How does the National Law on Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language regulate the use of dialects?
(11.22.2007)

Putonghua and dialect usage constitutes the relationship between subjectivity and diversity. Putonghua is the National Standard Language, and is commonly used nationwide. Dialects are regional branches of the Chinese language, and are spoken in specific local areas. Rather than to eradicate the dialects, the purpose of promoting Putonghua by the government is mainly to standardize the language used in social and public communication, to eliminate dialect barriers, and to help social communication.

Section 16 of the "National Law on Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language" explicitly identifies 4 conditions under which dialects are allowed. In accordance with this, Section 9 of the "Regulations for Implementation" makes corresponding prescriptions: "According to Section 8 of the Regulation, Putonghua is the basic language in use, but the dialect can be used under the following conditions:

(1) personnel in government institutions in carrying out business, and publications, teaching and research where the dialect is really needed. Also opera, film and TV programs where the dialect is needed; and

(2) the use of the dialect in the broadcasting and hosting of radio stations and TV stations, after authorization from a municipal radio or TV administrative department".

Currently, the public outcry to protect and inherit the Shanghai dialect is getting stronger and stronger. Because of the differences in point of view, subjectivity and perspective, and the varied extent of the understanding of the objective rule of language development, there are numerous debates over this subject in both society and the academic world, with completely opposing opinions on some specific issues. In this case, the subject should be examined with a scientific, developed view of language, in order to properly deal with the relationship between Putonghua and the Shanghai dialect. Promoting Putonghua is a fundamental policy of the government, and an inevitable requirement for economic development and social progress. To follow the legal status of Putonghua should be the norm of the Chinese society. Meanwhile, when considered from the perspective of maintaining linguistic diversity, dialects should remain a focus in cultural and research fields. Through the comprehensive and in-depth investigations of dialects, researchers can record and preserve the dialect’s features within a certain historical phase. At the same time, the government should constantly increase support on local opera and folk arts.