Andreas wrote:

>I'm not much into Chinese history either, but a possible explanation that
>suggest itself are weaker central control in deep south. Then of course any
>number of social/economic factors may've been at work at various periods to
>give the Cantonese a stronger feeling for their regional linguistic
>identity. Or if Cantonese is more different from Mandarin than is
>Shanghainese (I don't know if it is, but looks likely on geographical
>grounds), then the practical problems that would be caused by writing solely
>in Mandarin are greater in the Cantonese area.

My understanding has been that Canton has felt free, more or less, to
thumb its nose at Beijing or other powers to the north. Bordering
Hong Kong, it has been able to access ideas and fashions denied those
further inland. I would point out that there *is* a written form of
Shanghainese (not as well developed as Cantonese perhaps), but it
lacks broad appeal because, as Florian pointed out in an earlier
post, the Shanghainese use Shanghainese at home and Mandarin when
talking about bypass surgery. I sensed, and this was ten+ years ago,
a growing Shanghainese identity which may involve greater recognition
of the dialect as a bona fide form of expression as opposed to
something you only use with Mom in the kitchen.
(This is happening in Taiwan).

>>  >Then perhaps the authorities should begin with encouraging the creation
>>of a
>>>written Shanghainese.

Again, it's already out there. It's merely a matter of making it
accessible and acceptable to the masses. (I think "Shanghai Wanbao"
(Zzanghei Ngabo) regularly publishes vignettes and jokes in the local
vernacular (at least it used to)).

>>Maybe, but if so, they should encourage it for each dialect, with means
>>allmost each city. And you know that there are quite many cities in china.
>>It may be a good idea. But many chinese people don't feel the need of it.
>>But you can argue that they don't feel this need because they have not
>>thought about it, and that if they actualy had it, it would be convenient.

Surely, it's not so complicated as all that. It depends on what one
means by "dialect", I suppose. A large handful of new characters for
the major groups (Gan, Xiang, Wu, Yue...), plus a smaller handful of
stuff for the local language (I mean, really, how much Wuhan dialect
is not covered by already extant characters?). Non-natives moving in
would need to learn these as they would local idioms, tones, and
pronunciations while passers-through (tourists) could ignore them or
temporarily learn them and forget them.