Ningbo: Zhenhai District Archives collected the electronic version of "Yinyi Dialect"

2019-08-13 11:10:15 source: 宁波市人民政府网站


(Photo credit: VCG)

"People would rather listen to Suzhou people quarrel than listen to Ningbo people talk." This proverb says that Ningbo dialect is not so gentle and difficult to understand. As early as more than 160 years ago, the founder of Ningbo No.3 Middle School and the British sinologist, Bob Yi, wrote a magical book. In which, he claimed that foreigners could learn to speak Ningbo dialect in six months. This is the earliest Ningbo-dialect text in Roman alphabet "Yinyi Dialect" collected by Zhenhai District Archives.    

It is reported that the museum has collected the electronic version of the book. The whole book consists of 7 pages. Except for the first line which is the Chinese character "Yin Yi Dialect", the rest are all Romanesque words, a total of 753. They are arranged in the rhyme order: a, ia, ang, iang, ao, iao, etc, with a total of 48 rhymes. Foreigners can learn all the Ningbo dialect syllables by reading them. Therefore, this book can be said to be the earliest existing lectures on the teaching of Pinyin in Ningbo.  

In modern history, Ningbo was influenced by the West earlier, and the missionaries had a certain influence on Ningbo’s education, publishing, medical care, and charity. In 1850, the famous American missionary Ding Weiliang came to Ningbo and learned Ningbo dialect within half a year.

In order to let more people learn about Ningbo as soon as possible, in January 1851, he and the founder of Ningbo No. 3 Middle School, Bob Yi, and Yue Feilie and others set up an association aiming to create a pinyin system to record Ningbo dialect. According to the study of You Rujie, this system uses the Roman characters for the Pinyin of Ningbo. The book "Yinyi Dialect" may have been born in this period.

According to the British sinologist and the London missionary, Weilie Yali, "The biography of Christian missionaries to China before 1867 and the catalogue of their works", the author of "Yinyi Dialect" was published by Bob Yi, and it should have been published before the publication of "Ningbo Dialect for Beginners" in 1857. The latter is "developed by several missionaries on the basis of the spelling manual of Bob's version."

You Rujie believes that the book "Yinyi Dialect" was written before 1857, and may have been drafted by Bob Yi, with the cooperation of other missionaries. Later, "Ningbo Dialect for Beginners" used this pinyin system.

The first page of "Yinyi Dialect", which was collected by Zhenhai District Archives, is the cover. There are only Chinese character"鄞邑土音", without the author's name and publication year. So it is difficult to confirm the author's identity. However, this book lists the specific combination of the syllables of Ningbo dialect at that time. It is the earliest document that directly reflects the phonology of Ningbo City during the period when Ningbo was firstly opened to the outside. It is also one of the earliest documents in China that use Roman alphabet to spell and teach Chinese.  

Ding Weiliang and others designed the Roman alphabet, which has been used by other missionaries and foreign workers. By 1870, there were more than 50 Roman-language books published in Ningbo, and 22 authors were involved. From the number of publications, content, and authors, it can be said that the early Roman script of Ningbo was the leader of the entire Wu dialect and even the whole country.

Xu Chunwei, a representative of the International Wu Dialect Symposium, said that the modern Chinese Pinyin program we are using now absorbs and inherits the phonetic symbols, the Mandarin Roman characters, and the Latinized new characters. The Pinyin system assembles the wisdom of people from different countries after the founding of the Ming Dynasty to the founding of New China. Roman phonetic transcriptions is only one of them.  

It is very important to master the Roman alphabet, because many modern documents related to Ningbo are recorded and retained in Roman alphabet. Xu Chunwei said, "In this process, there are quite a few people in Ningbo. For example, the first official phonetic symbol of China's official phonetic program is proposed and promoted by Ma Yuzao from Yinxian county. The new Latin text is promoted by Fang Shanjing from Zhenhai, who was also the first one to design the dialect program Latinization Draft of Ningbo Dialect".

The original book "Yinyi Dialect" was collected in the Yanjing Library of Harvard University and was electronized. The staff of Zhenhai District Archives said that the book has important document value and historical value. It has witnessed the process of the development of modern Chinese characters and the development of language and culture.

(Executive Editor: Yijun CHEN)

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