Tags: southeast asia

[ statuary ]

More on Bahasa Cia-Cia, Part Two

While taking a taxi to work last week I heard a news clip on the radio about a Cia-Cia delegation that was visiting Seoul. It was hard to make out anything else from the report on account of my poor Korean skills, but at least that was enough info to run an internet search later in the day. Performing a search for '찌아찌아' at the portal sites of Naver and Daum came up with a couple of auto-fill suggestions, with '찌아찌아 방한' appearing as the main result at the time. The compound word 방한 has two meanings depending on the context and original Hanja (Chinese characters). One comes from 防寒 and means 'protection from the cold' while the other comes from 訪韓 and means 'a visit to Korea'.

Given the sentiments expressed in this Reuters article, I think both of those meanings might be applicable. "For members of an Indonesian tribe visiting Seoul for the first time, the winter cold was beyond belief, the high-tech gadgets seemed to come from another world yet the language was eerily similar." Compared to the temperature near Sulawesi these days I'm not surprised they found it cold. It was -12°C in Uijeongbu this evening and probably not too different in Seoul during their visit last week. (Which is not to say that the temperature here is unbearable; just last week dedalusj mentioned having -30°C temperatures in Calgary for a couple of weeks straight. Much better in Uijeongbu than in Alberta.)

The nine-member delegation included Bau-Bau Mayor Amirul Tamim, tribal chief Nurdin, teachers, and two 16 year old students. Photos online suggest that New Balance provided the group with cold weather clothing for the duration of their stay -- the distinctive blue coats are kind of hard to miss.

In front of the 'King Sejong the Great' statue at Gwanghwamun Plaza. From NB Lifestyle

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[ statuary ]

More on Bahasa Cia-Cia, Part One

One of the big news items from August of this year was the decision by the Cia-Cia of Buton Island, Indonesia to adopt Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) as their official writing system. The subject is one that I wrote about the following month in this entry. One of the main reasons I started that piece was to offer information of how Hangeul could be adapted to serve a second language, since there appeared to be several people wondering if such a feat were possible. From that original post:

Branching off from that, the Korean alphabet actually has several letters (jamo) that have fallen out of use over time. I've asked a couple of friends and my Korean teacher about this and no one has been able to give me a reason for the change, but at one point Korean did have letters approximating the sounds / f / (ㆄ), / ff / or [ v ] (ㅹ), and / z / or [ ʝ ͂] (ㅿ). I see no reason why these - and the couple of others I didn't list - can't be (re-)introduced into the Korean alphabet for use in Bau-Bau or elsewhere.

Of interest, after a recent exchange with someone on Flickr I came across this article from Gyeong Hyang News (경향뉴스) that reports on just such a development. Unfortunately, it's only viewable through Internet Explorer, but I've included the important line below for those who would rather not switch browsers:

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[ learn mongolian ]

Exporting the Korean Alphabet (Hangeul) to Indonesia

One of the bigger news stories from last month was the announcement that an Indonesian tribe, the Cia-Cia from the area around Bau-Bau on Buton Island, will adopt the Korean alphabet (Hangeul) as its official writing system. This decision, undertaken after consultation with the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute, made it into several media outlets here, and for those curious in how the subject was originally presented there's an online piece available here from Yonhap News. The story was revisited a couple of times over the weekend, with both Annalog and Brian in Jeollanam-do writing on the subject.

While this is certainly an interesting development, the impression that I get is that many of the comments to these entries come from people with little background in linguistics or anthropology, which influences how they look at the matter. For example, one should avoid the misconception that alphabets are stagnant entities impervious to change. However, this has been brought up a couple of times in regard to the case in Bau-Bau - see here for one instance - about how there's no guarantee that Hangeul will accurately represent the sounds needed to preserve Cia-Cia. But this ignores the crucial fact that language - both oral and written - is a dynamic force that changes to suit the needs of its users.

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[ waldo ]

Chilseok (칠석)

Solar Eclipse Viewing, Hong Kong July 2009 by Mochachocolata-Rita

July 22, 2009 received a fair amount of attention due to the fact that it was possible to see a solar eclipse in East Asia. I missed seeing it myself because I forgot what day it was going to take place, but it did create quite the buzz. However, another significant event involving heavenly bodies on that day was the start of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. There are a couple of Korean holidays that take place during the seventh lunar month -- which I neglected to write about as they occurred. Not sure if this makes me a horrible blogger or not ...

The more well-known and probably more interesting of the holidays is Chilseok (칠석; 七夕), a Korean interpretation of an older Chinese holiday related to the mythology surrounding the Jade Emperor (玉皇; the Taoist ruler of Heaven). Chilseok falls on the seventh day of the seventh month - 26 August this year and 16 August next year - when the stars Altair and Vega reach a prominent point high in the summer sky. Vega plays a significant role in a number of cultures from Assyria to Polynesia; within the Korean tale it's assigned the role of Jingnyeo-seong (직녀성) while Altair becomes Gyeonu-seong (견우성). To quote from my copy of Seasonal Customs of Korea by David E. Shaffer,

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[ wayang galek ]

Indonesia Across the Street?

Having lived in the same apartment building for the past 19 months, I've developed a mental map of the quickest or most convenient ways to reach particular destinations. While I don't always take these routes, they do often influence my travel on a day-to-day basis. Weekends are generally ideal for exploring side streets and other areas that get overlooked at other times, and this past weekend was spent walking around one such neighborhood. My apartment is located behind a 감자탕 restaurant on a main arterial road, and while I do sometimes pass through a corner of a neighborhood on the opposite side of the street, it wasn't until this past Saturday that I spent any serious time poking around the area.

I was surprised to find the Indonesian Migrant Workers' House so close to my apartment. (Just three or flour small-sized blocks away.) The most noticeable migrant community in my area hails from Mongolia - hopefully a topic for another time - which now has me wondering about the size of the Indonesian population in Uijeongbu, what jobs are most common, how well the community is connected to groups in other parts of Korea, and if the migrant workers center hosts any cultural activities. Of course, the easiest way to satisfy my curiosity would be to go inside and ask someone, but that would be too easy, right?

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