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Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture$
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Beng Huat Chua

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9789888139033

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888139033.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HONG KONG SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hongkong.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hong Kong University Press, 2021. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HKSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Taiwan’s Present/Singapore’s Past Mediated by the Hokkien Language

Taiwan’s Present/Singapore’s Past Mediated by the Hokkien Language

Chapter:
(p.51) 3 Taiwan’s Present/Singapore’s Past Mediated by the Hokkien Language
Source:
Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture
Author(s):

Chua Beng Huat

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888139033.003.0004

Hokkien or Minnan is the common language of the majority of ‘local’ ethnic-Chinese in Taiwan and Singapore. However, Hokkien has been elevated to the status of ‘national language’, as ‘Taiwanese’, for Taiwan citizens who desire an independent Taiwan. In contrast, Hokkien has become a language of the marginalized in Singapore who have failed to achieve academic success in its English and Mandarin, bilingual education system. Hokkien is thus used for comedy effects in Singaporean cinema, especially in the works of local filmmaker, Jack Neo. Consequently, when a Taiwanese film with Hokkien dialogue, embracing a nationalist sentiment, crosses over to Singapore, it is misread as signifying the ‘uncouth’, the ‘uneducated’, producing comedic effects, drawing denigrating laughter, as in the case of Singaporean reception of the Taiwanese film, Buddha Bless America. Such instances illustrate the complexities of the use and politics of Chinese languages which is elided in the use of the singular term ‘Chinese’ and ‘Chineseness’ in the English language.

Keywords:   Minnan, Taiwanese cinema, Singapore cinema, politics of Chinese languages, Money no Enough, Buddha Bless America

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