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Feb. 5, 2016  — Festive lanterns in Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province. A lantern fair was held in Nanchang to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year which falls on Feb. 8 this year. (Xinhua/Peng Shaozhi)

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11 February 2016 03:53 (GMT +8)
UNESCO gives Patua "critically endangered" language status Print E-mail
Macau, China, 23 Feb -  The United Nations Educational, Scientif and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has classified Macau's  Portuguese-Asia Creole Patua, the status of a "critically endangered" language.

The classification was announced by the Paris-based organization last Tuesday  when it launched the electronic  version of the new edition of its Atlas of the World's Languages in danger.

It's the first time that the atlas includes Patua.

Languages considered  by the authors as "safe" are not included in the atlas.

A safe language is one spoken by all generations and it's  "intergenerational transmission is uninterrupted" like the Macau's two official languages, Chinese and Portuguese.

Patua is listed as the fifth lowest degree of endangerment indicating that it is potentially "close to extinction".

Macanese or Macau Creole (known as Patuá to its speakers) is a creole language derived mainly from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese, and Portuguese, which was originally spoken by the Macanese community of the Portuguese colony of Macau.

The number of Patua speakers stands at several dozen in Macau and even more than a thousand among the Macanese diaspora in California, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere.

Most Patua speakers are senior citizens and virtually all speak at least one more language.

The language is also called by its speakers Papia Cristam di Macau ("Christian speech of Macau"), and has been nicknamed Dóci Língu di Macau ("Sweet Language of Macau") and Doci Papiaçam ("sweet speech") by poets.

Patuá arose in Macau after the territory was "gradually occupied by Portugal after the mid-16th century" and became a major hub of the Portuguese naval, commercial, and religious activities in East Asia.

The language developed first mainly among the descendants of Portuguese settlers.

These often married women from Malacca and Sri Lanka rather than from neighboring China, so the language had strong Malay and Sinhalese influence from the beginning.

In the 17th century it was further influenced by the influx of immigrants from other Portuguese colonies in Asia, especially from Malacca, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, that had been displaced by the Dutch expansion in the East Indies, and Japanese Christian refugees.

Like any other language, Macanese underwent extensive changes in usage, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary over the centuries, in response to changes in Macau's demographics and cultural contacts.

Some linguists see a sharp distinction between the "archaic" Macanese, spoken until the early 19th century, and the "modern" form that was strongly influenced by Cantonese.

The modern version arose in the late 19th century, when Macanese men began marrying Chinese women from Macau and its hinterland in the Pearl River delta.

Over its history the language also acquired elements from several other Indian tongues, Spanish, and a string of other European and Asian languages.


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