou it

      is:無經驗 [bho5 geng1 ngiam]. However, if it is 無經驗 無經驗[bho5 geng1

      ngiam bho5 geng1 ngiam] , it refers to someone who has very little experience or

      seems to have no experience.

(ii) 伊 唔好 呾 [yi m6 hua5 da3] is absolute that s/he is not supposed to talk about

      something. On the other hand, 伊唔好呾 唔好呾[yi m6 hua5 da3 m6 hua5 da3]

      is not so sure whether s/he is supposed to talk about it or not.

         The above examples show that the level of degree of state is not as absolute

or strong as the non-reduplicative ones.

(B) Syntactic Function
                                        Page 32 of 39
      The major syntactic function of verb phrase reduplication is normally as

predicate and complement.

(i) As predicate:

(a) 我 今年 暑假 無地個去 無地個去. In this sentence, the subject is 我 今年

   暑假 (me       this year   summer ) and 無地個 去 無地個 去 (nowhere to go

   nowhere to go’. ‘無地個去 無地個去’ is the predicate of the subject 我 今年


(a) 許 無乜會 說話              無乜會 說話 (s/he           not really can   talk,    not really can

   talk). The subject is 許 (s/he) and the rest is the predicate (無乜會 說話              無乜

   會 說話).

(ii) As Complement

(a) 隻狗仔 餓到 無乜會行 無乜會行 (the dogie is so starve that it could hardly

   walk). The subject is the doggie (隻狗仔); 餓到 is ‘so hungry as’. Up till here

   the sense of the sentence is not completed until there is a complement ‘無乜會行

   無乜會行’ (hardly can walk).

(b) 個 先生  到 許 愛死 愛死 (the                   teacher      scolded   him/her       to death).

   The subject is the teacher (個 先生) while the predicate is ‘scolded           him’ ( 到

   許). The complement is ‘seems to be death soon’ (愛死 愛死).

( iii) As noun modifier

(a) 許 睇見 一隻 無毛 無毛 的牛 (s/he                        saw   a   hairless      hairless   cow).

   The subject is s/he (許) while the verb phrase is saw (睇見). The noun phrase is

   the cow (牛). The adjectival phrase is ‘hairless’ (無毛). However, when it is

                                 Page 33 of 39
   reduplicated - 無毛 無毛, it means ‘with little hair’. Here, the reduplication 無

   毛 無毛 is function as a modifier or an adjective phrase.

(b) 個 無齒 無齒 的 老 太太 (The                     toothless   toothless   old     lady ). The

   subject noun is the old lady (個 老太太). ‘無齒 無齒’ refers to someone who

   has only a few teeth. The adjective phrase here serves as a noun modifier (Shi,


(iv) As subject or object

(a) As subject: 愛笑 愛笑 的 是 許 媽媽 ( like to smile                 like to smile     is   her

   mother). 愛笑 愛笑 的 is the subject of this sentence. ‘愛笑’ refers to someone

   likes to smile. When it is ‘愛笑 愛笑’, it means that someone is likely to smile.

   的 here could refer to the definite article ‘the’. 愛笑 愛笑 的 therefore is ‘the

   one who is likely to smile’. 是 means ‘is’. 許 equals to her or him. 媽媽 is

   mother, the object of the sentence.

(b) As object: 今日 我 遇到 個 無也會 無也會 個 (Today                           I     met   the   not

   so capable not so capable     person ). The subject is Today I met the one (今日

   我 遇到 個). 無也會 is not capable. When it is reduplicated (無也會 無也會),

   it means not very capable. 個 could means the being, the person in this


      We should have had enough information regarding reduplication in phrasal

from of Chao Zhou language. Now, let’s look at reduplication in single word form.

Reduplication in single word form

      According to a book called 潮 汕 歌 謠 , written by 楊 方 笙 (2001),

reduplication in Chinese language is called 往復重踏體. It is said that reduplication
                                   Page 34 of 39
is a very common linguistic feature in The Book of Odes (詩經). The function of

reduplication in The Book of Odes usually is to intensify emotional expression. For

instance, 桃之夭夭 灼灼其實。桃 is peach or the peach tree. 夭夭 and 灼灼 are

reduplication. A single 夭 means tender, fresh-looking. On top of this tender and

fresh-looking, the repeated form adds on a meaning of a pleased manner. A single 灼

means clear and distinct; a double one adds on the meaning of bright and glorious.

         Chao Zhou children’s songs do inherit the characteristics of the reduplication

of The Book of Odes (詩經). In the songs, the single word structure of reduplication

is usually verb or adjective. Here is a song contributed by one of the consultants

(song 1 of the video recording). It is called 雨落落 [hou6 loh8 loh8] (it’s likely to


Reduplication of verb: 雨            落                落,                   (it’s likely to rain)

                             Hou6   loh8        loh8

                         阿      公       去            柵       薄,              (the husband has gone


                         a    gong1       ke3        jiah    bhok

                         柵                 鯉         魚 共          苦     初,(a fish has been caught

for meal)

                         jiah   zoeg6 li1            he5 gang7 kou2 co1

                         阿      公         哩          欲      煮,          (the husband wants it fried)

                         a    gong1       li    ai1      ze2

                         阿 媽          哩              欲       ,                  (the wife wants it


                         a    ma    li1        ai1    kuo

                         二          人                相      打       相      挽         毛,

                         no6    nang5          sang1        pak   sang1 mang2       mo5
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                        (So they fight and scratch each other’s hair)

                        挽           去       見     老      爹,

                       mang2         ke3 gi lao6 dia1

                       (Scratch and go to Grandpa for settlement

Reduplication of verb: 老          爹          笑     呵     呵,

                       Lao6 dia1           qio6 hag hag

                       (Grandpa laughs and laughs)

                        呾        恁       二        人      好      踶        跎。

                       da3      ning    no6      nang5   hua5   tik   tor

                       (Saying how could they play like this)

      In the above children’s song, the single verb 落 refers to an action going

downward. If it is just a single word 落 goes with 雨 (落雨 or 雨落), it means “it

is raining”. When it is reduplicated with the noun rain, it means ‘it looks like it’s

going to rain’. A single 呵 is a verb meaning “expel the breath” or laugh. 呵呵 is

onomatopoeia equivalent to ‘ha ha’ in English. Unlike the phrasal verb reduplication,

the pattern of reduplication of 雨落落 and 笑呵呵 are ABB form.

Another example of ABB pattern:

天    烏    烏                                   (The sky is rather dark)

ti1 ou1 ou1

挈    枝    雨    遮    待 阿 姑                     (Bring an umbrella to wait for my aunt)

keuk gi1 hou6 jia1 tai6 a    gou1

阿 姑 有 錢 轎 唔 坐                              ( My aunt is rich but she does not want to take

the sedan)

a gou1 u6 ji5 giao m5 zo6

跋     到       一    身        盡    是     塗      (She falls on the way and gets mud all over
                                        Page 36 of 39
her body)

buah8 gao3 zeg8 xing1 jing6 xi6 tou5

天烏烏 is the ABB reduplicative pattern. A single 烏 is dark or black; 烏烏 is

rather dark.

Sound symbolism or onomatopoeia:

     According to Yule (2001), onomatopoeia refers to language that simply echoes

natural sounds. In English we have cuckoo, bang, hiss, buzz, bow-wow and so on.

An extra linguistic feature from the reduplication of phrases like 呵 呵 is

onomatopoeia. Since the pronunciation of the phrase is [hag hag], it has a sound

symbolic effect.    Another example of onomatopoeia is:

      並 並          腳,      並 並        腳,

     Peng-peng tsa,      Peng-peng       tsa,

     Clap-clap-leg,     Clap-clap-leg,

     老 鼠 仔,           來 相 咬,

     niauts’u-kia       lai sio-ka,

     rat-DIM          come RECIP-bite,

Here, the reduplication of Peng-peng is also onomatopoeia. It is the sound made by

the action of clapping. Of course it is a bit exaggerated but if it were baby feet with

shoes on then it would be able to produce the peng-peng sound.

Section 12: Conclusions on Reduplication in Chao Zhou children’s songs:

      Reduplication is a very common linguistic feature in Chao Zhou language and

Chao Zhou songs. In the language, reduplication is usually in phrasal format while in

songs or children songs it is in ABB pattern. We have examined both the common

structures and functions of the language and the songs. We realize that phrasal
                                      Page 37 of 39
reduplication is like a modifier. However, its degree of affirmation or negation would

become weaker after the process of reduplication. It adds a sense of attenuation. We

have also studied single word form reduplication from the children’s songs. They

serve slightly different function. Under certain situations, it can become

onomatopoeia. We have also looked at its semantic and syntactic function listed

above. In short, reduplication enriches the language and songs. It demonstrates a very

special linguistic feature to readers or listeners

Section 13: Conclusions
      This paper is a study of Chao Zhou children’s songs and aims to find out the

situation of Chao Zhou children’s songs in Hong Kong today. During the course of

research for this paper, it has been possible to confirm that Chao Zhou children’s

songs are dying out in Hong Kong. There are very few people who know the songs in

this cosmopolitan city. Almost all the consultants are senior Chao Zhou people.

Without the help of the songbook, most of them have actually forgotten the songs

they sang during their childhood. It is suggested that such oral literature will survive

only as long as it continues to be learnt by people in each generation. However, the

globalization, mobility of population, and increased prestige place on Standard

Written Chinese and spoken Putonghua after the 1997, the prevalence of the mass

media with English and Cantonese, the break-up of the extended family and so on.

All these are negative factors to the learning of Chao Zhou children songs. The truth

is that they are even no longer popular in its speaking community.

        I wonder how many young Chao Zhou parents now can actually sing those

children songs to their children. I believe they sing “twinkle twinkle little star”

instead. I sang a few to my son when he was smaller. He found them interesting and

knew that they were different to the songs he sang at his kindergarten. He kept asking
                                     Page 38 of 39
me what they meant in Cantonese. The last time I heard my mother sang Chao Zhou

children’s songs to her grandchildren was a couple years ago. Unfortunately, she is

hardly able to sing them properly after the two very serious strokes.

      Chao Zhou children songs might not be as great as Tong and Sung poems.

However, as the data of collection of this dissertation shown that they achieved most

of the human language functions. If Chao Zhou children’s songs get no “support” or

“promotion” from the public, Chao Zhou children’s songs are going to be vanished

very soon in Hong Kong. In practical point of view, Chao Zhou children songs are

disappearing in this modern and cosmopolitan Hong Kong would not surprise most

people. Nevertheless, from the cultural and linguistic perspectives, it would be a pity

to see them dying out since there is so much in these songs and rhymes, both in

content and linguistic domains. Moreover, they are not only regional dialect’s spoken

words but they reflect Chinese culture which comprises lots of wisdom and creativity

from our ancestors way back to long time ago.

       To conclude, the situations, which produced and nurtured the songs, have

altogether changed. The tradition of the Chao Zhou children’s songs, which has

existed perhaps for a thousand year, is dying out, and it is believed that it will not be

able to survive in Hong Kong. This is really a great pity because the songs comprise

valuable linguistic and cultural features that are worth to appreciate.

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