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Hakka from day one.
I agree with Dr. Lau's view that Lo's hypothesis is flawed, if not untrue.
>From a linguistic point of view, if we once spoke something akin to the
languages of Xiongnu (i.e. an altaic language), it would be hard to convert
the whole population of proto-Hakka ancestors to an old chinese dialect.
You would have to systematically school the whole population, something
which rarely happened if ever, in fuedal China. There wouldn't be anybody
who tended fields and grow food with the time to become educated. Remember
that as a body of speakers, there are people from very divergent
backgrounds. Farmers, landed gentry, workers, shopkeepers, merchants, etc,
in fact the whole scale of the social backgrounds. Though Clan Registers
were propagated through those rich enough to fund such an enormous
undertaking, once every couple of generations or so, we must remember, that
poorer peoples belonged to the clan too. It is the education of these
poorer people which would have been the problem, since they would account
for the majority of speakers anyway.
If we are talking of an Altaic background, then we must hypothesize that it
was in pre-Shi-Jing times. But Chinese was not then a big influential
language to acquire. So to motivate an entire populous to acquire Chinese
is then stupid. This means that Hakka are chinese speakers from day one,
and anything to the contrary is pure fiction.
The notion that the bulk of our ancestors underwent wholesale conversion to
Chinese is daft in light of this.
There is no parallel to the Qing Manchu peoples here, since once they have
conquered China, they had the time, ifluence and resources to have
sinicized themselves. They even had policies to keep their elite powerbase
Manchu, and not Chinese. They had the motive to aquire Chinese, because of
its linguistic and cultural store of past achievements. As we know,
Manchurian is now a dead language like Latin.
Because of our own current assimilation with non-Hakka, 200 years is not an
unreasonable date to keep for losing our language. Its only a 6 or 7
generations. We can see today that grandparents cannot talk to their
grandchildren in Hakka, because their grandchildren speaks Mandarin,
Cantonese, English, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese or whichever local
national language they live under. That's only a span of three generations.
The grandchild may understand, but can't reply in return in Hakka. When it
grows up their children will not have the family spoken Hakka to influence
them and the result is plain to see.