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Mother Tongue

刊登日期: 2018.05.25
作者: Grace Tse  

In recent months, there has been a lot of heated debate about whether Cantonese is the mother tongue of Hong Kong people. 

According to the book “The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education” published by the United Nations, mother tongue refers to the language which a person acquires in early years and which normally becomes his or her natural instrument of thought and communication. In other words, mother tongue is a first language which we learn from birth and master in our daily lives. So what is your mother tongue? 

According to a survey published by the Census and Statistics Department(政府統計處)in 2016, 88.1% of people aged 6 to 65 reported Cantonese as their mother tongue. 

The origins of the term “mother tongue” (母語)are not certain. However, Ivan Illich, an Austrian(奧地利)philosopher and Catholic priest, suggested that the term “mother tongue” first appeared in the Middle Ages. Instead of Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church at that time, some monks from the Abbey of Gorze in France used their own mother tongue, Frankish(法蘭克語), to give sermons

The earliest English version of the term was recorded in the early 15th century in Middle English(中世紀英語): “moder tunge”. 

Since it is important to protect all mother tongues(or “mother languages”)around the world, the United Nations has celebrated the International Mother Language Day (國際母語日)since 2000. It is observed on the 21st of February to commemorate the Language Movement(語文運動) protestors who sacrificed their lives to preserve their mother tongue, Bengali(孟加拉語), as an official language in former East Pakistan(東巴基斯坦)in 1952. At that time, Pakistan declared Urdu (烏爾都語)as the country’s only official language.


GLOSSARY

Communication 

溝通

Master 

掌握

Official language 

官方語言

Monks 

修道士

Sermons 

講道

Commemorate 

紀念

Protestors 

示威者

Preserve 

維護

 

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