Sinophone Cinemas

“Polyphonic and polyscriptic Sinophone has resisted the hegemony of standard Mandarin (Putonghua) according to the China Beijing criterion”

By Shih (as cited in Kuan, 2018)

So, is multilingualism and the effort to maintain it through everyday practices in the Sinophone world seen as an adaptation or assimilation? Before answering this question, let me relate how my research is related to the class materials, and maybe shed some light on this question as well. Aspiration Sky High is a Chinese adaptation from the original Norwegian play Hedda Gabler. Even though the storyline is similar, the way the plot is presented is different. Tailoring it to the Chinese cultural context, guns were replaced by swords, the original play has both male and female but the Chinese adaptation is an entirely female cast, and the incorporation of songs as forms of dialogues, differing from the all-dialogues play in the original one (Wilcox, 2014). Besides that, Aspiration Sky High focuses heavily on the emotional expressions that the actresses are experiencing, which could be seen in the female lead’s (Haida) excessive use of her long sleeves to express a various range of emotions–one of the most successful adaptations I think from the original play. 

On the other hand, Mandopop star Jay Chou uses different dialects of Mandarin to market his songs. His songs not only cover and appreciate the many uniqueness of the Chinese culture, as seen in his song “Dad, I’m Back”, where he incorporates both traditional and modern musical instruments, but he also explores Taiwanese dialects in his Mandarin lyrics. Besides that, performances in Dynamic Yunnan also portrayed an enormous use of their local dialects on a national stage. For instance, at the beginning of the performance, one of the drummers shouted in his language before performing, and the instance where a large group of female dancers stomped while chanting in their language. The way I see it, all these examples signal pride in one’s culture and values. 

Aspiration Sky High is a form of adaptation while Jay Chou and Dynamic Yunnan’s performances lean more towards the concept of assimilation. As described by dictionary.com, adaptation is another word of alteration and assimilation is the merging of cultural traits from previously distinct cultural groups. To answer my previous question, I think Sinophone is both adaptation and assimilation. My initial hypothesis to this question was Sinophone is another way of saying assimilation. After conducting this research, it occurred to me that Sinophone is impossible without both. This kind of hybrid language is a form of linguistic adaptation to the local needs and the local hybridized societal environment. The variations of the Mandarin languages and how they are being assimilated into other languages in terms of dialects, accents, and vocabularies (i.e. Singlish, Malaysian Mandarin), reflect the diverse and multiple identities of the dispersed Sinophone communities across Malaysia, Singapore, and many others (Kuan, 2018). As Shih pointed out beautifully, “polyphonic and polyscriptic Sinophone has resisted the hegemony of standard Mandarin (Putonghua) according to the China Beijing criterion” (as cited in Kuan, 2018). The dialogues in Crazy Rich Asians and Ice Kacang Puppy Love have clearly illustrated the adaptations from the original spoken languages and how they have merged with their own local culture. To ensure the survival of the language itself, they have to be spoken on an everyday basis (which was heavily reflected in the films), and with time, become part of the culture itself.

Therefore, according to my analysis, Sinophone is both a form of adaptation and assimilation and it entails multiple local dialects used on an everyday basis.