Chinese Pidgin English in Southeastern Australia
The notebook of Jong Ah Siug
More than 38,000 Chinese came to Australia to prospect for gold in the second half of the 19th century. Most of them originated from the Canton region of China (now Guangdong), where Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) was an important trading language. This article describes a recently discovered source that throws light on the nature of CPE used in Australia during that period — a 70 page notebook written in a form of English by a Chinese gold miner, Jong Ah Siug. The article presents some background information about Chinese immigrants in the region where Jong worked (Victoria), and evidence that some CPE was spoken there. It goes on to describe Jong’s notebook and the circumstances that led to him writing it. The main part of the article examines the linguistic features of CPE and other pidgins that are present in the notebook, and discusses other lexical and morphosyntactic features of the text. Some features are typical only of CPE, such as the use of my as the first person pronoun. On the other hand, some features are more characteristic of Australian or Pacific pidgins — for example, the use of belong in possessive constructions. Still other features have not been recorded for any pidgin, such as the use of been as a locative copula. The analysis shows that Jong’s text contains a mixture of features from CPE and other pidgins, as well as features of interlanguage, including some resulting from functional transfer from Jong’s first language, Cantonese.
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