Hakka Functions as Jargon
The Creation of Identity
Today, the name “Hakka” is commonly used in Guangdong, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, North America, and other regions throughout the world to refer to approximately seventy-five million members of this Chinese ethnic or subethnic group. (Pennington, 1998)
Within this ethnic group, people employ Hakka as group language for communication. By using Hakka, people have a strong sense of the group identity that they live as a whole. Such as the label “ Hakka” indicated the relatively recent arrival of a group of people in Guangdong as a compared with the longer tenure of the Cantonese-speaking inhabitants. (Pennington, 1998) They feel that they are members of the sub-group and there is a clear boundary between sub-group mates and non-sub-group mates. They are Hakka-speaking people in the Cantonese-speaking community, and those non-Hakka speaking people are considered as outsiders.
Moreover, Hakka-speaking people tend to speak Hakka in their own Hakka community and this help consolidate their group relationship in the external world.
For instance, the interviewee Fat pointed out that he would like to choose Hakka to communicate with the Hakka-speaking people. In other words, when he knows that the interlocutor has a good command of Hakka; he prefers Hakka as the tool of communication rather than Cantonese. By doing so, it is believed that the group relationship is consolidated in the interaction.
In addition, during the interview, Fat also emphasized:
Speaking Hakka is one of the characteristic of Hakka people. Hakka language itself symbolizes the identity of being Hakka.
Hakka language in fact is one of the important symbols of Hakka group identity. There is a closed relationship between Hakka language and Hakka ethnic identity. Hakka language creates group identity in Hakka community.
What is Jargon?
To begin with, jargon is a special language which is based grammatically on the common language, but which contains special features in the lexical, semantic and syntactic areas. (Wodak, 1989)
Hakka language itself is considered as a special language used among Hakka-speaking group. By using Hakka to communicate with others, there are various functions in the usage.
Secrecy and Social Distance
Hakka-speaking people sometime speak Hakka in front of non-Hakka-speaking people in order to keep the secrecy. According to Wodak (1989), group language provides the function of designating the group to outsiders, and, naturally, of communicating specific contents as well.
For instance, according to the interviewees Fat and Yau, they mentioned that when they lived in Scotland, they worked inside the kitchen with other Hakka-speaking people. When they would like to gossip about the waiters and waitresses, they would choose Hakka to communicate with each other. It is because they can keep their conversation secret by using Hakka in front of the non-Hakka speaking people. Using Hakka in fact creates the boundary between Hakka-speaking people and non-Hakka speaking people, and for those who do not speak and understand Hakka are considered as outsiders by the Hakka-speaking people. By using the secret Hakka in the communication, the group identity of being Hakka is created. Strong sense of belonging is also created by using Hakka language.
Moreover, Hakka language also severs as the common language that share among the Hakka people such as the residents in villages. Residents in village use Hakka to communicate with each other. It shortens the social distance among the residents meanwhile employing Hakka also creates social distance between Hakka speaking people and non-Hakka speaking people.