mistakes in Taipei’s MRT system

If Taipei’s MRT (mass rapid-transit) system doesn’t finally get its Pinyin right when the next set of stations opens later this year, I propose that the ?? (y?ng’?n / “perpetual peace”) station be renamed ?? (y?ng’àn / “ignorant”) station, in accord with how the error in the romanization of the name has gone uncorrected for several years.

Given the nature of the error, mine is a relatively polite suggestion. The way the station name is written now, “Yongan,” actually much more strongly suggests y?ng gàn (??? ???), which is sufficiently rude that I will omit a version in Chinese characters or English translation. The problem with this and other MRT station names has two main causes:

  1. The first rule of Hanyu Pinyinwords, not syllables, are the basic units when writing in romanization — has not been followed properly. (??)
  2. Taipei has continued its long and ignoble tradition of leaving out required apostrophes in romanization.

A little more now on the second point. In the bad old days of not so many years ago, when Taipei used bastardized Wade-Giles for signs marking streets and MRT stations, the lack of apostrophes made the majority of such signs unreliable. (The capital city’s appallingly sloppy spelling didn’t help, either.) Since 25 percent of Mandarin’s syllables require apostrophes when written in Wade-Giles, that made for a lot of missing apostrophes — and a huge mess.

Fortunately, Taipei has now adopted Hanyu Pinyin, which, incidentally, requires no apostrophes whatsoever within individual syllables. The system, however, does require an apostrophe between some syllables. Although these are very seldom required — the apostrophe occurs in only about 2 percent of Mandarin words written in Hanyu Pinyin — they’re still a crucial part of the system and cannot be omitted. (I don’t want to overburden this post, so later I’ll add a separate Web page explaining the rules for Pinyin’s syllable boundaries and when to use apostrophes.)

The following MRT stations have their names miswritten at present. These need correcting on all MRT maps, station signage, etc.: ????, ???, ???, and ?????.

Chinese characters for MRT station name Proper Hanyu Pinyin Incorrect current form How the incorrect current form is read according to Pinyin’s rules
??? Qili’an Qilian qi+lian
?? ???
?? Da’an Daan (This doesn’t have a proper reading. It’s just wrong regardless.)
?? Jing’an Jingan jin+gan
??? ??
??[??] Yong’an Yongan (This doesn’t have a proper reading. But it strongly suggests a typo
for yong+gan
?? ??)

Please, Taipei Department of Transportation and Taipei Rapid Transit Corp., don’t make us beg for mercy (??, q?lián)! Give us proper Pinyin. We need Qili’an (?? ?? ?), not Qilian (?? ???).

I should probably add that the solution is most emphatically not to use InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion, a horrible perversion of proper style that should never have been used in Taipei and should never be adopted elsewhere. All uses of InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion and Taipei’s “nicknumbering” system should be removed from the MRT system when the new maps and signage are made.

9 thoughts on “mistakes in Taipei’s MRT system

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  2. Interesting! Speaking as an efficiency nerd, though, I have to ask why words like “Daan” need an apostrophe, if there is no alternate reading to distinguish them from? (I guess the Yongan thing provides one explanation.) Is the idea just to apply apostrophes consistently so that people don’t have to think about whether it’s needed or not?

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